James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Huckabee’

Any Portman in a storm for Romney VP?

Posted by James McPherson on July 16, 2012

In honor of Romney, the Honeymooners’ great “poloponies” scene.

OK, so I couldn’t resist the pun above (previous headlines show that I rarely can, much to my wife’s dismay)–but I do think that Ohio Sen. Rob Portman might be the best of Mitt Romney’s boring choices for running mate. Portman is so boring, in fact, that when a friend ask me a few days ago whom I thought Romney would pick, I completely forgot Portman , responding: “Maybe Tim Pawlenty as the safe (boring) pick. Maybe Marsha Blackburn or Kelly Ayotte or Susan Martinez to shake things up a bit. Maybe Paul Ryan if he still thinks he needs to go right. My pick as the one most likely to help, though I don’t know if he’d do it (or if anyone can help enough): [Mike] Huckabee.”

I haven’t paid as much attention to the VP process as I did four years ago when I recommended Sarah Palin and Joe Biden as VP picks (and no, I don’t think the campaigns were reading my blog and following my advice–if they had been, John McCain would probably still be sending me hate mail).

The New York Times reports that Romney has apparently made his choice, and may announce it this week (Same-day note: The Romney campaign denies that a decision has been made, though in Romney’s case he might have changed his mind, anyway.) The timing, Slate points out, “would give the Republican a chance to change a political conversation that is currently focused squarely on Romney’s time as head of Bain Capital.” The Times seems to think that Pawlenty will be the nominee.

Pawlenty would be no big surprise. He has been consistently overrated as a presidential candidate, the Republican equivalent of Democrat Dick Gephardt–a dull, Midwestern white guy who offends no one but whom, as the Times article suggests about Pawlenty, “lacks a fiery presence and the ability to excite a crowd.” On the other hand, an NBC piece handicapping potential candidates notes about Portman, “While ‘boring’ has an upside, it also has a downside, too. A potential Romney-Portman ticket has been dubbed ‘boredom squared.”

Though it might take some attention away from the Bain mess and other problems associated with being rich, I think naming the VP nominee this week would be a mistake for Romney. For one thing, he’s about to leave for the Olympics–and anything that connects Romney to the Olympics could be good for him. Well, perhaps anything not involving prancing ponies. But by the way, aren’t the new Olympic uniforms, made in China and boasting a prominent polo player logo, a perfect symbol for Romney’s America?

For another thing, few people are paying attention to politics right now, anyway. (That’s also why Romney should release a deluge of his tax returns on a summer Friday, perhaps during the Olympics,definitely no later than the Friday before Labor Day.) Americans have short attention spans–one reason that Portman’s previous job as George W. Bush’s budget director probably wouldn’t hurt him or Romney with the electorate. But Romney likely won’t take that chance, or go for any of the even more daring options. And it probably won’t matter, anyway.

Posted in History, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 34 Comments »

The Affordable Care Act and the GOP’s really big lie

Posted by James McPherson on July 2, 2012

Washington Post chart

Defeated by the Supreme Court, Republicans and their conservative allies have apparently decided that their best strategy to try to overcome the Affordable Care Act is simply to lie. Now they’re calling it the biggest tax in U.S. history. And, as you can see from the Washington Post chart above, they’re lying.

Rush Limbaugh is lying (yeah, big surprise). Sarah Palin is lying (OK, that’s expected, too). Mike Huckabee is lying (especially disgraceful for a former pastor who claims he can teach history) Sean Hannity is lying. James Pinkerton, also of Fox News, is lying. Conservative author Edward Klein is lying. The Washington Times is lying. The Daily Caller is lying. My cardboard cutout Congresswoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, is lying. House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority leader Eric Cantor and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell all lied. Alaska Tea Party loser Joe Miller is lying. Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummus is lying. California Congresswoman Mary Bono is lying. Louisiana Congressman Jeff Landry is lying. Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is lying. Tennessee Congressman Scott DesJarlais is lying. Georgia’s Republican governor is lying. Congressional candidate Ben Quayle, son of a former vice president, is lying. Forbes apparently wants to lie, but can’t decide. New York Congressional candidate Dan Hollaran is lying. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance is lying. Naturally, conservative bloggers are lying and lying and lying and lying and lying and lying and lying and lying.

Republicans now claim that Barack Obama knowingly lied when he said the individual mandate upheld by the Supreme Court, but that’s a little tougher to prove. Not only to legal scholars disagree about whether it is a tax or not, even Mitt Romney, Obama’s 2012 challenger, apparently agrees with Obama on the issue. (Of course this is Romney, so he may disagree with himself any time now.)

We know that politicians lie, generally to get elected. But rarely do they lie as blatantly or as widely as Republicans are lying now in reaction to a Supreme Court decision. And the problem is, their supporters don’t care. As Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts wrote:

Falsehoods are harder to kill than a Hollywood zombie. Run them through with fact, and still they shamble forward, fueled by echo chamber media, ideological tribalism, cognitive dissonance, a certain imperviousness to shame, and an understanding that a lie repeated long enough, loudly enough, becomes, in the minds of those who need to believe it, truth.

That is the lesson of the birthers and truthers, of Sen. Jon Kyl’s “not intended to be a factual statement” about Planned Parenthood, of Glenn Beck’s claim that conservatives founded the Civil Rights Movement, and of pretty much every word Michele Bachmann says. It seems that not only are facts no longer important, but they are not even the point.

Or, as I noted when interviewed by the New York Times for a story about right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart: “There are no standards of fact anymore for a lot of people. We have gone from selecting sources of opinion that we agree with to selecting facts that we agree with.” Republicans clearly  hope you’ll buy their lying “facts” about health care in America.

And if you want to see how much you’ve been swayed — or simply left ignorant — about the real effects of the health care bill, you can take a simple 10-question test. I missed one, which, sadly, still made my score “better than 97% of Americans.” Sigh.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

2012 predictions for GOP: Jindal, Huckabee, Romney, Palin or relative unknown?

Posted by James McPherson on November 23, 2008

December 6 update: CNN reports that its new poll has Huckabee and Palin as the frontrunners.

 Considering that Barack Obama won’t even taken office for almost two months, making predictions this far in advance of the 2012 presidential election is a bit silly. But hey, I’ve rarely shied away from silly, especially in a classroom, and I was put on the spot a couple of weeks ago when I guest lectured at the University of Idaho and a student there asked me who I predicted would be the Republicans’ presidential nominee in 2012.

Despite the fact that less than two weeks earlier on this site I had predicted that Mitt Romney would be 2012 nominee, I changed my mind and predicted that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will defeat Mike Huckabee.

I would point out, however,  that there’s a good chance that the nominee will be someone most of us aren’t yet aware of such as Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and (before this election) Huckabee or Palin. All four had previously been in politics, of course, but few outside of their own states knew who they were. I will also note that four years is a long time in American politics. Any number of circumstances involving the economy, terrorism or problems yet unseen may change everything.

Jindal apparently is running in the right way, already making appearances in Iowa. Oddly, though, he may find himself hampered by the same things that helped Barack Obama win the White House. He is young, energetic, nonwhite, and politically adept. But if Obama’s first term is successful, no Republican has a chance of unseating him–even if a Republican Obama is seen as having the best chance–and if Obama’s presidency falters, Jindal might be viewed simply as a GOP version of an already-failed experiment.

In short, if Obama succeeds, Jindal has a better chance of being the Republican nominee who loses in 2012. If Obama fails, Jindal has less of a chance of being the Republican nominee who reclaims the White House for the GOP.

I’d lean toward Huckabee, who seems to be a nice guy with executive experience and some creative ideas, but I think that his Fox News program will simulaneously increase his visability among conservatives and decrease his credibility with everyone else. Much of his support also comes from the Christian right, which I’ve suggested previously (and still believe) will continue to lose influence among Republicans.

Sarah Palin clearly is also running, though I think her folksy mountain-mama version of a Christian Paris Hilton is already wearing thin. Besides, as I’ve pointed out previously, sexism in America makes it tougher for a woman than for a man to engage in negative politics of the sort Palin has tended to favor (at least so far, though the VP nominee’s role is different than that of the person at the top of the ticket).

My original prediction, Romney, will be in the mix, but now I also can’t see him wearing particularly well. He may be an economic whiz, if there is such a thing, but has too many faces–most of which wear condescending expressions. One bit of good news: Rudy Giuliani will be four years further removed from any relevance he ever had.

Posted in History, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Key presidential election question: ‘Which liar do you trust most?’

Posted by James McPherson on November 2, 2008

The presidential campaign seems to be “spinning” to an appropriately odd ending, with John McCain discussing strategy (“Reverse Maverick,” “Double Maverick” or “Sad Grandpa”) on “Saturday Night Live,” McCain robocalls using Hillary Clinton’s voice and words as an authoritative voice to try to boost Republicans, and Barack Obama’s latest ad promoting the endorsement of his opponent by a sitting vice president.

At least they don’t have anyone pretending to be the opposing candidate in those ads (a move that may cost Elizabeth Dole her Senate seat in the same election in which the GOP presidential candidate reminds voters of her husband’s 1996 “Sad Grandpa” bid). Dole’s Senate campaign provides a reminder that perhaps every political campaign has its share of distortions and outright lies. As campaigns grow increasingly desperate, the lying tends to increase. Fortunately for those of use who care, there are more ways than ever to check the accuracy of campaign ads and stump speeches.

The oft-criticized mainstream media do a better job than they once did at fact checking. Even more valuable are FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.org (a product of the mainstream St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly). On Friday, Factcheck.org released an updated version of “the whoppers of 2008,” including McCain camp lies about welfare, taxes, health care, terrorism and ACORN, and Obama lies about Medicare, stem cell research and job losses. The site also calls attention to distortions from other groups both liberal (MoveOn.org and VoteVets.org) and conservative (National Rifle Association and National Republican Trust PAC).

PolitiFact also released a Friday update, recalling some especially egregious “pants on fire” moments from the campaign. Those cited include Mike Huckabee, who falsely claimed that most signers of the Declaration of Independence were clergymen, and John Edwards who suggested that the president has power over Congressional health care. Of course other Edwards lies were to cause him more problems, but by then his campaign had ended.

PolitiFact gave most of its “pants on fire” ratings to e-mail messages: “They include the bogus list of books that Sarah Palin supposedly wanted to ban, the fake receipt that supposedly showed Michelle Obama ordered $400 in lobster and caviar from a New York hotel,  and the distorted Bible verses to suggest that Barack Obama was the Antichrist.”

It is sad and disturbing to see how often candidates and their supporters lie. But the increased oversight is a bright spot. As PolitiFact notes: “The 2008 election has been the most fact-checked campaign in American history. Between our 750-plus items, and dozens of articles published by our friends at FactCheck.org and other news organizations, the presidential candidates have been challenged about their accuracy more than ever before.”

In short, in this election–as with perhaps every election–Americans will choose between liars as they cast their ballots. The key question thus becomes, “Which liar do you trust most?”

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Lipstick, pigs, pit bulls & Palin

Posted by James McPherson on September 9, 2008

“John McCain’s campaign mobilized its new ‘Palin Truth Squad’ Tuesday to accuse Barack Obama of comparing McCain’s running mate to a pig, and called on him to apologize.” That’s the first sentence of a ridiculous story that Fox News (surprise!) carried among its lead stories for much of yesterday.

The story is ridiculous because Obama of course never compared Palin to a pig. She has compared herself to a pit bull with lipstick, but let’s hope Obama never agrees with her–otherwise the “Palin Truth Squad” (as if that’s not an oxymoron) will be accusing him of calling her a bitch (you know, a pit bull could be female, and a female dog is …). A Wall Street Journal reporter also falsely asserted that Obama was referring to Palin with the “lipstick” comment.

Even the Fox story goes on to point out that Obama said: “John McCain says he’s about change, too, and so I guess his whole angle is, ‘Watch out George Bush.’ Except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove-style politics … That’s not change. That’s just calling something the same thing, something different … But you know … you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. You know, you can … wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change, it’s still going to stink after eight years.”

So if Obama was calling anyone a pig with lipstick, he was referring to McCain, but actually he was referring more specifically to the Bush policies that McCain supports. You may remember–even if McCain seems to have forgotten, and even if most of the GOP would like to forget–that John “I-was-a-POW” McCain is the one at the head of the Republican ticket. Even Mike Huckabee agrees, much to Sean Hannity’s dismay. (See second video below.)

As the Fox story also points out, the “pig with lipstick” phrase “is common in Washington, D.C.” How common? Well, it turns out that John McCain used exactly the same phrase last October when talking about a health plan proposed by–you guessed it, Hillary Clinton. So should we assume that the McCain camp thinks Obama was referring to Palin because that’s what McCain meant about Clinton?

Furthermore, the term is the title of a book written MORE THAN TWO YEARS AGO by Torie Clarke, one of McCain’s former advisors and a Pentagon communications director–another of those Bush-McCain connections the campaign would now like you to forget. Politicians and others have used the phrase–which also appears overseas–for years. As Politico’s Ben Smith points out, Obama has used it since before 90 percent of Americans ever heard of Palin. Back in April Elizabeth Edwards used the same phrase to criticize McCain’s health care plan.

Fox and other McCainiacs making the charge are making fools of themselves with this issue for a couple of reasons. First, as demonstrated, the phrase is so common as to be a cliche’. Second, isn’t it conservatives who are always whining that liberals are “too sensitive” about language and prone to take things out of context?

With how the selection of Palin has energized the Republican base, it appears that McCain may have managed to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. But he obviously still is not very confident, since when it comes to sad and desperate negative campaigning, his campaign is going whole hog. When will the McCain folks start focusing on issues? All together now: When pigs fly.

Below is the video of what Obama actually said, so you can judge it for yourself. And below that is Huckabee’s comment.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »