Why Does Fox News Have More Power Than Any Progressive in the Country?

As we can all see now, when Fox says jump, the Obama administration asks how high? (Then jumps one inch less and considers it a progressive victory). Is there anyone Obama won't fire or throw under the bus if Fox asks him to? What if they ask Obama to fire himself? Would he do it? Or would he just fire Biden and say he met them halfway?

If the firing of Shirley Sherrod was the first time they had done this, then all of the criticism they have received might be a bit much. But as we have learned from this incident (which the rest of us already knew, with the apparent exception of Fox News and Andrew Breitbart), context matters. We've seen the rest of the tape on the Obama administration and it isn't pretty.

Van Jones, ACORN, Dawn Johnsen, Shirley Sherrod. First sign of trouble, throw someone overboard. When they fired Van Jones, I said they were only encouraging Fox. But that wasn't some genius prediction; it was only the most obvious thing in the world. Do you think the bully won't take your lunch money tomorrow if you give it to him today?

Since this seems so obvious, why can't the supposedly brilliant guys in the Obama administration figure it out? Why can't they see it's such a bad idea to keep giving in to Fox and bowing their heads? It's so bad now, they're bragging about their efficiency in genuflecting. Jim Messina, Deputy Chief of Staff,congratulated everyone the day after Sherrod was fired about the speed and agility with which they serviced Fox News. So, what's the strategy behind what appears to be pathetic cowardice to the rest of us?

The idea is that Fox News is more important than any progressive leader or commentator (or even the majority opinion of progressives throughout the country, as evidenced by polls) because liberals have nowhere to go. So, that's why you can abuse them, ignore them and even treat them with disdain -- and they'll still vote for you. What are they going to do -- vote for Republicans?

That's why Rahm Emanuel can call them "fucking retarded" and derisively dismiss them on almost every issue. They think there's no price to pay. Whereas, if they cross Fox, all of Washington will be talking about it. And they're obsessed with the Washington chatter. And they are under the grossly mistaken impression that the country gives a shit about what Fox says.

In Washington, Fox News is very important and you get judged by how quickly you handle the media maelstroms they create. That's viewed as a barometer of how well you handle "bad news cycles." So, the rest of the Washington press corps judges you by how quickly you drop to your knees to end the "bad news cycle." Congratulations Obama administration, you're now professionals!

But even more importantly, there is this insane belief that Fox News can swing centrists, which are the critical voters who decide elections. There is not a shred of evidence to that. In fact, the evidence shows that there is no audience in the country that is more deeply conservative and politically immovable.

Plus, the average age of Bill O'Reilly's audience is 71 years old. The guy is doing a show out of a senior citizen's center and Obama thinks he rules the world.

The only real damage that Fox can do is if they spread their poison to other news stations. That is why it's so imperative to label them what they are -- a conservative propaganda station (not that there's anything wrong with that). They're just not news. And they couldn't have proved it any better than they did in this case. And what did the Obama administration do with this golden opportunity? They turned it into a massive loss. Who is fucking retarded now?

But the more important miscalculation is that liberals have nowhere to go. They do have somewhere to go -- home. They can sit on their couch on election day, which according to the polling is exactly what they're going to do. When a Bloomberg poll (pdf, Page 7) asked all voters which party they favored, it was a tie. When they asked likely voters, Republicans were up by eight points. Who's fucking retarded now?

It's high time that we stop giving the Obama administration credit for being some sort of genius tacticians. Maybe it was all David Plouffe. But one thing is for sure, they seem to have no idea what they're doing politically and Fox News is handing them their ass on a daily basis. Glenn Beck came on after the Sherrod story became fully known and said that Obama shouldn't have fired her. Don't you get it, you feckless clowns, they're going to criticize you no matter what you do? You cannot appease them. You must isolate and delegitimize them.

I understand the Obama team is playing the old Washington games and think they're very clever at it. But those games don't work anymore. Bad news cycles are not created by genuine mistakes anymore, they're artificially created by Fox News channel. You can't make them go away by giving into them. You're just feeding the beast. And more importantly, you're starving your own side.

It isn't about fighting Fox News to make yourself feel better. It's about ignoring their silly attacks so you can actually bring us the progressive change you promised. Otherwise, we would be retarded to come and vote for you again.

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White House dumps Dawn Johnsen

Dawn Johnsen withdrew her nomination yesterday for head of the Office of Legal Counsel, saying in a statement,

Restoring OLC to its best nonpartisan traditions was my primary objective for my anticipated service in this administration. Unfortunately, my nomination has met with lengthy delays and political opposition that threaten that objective and prevent OLC from functioning at full strength. I hope that the withdrawal of my nomination will allow this important office to be filled promptly.

Sam Stein posted the full text of Johnsen's statement and commented,

The withdrawal represents a major blow to progressive groups and civil liberties advocates who had pushed for Johnsen to end up in the office that previously housed, among others, John Yoo, the author of the infamous torture memos under George W. Bush.

But the votes, apparently, weren't there. Johnsen had the support of Sen Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) but was regarded skeptically by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) -- primarily for her positions on torture and the investigation of previous administration actions. A filibuster, in the end, was likely sustainable. Faced with this calculus, the White House chose not to appoint Johnsen during Senate recess, which would have circumvented a likely filibuster but would have kept her in the position for less than two years.

A White House statement said the president is searching for a replacement nominee and will ask the Senate to confirm that person to head the Office of Legal Counsel quickly. I still think the Obama should have included Johnsen in a group of recess appointments he made last month. Jake Tapper quoted an unnamed Senate source as saying the White House "didn't have the stomach for the debate" on her nomination. It doesn't reflect well on Obama or on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that Johnsen never got a vote in the Senate, even after it was clear there were 60 votes in her favor last year (before the Massachusetts Senate special election).

UPDATE: From a must-read post by Glenn Greenwald:

What Johnsen insists must not be done reads like a manual of what Barack Obama ended up doing and continues to do -- from supporting retroactive immunity to terminate FISA litigations to endless assertions of "state secrecy" in order to block courts from adjudicating Bush crimes to suppressing torture photos on the ground that "opennees will empower terrorists" to the overarching Obama dictate that we "simply move on." Could she have described any more perfectly what Obama would end up doing when she wrote, in March, 2008, what the next President "must not do"? [...]I don't know why her nomination was left to die, but I do know that her beliefs are quite antithetical to what this administration is doing.

Finally, Obama makes recess appointments

After months of obstruction by Senate Republicans, the White House announced on March 27:

“The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees. But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis,” said President Barack Obama. “Most of the men and women whose appointments I am announcing today were approved by Senate committees months ago, yet still await a vote of the Senate. At a time of economic emergency, two top appointees to the Department of Treasury have been held up for nearly six months. I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government.”

 

Following their appointment, these nominees will remain in the Senate for confirmation.

Obama Administration appointees have faced an unprecedented level of obstruction in the Senate.

* President Obama currently has a total of 217 nominees pending before the Senate. These nominees have been pending for an average of 101 days, including 34 nominees pending for more than 6 months.

* The 15 nominees President Obama intends to recess appoint have been pending for an average of 214 days or 7 months for a total of 3204 days or almost 9 years.

* President Bush had made 15 recess appointments by this point in his presidency, but he was not facing the same level of obstruction. At this time in 2002, President Bush had only 5 nominees pending on the floor. By contrast, President Obama has 77 nominees currently pending on the floor, 58 of whom have been waiting for over two weeks and 44 of those have been waiting more than a month.

I put the full list of recess appointees with their bios after the jump. In the good news column, Obama named Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. Unfortunately, he also named pesticide and biotech lobbyist Islam A. Siddiqui as the U.S. Trade Representative's Chief Agricultural Negotiator. More than 100 organizations opposed Siddiqui's nomination "as a textbook case of the 'revolving door' between industry and the government agencies meant to keep watch."

Also bad news: Obama did not use his recess appointment power to name Dawn Johnsen as head of the Office of Legal Counsel. I thought she had already been confirmed, because in January it became clear that there were 60 senators supporting her nomination. However, the Senate Judiciary Committee has repeatedly postponed considering her confirmation, raising questions about whether the Obama administration really wants Johnsen to do this job.

 

There's more...

Sestak Goads Specter Into Supporting Dawn Johnsen

Competitive primaries can have positive effects.

Nominees for the U.S. Department of Justice are rarely high-profile enough to warrant attention in an election. Not so in this year's Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania.

Rep. Joe Sestak, who is challenging Sen. Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination, sent an e-mail to supporters today about Dawn Johnsen. Johnsen, an Indiana University at Bloomington law professor, is President Barack Obama’s pick to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, and last year Specter helped delay Johnsen’s nomination. Specter was the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time.

[...]

Republicans, including Specter at the time, have criticized Johnsen for her writings about abortion and civil liberties, and her stalled nomination has become a leading cause for advocates of abortion rights. Johnsen’s supporters say they might have enough votes for confirmation if the Senate’s Democratic leaders decide to take the time to break the GOP filibuster.

Just a few hours after being challenged by Congressman Sestak, his opponent in the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania, Republican-turned-Democratic Senator Arlen Specter responded:

A statement from Specter's office: “After voting 'pass' (which means no position) in the Judiciary Committee, I had a second extensive meeting with Ms. Johnsen and have been prepared to support her nomination when it reaches the Senate floor.”

With Republican Richard Lugar, Johnsen's home state Senator, already committed to backing her nomination (update: and confirming his support), it appears that Johnsen should now have sufficient support to make it through the Senate (even with conservative Democratic Senator Ben Nelson in opposition). The special election in Massachusetts could potentially alter this math, but if the Democratic caucus remains at 60, and both Lugar and Ben Nelson vote as expected, a filibuster could not be sustained.

Indeed, once her nomination hits the 60-vote mark, I would expect it to get more support than that on a cloture vote as Senators like Judd Gregg, Lamar Alexander and Orrin Hatch -- Republicans who tend to vote for cloture on nominees even if they eventually vote no on the final vote (as they did in the case of the nomination of Harold Koh as legal advisor to the State Department) -- jump on board.

Obama's "Five Worst Nominees"

Over at the Mother Jones blog, Kate Sheppard, David Corn and Daniel Schulman compiled a list of "Obama's Five Worst Nominees." Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner doesn't make the cut, which surprised me until I read the short bios of appointees who are likely to put corporate interests ahead of the public interest. In alphabetical order:

William Lynn, for whom the president made an exception to his policy on lobbyists in government. Lynn was the chief lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon before becoming deputy secretary of defense in the Obama administration.

William Magwood, a "cheerleader for nuclear power" who has "worked for reactor maker Westinghouse and has run two firms that advise companies on nuclear projects." Obama nominated him for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Scott O'Malia, who was apparently suggested by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. O'Malia "was a lobbyist for Mirant, an Enron-like energy-trading firm" and lobbied for weakening the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to which Obama appointed him.

Joseph Pizarchik, who helped form policies in Pennsylvania to allow disposal of toxic coal ash in unlined pits. Obama named him director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Islam Siddiqui, whom Obama appointed to be the chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. trade representative. Jill Richardson has been on this case at La Vida Locavore; see here and here on why Siddiqui is the wrong person for this job.

I wouldn't suggest that this rogue's gallery is representative of Obama appointees, but it's depressing to see any of them in this administration.

In the good news column, Obama has decided to renominate Dawn Johnsen to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, along with five other nominees who didn't receive a confirmation vote in the Senate last year.

Diaries

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