The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Conservatives Keep Giving Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Exactly What She Wants

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrates after upsetting incumbent Representative Joe Crowley, June 26, 2018. (Scott Heins/Getty Images)

Making the click-through worthwhile: how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez needs critical media coverage and why conservatives keep giving her what she wants, even worse news about the police response to the Parkland school shooting, hopes collapse for construction of a wall on America’s southern border collapse, and a look back at previous efforts by Russian intelligence to tear at America’s social fabric and inflame racial and ethnic tensions.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Symbiotic Relationship with Critical Media Coverage

Publicly discussing incoming congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is something like the assessment of nuclear war in WarGames: The only way to win is to not play.

If you point out that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about in off-the-cuff remarks, you’ll be accused of being some sort of elitist snob who thinks members of Congress should know that the unemployment rate is not low because of people working second jobs, how many chambers of Congress there are, or have a rough approximation of the size of the defense budget, and not miss by $20 trillion or so.

To the best of my recollection, I’ve written about her twice since her primary win in June and spoken about her a few times on the Three Martini Lunch or other venues. That doesn’t matter; I will inevitably be accused of being “obsessed” with her just for writing this item in today’s newsletter.

Perhaps some venues can be fairly accused of being obsessed with her. FoxNews.com has 16 articles or video segments about her so far this month, nearly one a day. On the other hand, if she didn’t want people talking about her taking a week off for “self care,” she presumably wouldn’t have posted about it on Instagram. And why wouldn’t she attract attention? The story “29-year-old former bartender gets elected to Congress” is the sort of fish-out-of-water story that is usually found in comedy films and sitcoms. You don’t usually see members of Congress who are openly socialist.

But she is also occasionally genuinely surprising. While other New York Democrats such as Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio celebrated the deal to bring Amazon to New York City, she trashed the deal as corporate welfare. When Matt Yglesias wrote at Vox that she should run for president “and dare the Supreme Court to stop her,” she publicly dismissed the idea. “Sometimes political media is too fixated on personalities instead of policies. The whole country JUST went through an exhausting midterm election. We need a break. Can we instead talk about healthcare, a living wage, legalizing cannabis, GND, & other issues?”

She’s developed a relationship with Fox News (and now, apparently Politico) that is as symbiotic as the one between President Trump and CNN or the New York Times. The media institutions offer stories that cast the politician in a bad light, the politician hits back insisting that the whole thing is made up and part of a personal vendetta, the viewers and readers are pleased because they like juicy stories of politicians looking bad, and the politician’s supporters are pleased because their preferred candidate looks like “a fighter.” Everybody goes home happy until the next news cycle demands the process begin again. Critical media coverage gives Ocasio-Cortez an enemy, a foe that she can claim is unfairly bullying her — or to use her words, “stalking,” and pose as someone standing up to the bully.

Because of the demographics of Ocasio-Cortez’s district, she is likely to have that House seat for as long as she lives or as long as she’s interested. In terms of how she’s is covered, she’s probably a stand-in for audience attitudes about whole demographics — Millennials, socialists, women, Latinas. Audiences that think Millennials are clueless probably eat up stories of her gaffes like potato chips. Audiences that think Millennials are the vanguard of a better future relish every time she tells someone off.

There are going to be a lot of, “Oh my God, can you believe Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said this?!” pieces until the political-news audience gets bored with her. But we should believe that she said this latest thing because . . . that’s what she does. She doesn’t face the voters for another two years and there’s really no comment about Trump or the media that could cost her any serious ground in her district.

Ocasio-Cortez is one of 43 new Democratic members of the House, but she’s a lot more likely to make news in her comments than, say, Florida’s Donna Shalala or South Carolina’s Joe Cunningham, still pledging to fight against a plan to drill off the coast that will never happen. The relentless coverage of her, positive and negative, gives House Democrats an important tool for amplifying their preferred message. Right now, her primary value to the rest of the party is as a megaphone, getting the media to talk about whatever she’s talking about. If the media — left, right, and center — covered her as just another freshman House member, the path ahead of her would become much more difficult.

Good Luck, Broward-County Citizens

If you thought the story of the police response to the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., couldn’t possibly get any worse . . . it just got worse:

In the weeks after a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., widespread criticism was focused on Scot Peterson, the armed sheriff’s deputy who heard the exploding gunfire but failed to run in and try to stop the massacre.

But a state commission that has been investigating the Feb. 14 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the past 10 months found that the shortfall in the police response went much further: Seven other sheriff’s deputies who raced to the school and heard gunshots also stayed outside the building, the commission found, and officers lost even more time scrambling to retrieve bulletproof vests from their cars.

A total of 17 students and staff members lost their lives in an attack that spanned a full six minutes; 17 others were injured.

How is Sheriff Israel still employed?

And has anyone at CNN looked at their atrocious nationally televised “town hall meeting” where Dana Loesch was the scapegoat for the nation’s gun violence and gasped, “Dear God, how did we botch this story so badly? How did we allow the leader of the police force who completely fumbled the response to the crisis to blame everyone but his own department for what happened?”

Forty Miles of Big, Beautiful Bollard Fence

A week ago, I wrote:

. . . what makes this current ongoing fight over a spending bill different from all the others [is that it is] probably Trump’s last chance to get a big chunk of funding for “the wall.” If Trump runs for reelection with just 40 miles of bollard fencing complete, he’s probably toast. People voted for him because they believed he could get things done.

And now . . . it appears funding for the wall will not be arriving.

Ms. Sanders offered the first glimmers of a way out of the impasse in an interview Tuesday morning on Fox News, in which she said Mr. Trump — who only a week ago said he would be proud to force a shutdown over wall funding — did not want to see government funding lapse. She said the president was open to spending options short of the $5 billion lump sum he has demanded, and would find “different funding sources” to finance the wall.

“The president has asked every agency to look and see if they have money that could be used for that purpose,” she told reporters later.

Still, that would require approval from Congress, which Democrats said they would not grant.

Whatever happened to, “If we don’t get what we want one way or the other, I will shut down the government”? What happened to “I am proud to shut down the government for border security” and “I will take the mantle of shutting it down”?

ADDENDUM: Last night I wrote on the Corner about how Russian intelligence has always tried to exacerbate racial tensions in the United States. A retired KGB colonel admitted in his memoir, “Attempting to show that America was inhospitable to Jews, we wrote anti-Semitic letters to American Jewish leaders. My fellow officers paid American agents to paint swastikas on synagogues in New York and Washington. Our New York station even hired people to desecrate Jewish cemeteries.”

Evil men in Moscow want us to hate each other.

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