New poll: Americans optimistic about Obamacare, overwhelmingly oppose GOP position

Source: The Jed Report, via Daily Kos

Author: staff

(N.B. The term ‘Obamacare’ is a conservative term for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) used by it’s GOP conservative critics.  As the ACA succeeds, will these critics still want their arch enemy’s name on it?  It might also be noted that as the law addresses health care insurance, not health care itself, ‘health care law’ may be a bad frame.)

CNN has a very interesting new poll that not only debunks the notion that Americans have already decided Obamacare is a failure, but also reveals that Americans overwhelmingly oppose the GOP’s conservative critique of the health care law.

According to the poll (pdf), which surveyed American adults between Nov. 18-20 with a margin of error of ±3.5 points:

  1. Most Americans believe Obamacare’s current problems will be solved. 54 percent say they believe current problems will be fixed, compared with 43 percent who say they won’t be.
  2. Most Americans believe it’s too early to judge whether Obamacare is a success or failure. A total of 53 percent think it is too early to say whether Obamacare is a success or failure. A total of 39 percent think it’s a failure and 8 percent already think it is a success.
  3. Most Americans do not support conservative critiques of Obamacare. According to the poll, 41 percent of Americans think Obamacare is too liberal, slightly more than 40 percent who support Obamacare. But 14 percent think it’s not liberal enough.

As you might expect, the poll’s crosstabs show that most Republicans are certain Obamacare can’t be fixed and has already failed, but outside of the GOP universe, people aren’t merely open to Obamacare, they are optimistic about its prospects and want it to work.

Obviously, it doesn’t matter how open or optimistic the public is if the Obama administration can’t ultimately deliver on the promise of Obamacare, but if they do, most Americans are on their side. Republicans have bet everything on failure. If they lose that bet, it will be an absolute political nightmare for them—and it should be.”



Emphasis Mine



Fox News’ Audience Is Literally Dying: Is Roger Ailes’ Grand Experiment in Propaganda Doomed?

Source: The Nation, via Alternet

Author: Reed Richardson

“In the annals of Fox News, October 2012 will likely stand out as a shining moment. Buoyed by a wave of Republican optimism about Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, the network seemed tantalizingly close to realizing one of its key ideological goals: ousting President Obama from the White House. Renewed enthusiasm among conservatives was, in turn, triggering record-high ratings for much of the network’s programming and helping it to beat not just rival news competitors MSNBC and CNN during prime time, but every other TV channel on the cable dial. What’s more, the prospect of an ascendant GOP come January meant Fox News might soon return to the era of access and prestige it enjoyed in Washington during the presidency of George W. Bush. The future looked so bright that News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch signed Fox News president Roger Ailes to a lucrative four-year contract extension, even though the 72-year-old Ailes’s existing contract wasn’t due to expire until 2013.

Then November arrived, and with it reality.

Fox News’s shellshocked election night coverage, punctuated by Karl Rove’s surreal meltdown upon hearing of Obama’s victory in Ohio and, thus, the election, capped off a historic day of reckoning for the network and conservatives alike. Chastened by defeat, Republican politicians and right-wing pundits have subsequently been grappling with the repercussions of the caustic tone and incendiary rhetoric their movement has adopted. This ongoing debate about whether broadening conservatism’s appeal requires new messages or just new messaging has ignored the 800-pound gorilla in the room, however. Noticeably absent from all the right wing’s public self-criticism is any interest in confronting the potent role played by the Republican Party’s single most important messenger, Fox News.

Standing at the epicenter of the network—and any new Republican Party groundswell—is Ailes. A former political operative of President Richard Nixon, Ailes has inextricably intertwined his professional and political pursuits since founding Fox News in 1996. Indeed, the network chief functions as a kind of proxy kingmaker within the party, frequently meeting with Republican politicians to offer strategic advice. He is a regular confidant of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, and at various times, he (or a network emissary of his) has counseled 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Gen. David Petraeus on their potential future. “Ailes,” says former Reagan White House economic adviser Bruce Bartlett, “is quite open about offering his free advice to Republicans…. If you visit New York City, you go see Roger Ailes and kiss his ring. It’s like visiting the Vatican. My guess is that there’s a lot of back-and-forth between Ailes and whoever is at the pinnacle of power in the Republican Party.”

To keep relying on a shrinking number of elderly, white and male subsets of the public, whether to win elections or win ratings, has become a strategy of diminishing returns, however. “I think that you can’t separate the problem at Fox [News] from the problem that the Republicans are going through,” Bartlett says. He can speak firsthand to this incestuous relationship, as his 2006 book, Impostor—which broke with party orthodoxy over the Bush administration’s deficit spending—quickly made him persona non grata at Fox News, he says. (Fox News did not respond to questions about his comment.) “The Republicans are trying to retool to win. That’s all they care about, and they’re trying to decide, ‘How can we be more pragmatic? How can we shave off the rough edges? How can we get rid of the whack jobs who are embarrassing us, costing us Senate seats? But at the same time, we can’t do this in such a way that it alienates our base.'” Fox News faces a similar dilemma, Bartlett contends: “It’s ‘How do we modernize? How do we attract new audiences without losing the old audience? How do we remain relevant without abandoning our traditions?'”

These are fundamental questions, and lately Fox News’s 
fundamentals—audience, ratings and public trust—have faltered. A 2010 study by Steve Sternberg found the network’s viewership to be the oldest (with an average age of 65) among an already elderly cable news audience. (CNN’s was 63 and MSNBC’s was 59.) By comparison, lifestyle cable channels Oxygen, Bravo and TLC were among the youngest, with an average viewer age of 42. And with MSNBC’s recent decision to plug 34-year-old rising star Chris Hayes into the coveted 
8 pm slot, the average age of that network’s prime-time hosts will now be 45, while Fox News’s rotation, anchored by 63-year-old Bill O’Reilly, has an average age of 57.

Having cable news’s oldest average age for both prime-time hosts and audiences represents something of a double-edged sword for Fox in the cutthroat world of cable TV. One advantage is that older audiences are traditionally more loyal, which is why several industry experts say that Fox News is unlikely to be dislodged from its perch atop overall cable TV news ratings anytime soon. This age-loyalty effect redounds to the benefit of Fox News’s best-known prime-time hosts, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, as roughly two-thirds of their viewers are age 50 or older, according to a recent Pew State of the News Media survey.

But at the same time, there is an undeniable actuarial reality at work—or as Bartlett bluntly puts it, “Their viewership is quite literally dying.” The most lucrative advertising dollars flow to TV shows that attract viewers “in the demo,” short for “demographic”—industry parlance for people ages 25 to 54. By contrast, Fox News’s prime-time commercial breaks are blanketed with pitches for cheap medical devices and insurance companies aimed at retirees and the elderly. Perhaps not surprisingly, the network’s advertising rates have grown at a much more modest pace in recent years, according to the Pew survey. Similarly, the growth of its ad revenues has diminished every year since 2008.

Because of the relatively older age and smaller size of the cable news audience, viewership tends to be relatively stable, says Columbia University Journalism School professor and former NBC News president Richard Wald. “Its [ratings] move in very small increments.” To understand why viewers come and go, he compares a TV network‘s audience to a target with concentric rings. The core audience—those who are loyal to your channel and watch frequently (and, for partisan media outlets, those who are most ideologically compatible)—is the bull’s-eye. Each concentric ring outward represents a segment of the audience that is less likely to watch because of diminished interest or less enthusiastic partisan sympathies. Dramatic ratings shifts can occur, but they tend to be driven by external events, like elections, rather than programming and thus affect all of the networks simultaneously. Most ratings fluctuations are statistical noise, Wald says, resulting from people in the outermost rings tuning in or out based on varying interest. “I would guess that [Fox News’s] numbers could change by 5, 6, 7, 8 percent and not reflect a change in the loyalty of the audience.”

But here, too, the news does not bode well. Though the network did retain its status as the top-rated cable news network in 2012—its eleventh consecutive year at number one—the steep drop in ratings that its shows have experienced since Election Day has raised eyebrows, precisely because corresponding shows on MSNBC and CNN have not experienced the same precipitous decline.

Just how much of a drop are we talking about? According to Nielsen data, Fox News’s prime-time monthly audience fell to its lowest level in twelve years in January among the 25-to-54 demographic. Daytime Fox News programming likewise saw its lowest monthly ratings in this age cohort since June 2008. Even the network’s two biggest stars, O’Reilly and Hannity, have not been immune from viewer desertion: Hannity lost close to 50 percent of his pre-election audience in the final weeks of 2012, and O’Reilly more than a quarter. The slide hasn’t stopped in 2013, either. Compared with a year ago, O’Reilly’s February prime-time ratings dropped 
26 percent in the coveted 25-to-54 demographic, his worst performance since July 2008. Hannity’s sank even further, to the lowest point in his show’s history.

As Wald points out, short-term ratings snapshots can be deceptive. But in the weeks following Obama’s 2009 inauguration, Fox News’s viewership actually surged, averaging 539,000 prime-time demo viewers versus 388,000 and 357,000 for CNN and MSNBC, respectively. This past January, however, Fox could only muster 267,000 average nightly viewers—a 50 percent drop from that 2009 level, and not much more than MSNBC’s 235,000 or CNN’s 200,000.

So why are all these Fox News viewers tuning out? Some of the decline may be due to a broader cultural trend of people deciding to avoid cable TV news altogether. However, a recent Public Policy Polling survey of news media trustworthiness suggests there’s more going on than public apathy. In February, PPP found a marked drop in Fox News’s credibility. A record-high
46 percent of Americans say they put no trust in the network, a nine-point increase over 2010. What’s more, 39 percent name Fox News as their least-trusted news source, dwarfing all other news channels. (MSNBC came in second, at 14 percent.)

As might be expected, Fox News’s credibility barely budged among liberals and moderates (roughly three-quarters of whom still distrust the network) and very conservative viewers (three-quarters of whom still trust it). However, among those who identified themselves as “somewhat conservative,” the level of trust fell by an eye-opening 27 percentage points during the previous twelve months (from a net plus–47 percent  “trust” rating in 2012 to plus–20 percent now). Only a bare majority of center-right conservatives surveyed by PPP say that Fox News is trustworthy.

“The people who are among the moderate-rights are actually the ones tuning out most,” says Dan Cassino, a political science professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University who specializes in studying partisan psychology. Last May, Cassino conducted a survey that found Fox News’s viewers were less informed about current political issues than those who watched no news at all. In response, the network’s public relations team mocked FDU’s college ranking in Forbes and belittled its student body as “ill-informed.” This kind of ad hominem attack symbolizes the over-the-top, pugilistic messaging style of Ailes, whose no-holds-barred political instincts have dictated the network’s direction since day one.

Ailes’s foundational idea for Fox News, explains Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple, was to package this bias under the guise of “fair and balanced” news. “It is indeed the artifice of neutrality that makes so much of what they do objectionable, or not just objectionable but noteworthy,” Wemple says. And it is effective, he adds: at a recent Value Voters conference, rock-ribbed conservatives almost involuntarily spouted the network’s motto back at him when he asked them about Fox’s coverage. It’s a maddeningly clever bit of misdirection—the network whose branding is most identified with objectivity and accuracy is, in fact, anything but.

“Fox viewers are the most misled…especially in areas of political controversy,” Chris Mooney writes in The Republican Brain, his 2012 book about the psychology of right-wing myths. The network’s singularly corrosive impact on its viewers’ understanding of reality, confirmed by numerous studies Mooney highlights in his book, is amplified by this “fair and balanced” motto, he says. It delegitimizes all other news media to create a vicious feedback loop within the right wing.

Thanks to its loyal conservative audience and its cozy relationship with the GOP leadership, Fox News has long been insulated from the consequences of its serial misinforming. “If your job is to say the most outrageous thing you possibly can and be rewarded for it, why shouldn’t you?” Cassino points out. “As long as you get ratings, you’re going to keep on doing it.” But the recent erosion in ratings and cracks in the network’s reputation, Cassino says, have created external pressure to make changes inside the network. (Neither Ailes nor anyone else at Fox News would comment when contacted for this story.)

Most notable among these post-election changes involved Fox News ridding itself of contributors Sarah Palin and Dick Morris and replacing them with former Congressman and left-wing gadfly Dennis Kucinich, former GOP Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and editor in chief Erick Erickson. To some, this personnel turnover confirmed that Fox News was embracing a more intellectually honest, ideologically diverse worldview.

But there’s less here than meets the eye. First of all, the impact an individual contributor can have on the network’s overall nature is minimal; permanent hosts like O’Reilly and Hannity drive its day-to-day brand. And in the midst of the 2012 campaign, Ailes locked up O’Reilly and Hannity as well as news host Bret Baier—the Fox News lineup from 7 through 10 pm—all the way to 2016. What’s more, one shouldn’t read too much into the cashiering of Palin and Morris, since, by all accounts, they were terrible at their jobs: the former was criticized internally for being uncooperative with programming suggestions and personally disloyal to Ailes, while the latter was guilty of humiliating the network with his ridiculous election predictions (as well as auctioning off an unauthorized personal tour of Fox News’ studios at a GOP fund-
raiser). “They were only interested in promoting themselves or perhaps promoting an ideology that may not win,” says Bartlett, who singles out Palin’s lack of substance for his harshest criticism. “Totally and professionally, she’s the Lindsay Lohan of cable news.”

Indeed, Ailes’s new hires are little more than new faces plugged into a well-worn programming strategy. Kucinich fills the slot of house liberal formerly occupied by Alan Colmes, serving as a handy foil for conservatives to shout at or over. The telegenic Brown, a blue-state Republican, endorses textbook anti-woman Republican policies, but does so without giving off an overtly extremist vibe. And die-hard conservative Erickson is there to reassure the Tea Partiers and the netroots—some of whom inexplicably believe that Fox News is drifting left—that they still have a voice on the network.

Erickson is an interesting case. In February, not long after being hired by Fox, he posted a refreshingly frank essay complaining that the conservative media functions like an “echo chamber” that “peddle[s] daily outrage.” Erickson, however, was careful not to include his new employer by name. Of course, selective indignation is something of a running theme for him. After accusing Supreme Court Justice David Souter of bestiality and pederasty in 2009, it took him almost a year to apologize—waiting until after he took a prominent pundit gig at CNN. “Erick Erickson is obviously a whack job by the standards of a normal person,” says Bartlett. “But within the ranks of the right-wing wacko universe, he is far closer to the center than, say, Sarah Palin, because at the bottom, he wants to win, see, where people like Sarah Palin don’t give a fuck about winning.”

Winning, famously, is what drives Ailes, and Rove as well. In the aftermath of the election, Fox instructed Rove to lie low for several weeks. But this benching didn’t last long, and by mid-
January the network had signed him to a new multi-year contract. Coincidentally, Rove launched a new project geared toward finding more electable candidates for 2014 just a few weeks later. But if the past is prologue, many of these future candidates won’t be acceptable to fellow Fox commentator Erickson. “This is perfect grist for the sort of stuff Fox loves to do: ‘Let’s have a debate between somebody on the right and somebody on the far right,'” Bartlett explains. “That suits their agenda just fine.”

In other words, the best interests of Fox News and those of the Republican Party, though inexorably connected, aren’t always aligned. The currency of the former is ratings and of the latter, votes. “There’s always a tension between the two,” says Jonathan Ladd, political science professor at Georgetown University and author of the 2012 book Why Americans Hate the Media and How It Matters. But because the GOP relies so heavily on Fox News to reach its constituents and spread its message, the network exerts its own gravitational pull on the party. “If the Republican Party wants to make an ideological shift, if they want to modify their vision on immigration, say, it matters a lot if Fox commentators and management are willing to go along with that,” Ladd points out.

Fox News clearly jumped out in front of the party on the immigration issue. Only two days after Obama’s re-election, Hannity, a hardline opponent of undocumented immigrants, came out on his radio program (which is not affiliated with Fox News) in favor of a pathway to citizenship for them. To gun-shy Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio, who had spent 2012 opposing just such a proposal, Hannity was sending an unmistakable signal: they would now have some political cover on the network if they similarly changed their public views, which Rubio quickly did. In a February article in The New Republic, Ailes, too, made a point of striking a more moderate tone toward Hispanics and said he dislikes the term “illegal immigrant,” which the Fox News Latino network no longer uses. These changes of heart, it should be noted, involve only as much courage as it takes to agree with the owner of the company. One day after Obama’s re-election and one day before Hannity’s epiphany, Rupert Murdoch had tweeted: “Must have sweeping, generous immigration reform, make existing law-abiding Hispanics welcome.”

Whether these recent, road-to-Damascus conversions are genuine or artificial may not matter much at this point, though. Hannity and many of his Fox News colleagues have invested so much time inciting animosity toward “illegals” and excoriating legislative attempts at “amnesty” that the network has acquired a reputation of harboring anti-Hispanic tendencies. In the aforementioned PPP poll on media trustworthiness, Hispanics ranked Fox News as their least credible news source, with a net four-point negative rating. (Broadcast news networks all enjoyed double-digit positive ratings.) Likewise, a National Hispanic Media Coalition survey from last fall found that Fox News hosts were more likely than those from any other network to negatively stereotype Latinos. It also noted that the network’s audience had the highest percentage of viewers with negative feelings about Hispanics and undocumented immigrants.

Jim Gilmore, the former Republican governor of Virginia and current head of the Free Congress Foundation, a conservative think tank, warned against just this type of demographic alienation in a January interview with National Review. “Shrillness and extreme language are driving away the voters who could help us build a majority,” Gilmore said. When contacted for this story, Gilmore made a point of saying that the network is “vital” to the conservative movement and added that his critique was not an implicit indictment of Fox News: “All I can say is that if they are doing anything like that and polling is reflecting it, they ought to stop it, because that would reflect badly on the Republican Party.”

That Gilmore’s willingness to confront the party’s mistakes hasn’t yet caught up to understanding what’s causing them is symbolic of the broad dilemma confronting the conservative movement right now. The unquestioning faith in Fox gives the network little incentive to undertake real change, since it allows Ailes to feel confident those prodigal conservative viewers will eventually return to the fold. While Fox still enjoys ratings victories, albeit narrower ones, conservatives have suffered significant losses at the ballot box in three of the past four national elections. And they face the prospect of even more defeats if they don’t lead their movement out of the wilderness of serial misinformation and forgo the temptation of perpetual outrage.

Arresting this descent into grand conspiracy theories and self-destructive rancor won’t be easy, though. “It makes it very difficult for guests who are being asked about Benghazi and Solyndra to talk about concrete policy issues,” Cassino notes. Gilmore, at least, acknowledges as much. “It is our burden to go on Fox News and give the right message,” he says. “If for some reason—ratings or whatever the reason is—the commentators try to drag you to a place where you ought not to be, you have to resist going there.”

John Stuart Mill, in his famous treatise On Liberty, understood that a “healthy state of political life” must necessarily include “a party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform.” So where exactly the conservative movement goes from here becomes a critical issue, since the Republican Party isn’t about to spiral into electoral irrelevance anytime soon. Therefore, the degree to which it is grounded in reality and willing to collaborate reasonably in governance should matter a great deal to liberals, specifically, and to our democracy in general.

The devil’s bargain that Ailes struck between his network and his politics seventeen years ago, however, looks unlikely to change within the foreseeable future. Fox News remains an all-too-comfortable gilded cage for Republicans—one that showcases the party but also shelters it from the slings and arrows of honest intellectual debate. One can rigidly confine an ideology for only so long, however, before its beliefs begin to ossify and its policies atrophy. It’s an ironic twist: the more the network enables conservative ideas to stray from the mainstream, the less appealing the network’s conservative coverage becomes. And after years of deeming their codependent relationship an unalloyed good, it’s time Fox News and the Republican Party face cold reality. For both to enjoy long-term future success, each must recognize that the other isn’t its salvation; instead, they’re both part of the problem.”

Emphasis Mine


Rush Limbaugh Is A “Low-Information” Radio Host

Rush Limbaugh has frequently attacked citizens who voted to re-elect President Obama as “low-information voters,” but Limbaugh has made so many false and misleading attacks that he could be considered a low-information radio host.

From: Media Matters

Limbaugh Does “Low-Information Voter Segment” Of Celebrity News. In an effort to appeal to “low-information voters,” on the January 7 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh ran a segment on “breaking news from TMZ” about how “Kyle XY star Matt Dallas has come out.” [Premiere Radio NetworksThe Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/7/13, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh: “A Low-Information Voter Is Actually A High Liberal Information Voter.” On December 21, 2012, Limbaugh defined a “low-information voter” as “actually a high liberal information voter” that cares about celebrity news, and “there just isn’t much room left” in their brains for things like “deficits, tax cuts, economic matters, the country going to hell in a handbasket.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show,12/21/12, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh: Obama Won “Person Of The Year” Honor Because He Attracted Low-Information Voters.Limbaugh said that Obama was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” because “he turned low-information, apathetic voters into people who vote.” Limbaugh added that Obama is “a symbol of the new low-information America” and “it’s only a low-information voter — we used to call them morons — that could think he’s outside politics.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show12/19/12, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh Displays Debt Ceiling Ignorance While Attacking CNN’s Velshi. Limbaugh insisted that the federal debt ceiling is like a limit on credit card spending in an attempt to prove that CNN’s Ali Velshi was a “low-information reporter.” In fact, failure to raise the debt ceiling is actually like refusing to pay a credit card bill because it restrains the government’s ability to pay its debts, not future spending. [Media Matters1/4/13]

Limbaugh Falsely Claims Union Members Have No Say In How Dues Are Spent. Limbaugh claimed that “there a lot of union workers who are not Democrats, not liberals,” but they “have no control” over how union officials spend their dues on political activities. In fact, workers at unionized workplaces already can choose whether to pay for the political activities of the union that bargains on their behalf. [Premiere Radio Networks,The Rush Limbaugh Show12/12/12, via Media Matters; Media Matters, 12/11/12]

Limbaugh Mocks Fact That Unemployment Benefits Are Stimulus. Limbaugh denied that unemployment benefits have a positive effect on the economy, saying it’s a “crock” that extending them translates into economic growth. In fact, studies show that these benefits stimulate the overall economy and provide greater economic impact on growth than the Bush tax cuts for upper-income earners. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show12/10/12, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh Dismisses Guns’ Role In Domestic Violence Deaths. Limbaugh dismissed the notion that Kasandra Perkins, who was killed in a murder-suicide by her boyfriend, NFL football player Jovan Belcher, would still be alive today if Belcher hadn’t had a gun. In fact, data show that guns greatly increase the probability that women who are victims of domestic violence will be killed by their abuser. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show12/3/12, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh: “Everything — Except The Polls — Points To A Romney Landslide.” Under the headline “Everything — Except The Polls — Points To A Romney Landslide,” Limbaugh’s website posted a transcript of his radio show in which he said his “intellectual analysis” of the election was that “it’s not even close. Three hundred-plus electoral votes for Romney.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show11/5/12]

Limbaugh: Climate Change Is “A Nonissue Anymore Because It’s Fraudulent. The Whole Thing Has Been Proven To Be A Hoax.” Limbaugh asserted that climate change is “a nonissue anymore because it’s fraudulent. The whole thing has been proven to be a hoax.” That statement was one in a long series of Limbaugh repeatedly denying the scientific consensus that climate change is driven at least in part by human activities. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show10/30/12, via Media Matters; Media Matters,12/19/11]

Limbaugh Falsely Claims Reagan “Inherited A Worse Recession Than Obama Did.” Limbaugh said that President Reagan “inherited a worse recession than Obama did.” In fact, the two recessions are not comparable; the recession in the early 1980s was caused by monetary restriction aimed at bringing inflation under control, while the 2007 recession was caused by a financial crisis, which typically takes more time to recover from. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show10/15/12, via Media Matters; Media Matters8/3/12]

Limbaugh Falsely Claims Conservatives Didn’t Attack Supreme Court Nominees. Limbaugh declared he and other conservatives “don’t try to destroy” the careers of Democratic nominees to the Supreme Court. But Limbaugh himself, backed up by the right-wing media, launched a string of vicious and offensive attacks on both Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor during their appointment processes. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show10/12/12, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh Peddles Unproven Conspiracy Theory That Jobless “Numbers Have Been Cooked.” Limbaugh said he agreed with former General Electric CEO Jack Welch that unemployment “numbers have been cooked.” In fact, experts dismiss the claims as unfounded conspiracy theories and agree that the numbers are accurate. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show10/8/12, via Media Matters; Media Matters,10/5/12]

Limbaugh Promotes Discredited Obama Gun Grab Conspiracy. Limbaugh claimed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Operation Fast and Furious was hatched as an Obama administration plot to disarm Americans. In fact, the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General found “no evidence” that the agents involved in Fast and Furious had “improper motives” and that the goal of the operation was “dismantling a dangerous firearms trafficking organization.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show9/21/12, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh Spreads Discredited Rumor That Marines At U.S. Embassy In Cairo Didn’t Have Bullets.Limbaugh said that on the day of the attack on the diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, “the Marines didn’t have bullets in Egypt.” In fact, the rumor that Marines protecting the embassy in Cairo were prohibited from carrying live ammunition was debunked by the Marine Corps itself, which called it “not accurate.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show9/14/12, via Media Matters; Media Matters9/13/12]

Limbaugh Falsely Claimed Obama’s Election Caused 2008 Job Losses. Limbaugh encouraged his listeners to “[g]o back and look at the monthly unemployment numbers” to confirm his claim that job losses in 2008 were a reaction to President Obama’s election in November of that year. In fact, the U.S. economy began losing jobs in February, and the pace of job losses began to accelerate prior to the election. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show7/3/12, via Media Matters]

(N.B.: this is a an example of a Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc fallacy (after this, therefore because of this.) A confused relationship of antecedent-subsequence with a cause and effect relationship.

Limbaugh Returns To Years-Old Smear By Saying Obama “Trash[ed] The Founders.” Limbaugh claimed that Obama was “trashing the founders” by saying that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren “wasn’t that radical.” In fact, Obama was pointing out that because the Warren Court “didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution,” it was not as radical as its critics have claimed. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show7/2/12, via Media Matters; Media Matters10/28/08]

Limbaugh Falsely Claims IRS Is Hiring “16,000 New Agents” To Implement Health Care Reform.Limbaugh said that the Internal Revenue Service is hiring “16,000 new agents”  who will determine whether individuals and businesses are buying “the right kind” of insurance inder the Affordable Care Act. In fact, according to, that claim is “wildly inaccurate” and “stems from a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show7/2/12, via Media Matters;, 3/30/12]

Limbaugh Entertains Absurd Conspiracy Theory That President Obama Might “Dispense With Elections.” Limbaugh said, “What if Obama decides that the 22nd Amendment is no longer relevant?” adding the idea is “worth throwing out” because Obama championed a health care reform law that “basically pees all over” the Constitution. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show6/25/12, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh Rewrites Obama’s Dreams To Falsely Claim “Racist” Attack. Limbaugh used a new biography about President Obama’s life to claim he viewed his high school basketball coach and his team as “racist” and that Obama wrote in his book Dreams From My Father that “he played black ball, the coach coached white ball, and as such the coach was a racist, the team was racist, strategy of the game was racist, and Obama rode the bench.” In fact, Obama wrote that he disabused a friend who suggested racism was a factor in him not getting more playing time on the basketball team. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show,6/25/12, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh Endorses Romney’s Discredited Allegation That Obama Knowingly Slowed Down The Recovery. Limbaugh said that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was “getting a lot of positive feedback” for claiming that the Obama administration “knowingly slowed down our recovery in order to put in place Obamacare,” adding, “That is something we would say and have said, but to hear a Republican presidential candidate say it, it is kind of cool.” In fact, the actual comments to which Romney and Limbaugh were referring make clear that the White House has always rejected the dubious claim that it could not focus on economic recovery and health care reform at the same time. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show6/7/12, via Media Matters; Media Matters6/6/12]

Limbaugh Promotes Dubious Story About “Necrophilia Law” In Egypt. Limbaugh hyped a thinly sourced column in an Egyptian newspaper about a supposed proposal to legalize necrophilia, saying that “one question I had of my own was, ‘Who provides the contraceptives when an Egyptian guy has sex with his dead wife?’ ” But Al-Arabiya reported that members of the Egyptian parliament were denying that any such law was ever proposed. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show4/27/12Media Matters4/30/12]

Limbaugh Revives Bogus Attack That Obama Supports “Infanticide.” Limbaugh said that while serving in the Illinois State Senate, Obama “voted for infanticide,” claiming that “Barack Obama voted to allow babies who survived an abortion to go ahead and be killed.” In fact, Obama voiced his opposition to the legislation as a state senator because it would have given legal status to fetuses and would thus have been struck down by the courts, and because Illinois already had laws to ensure infants who survived abortions would be given medical attention. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show2/23/12, via Media Matters; National Journal2/22/12]

Limbaugh Falsely Claims “There Is A Relationship Between Abortion And Breast Cancer.” Limbaugh said that “there is a relationship between abortion and breast cancer,” adding that “it’s been medically documented.” In fact, the American Cancer Society says that “research studies have not found a cause-and-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer,” and the National Cancer Institute states that it found that “having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.”  [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show2/3/12Media Matters11/19/09]

Limbaugh: Nobody Is Mentioning That Sandusky Is “A Gay Guy.” Limbaugh said that the media refused to identify former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who had been charged with child molestation, as “a gay guy,” due to the influence of a powerful “gay lobby.” In fact, experts say that men who molest young boys aren’t necessarily gay, and there is no credible link between homosexuality and pedophilia. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show11/18/11Equality Matters11/17/11]

Limbaugh Falsely Claimed Obama Is “Target[ing] Christians” In Uganda. Limbaugh said that “President Obama has deployed troops to another war, in Africa,” adding that the group being targeted, the Lord’s Resistance Army, “are Christians. They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan. And Obama has sent troops, United States troops to remove them from the battlefield, which means kill them. … So that’s a new war, a hundred troops to wipe out Christians.” In fact, claimed Christian ties of the Lord’s Resistance Army are reportedly part of a mish-mash of other religious and occult beliefs, and the group has a long record of alleged atrocities, including sexual enslavement and forcibly conscripting children. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show10/14/11, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh Falsely Claimed That “The Democrat Party” Was Proposing To “Outlaw Your 401(K) Plan.”Limbaugh claimed that Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had a proposal to eliminate 401(k).  Rather, the idea of guaranteed retirement accounts — which was distorted by Limbaugh — was mentioned by a panelist from the Economic Policy Institute during a hearing held by Harkin and Sanders on retirement security issues. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show11/2/10, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh Falsely Claimed That Obama Thinks Iran Should Have A Nuclear Weapon If Israel Does.Limbaugh claimed that President Obama believes Iran should have a nuclear weapon because “that’s fair,” commenting that “Obama knows he can’t make any other nation get rid of theirs” and so Obama has decided that “If the Israelis have one, the Iranians should.” However, Obama and his administration had repeatedly called Iranian nuclear activity a “threat” and demanded that they adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show10/13/10, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh Falsely Claimed Center For Science In The Public Interest Wanted To “Ban Chinese Food.”Limbaugh discussed the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which advocates for nutrition, health, and food safety, and its intent to file suit against McDonald’s for its “unfair and deceptive” promotion of toys to children through its Happy Meals. The CSPI has lauded Chinese restaurants and labeled most Chinese dishes “healthy,” yet Limbaugh stated of the Washington-based group: “They wanted to ban Chinese food. These people want to get in your life and tell you what to eat,” and attacked them as “kooks, statists, [and] nannies.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show7/9/10, via Media Matters]

Emphasis Mine


It’s 2011 — Why Is God Still Involved In American Politics?

The Mormon-bashing directed at Mitt Romney should concern everyone for what it reveals about the undue influence of religion in American elections. There’s a reason the Founding Fathers wrote a national constitution that forbade religious tests for office and required the separation of church and state. It’s not just protection against the escalating religious bigotry we’re seeing lately, but also because religion should have no place in politics in the first place.

From AlterNet, By Amanda Marcotte

N.B.: Separation of Church and State is more important than ever!

“As an atheist and a liberal, it’s been tempting for me to simply laugh at Republicans fighting each other over the issue of whether or not Mitt Romney, a Mormon, gets to consider himself a Christian. From the non-believer point of view, it’s like watching a bunch of grown adults work themselves into a frenzy over the differences between leprechauns and fairies. But watching the debate unfold, I’ve become concerned about what it means to make someone’s religious beliefs such a big campaign issue, because it’s indicative of a larger eroding of the separation of church and state, which concerns not just atheists but all people who understand the importance of maintaining a secular government.

Robert Jeffress, an influential pastor who is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, went on “Focal Point” with Bryan Fischer and declared that one shouldn’t support Mitt Romney for president because Romney, a Mormon, isn’t a real Christian. This created a media dustup that was silly even by the usual standards of ever-sillier mainstream media campaign coverage. John King of CNN interviewed Jeffress, focusing strictly on the question of who Jeffress believes deserves to be called a Christian, and how firmly he believes that only people he calls Christians should hold public office. Candy Crowley of CNN dogged both Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann on the question of whether or not they believe Romney is a Christian, and then she got irate with the candidates when they refused to answer the question, claiming that it’s irrelevant.

These interviews are remarkable for what the CNN anchors didn’t discuss, which was the most important question of all: the separation of church and state. Even though our nation has a tradition of pastors staying out of partisan politics — in fact, it is illegal for ministers to endorse candidates from the pulpit — it seemingly never occurred to King to challenge Jeffress for overstepping his bounds by telling people that God wants an evangelical Christian who is a Republican for president. By making the story about whether or not Mormons are Christians, CNN left the viewer with the impression that only Christians deserve to hold public office, and that the only thing left to debate is whether or not someone “counts” as a Christian, making him or her eligible for office.

We’re a long way from the days when John Kennedy assured the public that he respected the separation of church and state and would keep his faith separate from his policy-making decisions. Now, even mainstream reporters take it as a given that politicians will let religion govern their actions, and the only thing left to debate on theology is how many angels any single politician believes dance on the head of a pin. Things that used to be considered beyond the pale in politics, such as religious intolerance or ministers blatantly claiming they know who God supports in an election, have become normalized to the point where someone like Mitt Romney, who is odious in most respects but has never really made much of a fuss over his faith, is seeing religious tests becoming a major issue in his campaign.

(N.B. “… but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”  Article VI, US Constitution)

The ramifications for this shift affect more than conservative Mormons trying to win as Republicans. By not challenging the assertion that only Christians should hold office, mainstream journalists encourage bigotry against all religious minorities, including atheists. Atheists already face discrimination when it comes to running for public officeA number of states ban atheists from holding public office, even though the U.S. Constitution explicitly forbids religious tests for office. Of course, it’s difficult for an atheist to win enough votes to get office, so this conflict hasn’t been tested much, although one atheist city council member found himself under fire by religious bigots who wanted to use North Carolina’s ban on atheists holding office to push him out for not swearing his oath of office on the Bible.

There’s a reason the Founding Fathers wrote a national constitution that forbade religious tests for office and required the separation of church and state. It’s not just protection against the escalating religious bigotry we’re seeing lately, but also because religion should have no place in politics in the first place. Neither atheists nor believers benefit when leaders are guided more by religious dogma than by rationality. Angels and demons might be a fine thing to worry about when you’re in church on Sunday, but when you’re trying to govern real people in the real world, it’s far better to rely on evidence and empirical facts, interpreted through reason and not through the guesswork of faith. This is why Kennedy defended himself against questions about his faith by saying, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote.”

People like Robert Jeffress, when they propose religious tests for office–even ones held privately by voters–should face more challenges than reporters simply asking if they consider Mormons “real” Christians. They should be confronted with Kennedy’s words and asked directly why they disagree with our former president about the separation of church and state. They should be asked why they believe only a certain breed of Christians should hold office, and asked why they think it’s appropriate to demand that politicians put religious dogma before evidence-based and rational approaches to policy. Anything less than that is aiding the religious right in its mission to remake our secular democracy into a theocracy. It shouldn’t be tolerated.”

Emphasis Mine


The Dangerous Reagan Cult

Exclusive: Ronald Reagan’s anti-government philosophy inspires Tea Party extremists to oppose any revenue increase, even from closing loopholes on corporate jets. Democrats try the spin that “even Reagan” showed flexibility on debt and taxes. But Robert Parry says it is the “Reagan cult” that is at the heart of America’s crisis.

From RSN, by Robert Parry

“Exclusive: Ronald Reagan’s anti-government philosophy inspires Tea Party extremists to oppose any revenue increase, even from closing loopholes on corporate jets. Democrats try the spin that “even Reagan” showed flexibility on debt and taxes. But Robert Parry says it is the “Reagan cult” that is at the heart of America’s crisis.

In the debt-ceiling debate, both Republicans and Democrats wanted Ronald Reagan on their side. Republicans embraced the 40th president’s disdain for government and fondness for tax cuts, while Democrats noted that “even Reagan” raised the debt limit many times and accepted some tax increases.

But Reagan – possibly more than any political leader – deserves the blame for the economic/political mess that the United States now finds itself in. He was the patriarch for virtually every major miscalculation that the country has made over the past three decades.

It was Reagan who slashed taxes on the rich to roughly their current level; he opened the flood gates on deficit spending; he accelerated the decline of the middle class by busting unions and slashing support for local communities; he disparaged the value of government regulations; he squandered money on the Pentagon; he pushed more militaristic strategies abroad; and he rejected any thoughtful criticism of past U.S. foreign policies.

Reagan also created what amounted to a “populist” right-wing cult that targeted the federal government as the source of nearly all evil. In his First Inaugural Address, he famously declared that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

It is that contempt for government that today is driving the Tea Party extremists in the Republican Party. Yet, as with many cults, the founder of this one was somewhat more practical in dealing with the world around him, thus explaining some of Reagan’s compromises on the debt ceiling and taxes.

But once the founder is gone, his teachings can become definitive truth to the disciples. Flexibility disappears. No deviation is permitted. No compromise is tolerated.

So, at a time when government intervention is desperately needed to address a host of national problems, members of this Reagan cult apply the teachings of the leader in the most extreme ways. Since “government is the problem,” the only answer is to remove government from the equation and let the corporations, the rich and the magical “market” dictate national solutions.

It is an ironic testament to Ronald Reagan’s enduring influence that America’s most notable “populist” movement, the Tea Party, insists that tax cuts for the wealthy must be protected, even minor ones like tax loopholes for corporate jets. Inside the Tea Party, any suggestion that billionaire hedge-fund managers should pay a tax rate equal to that of their secretaries is anathema.

Possibly never in history has a “populist” movement been as protective of the interests of the rich as the Tea Party is. But that is because it is really a political cult dedicated to the most extreme rendering of Ronald Reagan’s anti-government philosophy.

Astro-Turf ‘Populists’

Granted, the Tea Party also can be viewed as an astro-turf outfit financed by billionaires like the Koch brothers and promoted by billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch. But Election 2010 proved that the movement is capable of putting like-minded politicians into office, especially when discouraged elements of the American Left choose to sit on the sidelines.

During the debt-ceiling battle, the GOP’s Tea Party caucus showed it was strong enough to block any compromise that included a revenue increase. The thinking is that the “evil” government must be starved even if that means defending indefensible tax loopholes and shoving the world’s economy to the brink of catastrophe.

The Tea Party’s rabid enforcement of the Reagan orthodoxy instills such fear among top Republicans that every one of the eight presidential hopefuls at a recent Iowa debate vowed to reject a deal that would include just $1 of higher taxes for each $10 in spending cuts. Even supposed moderates like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman threw up their hands.

But the Reagan cult reaches far beyond the Republican Party. Last February, a Gallup poll of Americans cited Reagan as the greatest president ever, with a five percentage point lead over Abraham Lincoln.

These days, virtually no one in Washington’s political or media circles dares to engage in a serious critique of Reagan’s very checkered record as president. It’s much easier to align yourself with some position that Reagan took during his long career, much like a pastor selectively picking a Bible passage to support his theological argument.

When negative national trends are cited – such as the decline of the middle class or the widening gap between rich and poor – the self-censorship demands that Reagan’s name not be spoken. Instead, there are references to these problems deepening “over the past three decades,” without mentioning whose presidency got things going big time.

Creating an Icon

And there is a self-interested reason for this hesitancy. The Republicans and the Right have made it a high priority to transform Reagan into an icon and to punish any independent-minded political figure or journalist who resists the group think.

The first step in this process occurred in the late 1980s, with aggressive cover-ups of Reagan’s crimes of state, such as scandals over the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages affair, Contra-cocaine trafficking, and the Iraq-gate support of dictator Saddam Hussein.

Faced with furious Republican defenses of Reagan and his inner circle, most Democrats and mainstream journalists chose career discretion over valor. By the time Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, the refrain from Democrats and Washington pundits was to “leave that for the historians.”

Those who didn’t go along with the cover-ups – like Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh – were subjected to ridicule from both the right-wing and mainstream media, from both the Washington Times and the Washington Post. Journalists who challenged the implausible Reagan cover-ups also found themselves marginalized as “conspiracy theorists.”

Leading Democrats decided it made more sense to look to the future, not dwell on the past. Plus, acquiescing to the cover-ups was a way to show their bipartisanship.

However, Republicans had other ideas. Having pocketed the concessions regarding any serious investigations of Reagan and his cohorts, the Republicans soon went on the offensive by investigating the heck out of President Clinton and his administration.

Then, having stirred up serious public doubts about Clinton’s integrity, the Republicans trounced the Democrats in the 1994 congressional elections. With their new majorities, the Republicans immediately began the process of enshrining Reagan as a national icon.

By and large, the Democrats saw these gestures, like attaching Reagan’s name to National Airport, as another way to demonstrate their bipartisanship.

But Republicans knew better. They understood the strategic value of elevating Reagan’s legacy to the status of an icon. If everyone agreed that Reagan was so great, then it followed that the hated “guv-mint” must be that bad.

More Accommodations

Increasingly, Democrats found themselves arguing on Republican ground, having to apologize for any suggestion that the government could do anything good for the country. Meanwhile, the Clinton-era stock market boom convinced more Americans that the “market” must know best.

Going with that flow, President Clinton signed a Republican-sponsored bill that removed Depression-era regulations in the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated commercial and investment banks. With the repeal, the doors were thrown open for Wall Street gambling.

In the short run, lots of money was made, encouraging more Americans to believe that the government and its “safety net” were indeed anachronisms for losers. People with any gumption could simply day-trade their way to riches.

Reagan, it seemed, was right all along: government was the problem; the “free market” was not only the solution but it could “self-regulate.”

That was the political/media environment around Election 2000 when the wonkish Vice President Al Gore ran against the brash Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who came across to many as another version of Ronald Reagan, someone who spoke simply and disdained big government.

Though Gore could point to the economic successes of the Clinton years, including a balanced federal budget and the prospect of the total elimination of the federal debt, the major media mocked him as a know-it-all nerd who wore “earth-toned sweaters.” Meanwhile, mainstream journalists swooned over Bush, the regular guy.

Still, Gore eked out a narrow victory in the national popular vote and would have carried the key state of Florida if all legally cast votes were counted. But Bush relied on his brother’s administration in Florida and his father’s friends on the U.S. Supreme Court to make sure that didn’t happen. Bush was declared the winner in Florida and thus the new president. [For details, see Neck Deep.]

In retrospect, Election 2000 was a disastrous turning point for the United States, putting into the highest office in the land an unqualified ne’er do well who had lost the election.

But this outrage against democracy was largely accepted because of the muscular right-wing machine, the on-bended-knee mainstream media and the weak-kneed Democrats – a political/media dynamic that Reagan had helped create and had left behind.

The progress that the Clinton administration had made toward putting the U.S. financial house in order was quickly undone as Bush pushed through two massive tax cuts benefiting mostly the rich and waged two open-ended wars financed with borrowed money.

Years of Reaganism also had taken its toll on the government’s regulatory structures. Reagan had consistently appointed regulators who were hostile to the very concept of regulating, such as Anne Gorsuch at the Environmental Protection Agency and James Watt at Interior. He also elevated Alan Greenspan, a “free market” admirer of Ayn Rand, to be chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

In the 1980s, the looting of America was underway in earnest, but the elites of Washington and New York saw little to protest since they were getting a cut of the plunder. The real losers were the average Americans, especially factory workers who saw their unions broken or their jobs shipped overseas under the banner of “free trade.”

Feeling Good

But many Americans were kept entranced by Reagan’s feel-good magic.

Taking office after a difficult decade of the 1970s, when America’s defeat in Vietnam and the Arab oil price hikes had shaken the nation’s confidence, Reagan simply assured everyone that things would work out just fine and that no excessive sacrifice was in order. Nor should there be any feelings of guilt, Reagan made clear.

By the late 1970s, it was widely accepted even among many Republicans that the Vietnam War had been an abomination. But Reagan simply rebranded it a “noble cause,” no reason for any serious self-reflection on America’s imperial role in the world.

Reagan then allied the United States with “death-squad” regimes all over Latin America and across the Third World. His administration treated the resulting carnage as a public-relations problem that could be managed by challenging the patriotism of critics.

At the 1984 Republican National Convention, Reagan’s United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick labeled Americans who dared criticize U.S. foreign policy as those who would “blame America first.”

To continue this sort of verbal pummeling on those who continued to get in the way, Reagan credentialed a bunch of thuggish intellectuals known as the neoconservatives.

For the rest of the country, there were happy thoughts about “the shining city on a hill” and “morning in America.”

In reality, however, Reagan had set the stage for the tragedies that would follow. When George W. Bush grabbed power in 2001, he simply extended the foreign and economic policies of the Republican cult leader: more tax cuts, more militarism, less regulation, more media manipulation.

Soon, the gap between rich and poor was widening again. Soon, the United States was at open war in two countries and involved in secret wars in many others. Soon, the nation was confronted with new scandals about torture and deception. Soon, the federal budget was flowing with red ink.

And near the end of Bush’s presidency, the de-regulated excesses of Wall Street pushed the country to the brink of a financial cataclysm. Bush supported a bail-out to save the bankers but didn’t do much for the millions of Americans who lost their jobs or their homes.

Second Thoughts?

One might have thought that the financial crack-up in 2008 (plus the massive federal deficits and the botched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) would have confronted the Reagan cult with an existential crisis of faith. It would seem obvious that Reagan’s nostrums just didn’t work.

However, after only a brief interregnum of Barack Obama, the Republicans seem poised to restore the Reagan cult to full power in the United States. The new apparent GOP frontrunner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is already being hailed in the Washington Post as “The Texas Gipper.”

The Washington Times (yes, Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s right-wing propaganda sheet is still around) fairly cooed over Perry’s tough attacks on Obama, depicting America’s first black president as someone who apologizes for America and isn’t deserving of its soldiers in uniform.

“One of the powerful reasons for running for president of the United States is to make sure every man and woman who puts on the uniform respects highly the president of the United States,” Perry said. “We are indignant about a president who apologizes for America.”

As far as Perry is concerned, America has nothing to apologize for.

These are themes right out of Ronald Reagan’s playbook. And it appears likely that Election 2012 will be fought over terrain defined by Reagan, even though he left office in 1989 and died in 2004.

It is already clear that President Obama will be on the defensive, trying to justify a role for the federal government in America and explaining why the Reaganesque policy of low taxes on the rich must finally be reversed. Obama also is certain to shy away from any serious examination of how U.S. foreign policy went so wrong, so as not to be labeled “apologist-in-chief.”

Rick Perry or whatever other Republican gets the party’s nomination will hold the high ground of Reagan’s lofty standing among the American people. The GOP nominee can continue blaming “guv-mint” for the nation’s problems and promising another “morning in America” if only the nation further reduces the size of “guv-mint.”

With Democrats also trying to associate themselves with the “greatest president ever,” it appears doubtful that any serious effort will be made to explain to the American people that the charming Reagan was the pied piper who led them to their current demise.”

[For more on these topics, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a two-book set for the discount price of only $19. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book,Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

emphasis mine