In a few months, Barack Obama will become the fifth post-World War II president to serve two full terms. The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman thinks Obama tops the other four in terms of “popularity and moral credibility,” as indicated not only by the positive reception Obama got for his Wednesday-night DNC speech boosting Hillary Clinton, but by the public’s curiosity beforehand about what he’d have to say. In a Thursday post, Longman contrasted Obama with the other two-termers at their last convention as POTUS.
Tom Johnson covers mostly websites (e.g., Salon, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos) for NewsBusters. He blogged frequently for the site from 2005 until 2007 and has been a regular contributor since 2011. From 1989 until 2002, he was an entertainment analyst for the Media Research Center and its spinoff, the Parents Television Council. From July 2004 until June 2005, he monitored National Public Radio for the MRC. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona.
They’re calling it the feel-good romantic hit of the summer, or at least of the Democratic convention. Bill Clinton’s long, granular tribute to Hillary Rodham Clinton had several liberal pundits swooning. Dahlia Lithwick of Slate wrote that it was during this speech that “for the first time…most of us met” Hillary, whom “we have all been following and misunderstanding and cartooning for decades now.” Rebecca Traister of New York magazine gave Bill big props for reminiscing about how Hillary turned him on: "One of the roadblocks for women is objectification and sexualization, but when it comes to Hillary Clinton, whose ambition and brains have long rendered her bloodless in the American imagination, hearing her described as an object of desire could feel corrective and bizarrely just. So he did it."
One of NewsBusters’ most prominent readers, Rush Limbaugh, gave us a shout-out Monday during his radio program as he reflected on his success and longevity (next Monday, The Rush Limbaugh Show marks its 28th anniversary in national syndication). Limbaugh discussed a Sunday NB post which centered on a Washington Monthly blogger’s allegations that he has left a “sick stain” and a “loathsome legacy,” and that he has “removed all traces of logic, reason, decency, civility and compassion from the party of Abraham Lincoln.” In citing our post, Rush called NewsBusters “one of our favorite websites…part of the show prep” before commenting on the origins of his show as well as on blogger D. R. Tucker’s invective.
Paul Krugman claimed recently that the Republican party “went over the edge…when supply-side economics became [its] official doctrine.” The Washington Monthly’s D.R. Tucker reveres Krugman, but he has a different choice for “the moment when the GOP truly lost it”: August 1, 1988, when Rush Limbaugh’s radio show went national. Tucker argued that Limbaugh has "removed all traces of logic, reason, decency, civility and compassion from the party of Abraham Lincoln."
By the sheer size of his audience, many millions of Americans have disagreed, answering "Yes" to Time magazine's question on the cover in 1995: "Is Rush Limbaugh Good for America?" Of course liberals say no.
The debate rages on as to whether Donald Trump has remodeled or vandalized the Republican party. In any event, left-wing pundits spent the week gaping at, and writing about, what they viewed as the grotesque spectacle of the RNC. For example, Daily Kos’s Hunter opined that the convention was "was barely one step up from an internet-peddled snuff film,” and Salon’s Heather Digby Parton declared that “all that’s left of the ‘three-legged stool’ of conservatism is the seat — racism, nativism and xenophobia.”
President Obama isn’t making relations between black and white Americans worse. Reality is making them worse, contends Bouie, who wrote in a July 15, 2016 piece that “black Americans—and Americans writ large—are reacting to facts on the ground, killings, and other incidents that put racial inequality into stark relief.” Bouie claimed that on racial matters, Obama has consistently urged “reconciliation and unity,” and that beliefs to the contrary are “nonsense” resulting from “a deliberate miscasting of Obama’s rhetoric.”
According to reform conservative (or former conservative) Frum, Republicans in Cleveland were feeling “embattled, defensive, and pessimistic” before the Melania Trump plagiarism story broke. Now, Frum speculated in a Tuesday piece for The Atlantic, “that mood of pessimism must be even grayer,” and since he lays out “ten reasons why Melania Trump’s speech matters and will continue to matter,” he clearly believes GOPers have ample reason to be down in the dumps, commenting that "suddenly there is one easy-to-understand incident that encapsulates in one grim joke all this convention’s cavalcade of derp."
There’s the entertaining kind of irascible old guy (e.g., Grampa Simpson) and there’s the scary kind, which several liberal pundits thought they beheld Monday night as they watched Rudy Giuliani speak at the Republican convention. Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall remarked that “ever since the late and great Molly Ivins quipped that she thought Pat Buchanan's speech at the 1992 GOP convention sounded better in the original German it's been sort of a parlor trick to compare a 'hot' Republican speech to one from this or that fascist dictator. But this speech was really febrile and unhinged." Fred Kaplan of Slate claimed that Giuliani “spew[ed]…rank nonsense” and “delved into the shallowest realm of Trump’s attack on Obama’s (or Obama-Clinton’s) counterterrorism policies—the refusal to call our enemy by their name."
In September 1987, Joe Biden quit the race for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, in large part because he’d been caught plagiarizing a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock. A Tuesday Daily Kos post seemed to suggest that Biden should have dropped out back then even if it’d been his wife, Jill, exposed as a high-profile plagiarist…or maybe David Nir has a different standard for Republicans. “Melania Trump’s stunning plagiarism at the Republican National Convention should by all rights be fatal to her husband’s campaign for president, not merely because she plagiarized but because of who she plagiarized from,” declared Nir, who noted that Melania “stole from none other than Michelle Obama, whose family has been the target of the right’s most bitter hatred and ridicule for a decade now.”
Like or dislike Barack Obama, his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention caused a lot of people to think of him as a potential president. Now we have a Donald Trump speech that’s supposedly disqualifying as far as Trump’s bid for the presidency is concerned. According to the headline in Vox, Trump’s Saturday remarks introducing his VP pick, Mike Pence, “showed why” Trump “shouldn’t be president.” The article that followed, by editor-in-chief Klein, asserted that Trump’s speech “was weird [and] shocking. Forget the political mainstream. What happened today sat outside the mainstream for normal human behavior...This was also a scary speech to watch, and insofar as the presidential campaign is a test to see who has the character, the discipline, and the seriousness to be President of the United States, Trump is failing it.”
Much like Phil Mickelson took a big early lead in the British Open, Esquire’s Charles Pierce has taken a big rhetorical-excess lead in early blogging about Donald Trump’s VP pick, Indiana governor Mike Pence, calling him a “very strange and completely unreconstructed wingnut” whose paper trail contains “a rich deposit of sweet crude crazy.” Kevin Drum of Mother Jones described Pence as "not especially bright or quick on his feet, which means he might have trouble defending Trump's frequent idiocies and backflips. It should be fun to watch him squirm.”
In a Thursday post, Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall previewed the Republican convention. He was especially upset that the first night of the convention reportedly will center on “a new rehashing and re-exploitation of the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi…The Benghazi 'scandal' itself has been a four year running gob of hate and derp sticky enough to grab on to it an almost limitless number of conspiracy theories, bogus hearings and almost all the residue 'stab in the back' revanchism available on the American hard right, which is quite a lot…It is also fundamentally based on a series of lies about what happened almost four years ago.”
Plenty of liberals who detest Donald Trump nonetheless thought Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent blasts at Trump were “ill-advised,” as Ginsburg herself eventually admitted they were. Some left-wingers, however, were down with RBG and believed that it was ridiculous to criticize her for getting political. Daily Kos writer Armando asserted that the SCOTUS “has acted politically through out [sic] its history, and particularly since the conservative Republican branch of the Court gained ascendancy in the last 30 years." Esquire’s Charles Pierce commented, "We are now at the end of a 30-year process in which a well-financed conservative infrastructure restructured the federal court system from top to bottom, seeding it with reliable judges who supported dubious interpretations of laws…[Ginsburg has] seen what's happened to the courts first-hand, and she is right to warn us that a Trump administration is just as likely to put the gardener at Mar-A-Lago on the bench as not."
In an Internet meme from President Obama’s first term, George W. Bush asked America, “Miss Me Yet?” Even though The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky is a liberal, he does miss Dubya, after a fashion. In a Monday column, Tomasky called Bush “one of the worst presidents” ever but conceded that when he was POTUS, the Republican party was a mere “war-starting, economy-wrecking” outfit, while today’s GOP is far worse in terms of “open racism and paranoid sociopathy.” Tomasky sees Bush as well-positioned to spearhead the reform Republicans need: "After Trump (hopefully) loses, Bush should try to lead the GOP back to planet Earth…The best remaining way for Bush to salvage his reputation is to trash Trump’s.”
The police and Black Lives Matter may seem like strange bedfellows, but that’s not the case, claims longtime journalist Steven Waldman. In fact, Waldman thinks the two should join forces against “the most anti-police organization in America”: the National Rifle Association. “Both police and African Americans feel under siege,” wrote Waldman in a Monday article for The Washington Monthly. “The issue that can best unite these communities is one of the most divisive: gun control." Waldman suggested that the NRA also has repeatedly and systematically belittled the men and women in blue: “They peddle the lie that America’s police are so ineffective…that regular people must arm themselves. That’s at the heart of the increasingly dominant notion…that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good civilian guy with a gun."
After last week’s police-involved fatal shootings in Baton Rouge and suburban St. Paul, Jeb Lund argued that such deaths happen not because of a few racist cops, but because over the past five decades millions of voters have rewarded politicians who propose and enact racist laws. In an article that appeared Thursday prior to the murder of five police officers in Dallas, Lund declared that “both parties figured out just how much of a can't-lose proposition it was to call for more cops, harsher interdiction and zero tolerance, all while finding new drugs, new addicts and new terms for low-income criminals that broadcast one general image to voters: Bad black people.”
If Hillary Clinton takes Joel Dodge’s advice, one of Washington’s kings of unintentional comedy might be in the spotlight for a while longer. Dodge, a lawyer who also writes for The Week, thinks Clinton should choose current vice president Joe Biden as her running mate. Biden, contended Dodge, “is virtually risk-free and carries more upside…[He] is universally known, vetted, and unquestionably fit to serve. As America's affable ‘Uncle Joe,’ he is viewed positively by 51 percent of the country and unfavorably by just 36 percent...He also appears to absolutely love being vice president, and is good at the job.”
Donald Trump may have hijacked the Republican party, suggests Beutler, but he hasn’t changed its bigoted course -- he’s just put the pedal to the metal. Trump’s campaign has made clear, “even among many conservatives who once denied it,” that “millions of white people believe it’s important to rally behind politicians who support policies that directly or indirectly penalize minorities—and that those politicians happen to be members of one party.” But even if Trump gets routed in November, argued Beutler in a Tuesday article, “the incentives in Republican politics would still point to race-baiting, conspiracy peddling, and appeals to white-male grievance as useful tools of political battle.”
It was “friggin’ obvious” that Hillary Clinton wasn’t going to face criminal charges related to her private email server, and the media dropped the ball by not making that clear, argued Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Marshall in a Tuesday post. “Given what we knew, criminal charges weren't even in the realm of reasonable consideration,” he stated. “You could find this out with just a little bit of reporting, speaking to former federal prosecutors, legal experts, really anyone knowledgable [sic] about the relevant law and past practice.” Nonetheless, “tens of millions of ordinary Republican voters were actually convinced not only that Clinton should be charged with something…but that it was likely or even certain to happen.”
On June 16, four days after the Orlando nightclub massacre, Dylan Matthews tweeted his endorsement of “letting the [president of the United States] unilaterally ban people (hopefully everyone!) from buying guns.” That’s provocative, but less so than a Matthews article from this time last year that was reposted Friday. In that piece, Matthews contended, “American independence in 1776 was a monumental mistake. We should be mourning the fact that we left the United Kingdom, not cheering it...We obviously can't be entirely sure how America would have fared if it had stayed in the British Empire longer...But I'm reasonably confident a world in which the revolution never happened would be better than the one we live in now.”