The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Making the NSA Jealous


Ernest Istook kindly mentions my book in his Washington Times column today:

Truth is stranger than fiction in Washington D.C. Every satire about government has a real-life counterpart. Much like the runaway bureaucracy in a great recent novel, President Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is growing like a weed, while CFPB officials are busy snooping on our household finances.

In “The Weed Agency,” Jim Geraghty of National Review spins the tale of the fictitious Agency of Invasive Species within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Created by Jimmy Carter to protect America from weeds, the tiny agency hires bureaucrats who create their own empire with mega-budgets, bloated payrolls and make-believe accomplishments. They interact, Forrest Gump-style, with genuine Washington personalities and events.

The novel works because its comic fiction sounds like truth — a federal agency devoted to protecting us from weeds. Its counterpart is a real-life runaway agency, the still-new Consumer Financial Protection [Bureau]. The board’s charge is to protect consumers from greedy businesses (a term treated as meaning any business).

My fictional master bureaucrat would envy the CFPB’s funding system:

Rather than having to ask Congress for money, the CFPB siphons off part of the Federal Reserve System’s earnings before they are deposited in the U.S. Treasury. The agency’s spending has accelerated like a dragster, from $161.8 million in FY 2011 to $583.4 million for FY 2015.

Here’s an easy slam-dunk for congressional Republicans next year: Repeal the law funding the CFPB through the Federal Reserve and make it part of the traditional appropriations process. Make Obama veto it.

Also, if America is wary of the amount of personal data the NSA is collecting on them, how do they feel about the CFPB becoming a functional backup system?

In the name of protecting us, the CFPB also snoops on us. First it purchased millions of individual credit histories. Now it is establishing, in tandem with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, a “National Mortgage Database Program” to help regulators “better understand” consumer finance.

According to the Federal Register, this massive database will cover home mortgages going back to 1998 and include your name, address, telephone numbers, birth date, race/ethnicity, gender, language, religion, Social Security number, education records, military records, employment records, bank account numbers and balances, your financial history, recent events in your life, your other assets, mortgage details, credit card balance and payments, details about who lives in your household, the size of your home, number of bedrooms, etc., and even the name of your neighborhood, among other personal data.

The bureaucrats assure us that this treasure trove of personal information is safe from hacking and theft by identity thieves. That puts the CFPB on equal footing with Sony, Target, Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase, the U.S. Postal Service, the Veterans Administration and all the others who claimed their titanic data systems would never hit an iceberg.

At some point the NSA will get jealous of the CFPB’s ability to gather data on Americans.

The same administration that introduced a “Privacy Bill of Rights to Protect Consumers Online” is also collecting tons of information on you . . . in order to protect you from violations of your privacy.

Tags: NSA , Consumer Financial Protection Bureau , Ernest Istook

Wrong Subsidy Payments Mean 2015 Tax Season Will Be a ‘Disaster’


From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Obamacare: The ‘Success’ Story Continues

An Obama supporter takes to the Washington Post to lay out how the promises of the Affordable Care Act just weren’t kept:

“If you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance — this law will only make it more secure and more affordable,” President Obama promised in 2012.

The fact that this wasn’t true would be our biggest disappointment. In November 2013, Jim learned his small-business policy would be canceled because it didn’t comply with the new mandate to cover pediatric dentistry and maternity care. So Jim went to Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, to look for coverage for his employee and himself.

He found that the cost of his employee’s individual “bronze” plan monthly premiums went up 13 percent, and that his own new individual “silver” plan was also more expensive. In 2014, Jim was individually paying $82 more a month in premiums. The deductible (the amount you have to pay before the insurance company starts footing the bill) did go down — from $5,000 to $2,000 for each individual insured. But if you added together 12 months of premiums, the deductible, and the new policies’ out-of-pocket maximums, we were potentially on the hook for $13,260 — rather than the $11,024 from 2013 — if Jim got very sick.

She details having to change doctors because they weren’t accepting their new insurance – remember “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”? – and the outlook for the future is pretty grim:

What Obamacare hasn’t eliminated is worry: We’re deeply concerned about our ability to get quality medical care from doctors we trust. The day may soon come when we can’t afford the plans our doctors accept, or we’ll have to wait hours to seen. Will the best doctors flock to a cash-only model? How long can a good doctor be satisfied with the $39.75 the insurance company paid her for my annual check up a few months ago?

We had thought that our work and businesses had paid us enough to live on in these older years — but we’re discovering we didn’t account for such dramatic increases in health care costs. Medical expenses already gobble up 20 percent of our income. In 2015, if we keep the same plans, our premiums will rise $95 a month. We have no choice to opt out of the required pediatric dentistry or maternity coverage we’ll never use, so we’ll eventually have to settle for less generous policies, with higher deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.

Just wait until they get their tax bill for next year!

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was head of the CBO from 2003 to 2005 and is currently president of the American Action Forum, said Dec. 5 that the Affordable Care Act’s subsidy payments made for 2014 are unlikely to have been accurate, which means some people will have to reimburse the government for over-payments. Holtz-Eakin spoke at a forum sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research on what the next Republican Congress will do on health care.

The 2015 tax filing season “is going to be a disaster,” he warned, adding that the result may be more traction in Congress for major changes to the law.

At least enrollment is okay, right?

May 1:

The latest enrollment data filled out the demographic small print that was lacking in President Barack Obama’s mid-April announcement that enrollment in the exchanges had passed 8 million — exceeding goals and expectations for an open enrollment season that got off to a disastrous start.

When no one was paying attention, enrollment dropped 16 percent.

CNBC today:

Just before open enrollment began, there were about 6.7 million people enrolled in Obamacare plans nationally.

HHS overcounted . . . twice.

Tags: Obamacare , Taxes


Gruber Showcases Democrats’ Own ‘47 Percent’ Philosophy


From the midweek Morning Jolt:

Gruber Offers a Look at Democrats’ Own ‘47 Percent’ Philosophy

Take a good look, America. If you can’t stand that smug twerp Jonathan Gruber, refusing to tell you directly about how much money he’s made from his contracts with the White House and state governments even when questioned under oath . . . you have to realize this is perfectly fine with the philosophies of Barack Obama and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. This is not some bolt out of the blue, some unbelievable turn of events causing things to go wrong in progressive liberal governance.

The only thing that really went “wrong” in their mind is that Gruber was particularly explicit and publicly stated their shared contempt for voters, voters’ facile understanding of Obamacare and their naïve belief in the promises used to sell it.

Americans, you got really upset about Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comment. It’s understandable; you figured that the candidate was saying something nice about the voters as a whole when in public, and writing off a lot of voters as hopeless and hapless when behind closed doors.

That is exactly what Jonathan Gruber did. Over and over again.

“It’s a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter,” Gruber said at the Honors Colloquium 2012 at the University of Rhode Island.

At the University of Pennsylvania in 2013 (which you can see here), Gruber said, “If you had a law which said healthy people are going to pay in — if you made it explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed, OK? Just like how people — transparent — lack of transparency is a huge advantage. And basically, you know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever. But basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

At Washington University at St. Louis in 2013, Gruber said, “they proposed it and that passed, because the American people are too stupid to understand the difference.”

This is not a gaffe. This is not a “speak-o,” as he called one of his earlier statements that later proved deeply inconvenient to the Obama administration’s legal arguments. This is who the guy is. And the only thing unique about Gruber is that he says out loud, and in public, what most elected Democrats think.

Stop buying what they claim about how they care about the little guy.

Somehow, Jonathan Gruber had the cojones to claim you’re not entitled to know how much he had been paid by taxpayers.

“Gruber testified and did not disclose he was being paid by the Obama administration. That is deception at its highest form,” yelled Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). “Give me a dollar amount. You’re not going to answer the question? You’re under oath and you’re not going to answer the question.”

Gruber, consulting with someone in the audience at least twice, said his written financial disclosure was a matter committee staff should broach with his legal team.

“I’ve been informed by counsel that my disclosure is in compliance with the House committee rules,” Gruber said.

Another member of the committee, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), called for a subpoena to get documents related to Gruber’s contract work.

“We only received $100,000 in disclosures, which were three grants,” Issa said. “In other words, the gentleman’s disclosure is incomplete.”

Gruber replied that he was only required to provide details from this fiscal year and the previous two.

When a guy won’t tell you how much he’s being paid by state agencies, it’s because the number is really embarrassing to somebody.

Tags: Jonathan Gruber

Todd’s Book: Reid Encouraged Obama, Hillary to Leave the Senate


If you’ve ever wondered why the Democratic congressional leadership is so old, and why the party is led by so many figures whose biggest distinguishing characteristic is that they’ve been in Washington for a long time, this passage from Chuck Todd’s The Stranger illuminates a lot:

Initially [Hillary] Clinton was skeptical of taking the job in Foggy Bottom. She would be working for someone else, executing his policies, and leaving behind a Senate career that still had promise. There were moments when Clinton saw herself as the logical successor to Ted Kennedy, the next liberal lion of the Senate. But Obama’s appeal to her sense of patriotism was a strong pitch. And behind the scenes, Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, was making another thing clear: the Senate still worked on a hierarchical system, and a junior senator with little more than a single term under her belt shouldn’t be comparing herself to Ted Kennedy just yet. Reid had no interest in seeing Hillary become the biggest star in his Senate. Such were the ironies of Washington: it was easier for Barack Obama to become president than to become leader of the Senate, and easier for Hillary Clinton to enter the cabinet than to somehow take over running the Senate, or even step into leadership.

So Clinton would have returned to the Senate much as she’d left it — as a senator who made headlines but who had little real power in the committee system, not exactly a backbencher but somewhere in the middle, and certainly not someone who had any real chance of climbing the leadership ladder, especially not when Reid and Clinton’s senior colleague, New York’s Chuck Schumer, were still around. Without a piece of actual Senate real estate to run, she would be relegated to become either a White House Senate ally or one of its chief critics in order to fulfill her own ambitions. Leaving the Senate started to have a lot more appeal.

The Democratic Senate leadership in January 2009: Majority Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Majority Leader/Majority Whip Richard Durbin, Conference Vice Chairman Chuck Schumer, Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan, and Chief Deputy Whip Barbara Boxer.

Starting in the next Congress, the leaders of the Democrats in the Senate will be . . . Minority Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Minority Leader/Minority Whip Richard Durbin, Conference Vice Chairman Chuck Schumer, who will also be the policy committee chairman, and Chief Deputy Whip Barbara Boxer.

Sure, the Senate has operated on seniority for a long time, and it’s easiest to build relationships with the rest of the caucus if you’ve served a long while. But with leadership posts in the Senate so dominated by the greybeards, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see first-term senators running for president. This cycle we may get Senator Rand Paul, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Ted Cruz, and perhaps Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Why do so many senators look in the mirror and see a potential president staring back at them? Because they can’t see a potential majority leader in the reflection.

Tags: Harry Reid , Chuck Todd , Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton

Did ‘Narrative Journalism’ Help Ferguson Store Owners or UVA Women?


From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

‘Narrative Journalism,’ Leaving Wreckage, Pain and Tragedy in Its Wake

I appeared on “On the Record” with Greta Van Susteren last night, discussing my contention that “narrative journalism” ends up hurting the causes it claims to support. I’m not so sure how well I laid out my points in the limited time, so if you saw it, pretend I said this instead . . . 

What makes “narrative journalism” different from, say, factual journalism is that narrative journalism is determined to tell you a very simple, one-sided morality tale with a hero and a villain, or a victim and a villain.

Trayvon Martin was a good kid walking home with Skittles, and George Zimmerman was Yosemite Sam.

Michael Brown was a “gentle giant” and Darren Wilson was a racist, trigger-happy cop.

The Rolling Stone story featured a young girl and these monsters at a fraternity, and those callous, heartless university administrators.

And anything that gets in the way of that narrative gets ignored or downplayed. And the audience or readership comes to believe that this is a slam dunk, that it’s obvious what happened.

The difference is that life isn’t a one-sided narrative. At some point, that other side of the story either comes to light or impacts events. Inside a jury room, all of those contrary pieces of evidence get aired. Grand jurors see a very different story than the folks who watch Al Sharpton’s show. And thus they come to a decision that to that audience is absolutely unthinkable.

(Is this what happened in the Garner case on Staten Island? Perhaps. But because anyone can see what happened at the time on video, the public at large may be more skeptical of the grand jury’s decision to not indict.)

The Rolling Stone article portrayed University of Virginia administrators as unbelievably unconcerned about a series of organized ritualistic gang rapes by fraternities. Doesn’t that look a little different now? If indeed the victim’s story has changed and doesn’t align with available evidence, doesn’t the fact that no one has been arrested make a little more sense?

By the way, in the middle of what is indisputably a shoddy piece of journalistic work, that Rolling Stone article raises a key question that’s being echoed left, right, and center, and probably deserves more discussion: Why on earth are universities being trusted to investigate and prosecute major crimes like rape?

Like many schools, UVA has taken to emphasizing that in matters of sexual assault, it caters to victim choice. “If students feel that we are forcing them into a criminal or disciplinary process that they don’t want to be part of, frankly, we’d be concerned that we would get fewer reports,” says associate VP for student affairs Susan Davis. Which in theory makes sense: Being forced into an unwanted choice is a sensitive point for the victims. But in practice, that utter lack of guidance can be counterproductive to a 19-year-old so traumatized as Jackie was that she was contemplating suicide. Setting aside for a moment the absurdity of a school offering to handle the investigation and adjudication of a felony sex crime — something Title IX requires, but which no university on Earth is equipped to do — the sheer menu of choices, paired with the reassurance that any choice is the right one, often has the end result of coddling the victim into doing nothing.

I’m sure MSNBC would tell you their “narrative journalism” was meant to serve the interests of the African-Americans in Ferguson . . . and then some members of that community had their businesses looted and burned down. Rolling Stone would tell you their “narrative journalism” was meant to serve the interests of young women at the University of Virginia . . . and now those women will probably encounter even greater skepticism and doubt after reporting a sexual assault.

Tags: Journalism , Media , Ferguson , Higher Education


If You’re Not Getting Your Morning Jolt . . .


The folks who understand the technical side of NRO’s newsletter operation* inform me that we’re making some changes to the Rube Goldberg–designed system of pipes and pneumatic tubes used to distribute the Morning Jolt, Goldberg File, and our other newsletters.

For all e-mail newsletter inquiries, comments, or concerns, please contact:

[email protected]com

A member of our team will ensure that the problem gets resolved.

* They’re really great folks, quite understanding when I contact them and say, “The magic box isn’t working.”

Tags: Morning Jolt

The Latest Potential GOP 2016 Candidate Is . . . Bill Haslam?


Joshua Clinton and John Geer, two Vanderbilt University professors, make the case that Republicans should consider Tennessee governor Bill Haslam as a presidential contender:

Gov. Bill Haslam, may well become an increasingly visible part of these presidential sweepstakes. The November 2014 Vanderbilt Poll suggests why this may be the case. According to our data, Gov. Haslam stands at 70 percent approval among registered voters in the state. This is a very high number. Politicians, in fact, dream about such approval numbers…

Among self-identified Democrats in our recent poll, he garners 57 percent approval — numbers that most Democratic governors would relish! Such approval from members of the opposition party is quite amazing in this era of polarized politics — especially because this support has not cost Haslam the backing of his base. Consider that 76 percent of self-identified tea partiers approve of the job the governor is doing.

Of course, a successful presidential bid requires more than just high approval numbers in a candidate’s home state. Ask Rick Perry.

The governor told The Tennessean newspaper that he’s tougher than his “nice guy” image suggests:

The national political magazine labeled him the “anti-Christie,” in comparison to outgoing RGA leader and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and questioned whether he was “too nice” to lead the organization.

Haslam laughed when asked about the article, saying that Christie “had an opinion about that,” although he didn’t elaborate. Haslam acknowledged he doesn’t go out of his way to find political battles, but said he isn’t scared of them.

“I don’t go looking for a fight just to have a fight. And again, I don’t think that produces anything,” Haslam said. “But if there is a hard decision to make, I think we have shown we can make those.”

“If there’s something to be gained by drawing a line, you draw a line. But you don’t draw a line just to draw one.”

Here’s a recent video of Haslam touting his state’s economic momentum:

The problems for Haslam are the same ones facing Ohio Rob Portman, who recently chose to not run for president. The 2016 Republican field appears set to have a bunch of big names with large personalities, large fundraising bases, distinct national profiles and the beginnings of a national organization: Probably former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Dr. Ben Carson, perhaps Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Ohio Gov. John Kasich… And then there’s possibly Mitt Romney coming back.

Even if half that list chooses not to run, the 2016 Republican primary voters are going to be looking at a crowded debate stage. If you’re not a really charismatic, standout figure with a unique ability to win people over, you’re going to get lost on that stage.



Tags: Bill Haslam , 2016

Democrats Can Reveal Their Loathing of the South Again


Michael Tomasky responds to Mary Landrieu’s defeat in Louisiana by assuring Democrats that they don’t need to win anywhere in “almost the entire South” because “practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that’s good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment.”

Because if we’ve seen anything in the news lately from Berkeley, Calif., Ferguson, Mo., and New York City, it’s that the rest of the country doesn’t have much “choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment.”

He goes on to argue that Democrats might need Florida.

And Virginia.

And perhaps North Carolina.

And he’s optimistic about what the demographic changes in Georgia and Texas mean for Democrats.

But other than that!

The question will be whether, in two, four, or six years, Tomasky resists the siren call of the Democrats’ Great Rural Hope candidates. Because right now, after Democrats have lost in the Southern states, Tomasky and his friends can and will dismiss them as irredeemable racist backwaters full of violence, hatred, and poverty. (Wait, weren’t the Democrats the compassionate ones, who cared about the impoverished?)

In another two years, we’ll probably get another crop of Democratic Great Rural Hope candidates, posing in their pink sneakers and cowboy boots: Another Wendy Davis, another Alison Lundergan Grimes, another Jim Webb, another John Edwards. And then Tomasky’s denunciation of the region will be forgotten. All of the political press in New York and Washington will journey to the South and write their glowing profile pieces about how these new moderate, sensible, populist Democrats can win in Republican-leaning states.

Tags: Mary Landrieu , South , Democrats

Obama, Holder, and de Blasio, Still Trying to Pose Like Outsiders


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Obama, Holder, and de Blasio, Still Trying to Pose Like Outsiders

The Great Rush Limbaugh discussed one of last week’s items on his show Friday, contemplating whether the progressive-leaning “narrative journalism” ultimately harms the causes it aims to advance — the notion being that one-sided, half-accurate-at-best storytelling gives its adherents a false sense of what’s actually going on and likely to happen:

You’ve been watching CNN and you are convinced that the Gentle Giant had his hands up and said “don’t shoot” and was trying to surrender, and then the grand jury and the facts come out and you are not prepared to deal with it because you have yet to hear the facts because you’ve been watching CNN, what do you do? It’s contrary to everything that you’ve been told. So what do you do? You get mad. You get ticked off. And Geraghty’s point is that the left is actually hurting their own causes.

I disagree with him on this, by the way. ‘Cause I think they want this chaos. I think they need all of this. They need to be victims. They need the perception to be that the government is a majority, white government stacked deck against African-Americans and Hispanics. They need that. That’s what fuels them. That’s what propels people to the polls. What is playing the race card on Election Day, what is playing the race card? It’s the same thing we’re getting here in so-called reporting out of Ferguson, or Staten Island with Eric Garner.

So the idea that they’re hurting their own cause, I mean, in one sense, yeah, they’re hurting their own cause because they’re not right, and it’s being vividly demonstrated that they’re not right. But they’re misleading. I mean, they don’t look good at the end of the day. And so — (interruption) well, I’m gonna get to that. I’m gonna get to that. But the only way that they can then survive being wrong is to place themselves as victims as well, victims of an unfair country, victims of unfair society.

The thing that nobody’s talking about in all this, the thing that really, really, really needs to be talked about here is what is all of this doing to our country? This is tearing up our country. This is tearing up our society and our culture. It is tearing it up. It is on the verge of destroying the things that provide order and respect. What they are doing is creating a bunch of people who are going to end up having no respect for anything or anybody or gonna be constantly, perpetually angry and on the verge of blowing up. They are destroying the fabric of our culture with this. And to what end?

I wouldn’t disagree too much with Rush on this, other than to point out that we may be reaching the point where the progressive Left’s interest in perpetual public outrage over claims of racially motivated police abuse is working against the interests of President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, incoming nominee Loretta Lynch, and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Because progressives like Obama, Holder/Lynch, and de Blasio are in charge now, ostensibly in charge of both police forces and the investigation of those police forces when there are allegations of abuse. If there are indeed horrific abuses of police power, targeting African-Americans, occurring like clockwork, and never with any serious consequence . . . all of this is happening on their watch.

You particularly have to wonder if the president likes hearing about violent protests against police in Berkeley, Manhattan, shutting down highways in Washington, Long Island and Miami and elsewhere. No one at those protests is chanting, “Way to go, Mr. President.” For Obama, we’re about to enter the seventh year of an eight-year presidency. It’s getting late. Walking into America’s poorer minority neighborhoods, are things significantly better or worse than they were on January 19, 2009, the day before Obama took office? Are the schools performing any better? Are there more job opportunities? Are there fewer people struggling with addiction? Are there clearer paths to success? Have the crime rates changed dramatically? Is the relationship between the citizens and the police forces any better?

Think about it. The Rodney King riots occurred in 1992, sharing a lot of similar elements of the Garner case — a group of white cops in a big city accused of violently mistreating a black man accused of a crime, caught on videotape. And other than wearable video cameras, a lot of the recommended solutions discussed today are the same ones discussed 22 years ago: more community outreach by police forces, recruitment of minority police officers, a review of police tactics and the amount of force appropriate when dealing with suspects . . . How long until we’re told it’s time for another “national conversation on race”?

We’ve seen it all before. Very little changes. At least in 1992, progressives could blame the problems on whites and conservatives in positions of authority. Progressivism, at least in the realm of electoral politics, tells the electorate, “you need us in charge so that outrages like this don’t happen.” Expect that right now, the progressives are already in charge.

Thus you end up with Mayor de Blasio offering pablum like this:

The problem of police-community relations and civil rights is not just an issue for people of color — or young people — or people who get stopped by police. This is a fundamental issue for every American who cares about justice.

All of us must work together to make this right — to work for justice — and to build the kind of city — and nation — we need to be.”

What do you mean, “all of us must work together to make this right”? How is this partially our fault? You and I were just sitting here, far from Staten Island, when it happened.

All of us out here have no authority over the New York City Police Department, its tactics and methods, its leadership, philosophies, and culture. You do, Mr. Mayor.

Tags: Barack Obama , Eric Holder , Bill de Blasio , Police

Cassidy Wins; GOP Now Holds All Statewide Offices in Louisiana


In one of the least surprising results of the 2014 election cycle, Republican Bill Cassidy won 55.9 percent of the vote to Senator Mary Landrieu’s 44.1 percent.

(This post could have been written in November.)

Landrieu may take some solace — perhaps several molecules’ worth — that she performed a few points better than the polls suggested she would. But otherwise, the Louisiana Democratic party is in the worst shape in recent memory:

Landrieu’s seat was the last to fall and now the GOP controls all U.S. Senate seats, governors offices and state legislatures in the Deep South. Cassidy is just the second Republican in Louisiana elected to the Senate since Reconstruction, the first being Sen. David Vitter in 2004.

Republicans now hold every statewide elected office in Louisiana. Landrieu’s seat has been a top priority for them since she was first elected in 1996. Each election she supposed to lose, yet she managed to pull out the victory. Except for Saturday, of course.

Republicans now control 54 seats in the U.S. Senate and have a modest cushion of four seats to keep control of Senate in the 2016 cycle.

Above: Senator Mary Landrieu, appearing with a political liability earlier in her term.

Tags: Bill Cassidy , Mary Landrieu

Rolling Stone and Its Objection to a Cultural Mix of Sex and Violence


You’ll forgive the shocking images in this post…


Expanding upon these Tweets…

Maybe performers like Lady Gaga, a show like “True Blood,” or a movie like “Grindhouse” are your cup of tea, maybe they aren’t. There’s a difference between fiction and non-fiction, and fantasy and reality. But if we really want to argue that the problem of rape on college campuses or anywhere else is not a matter of individual criminal acts but instead reflects a pervasive ”rape culture” — i.e., an atmosphere where nonconsensual sex isn’t considered criminal and wrong — then it’s very hard to contend that products in popular culture that depicts images that mix sex and violence have nothing to do with that culture. (I haven’t even gotten to Rolling Stone’s articles glamorizing musicians, rappers, and professional athletes accused of sexual assault.)

Of course, Rolling Stone doesn’t mind those sorts of images on the cover because they’re good for newsstand sales, they reinforce the editors’ self-perception that they’re shocking and edgy, and they upset “the squares.” For a magazine to unleash the hounds on an alleged “rape culture” at the University of Virginia, and then offer cover images of sexualized violence on a semi-regular basis suggests that their mentality towards this “rape culture” is that art contributing to those attitudes aren’t so bad as long as a celebrity does it.

After all, Rolling Stone raved about the video for “Turn Down for What.” I cannot write a content warning big enough for that one.

Tags: Media

It’s Been a Bad Couple of Years for Republics


I feel genuinely sad for the fans of The New Republic who see the institution changing suddenly, and seemingly for the worse, under new ownership. It sends a chill down a writer’s spine to hear about a chief executive who finds the product boring and who doesn’t like to read long articles, and it’s got to be gratuitously humiliating to read in another publication that you’ve been replaced as editor, and to have to call your boss to learn that the report is indeed true. You can learn a lot about someone from how they treat other people — maybe all you really need to know. Hopefully everybody over there lands on their feet, and they get a chance to create a new publication or adapt an existing one that restores the unique qualities that are being lost under the new regime.

For fans of TNR and its contributors, who feel like they’re watching a beloved institution with an unparalleled history and place in their lives get taken over by a bunch of irresponsible, arrogant, smug, habitually dishonest radicals with more money than good sense, who don’t appreciate the institution’s tradition, greatness, or place in history, who are convinced they know best, who disregard all criticism, ignore all warning signs, and are running the place into the ground . . . 

. . . millions of Americans know exactly how you feel.

Tags: Media

New Jersey Democrats: Oh, Hey, Christie Wasn’t Involved in the Lane Closures


This will be the big story on MSNBC for the next three weeks, right?

A report summarizing a yearlong investigation by the legislative panel examining the George Washington Bridge lane closures found no evidence of Governor Christie’s involvement but concluded that two of his allies acted “with perceived impunity” when they gridlocked Fort Lee’s streets apparently for political reasons.

The committee’s 136-page report, drawing off sworn testimony, private interviews and thousands of subpoenaed documents, also highlights the unsuccessful efforts by a now-shuttered arm of Christie’s office to court the Fort Lee mayor’s endorsement, finding that the closures were “motivated in part by political considerations.”

The attorney who prepared the report for the state legislature was Reid Schar, a former U.S. Attorney who was the lead prosecutor in both corruption trials of former Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois.

The lane closure was indeed a scandal, and some may argue that the fact that Christie’s staffers acted so maliciously and with such impunity reflects badly on his administration and judgment in the people he hires and trusts. But whether you love Christie or hate him, it’s hard to dispute that most of the media — particularly MSNBC’s obsessive coverage — tore his reputation to shreds based upon the faulty assumption that Christie had a hand in the lane closures.

Of course, Ahab will keep chasing his . . . wait, that metaphor could be perceived as a slam at Christie. Let’s just point out that New Jersey assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat, told CNN, “We are not done by any means.” He announced the beginning of his investigation of the matter back on October 2, 2013.

Tags: Chris Christie

Something’s Driving the Media Obsession with the Lauten Story.


From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Something’s Driving the Media Obsession with the Lauten Story.

Chris Cillizza, who writes the “The Fix” blog over at the Washington Post, picks a “Biggest Loser in Washington” every week for a short feature in the Post’s Sunday op-ed section.

This week he picked Elizabeth Lauten, the now-former communications director for Representative Stephen Fincher (R., Tenn.). Cillizza wrote:

Lauten, having watched Malia and Sasha Obama looking less than enthused at the White House’s annual Thanksgiving turkey pardoning, took to Facebook, writing in part: “Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. . . . Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar.”

Knowingly or not, Lauten violated one of the few adhered-to commandments of political Washington: Thou shalt not talk about politicians’ children.

Right, Chris.

Oops, how did this old magazine cover get in here?

What’s going on here? How did Lauten become such a big deal to the Left? Why the volcanic reaction to snippy comments on Facebook? Why did the media treat Lauten’s ill-considered criticism of the Obama daughters as a huge story for days and days and now more than a week?

The simplest explanation is that this is lefty gang-tackling a target of opportunity, because it hits some of their political sensitive spots: A white Republican “attacked” the Obama daughters over an issue most Americans don’t care about, insufficient enthusiasm at the silly traditional White House turkey-pardon ceremony. It lets the Obamas be a victim, the (blonde!) Republican woman be the aggressor and bully, and the lefty online Furies play the chivalrous role in defending the Obama girls’ freedom to act like normal teenagers.

But for those of us who have watched the Left freak out about wildly overhyped “scandals” for a long time now, some elements of the reaction to Lauten feel weird. For starters, there’s been almost no criticism of her boss or any effort to tie him into the story. (Think about how much Chris Christie got hit for his staffers’ actions.) Then the fact that Cillizza — hardly the worst mainstream reporter guy out there — is running a Sunday, December 7, item on a controversy stemming from pre-Thanksgiving comments. Even by the low standards of a biased, partisan Washington media environment, the shelf life of this story is bewildering.

Is it that after a year of defeats and bad news, an embattled, demoralized White House wants to go after someone who criticizes the Obama daughters? I suppose it would make sense for the White House to push this story. But for a lot of progressives and for a chunk of the media, Obama is increasingly old news. The Barack and Michelle Show rolls credits for the last time in January 2017. For the cause of progressivism and its media allies, the election of Hillary takes preeminence. (At least until a serious rival claiming the mantle of modern progressivism appears, like Elizabeth Warren.)

Maybe this is an attempt to inoculate Chelsea Clinton? You may recall I’m one of the guys most prone to going on tirades against softball media coverage that insists the former First Daughter is some sort of extraordinary figure, instead of a monument to the power of modern nepotism. Of course, the Obama daughters are teenagers, and Chelsea Clinton is a grown woman taking an increasingly public role in the American political scene, including her $400,000-per-year part-time gig at NBC News.

I figure there’s a possibility that there’s an unflattering portrait of Chelsea waiting to be revealed. Heck, start with this 2007 New Republic piece by T. A. Frank:

But my real complaints start with Chelsea Clinton. Blame The New York Times for planting the first unfriendly thoughts in my head. In an article published this July, the paper unkindly reminded readers that Chelsea, in the months after September 11, had written in Talk magazine that “‘serving’ in the broadest sense now seems like the only thing to do. . . . Is banking what’s important right now?” To which the Times not so gently pointed out that Chelsea’s post-9/11 resume has consisted of stints as a McKinsey consultant and as an investment analyst at Avenue Capital, a hedge fund run by the nuns of Calcutta. Oh, sorry — make that Clinton donor Marc Lasry.

The Times piece was a fairly bitchy slap, and, before I level any further charges myself, let me defend Chelsea for a moment. All of us were feeling generous and altruistic in the wake of 9/11 before we came to our senses, aided by time and a ruthless White House. One of my best friends worked for McKinsey (I still like him fine), and my wife once worked for a hedge fund (I still like her fine). I, too, would hope one day to be well-paid, even if this effort is going disastrously.

But, still, it all seems a bit — much. Quoth the Times: “Friends say financial independence is important to Ms. Clinton; she may improve on her low-six-figure McKinsey salary by hundreds of thousands of dollars.” That’s quite a declaration of financial independence.

Interjection from Jim: And this is long before the $400,000-per-year part-time gig at NBC News.

And Chelsea didn’t exactly spend her Oxford days tending to the world’s unfortunates, either: Among the events she attended were a Versace couture show in Paris (sitting next to Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow), a ball thrown by Sir Elton John, and a film premiere with Paul McCartney. Nor did she join her British celebrity friends in visiting land-mine amputees, unless the amputees happened to be holed up at Oscar de la Renta’s Dominican villa. In New York, Chelsea has befriended celebrities like Tara Reid (who, to be fair, may actually qualify as a public-service cause) and become a regular at establishments like Schiller’s and Bungalow 8. In short, while Jenna [Bush] has used her celebrity — at least in part — to help impoverished children, Chelsea has used her celebrity to get herself good tables at Nobu. And to get guest reporter gigs at swishy Interview magazine. Here’s her grilling of actor Jake Gyllenhaal:

clinton: I wish you were shooting on Martha’s Vineyard.

gyllenhaal: I remember going to your father’s 51st birthday on Martha’s Vineyard, where we met. Both our families are friends with the Danson-Steenburgens, and I was invited.

clinton: We sat together at dinner.

gyllenhaal: And we just immediately started talking. I’m going to the Vineyard next week with my mom.

clinton: Your mother’s such a heroine.

gyllenhaal: She is. As is yours. Darling, it’s been so frightfully dull at the Danson-Steenburgens without you.

Maybe the Lauten pile-on is an effort to make any scrutiny of Chelsea politically untouchable, it won’t work. But then again, a lot of this crowd’s ideas don’t work.

Tags: Barack Obama , Media , Chelsea Clinton

Could King v. Burwell Save Democrats from Obamacare?


If you accept that . . .

A) Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act is an extraordinarily complicated, interlocking, jenga-tower-like piece of legislation that will not work if any significant part is removed, particularly the individual mandate or the subsidies for those purchasing on the federal exchange, and . . . 

B) President Obama will never, ever, ever allow Obamacare to be repealed, or for Republicans to repeal a portion that would lead to the collapse of the entire initiative, and . . . 

C) That certain Democrats are beginning to realize that Obamacare is a political albatross that will only worsen with time . . . ​

Will certain Democrats secretly hope that the Supreme Court rules in King v. Burwell that the text of the law only allows for subsidies on state-run exchanges, and that the IRS cannot allow subsidies on federal exchanges?

That decision would effectively destroy Obamacare. The consequences would be instant and severe, with millions of people losing their subsidies, determining that their insurance policies are now unaffordable, and canceling them. There’s an argument that eliminating the subsidies in states using the federal exchange would be a backdoor way of rescinding the individual mandate: “The mandate includes an exemption for people who can’t afford coverage, and without subsidies, millions more people would qualify for that exemption.” Insurers would have millions of canceled policies, with former customers who can’t afford a new policy. The consequences of unsubsidized Obamacare might be so bad that there could be bipartisan agreement to repeal the whole thing and start over.

If you’re a Democrat, this is a way to get rid of the political costs of Obamacare without ever having to admit that the law was badly conceived, written, implemented, administered, and so on.

A Democrat who privately thinks Obamacare has turned into a political deadweight for his party but doesn’t want to admit so publicly could even complain loudly about “runaway ultra-conservative judicial activism,” “right wing ideologues in black robes snatching away health insurance from the poor,” and so on. But Obamacare would be gone, and with it, the consequences for Democrats for their vote to pass unpopular legislation that canceled plans, raised premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and so on.

This would allow a lot of Democrats to turn back to their true preferred option, a single-payer system.

Of course, having experienced the mess of Obamacare, Americans are unlikely to yearn for a system with even more government control of the health-care system, and single-payer would go nowhere with a GOP-held U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. But it would put the Democrats back in their comfortable position of touting a hypothetical future plan of government-run health care making everyone happy, instead of defending the current status quo of government-mandated purchases of private health-insurance plans.

Maybe this will turn out to be Obamacare’s . . . “​death panel.”

Tags: Obamacare

How Democrats’ Obamacare Headaches Are Just Beginning


Today’s extended thoughts on how Obamacare is going to cause Democrats serious headaches for at least the next two years, and perhaps long after that . . . 

Tags: Obamacare

Should a Federal Prosecutor Like His Odds in a Case Over Garner?


Unsurprisingly, I’m receiving strong reactions, pro and con, in response to this section of the Morning Jolt:

Every Once in a While, the Cop Isn’t the Good Guy in the Story

There are a lot of times where we in the conservative world greet claims of police abuse with great skepticism, suspecting that a criminal is attempting to get attention, sympathy, publicity, and/or a lucrative financial settlement out of actions that just represent police officers doing their job.

The case of Eric Garner isn’t one of those times.

For starters, this is not the typical “one side claims X happened, the other side claims Y happened” dispute. The incident was caught on videotape. We can watch the chilling moment as Garner literally gasped, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” as the cops were on top of him.

Secondly, the New York City medical examiner declared the victim’s death a homicide. Uh-oh.

Eric Garner, the Staten Island dad who complained that he couldn’t breathe as he was subdued by cops, died from compression of the neck, the medical examiner said Friday.

The autopsy also found that compressions to the chest and “prone positioning during physical restraint by police” killed Garner. The manner of death, according to the medical examiner, was homicide.

Garner’s widow told the Daily News she was relieved that the coroner finally confirmed what she suspected since her husband died on July 17.

Rarely do I see two guys I respect so greatly disagreeing with such vehemence as Wednesday afternoon’s debate between our Charlie Cooke and Ace at the Ace of Spades.

Ace’s argument:

Frankly, I think everyone on the right is looking to prove “We’re not one of those sorts of people who automatically defends anyone who kills a black person.”

And we did that in three Racial Incidents running. I know my first reaction in both Trayvon Martin’s case, and in Michael Brown’s case, was to side with the black victim.

And maybe this is the wrong time to put my foot down, but I’ve been suckered twice, and I won’t be suckered a third time.

Did Eric Garner deserve to die? No. The crime that began all this was selling “Loosies,” single cigarettes out of the pack, in defiance of the state tobacco tax laws and all the other nonsense laws they throw on people about only selling things in their original packaging. Minor [stuff]. Nonsense.

And yet, he defied police orders when they attempted to arrest them. When they tried to cuff him, he defied them again, pulling his arms away. He decided, as a Jury of One, that the law was silly and he would not be being arrested today.

I can’t entirely blame him for feeling that way, but I know that if the police attempt to arrest you for a law which you are in fact breaking, even if you think it’s a minor harassing sort of law, you do not have the right to resist arrest.

What followed is what follows in all resisting-arrest cases: some escalating violence as the police attempt to physically impose their will on the noncompliant suspect.

Some number of such situations will result in the death of the suspect.

I guess I just don’t understand how we say this guy is guilty of manslaughter, given that in almost all cases where a guy’s heart just gives out in a struggle, we could find some error in procedure as a hook to throw the guy in jail for.

This is a tragedy, in my mind. Eric Garner wasn’t much of a criminal threat, and the police did seem too eager to use force.

Nevertheless, we actually pay them to use force when a law-breaking suspect (even one breaking a trivial law) resists arrest. That is the job we’ve given them.

To say this guy is guilty of murder or manslaughter seems to me to be a case of scapegoating the people we’ve tasked with implementing a policy that we have imposed ourselves.

Let me turn to Sean Davis for the case for a manslaughter charge:

New York’s statutes on manslaughter are pretty unequivocal. Just going on the plain language of the law, the police officer who killed Garner certainly appears to be guilty of second-degree manslaughter at the very least:

§ 125.15 Manslaughter in the second degree.
A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when:
1. He recklessly causes the death of another person; or
2. He commits upon a female an abortional act which causes her death, unless such abortional act is justifiable pursuant to subdivision three of section 125.05; or
3. He intentionally causes or aids another person to commit suicide.
Manslaughter in the second degree is a class C felony.

The second-degree manslaughter charge requires only two factors: 1) the person charged must have caused the death of the victim, and 2) the perpetrator must have caused the death of the victim via reckless means.

As the video shows, the officer clearly caused the death of Eric Garner, who was alive until the officer put him in a chokehold, a move which is banned by the NYPD for good reason. And why did the police department ban chokeholds? Here’s an article on the subject from 1993, when a previous police chief banned the practice:

The New York City Police Department has issued an order banning the use of choke holds, the restraining maneuvers that cut off the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and have been blamed in the deaths of suspects here and around the nation.

So an officer used a banned practice that is known to lead to the deaths of people who are subjected to it? That certainly seems to satisfy the second condition of a second-degree manslaughter charge. And again, I have to stress that the entire incident was caught on tape. The evidence is unequivocal. And yet, no indictment.

One other deeply troubling wrinkle to this story:

Four EMS workers who responded to the arrest of a man who later died in police custody have been suspended without pay two days after an eight-year veteran of the NYPD was stripped of his badge and gun for allegedly using a chokehold while handcuffing the man.

The EMS workers, who have not been identified, included two EMTs and two paramedics. The workers are not city employees but work for Richmond University Medical Center, according to the FDNY. They were first placed on modified duty, and then hospital officials announced Monday the workers were being suspended and would not be allowed to work at the hospital or throughout the 911 system.

Cellphone video captured the arrest of 43-year-old Eric Garner Thursday evening, and showed him saying “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” as he was brought to the ground by an officer using a chokehold, a tactic prohibited by NYPD policy.

A friend of the victim showed NBC 4 New York new cellphone video Monday that showed the response moments later as Garner lay on the ground, not moving: the paramedics, EMTs and police peer over Garner, and none administer CPR.

I come closer to Charlie and Sean than Ace on this one. I understand some will scoff at civilians second-guessing the decision of cops trying to get handcuffs on a big guy who’s resisting arrest. But the moment Garner started gasping, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” those cops had an obligation to treat his claim of breathing difficulties seriously. Between their actions and the EMT workers’ inaction, they failed to fulfill their oaths and honor their positions of trust and authority.

Yesterday, we discussed how federal prosecutors in the Department of Justice declined to try George Zimmerman on federal charges and are unlikely to pursue them with Officer Darren Wilson; in those cases, the burden of proof is just too high and the odds of a successful conviction are just too low.

In this one, if I were a federal prosecutor, I’d be happy to take those odds with that video.

And beyond the federal charges . . . 

A grand jury voted not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner — but the eight-year veteran isn’t off the hook just yet.

Pantaleo — who was placed on modified duty after Garner’s death on July 17 — is still being investigated by the Internal Affairs Bureau, which is looking into his possible use of excessive force and may decide to charge him departmentally.

“If so, there will be a departmental trial,” a source said.

At the end of that trial, the Department Advocate’s office will make recommendations to Police Commissioner Bill Bratton as to whether Pantaleo should be fired, disciplined or go unpunished.

Ultimately, Bratton has the final say in his future on the force.

Tags: Police

There Has Been an Awakening . . . to Obamacare’s Forceful Dark Side


From the Thursday Morning Jolt:

There Has Been an Awakening . . . to Obamacare’s Forceful Dark Side

As the Star Wars trailer declared and asked . . . “There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?”


The Dark Side of Obamacare’s . . . er, force is real. And some Democrats are awakening to it, and what they have done to themselves, and the nation:

The views of Democratic advocates of Obamacare notwithstanding, public opinion has generally sided with Schumer.

A United Technologies/National Journal Congressional connection poll of 1,013 adults in mid-November 2013 found that by a 25-point margin, 59-34, respondents said that the health care law (which includes a major expansion of Medicaid to cover anyone up to 133 percent of the poverty line, and subsidies for the purchase of private insurance for those between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line) would make things better for the poor. But respondents also said, by a 16-point margin, 49-33, that the law would make things worse for “people like you and your family.” White respondents were even more critical, with 58 percent saying that Obamacare would make things worse for people like you and your family, and 63 percent saying it would make things worse “for the middle class.” . . . 

During a September pre-election panel discussion on the continuing political repercussions of the Affordable Care Act, Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Report, put his finger on the health care problem facing Democrats when he pointed out that the public perception of the party has been indelibly imprinted by Obamacare.

The Affordable Care Act has “framed where the Democratic Party is,” Cook said. “If I would sum up my assessment, it was huge, it did play a central role in framing everything.” By 2014, health care reform “lost a little bit of its oomph, but it still is more important in setting things up than any other issue was over the last six years.” . . . 

As if Democrats do not already have enough trouble, data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that many, if not most, of the seven million people who purchased insurance through the A.C.A. will either have to pay higher premiums or higher deductibles, or submit themselves to the complex process of switching plans.

Oh, Democrats . . . you don’t know the power of the dark side . . . of this law. But you will.

Tags: Obamacare

Eventually, Jeb Bush Will Need to Claim He’s the Conservative Candidate


Yesterday I mentioned that immigration reform and Common Core could represent huge issues of contention between Jeb Bush and conservative Republican primary voters — and yet that when he was governor, one of Bush’s crusades was a key priority of conservatives, school choice:

Over at Politico, S. V. Date asks how the heck Jeb Bush became to be perceived as the moderate in the GOP field:

For those of us who covered Jeb’s two terms in Tallahassee, this is beyond mind-boggling. On issue after issue, Jeb’s track record in Florida pushed conservatism’s envelope to the breaking point. For anti-tax conservatives, Jeb slashed the state’s collections by a cumulative $14 billion over his eight years. For the devoted sub-set of supply-siders: The bulk of these cuts came via the complete repeal of Florida’s decades-old wealth tax on financial instruments. It pretty much had been the only progressive tax the state had, since Florida’s constitution forbids an income tax.

For anti-spending conservatives, Jeb line-item vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars in hometown projects from the state budget year after year.

For small-government conservatives, Jeb eliminated thousands of jobs by outsourcing huge swaths of state duties, including the massive human resources function and the state purchasing office.

For law-and-order conservatives, Jeb championed tough-on-crime bills like “10-20-life” for gun offenders and three-strikes legislation for repeat offenders. He jammed through the legislature a death-penalty overhaul drastically limiting appeals for condemned inmates (it was soon afterward struck down, however, by the Florida Supreme Court).

For pro-gun conservatives, Jeb approved an enhanced concealed carry law and, infamously, the NRA-written “Stand Your Ground” law. (After Trayvon Martin, Jeb said he did not believe it should have been applied in that instance.)

For religious conservatives, Jeb rammed through education bills that created the first statewide school voucher programs in the nation, and then spent years defending them against oversight attempts. He approved the “Choose Life” license plate, and sent state money to groups that counseled women against having abortions. And, famously, he pushed through legislation allowing him as governor to intervene in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case—and at the very end nearly triggered a showdown with a local judge by sending state police officers to seize her from a Tampa Bay area hospice.

With all this on his resume, Jeb Bush is now considered a moderate? A RINO? What more can conservatives want?

Despite Bush’s declaration yesterday that “I kinda know how a Republican can win, whether it’s me or somebody else — and it has to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more wiling to be, ‘lose the primary to win the general’ without violating your principles,” it is very hard to believe Bush would or could run for president by explicitly renouncing the conservative base of the party. At some point, Bush will, either by choice or necessity, attempt to claim the mantle of the conservative candidate. The big question is whether grassroots conservatives, feeling their country is under assault by a destructive, aggressive progressivism, will be reassured by policy achievements from 1999 to 2007.

Tags: Jeb Bush

What If the Media’s ‘Narrative Journalism’ Harms Their Own Causes?


From the midweek Morning Jolt:

What If the Media’s ‘Narrative Journalism’ Harms Their Own Causes?

Allow me to play devil’s advocate…

What if the mainstream media’s increasing devotion to “narrative journalism” – preconceived storylines that fit a particular agenda or political or ideological view, almost always progressive –  as opposed to say, “factual journalism” — is actually harmful to the causes they seek to advance?

We’ve seen the media’s “narrative journalism” insisting that Officer Darren Wilson’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown represented a vivid, awful example of racist police forces recklessly using deadly force against defenseless black men. The grand jury remained unconvinced. They saw too many pieces of evidence and witness testimonies that contracted that simple morality play.

The media’s “narrative journalism” contended that George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin represented a brutal crime, revealing a reckless, gun-toting vigilantism loose on the streets of America, preying upon innocent young black men. The jury looked at the available evidence and acquitted Zimmerman. All that one-sided “narrative journalism” left a portion of their audience completely unprepared for the jury’s decision, because it seemed so contrary to everything they had been told.

You may recall similar examples of juries rejecting a convenient narrative embraced by the media’s most powerful voices, such as the case against the Duke Lacrosse players. Jurors aren’t like most news viewers. For the purposes of the decision before them, they’re not “low-information voters.” They don’t have the option of tuning out the story when it gets boring. They have to pay attention – or at least appear to pay attention – to all of the facts, and hear both the prosecution’s side and the defense’s side.

Right now, hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions, are furious and are publicly demanding a result that is extremely unlikely to happen: federal charges and a conviction of Darren Wilson.

You may have missed this story back in October:

The Justice Department is not expected to bring civil rights charges against George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, according to three law enforcement officials, despite allegations that the killing was racially motivated.

The federal investigation of Zimmerman was opened two years ago by the department’s civil rights division, but officials said there is insufficient evidence to bring federal charges. The investigation technically remains open, but it is all but certain the department will close it.

Not even Eric Holder’s politicized Department of Justice wanted to step up and try Zimmerman on federal charges; the burden of proof is just too high and the odds of a successful conviction are just too low.

As in the Trayvon Martin case, all of the agitation and drum-beating and fury-feeding has created an expectation that the Obama administration is unlikely to meet.

You see the phenomenon outside of criminal cases, as well.

The media’s “narrative journalism” did pro forma coverage of Jonathan Gruber’s comments about Obamacare and an ill-informed electorate… but that left a juicy story for the alternative media. And it’s not like ignoring Gruber’s comments has made Obamacare any more popular. All the puff pieces in the world dissipate as soon as somebody gets that policy cancelation letter in the mail. All the “narrative journalism” cheerleading for Obamacare, clashing with the harsh real-life experiences, has discredited the traditional progressive view on the health care system:

For the third consecutive year, a majority of Americans (52%) agree with the position that it is not the federal government’s responsibility to ensure that all Americans have healthcare coverage. Prior to the start of Barack Obama’s presidency in 2009, a majority of Americans consistently took the opposite view.

Yes, the media’s “narrative journalism” can certainly set the terms of discussion, bring issues to prominence, downplay inconvenient stories, and so on. And yet that approach generates the opposite results they want pretty regularly, doesn’t it?

Tags: Obamacare , Ferguson , George Zimmerman , Eric Holder


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