Leslie Savan | The Nation


Leslie Savan

Politics, media and the politics of media.

Right-Wing Media’s Painful Pivot From Demonizing Mike Brown to Giving Eric Garner a Moral Pass

protest sign

(Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

The right-wing media are confused. After a grand jury failed to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, they felt the rush of vindication and could finally voice their full-throated disgust at black “thugs” like, in their eyes, Brown and the Ferguson protesters. But within hours after a grand jury refused to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the choking death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, the same pundits and pols—shocked at video showing Garner repeatedly pleading for his life—had to make an arthritic 180-degree turn to give Garner and the “I can’t breathe” demonstrators a moral pass. That hurt.

Of course, there are major differences in the Garner and Brown cases—in the deadly weapon used, the men’s alleged crimes, the tone of the demonstrations and, in the Garner case, the presence of videotape. For the right highlighting the differences is the easy part. The hard part is, first, to ignore the similarities—white cops killing unarmed black males, including 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, armed with only a toy pellet gun. And, second, to maintain the all-important narrative that liberals are reverse racists for unfairly charging conservatives with racism.

The pain of pivoting from “Mike Brown, bad” to “Eric Garner, acceptable” has perhaps been most evident in Joe Scarborough, whose Morning Joe show is as much about the struggle within his own psyche as about real-world events.

On Monday, before the Staten Island grand jury decision came down on Wednesday, Scarborough was exploding at Mike Brown and the whole “Hands up, don’t shoot” crowd. Scarborough insisted (video below) that the left had made Brown a “hero,” and he likened the slain teenager not to Trayvon Martin but to George Zimmerman, who fatally shot Martin in 2012 and who Scarborough called a “thug.” (“No one has said Mike Brown was a hero,” NBC legal analyst Lisa Bloom tweeted in response. “What we have said was that we don’t give the death penalty to shoplifting teens.”)

The next day, Scarborough unleashed more of his considerable fury at the whole Ferguson movement and at anyone who dared to make the “Hands up” gesture, as three Democratic congresspersons did on the floor of the House and five Rams players did on the football field. They lie, said Joe, all of them!

But these players can suggest that the St. Louis cops shoot black youth with their hands up in the air? That’s cool with the NFL? That’s cool with the St. Louis Rams? That’s cool to suggest that St. Louis police officers in the town, probably a lot who go to the games and watch the games and are fans, the St. Louis Rams think it’s cool for them to suggest that St. Louis cops shoot young black men who had their hands up in the air when we know that was a lie? It’s a lie. And what was that gesture on Capitol Hill? More people like going, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the truth or not, I’ll suggest cops shoot people with their hands up in the air. What is wrong with this country?!

Co-hosts Mika Brzezinski sat by silently and Willie Geist chimed in, “These are elected officials”; only Thomas Roberts had the nerve to later say that, um, the gesture is not a “lie.” It “might be more symbolic,” he said, of the “deadly force” used by white cops on black people all over the country.

But for Joe, “this Ram thing” was “the final straw,” he said. “I have sat here quietly and listened to BS being spewed all over this network and all over other networks. I cannot take it anymore!” (My emphasis on his self-perception.)

After the announcement of Pantaleo’s non-indictment, however, Scarborough was positively grateful to have one of those presumed MSNBC spewers, the Rev. Al Sharpton, on the show to, in essence, vouch that Joe was not one of the bad guys on race.

“I don’t want to give people watching vertigo,” Joe said. “Obviously, [Sharpton and I] agreed on Trayvon. We talked a lot about that. We disagreed on Ferguson…. We disagree, but even when we disagree, we do it respectfully. We agree more than we disagree.”

The Reverend agreed to that. And in turn, Joe declared that Sharpton, who’s been organizing around Ferguson and Garner, “does not go out looking for these people—it’s not like a trial lawyer. The families call him and ask him to come.”

To his credit, Joe is at least struggling with these issues. Much of the rest of the right wing is more kneejerk. As a TPM headline put it, “The Right Channels Its Outrage In Eric Garner Case Toward The ‘Nanny State.’ ” Garner, whom the cops were trying to arrest for selling single, untaxed cigarettes, or “loosies,” may or may not have been the victim of excessive police force, goes this argument, but he was definitely the victim of big government taxing us to death. “Whereas many conservatives said Wilson was simply doing his job, some on Wednesday said Pantaleo was enforcing a punitive big government policy,” TPM’s Tom Kludt wrote. “And while Brown was nothing more than a ‘thug,’ Garner was the victim of the dreaded nanny state.”

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Fox News analyst and former judge Andrew Napolitano, Senator Rand Paul and radio talk show host Dana Loesch are among those using versions of this argument, with Loesch tweeting: “The results of big government, #NannyStateEnforcement, and @MikeBloomberg ’s excise tax—> #EricGarner. Appalling and obscene.”

As much as some conservatives also seem authentically appalled at the sight of Garner being killed while gasping eleven times that he couldn’t breathe, many appear to be chomping at the bit to somehow, anyhow, turn this against Obama and the Dems.

In addition to attacking the nannies, there’s the old blame-the-victim tactic, pushed most notably Representative Peter King (R-NY). He said of Garner on Fox yesterday, “If he had not been obese, if he had not had diabetes, if he had not asthma, this probably would not have happened.” He also cited Garner’s many previous arrests, for likewise small infringements of the law.

As in the Mike Brown case, the most important thing for the right is to inoculate the police (and thus themselves) from charges of racism. Yesterday, Fox’s Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum had Kevin Jackson, the black author of Race Pimping: The Multi-Trillion Dollar Business of Liberalism, on their morning show, where he said of Garner’s death, “to make this racial is patently ridiculous.” The real profiling problem in the black community, he added, was the “profiling of police. Has anyone talked about that level of profiling?”

By last night, Megyn Kelly was all over her black guests to prove—with hard evidence—that Garner’s death had anything whatsoever to with race.

And if any of those arguments fail to convince the public that race matters, there’s still the distraction method: if you talk enough about blacks killing blacks you can magically make the issue of cops killing blacks disappear. Many are reacting with that default canard to President Obama’s and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s calls for more police training. Sure, fine, train the police, Rudy Giuliani told Fox & Friends, “but you should spend 90 percent of your time talking about the way they’re actually probably going to get killed, which is by another black. To avoid that fact, I think is racist.”

And so it goes.

Read Next: “Some Fox Newsers Are Falling Short in Bashing ‘Bamnesty’ ”

Some Fox Newsers Are Falling Short in Bashing ‘Bamnesty’

This might sound odd, given all the Sturm und Drang from the right over Obama’s executive order to temporarily allow up to 5 million undocumented immigrants to stay in America without the threat of deportation. But I think that some of the Fox News hosts might be going a little soft on immigration.

Seven years ago, Geraldo Rivera and Bill O’Reilly had an epic, screeching, flesh-tearing brawl (a true must-see, below). The Geraldo v. Tucker Carlson bout on Fox & Friends this morning, however, was by comparison a gentlemen’s duel.

The cringe-inducing chryon of “Bamnesty” set the tone. After Geraldo, an informed and strong proponent of immigration reform, made an impassioned plea to accept the people who “clean our houses, mow our lawns, take care for our children, start businesses, and raise families,” Tucker was reduced to saying, with a bow-tie squareness, “I like immigrants. They are very hard working.”

Another bit of unexpected Fox softening came from Megyn Kelly shortly after Obama’s speech. She admitted that what Obama was ordering was not “amnesty,” as she and most Fox hosts have insisted in the past. As Media Matters puts it, she

acknowledged that the president is not actually pursuing “amnesty,” because “amnesty is citizenship and that’s not what [Obama] is talking about.” Kelly also explained how conservatives purposely misuse the word “amnesty” for political gain: “That’s a hot-button term that the right uses to sort of get people upset.”

But don’t think that Fox is going to actually have to re-write its glossary. Obama’s order might not legally be that dirty, bad A-word, she said, but “it amounts to amnesty.”

And here’s Geraldo and O’Reilly:

GOP Senator Says Obama’s Immigration Speech Could Trigger Some Kind of White Ferguson

Tom Coburn

Senator Tom Coburn (USA Today)

Retiring Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, in an interview with USA Today’s Susan Page yesterday, seemed to both warn about and threaten white violence against President Obama’s executive action on immigration reform, saying the president’s speech Thursday night could provoke “violence” and “anarchy.” He even suggested that the reaction could parallel the demonstrations and violence in Ferguson, Missouri.

Page asked what will be the reaction of Republicans in Washington, and Coburn acted as if it’s not the GOP that will be upset (‘cause, you know, they’re such a even-keeled bunch: Alabama Representative Mo Brooks actually thinks Obama could end up in jail, as well as impeached). Rather, it’s all those regular folks out there who will be terribly disappointed that the president isn’t working with Congress.

“Oh, I don’t think it’s so much a Republican reaction here,” Coburn said. “The country’s going to go nuts. Because they are going to see it as a move outside of the authority of the president. And it’s going to be a very dangerous situation. You’re going to see—hopefully not—but you could see instances of anarchy.”

“You could see violence,” Coburn continued. “This is a big step, to not work with Congress, now that he’s got a new Congress, to go completely around it.”

Then, oddly, Coburn cited the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, saying that Obama’s immigration action could invoke similar concerns about injustice: “Well, here’s how people think—if the law doesn’t apply to the president, and it’s not affirmatively acted on for us as a group, like you’re seeing in Ferguson, Missouri, then why should it apply to me?”

As Josh Marshall pointed out at TPM, Coburn’s warnings about street violence over allowing the parents of American-born citizens to stay here without fear of deportation were logically challenged in the first place. The protesters in Ferguson are outraged by a direct government action, the shooting to death of an unarmed black teenager. Any violence over Obama’s executive order would mean people taking to the streets in anger over a government inaction—its refusal to actively deport people already living in the US for years.

But logic is never a strong component of American conniptions over race. You could also see what Coburn said as implying a sort of good-for-the-goose, good-for-the-gander equivalency: if blacks get to riot over a perceived injustice, so should whites. That plays directly into the right’s sense of victimization and “reverse racism.”

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Coburn’s remarks should also be seen in the context of the 2016 elections. Obama’s immigration reforms, modest as they are in reality, would further the perception driven home by Fox News, hate radio, and millions of dollars of GOP advertising that Obama only helps the poor and minorities. Obama saying that if he had a son, “he’d look like Trayvon” Martin, Eric Holder’s intervention in Ferguson, and even Obamacare, which actually helps more whites than blacks but is believed to do the exact opposite by many whites—all are grist for that mill of resentment. Add to that changing immigration practices by executive order, and the right may be able to orchestrate a backlash of epic proportions against a Democratic nominee.

In politics, what is true is never as important as what works.

See the Coburn interview here:

UPDATE: This is even more hysterical, in both senses. Anti-immigrant and voter-suppression superhawk Kris Kobach, the GOP Kansas secretary of state, says that once Obama replaces “American voters with newly legalized aliens,” gets “a locked-in vote for socialism,” and does away with the rule of law, we could be in for a spate of “ethnic cleansing,” presumably by Latinos of Americans—though he didn’t quite specify what that “American” ethnicity might be.

Read Next: “Why Gruber’s ‘Stupid’ Comment Has Become a Dog Whistle for the GOP”

Why Gruber’s ‘Stupid’ Comment Has Become a Dog Whistle for the GOP


(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Finally, the right wing has found what Susan Rice was to Benghazi and Lois Lerner was to the IRS, but better—a human face to represent all that they believe is deceitful, illegitimate and downright evil about Obamacare and, indeed, about the entire last six years.

That face belongs to MIT economist Jonathan Gruber who, after helping to write Romneycare in Massachusetts, moved to advise the Obama administration on the design the Affordable Care Act. Lately, Gruber has been popping up in video clips telling gathered academics that the bill was written to obscure its redistribution of costs from healthy enrollees to sick ones. He somehow managed to call all the American people “stupid,” which is considered far worse than accusing a mere 47 percent of the population of being dead weight on the rest. In his most infamous clip (watch it below), Gruber says:

This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay? So it’s written to do that.

In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which said healthy people are gonna pay in—if it made explicit that healthy people are gonna pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed. Okay—just like the—people—transparen—lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to get anything to pass.

“What happens to Obamacare now that we’ve all been called stupid?” Fox News’s Bill Hemmer asked this morning, practically licking his chops. In case there’s any doubt that Gruber is Fox’s most useful villain since the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Politifact found that Fox mentioned Gruber at least 779 times between November 10 and November 18 (MSNBC clocked in seventy-nine instances and CNN just twenty-seven in the same period).

Democrats like Nancy Pelosi have only made things worse by trying to distance themselves from Gruber, even though tapes show they knew and respected his work in the past.

And it doesn’t help that in the various tapes, Gruber seems to always be boasting, looking a little too full of himself and his clever tricks. To some, his apparent sneakiness has undercurrents of “shyster.” And they’re not always undercurrents. This disgusting headline from a racist, neo-Nazi website references Rich Weinstein, the man who unearthed some of the Gruber tapes: “Jew Mad About Getting Jewed By Obamacare Finds Clip Of Jew Jonathan Gruber Bragging About [How] He Helped Jew America With Obamacare.”

Surely for most of the Republican base, the stereotype Gruber evokes is more benign. Gruber, says Jon Stewart, is a “super egghead” nerd, what with the academic background, the eyeglasses, and, in Stewart’s estimation, the “pinched nasal tone.” He ran a clip of Eddie Deezen, the actor specializing in nerds, and discovered that his voice is uncannily like Gruber’s.

That’s funny, but Gruber-as-nerd is only an introduction to the essential GOP complaint about Gruber, Obama, scientists and, really, anyone suspected of being less than all-American: the elitist. “It’s the smug, arrogant, elitist attitude heard around the world,” Tea Party radio host Tammy Bruce writes in The Washington Times. “In MIT professor and Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber’s case, you can hear his attitude even before he enters a room.”

However you brand Gruber, he has become, for Obama, an Other from another mother. The professor now so personifies the interloper taking advantage of innocent Americans that he’s become a word onto himself. “On issue after issue,” Kyle Wingfield writes in an Atlanta Journal Constitution blog, “the Obama administration has gone Gruber.”

To Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who’s expected to chair the Senate Budget Committee next year, this “strategy…to hide the truth from the American people” is nothing less than “a threat to the American republic.”

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Republicans are calling for, what else, congressional hearings. But like the IRS and Benghazi “scandals” and most things the GOP deems hearings-worthy, “Grubergate” is mostly hot air and bubbles.

If you look behind his braggadocio and the media’s outrage, Gruber wasn’t really saying anything we didn’t already know about how health insurance works (healthy people subsidize sick people; that’s the nature of insurance) or how legislation is written (it ain’t pretty, and never was).

Jonathan Chait did one of the best jobs unpacking this nothingness, and it’s worth repeating. On Gruber’s statement that “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” for instance, Chait writes:

Here is where media reports have most badly bungled Gruber’s point. They have treated his line about transparency as if he were describing the entire process of writing and passing the law.

….But Gruber was not talking about passing the law in a non-transparent fashion. Conservatives believe the law was passed non-transparently, but nobody who supported it considers this anything but a bizarre description of one of the most drawn-out public and legislative debates in the history of Congress. Gruber was surely referring to the non-transparent mechanism of regulating insurance companies, causing them to charge less to the sick and more to the healthy, without Congress having to carry out those transfers through direct taxes….

The Washington Post reports that Gruber was caught admitting Obamacare “was crafted in a deliberately deceptive way in order to pass Congress.” That is not what Gruber said in the video. He was trying to explain how the law’s architects had to compromise the simple technocratic purity they might use to design the law in an academic setting to account for an irrational political system in which tiny bits of fact can be decontextualized and manipulated by demagogues. The reaction to Gruber’s comments this week is fitting punishment for his obnoxious phrasing, but only serves to vindicate his underlying beliefs. [Emphasis mine]

Some of those 779 Gruber mentions on Fox News were neither decontextualized nor demagogic, particularly those by Juan Williams on Fox News Sunday:

It’s a feast for critics of Obamacare who suddenly are saying, you know, “Oh, this is why we are upset.” Look, are you kidding me? In Washington, we package, we merchandise just like Procter & Gamble and anybody else that’s selling soap….

In fact, I would say it’s much ado about nothing with Gruber except that the critics of Obamacare are having a field day. The act is working. The uninsured rate in the country has dropped by 25 percent. This is something that Republicans should be celebrating. We have more competition. We’ve done away with the Medicare doughnut hole. We have no lifetime caps and limits, we have no conditions about preexisting illnesses, we have preventative medicine. It’s just incredible to me, though, Republicans persist.

There is, however, one thing Gruber said that could have real consequences. In another video, he seems to say the ACA subsidies are meant only for people enrolled in state exchanges, not for those in the thirty-six states that allow only the federal exchange. But, as Sarah Kliff at Vox explains, “Gruber has since said he spoke “off-the-cuff” and made a mistake. And there’s reason to believe him: Gruber spoke regularly to dozens of reporters during this period, and never mentioned this idea to any of them, and his modeling software always assumed that federal exchanges could use subsidies.” In what amounts to a typo, one clause in the ACA itself also seems to make this mistake, in contradiction to the rest of the entire bill. But it was enough for the Roberts Supreme Court to take up the case, King v. Burwell, which could destroy Obamacare, with or without help from Gruber’s misspeaking tongue.

As usual, the GOP’s persistence is paying off. Gallup released a poll on Monday showing that approval of Obamacare hit a “new numerical low,” of 37 percent.

But another Gallup poll, released last Friday, shows something different and far more important: among people who are actually enrolled in Obamacare, 74 percent rate it as “excellent” or “good.” Joe Scarborough said that poll “took me by surprise.”

Makes sense. With all the bad press over Obamacare since 2009, and now with Grubergate, reality—you know, real people’s real experiences—is often surprising.

Read Next: “Frantic to Help Mary Landrieu, Democrats Betray Their Base on Keystone”

Frantic to Help Mary Landrieu, Democrats Betray Their Base on Keystone

Mary Landrieu

(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Within one day’s time, the defeated, lame-duck Senate Democrats did one very smart thing—they created a new leadership position for Elizabeth Warren so that she can help shape messaging and policy and serve as a liaison to progressive groups—and they did one very stupid thing: they reversed their position and decided to allow a long-delayed vote on the Keystone XL pipeline, next week. It’s an attempt to save pro-energy industry Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu in her in December 6 runoff against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, and it’s worse than futile.

Harry Reid and company are apparently trying to compensate for all the Party money that’s dried up for Landrieu since the midterms (you can barely find her ads on TV, while Cassidy’s are flooding the state). By debating and co-sponsoring the Senate’s Keystone bill, Landrieu will get lots of free media time. But barring a miracle, there’s no way she can win. In the midterm, the third candidate, Republican Rob Maness, won nearly 14 percent of the vote, the vast bulk of which will now go to Cassidy. Who, not coincidentally, was made the lead sponsor of an identical Keystone bill in the House.

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Rachel Maddow did a terrific piece (below) on the Dem’s Keystone crap-shoot last night, and summed it up like this:

It will not help Mary Landrieu now anyway, but it will kind of screw the environment, give the Republicans what they want, upset the Democratic base, set the president up for a painful presidential veto, and split the Democratic Party in Congress, and depress Democratic donors….It will win Democrats nothing, at great cost.

Landrieu was on TV today saying that her last-minute push for a Keystone vote “is not about the credit, this is not about the glory, it is not about politics.” That’s ridiculous. It has as much to do with politics as did her brave statement before the election that “the South hasn’t always been the friendliest place for African-Americans” or for women. No doubt she said that to appeal to the black and female electorates, but it was also the obvious and true thing to say, and she took a lot of disingenuous flack for it. But in oil-happy Louisiana, pushing for the pipeline is politics pure and simple, without the truth-to-power garnish.

We’ll be seeing a lot of grandstanding over the next week from the GOP, the right-wing media, and the newly emboldened cluster of conservative Democrats about all the jobs that the toxic tar-sand-carrying Keystone pipeline will create. So a little reminder: after the construction phase, according to Politifact, Keystone will create only about thirty-five permanent jobs. We’re not even talking about the high two digits.

Maddow on Keystone and Landrieu starts at about 1:50:

Read Next: “Stephen Colbert to GOP: Don’t Fall Into ‘the Governing Trap’”

Stephen Colbert to GOP: Don’t Fall Into ‘the Governing Trap’


Now that the Republicans will control the House and the Senate, they’re free to strut their stuff and start governing. Anyway, that’s what some GOP boosters in the media are urging. But Rush Limbaugh as well as National Review Online understand that making laws—ostensibly what the politicians were elected to do—is a dangerous political strategy. In a post the NRO editors actually called “The Governing Trap,” they reasoned thusly:

If Republicans proclaim that they have to govern now that they run Congress, they maximize the incentive for the Democrats to filibuster everything they can—and for President Obama to veto the remainder. Then the Democrats will explain that the Republicans are too extreme to get anything done.

….A prove-you-can-govern strategy will inevitably divide the party on the same tea-party-vs.-establishment lines that Republicans have just succeeded in overcoming. The media will in particular take any refusal to pass a foolish immigration bill that immediately legalizes millions of illegal immigrants as a failure to “govern.”

….If voters come to believe that a Republican Congress and a Democratic president are doing a fine job of governing together, why wouldn’t they vote to continue the arrangement in 2016?

Stephen Colbert (who will be the blowhard Stephen ColBER for only several weeks more!) took the governing trap to its logical, absurd conclusion.

Read Next: “Voter Suppression: The Midterm Election Story that Doesn’t Fit the Media Narrative”

Voter Suppression: The Midterm Election Story that Doesn’t Fit the Media Narrative


(Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

The media are spending enormous amounts of time and energy speculating over who’s responsible for the Democratic midterm rout—Obama, the Dems running from Obama, angry voters, apathetic voters—and clearly they all play a significant role. But barely a blip has been devoted to the one thing we actually do know diminished the Democratic, and especially the African-American, vote: the various forms of voter suppression that have been enacted into law in twenty-one states. As Ari Berman writes, based on number-crunching by the Brennan Center for Justice, “The number of voters impacted by the new restrictions exceeded the margin of victory in close races for senate and governor in North Carolina, Kansas, Virginia and Florida…”

But you won’t hear a lot about voter suppression; it doesn’t fit the dominant media narrative, which largely revolves around the personality of Barack Obama. In fact, in MSM circles it’s considered downright impolitic to link voter restrictions to election results.

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You can, however, hear Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, explain more about just how the votes came down, literally, here, from today’s Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC:

Read Next: “This Is How Fox Reacts When Democrats Talk About Racism in the South

Last Night’s Consolation Prize: Seeing Karl Rove Earn His Nickname ‘Turd Blossom’

Karl Rove

(Photo: Fox News)

How bad was last night? It was so bad that, for me, the only emotional consolation prize was the small and admittedly puerile pleasure of seeing Karl Rove squirm, again on an election night. It had nothing to do with who won or who lost, but it was the only media moment that made me smile, a piece of spinach caught in the teeth of wall-to-wall Republican gloating.

I say this even as I acknowledge that Rove’s discomfiture paled next to that of 2012, when he infamously insisted on Fox News that Romney had won Ohio, despite the network’s calling it for Obama. Rove’s intransigence forced Megyn Kelly to walk with camera in tow to Fox’s “brain room” for confirmation, where she shot the ham-headed GOP op down on national TV.

Kelly was there again last night when Rove, who should have been doing a victory dance, instead invited the viewer to imagine him bending over for a rectal exam.

As the scale of the GOP victory started to register, Chris Wallace asked Rove what it felt like to lose a midterm election badly, because Rove had experienced George W. Bush’s midterm massacre in 2006, when the Republicans lost thirty House seats, six Senate seats, and both chambers of Congress. How did Bush’s Brain think Obama felt after being hit by this wave?

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Every president is “idiosyncratic,” Rove started off and then, looking pained, he added, “It’s like going to a proctologist without an anesthesiologist.”

“Thanks for the metaphor,” Wallace said, wincing, as Megyn said something like “Eeeew!”

Actually, it was the second time Rove, whom W. had long ago dubbed “Turd Blossom,” has publicly likened presidential politics to proctology. In a 2012 Wall Street Journal column, he called getting vetted for the vice-presidential slot on Romney’s ticket (in the wake of John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin four years earlier) “a political proctology exam.”

Yes, I’m not proud of it, but seeing “the Architect” being embarrassed on TV was my desperate little crumb of solace.

There are of course more substantial, electoral forms of solace—Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota voted to raise the minimum wage; Scott Brown lost, Tom Wolf won. And The Nation’s Zoe Carpenter details them here.

But for the moment, I see the glass 90 percent empty. Nunn and Orman didn’t come close, the “hairless serpentine” in Florida topped Charlie Crist. Scott Walker and even Sam Brownback survived. The Dems’ would-be Southern firewall, Kay Hagan, went under after a solid year of street demonstrations against her opponent. Voter suppression, which a couple of late court decisions limited for this election, will only get worse next time, when the delayed laws take effect, and the media will largely ignore the issue, again. How much of the vote yesterday was lost to voter ID, missing voter registrations and malfunctioning machines we’ll probably never know.

But at least Megyn Kelly thinks Karl Rove is kinda gross. That’s something. Isn’t it?


Read Next: People Voted for Republicans Last Night—That Doesn’t Mean They Like Them

Why the Media Are Ignoring the Dangerous Ideas of Joni Ernst and Other Extremists Now on the Cusp of Power

Joni Ernst

(Photo: Joni Ernst/YouTube)

Joni Ernst, who may become Iowa’s next senator, denies climate change, supports a personhood amendment and says she’d use her “beautiful little Smith & Wesson” to defend herself “from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.” She’s also seriously flirted with a John Birch Society–backed conspiracy theory about an evil plot called Agenda 21.

But all you’d know from the corporate media is that Ernst made a really catchy ad about castrating pigs and that she is supposedly (but not really) the victim of a sexist remark made by outgoing Democratic senator Tom Harkin.

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Norman Ornstein, the pundit who was once quoted all over until he dared to say that Republicans are the real obstructionists, explains such grand omissions brilliantly:

The most common press narrative for elections this year is to contrast them with the 2010 and 2012 campaigns. Back then, the GOP “establishment” lost control of its nominating process, ended up with a group of extreme Senate candidates who said wacky things—Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Sharron Angle—and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in races that should have been slam dunks. Now the opposite has happened: The establishment has fought back and won, vanquishing the Tea Party and picking top-flight candidates who are disciplined and mainstream, dramatically unlike Akin and Angle.

It is a great narrative, a wonderful organizing theme. But any evidence that contradicts or clouds the narrative devalues it, which is perhaps why evidence to the contrary tends to be downplayed or ignored. Meantime, stories that show personal gaffes or bonehead moves by the opponents of these new, attractive mainstream candidates, fit that narrative and are highlighted.


Of course, this does not mean that the press has a Republican bias, any more than it had an inherent Democratic bias in 2012 when Akin, Angle, and Mourdock led the coverage. What it suggests is how deeply the eagerness to pick a narrative and stick with it, and to resist stories that contradict the narrative, is embedded in the culture of campaign journalism. [My italics] The alternative theory, that the Republican establishment won by surrendering its ground to its more ideologically extreme faction, picking candidates who are folksy and have great resumes but whose issue stances are much the same as their radical Tea Party rivals, goes mostly ignored. Meanwhile, there was plenty of coverage of the admittedly bonehead refusal by Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes to say she had voted for Obama—dozens of press references to NBC’s Chuck Todd saying it was “disqualifying”—but no stories saying that references to Agenda 21 or talking about terrorists and drug lords out to kill Arkansans [as Republican senatorial candidate Tom Cotton does] were disqualifying.

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John Oliver: The Real Shadow Government Is in the State Legislatures, Where ALEC Calls the Shots

John Oliver has gotten a well-deserved rep lately for doing investigative comedy on Last Week Tonight, and this weekend he made an excellent point about state legislatures and ALEC, the Koch-supported legislation mill. While we’re all focused on how control of the US Senate could be determined by the midterm elections tomorrow, we ought to remember that the gridlocked Congress has passed a mere 185 bills so far this session. But the state legislatures, which are staffed by folks Oliver believes are downright weird (and he had the tapes to prove it), passed a whopping 24,000 laws in the same period.

And many of those bills are written by ALEC. Like, literally. Oliver shows a clip of a Democratic legislator pointing out on the floor that a bill submitted for passage seemed to be printed off the conservative group’s website, down to the type font and even the little ALEC logo in the text.

And all this goes on under what little radar is left in local media markets. Watch Oliver try to make up for that.


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