Posts Tagged ‘chris matthews’

‘Mittstorm’: Romney Plays Birther Card

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

“Romney isn’t using birthers and bigotry against Obama. It just looks that way,” wrote Will Saletan of Slate in “Pin the Tale on the Honky,” his send-up of the Mittstorm-of-the-Week: the deplorable birther “joke” that Willard told last Friday during a Michigan campaign stop.

“No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised,”  Mitt snarked, just before Twitter went wild with writers furiously typing “#futureMittjokes.”

RNC propagandist-in-chief Reince Priebus has the unenviable job of following in Mitt’s footsteps to scrape up whatever fresh heap of elephant dung the candidate deposits on the campaign trail each time he rolls out a new crock of “strategery.”

“Have we really gotten to the point where we can’t have any levity at all in politics?” Reince wheedled, in defense of the indefensible, on CNN’s State of the Union.

His shaky premise didn’t hold up to minimal scrutiny. Mitt’s descent into the cesspool of birtherism was a calculated effort to turn the page on Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” imbroglio before it engulfed the GOP ticket. How better to put out a conflagration about women’s reproductive rights than to change the subject to race, the third rail of American politics?

Asked by Candy Crowley during the same program whether he thought Romney’s birther comment was “code” for “appealing to the white vote,” Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland replied, “Look at the number of Republicans that have signed bills that make it harder to vote. When you have a party that … makes totally false ads up saying the president is trying to undo welfare reform, I think you’re going to see a lot of … coded messages from the Romney-Ryan campaign that it (are) not in keeping with an America that is … becoming more diverse.”

Priebus tried again the next day on Morning Joe to shrug off Romney’s deliberate dog whistle to white Obama haters — targeted by an opportunistic pol who’s stooped to humoring bigots in order to reach a new strategic goal. In order to win in November, Romney must now capture at least 61 percent of the white vote — a figure that will not only be extremely difficult to attain, but which will only snag Mitt “a slim national majority” if Obama isn’t able to improve on his 80 percent share of the 2008 minority vote.

‘Tweety’ eats Reince’s Wheaties (on somebody else’s show)
When one of Joe Scarborough’s panel members, Chris “Tweety” Matthews, artlessly chomped Reince’s Wheaties over Romney’s shameless racial pander (camouflaged though it was as a lighthearted comedic “Mitt Moment”), nobody there was laughing. Joe, Mika, Tom Brokaw, and the gang were clearly anxious as hell over how Tweety’s outburst might look to viewers and critics. They kept trying to “shush” the garrulous Hardball host or, failing that, to succeed at talking louder than his rant.

Funny that the crowd in Michigan last Friday didn’t laugh, either, as Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC pointed out. “They cheered,” he observed, as if Mitt had made an important policy pronouncement. They applauded the new knowledge that Romney was willing to go there, to be on record as not merely the Republican who was running for president but the white man who was running to win back the White House for white voters.

Priebus muttered, “Garbage,” under his breath at the end of the cable segment — to which Matthews countered, “It’s your garbage.” A headline for the right-wing site’s story about the on-air tiff, however, read, “Chris Matthews Loses It, Calls Reince Priebus Garbage.” Neither combatant had characterized the other person as “garbage,” but only what he had said.

You can bet that the headline will go viral in the Nutbag-o-sphere, especially since blogger Katie Pavlich’s “story” consists of one paragraph referring indignantly to what she believed to be unwarranted criticism of “Mitt Romney’s joke about a birth certificate.”

How low will Mitt go to attain his 61 percent goal?
Unfortunately, Mitt will find no easy path to cobbling together a national majority, after burning almost every bridge once open to him among black, Latino, and women voters. That, of course, all went up in smoke when he talked trash to the NAACP, excoriated the DREAM Act, and paid lip service to everything from passing a “fetal personhood” bill to shutting down Planned Parenthood. Now, Mitt needs to woo and win three out of every five white voters, and he’s not polling anywhere near as well as Obama does (at nearly 60 percent) among the very “college-educated plus” white women who feel the most threatened by the Republican “war on women.”

What Romney needs, therefore, is the stereotypical Republican: the white, older, working-class male seething with racial resentment, whom Mitt believes he can rely on to vote against his own economic interests rather than reelect the hated “Obummer” —

  • despite the Romney/Ryan plan to raise his taxes so they can even further reduce the taxes of people so rich and greedy, they’ll croak before they’ve even touched their principal, even as he dies a virtual pauper;
  • despite their plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system that will start out costing him $6,300 more a year for health care than he pays now, and escalate in each successive year he’s still alive;
  • despite  their plan to turn Medicaid into a block-grant program , so that when his wife needs nursing home care and he can’t afford long-term care insurance, he has no way to pay for it.

Everybody knows that the “MittWit” has become so desperate to break away from President Obama in the polls that the only pathway to the presidency he can envision is appealing to the “basest, racist” instincts of the lowest common denominator. White male voters may not be wild about Mitt Romney, but they hate Barack Obama so much more than they love anything — even America — that they’re willing to vote for literally anybody else.

Hordes of  ‘zombie voters’ prepare to descend on polls
If the simple fact that Mitt Romney’s face is as white as a KKK bedsheet doesn’t win over his target voters, he can always fall back on the kooky pop psychology of the Great Voter Fraud Hoax of 2012. This theory is held by purveyors of the myth that hordes of unregistered impostors are prepared to show up at polling places and “impersonate” registered voters if Americans fail to take drastic measures to stop them. These imaginary “vote-scammers” — sketchily described as urban blacks signed up fraudulently during voter-registration drives conducted by federally funded agencies, or “illegal aliens” who purloin dead people’s Social Security numbers — are so widely feared by the far right because they “tend to vote for Democrats.”

The infamous ACORN case, which led to 22 convictions in seven states after temporary workers registered ineligible or fictitious voters, involved cases of registration fraud, not impersonation fraud. “Mickey Mouse has been registered hundreds of times but Mickey has never turned up on Election Day to vote,” said Richard Hasen, a professor of political science and election law expert.

Yet Republican alarmists insist that, as GOP presidential candidate John McCain said during a 2008 debate, fraudulent registrations collected by ACORN were “one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”  (The Congressional Research Service “found no instances” of anyone who was “allegedly registered to vote improperly “by ACORN actually “attempting to vote at the polls.”

Even though voters are less likely to be victimized by “voter fraud” than they are to report sighting a UFO, the GOP embarked in 2011 on a nationwide effort to “shut down” this virtually nonexistent phenomenon. (News21, a national investigative reporting project, revealed earlier this month that only 10 instances of voter-impersonation fraud have occurred nationwide since 2000 — a period when 146 million people were registered to vote. The infinitesimal amount of in-person voter fraud that actually occurred equaled one out of about every 15 million prospective voters.)

Nevertheless, 34 states since 2011 have proposed or passed laws requiring that voters show state-approved photo ID cards at the polls. In other states, early voting days and extended voting hours have been curtailed — including Ohio, where Republican Secretary of State John Husted attempted to prohibit early voting in Democratic-majority counties while encouraging it in Republican-majority counties. Progressive pundits soon shamed him into abandoning his shamelessly partisan plan. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott even tried to purge “non-residents” from the state’s voter rolls, until an analysis of a submitted list of 2,700 names revealed that 87 percent of the people on the list were minorities.

If Republicans can’t persuade more angry white men to turn out for their lackluster candidate, the Mittster still has one more ace up his sleeve. Anticipating a dearth of minority and female voters, Republicans recruited what they claim will be one million “True the Vote” poll-watchers. Should any straggling minority Dems make it through the gauntlet of GOP speed bumps and onto the threshold of the voting booth, this volunteer goon squad has promised to kick in, kick butt, and even Romney’s troubling odds.

GOP Convention attendee gets ugly with CNN employee
Just as the 2012 Republican National Convention’s roster of evening speeches was getting under way, former MSNBC anchor David Shuster tweeted: “GOP attendee ejected for throwing nuts at African-American CNN camerawoman + saying ‘This is how we feed animals.’ ”

Needless to say, this atrocious racial slur is not terribly surprising, given the venue, the occasion, and the decidedly “hostile environment” in which this professional journalist was required to work. It is, however, horrifying, degrading, and barbarous. This person must have felt emboldened by some sort of group camouflage to publicly target another human being that way, surrounded by people he imagined would harbor as much racial animus as he did.*

At least they looked as if they did. Out of 4,411 GOP delegates and alternates attending the 2012 convention, only 46 of them (a paltry 2 percent) are black, according to two Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters who collaborated on a story about the party’s struggle with diversity. By contrast, they noted, African-Americans comprise 26 percent of the 4,000-plus delegates slated to attend the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

I don’t care how many Nikki Haleys, Ted Cruzes, Artur Davises, and Mia Loves the GOP hustles onto that convention stage for the sake of appearances. All I could see on my TV screen was a vast, monolithic ocean of white privilege, flecked with clusters of jingoistic balloons.


* Update, 8-30-12: Yesterday, the racist peanut assault incident at the GOP convention was clarified by numerous new press accounts. Two “older than middle-aged white men” rather than one, of just the sort I described above,  collaborated on tormenting the CNN camerawoman. A number of pundits criticized CNN for apparently “hushing up” the incident because the channel has recently embarked on a campaign to appear the least biased of the three major cable news networks.

Just before the two white goons pelted Patricia Carroll with peanuts and called her a zoo animal, a Puerto Rican delegate included in the convention’s program, as part of the party’s effort to put on a false show of  “highlighting diversity,” was shouted down by the crowd, with chants of “USA! USA! USA!”, after beginning her remarks in Spanish.

Chris Strikes Out

Monday, April 9th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

I’ve been sacked out on the couch for the past week, trying to recover from a nasty chest cold. As a result, I’ve been watching entirely too much cable television.

By last night, I was already dazed and confused by cough medicine and feeling downright irritable, when I happened upon Chris Matthews going all “Cold War” on a Cuban-American guest during a “Hardball” discussion of Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen’s recent remarks about Fidel Castro. Guillen has been widely reviled in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood in recent days for telling Time magazine that he “loved” Castro [Time’s translation] and adding, “I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here.”

Guillen is not Cuban-American, although why he would utter such a careless and incendiary remark in a hypersensitive region like Little Havana remains hard to explain. Ironically, Guillen was hired in large part because of his reckless charm; as a genuine character and a fellow Latino, Guillen was expected to bolster the Marlins’ flagging image, especially among the Cuban-American population. The team built an expensive new stadium, hired star Dominican shortstop Jose Reyes, and brought in Guillen only months ago to manage the team.

In 2005, Guillen (who managed the Chicago White Sox for eight years) was lauded as the first Latino manager in major league history to win a World Series. Looking back on his career, however, the Marlins’ owners might have observed a penchant for blustery talk and coarse language. The team’s owners wanted a Latino coach, but they got a little more than they bargained for by hiring this cheeky Venezuelan who has described himself as “the Charlie Sheen of baseball minus the drugs and the prostitutes” and was quoted as saying, “When you have success, you can talk all the [crap] you want.”

Guillen’s career has been tarnished by previous political controversy. In 2006, he was fined and ordered to undergo sensitivity training for referring to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti with a homophobic slur. Guillen, an inveterate loudmouth, apologized to gays in general yet refused to express any remorse to Mariotti. When the White Sox won the Series, Guillen declined to participate in the traditional team visit to the White House, then occupied by George W. Bush. While he was criticized for holding up a Venezuelan flag during the trophy ceremony , Guillen became an American citizen a year later and has denied rumors  that he is politically supportive of pugnacious President Hugo Chávez. Now, the largely conservative Cuban-American expatriate community in Miami has erupted, calling for Guillen’s job and comparing him to baseball outcasts Al Campanis, John Rocker, and Marge Schott, all of whom were sanctioned for making racist remarks. Guillen – whom everyone acknowledges said nothing about race or ethnicity – has apologized and accepted his five-game suspension, but he insists that he was mistranslated and claims he was only expressing a sort of grudging respect for Castro because he has somehow managed to avoid assassination for the past five decades. A boycott is underway in Miami, and many sportswriters and pundits have predicted Guillen’s tenure in Miami will prove short-lived.

Chris Matthews waded into the controversy by inviting Miami City Commissioner Francis Suarez to appear on his MSNBC show. After Suarez condemned Guillen’s remarks, Matthews, always ready to suck up to conservative guests to prove he doesn’t harbor any “liberal media bias,” jumped right in with: “Well, my view is that this guy bought the wrong ticket in the Cold War, and if the other side had won, if the Communists had won, that guy would have been standing in Central Park watching the execution of anybody with any political talent in this country. So I’m with you guys on this one. Castro was no good.”

Now I am no fan of Tweety, as progressive bloggers have long called Matthews because of the conspicuous shade of canary yellow he dyes his hair. The man has a well-documented propensity for a hale-fellow-well-met kind of “male bonding” with controversial conservative figureheads – among them, disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom Delay; Family Research Council President Tony Perkins; former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, and paleoconservative political analyst Pat Buchanan. During his interview with Suarez, Matthews bluntly remarked, “It’s not a capital offense; I mean, you’re not gonna torture the guy.” This offhand and absurd pander to his Republican guest is quintessential Tweety. It’s a stance he takes when he’s angling to be viewed as going mano a mano with an adversary, when he “likes the cut of the guy’s jib,” as he is fond of saying. How convenient for him that his guest this time was a conservative Cuban-American politician with whom Chris could presume to act macho and chummy over “commies.”

Neither Suarez nor Guillen was even a twinkle in his father’s eye when Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba. Matthews himself was a newborn in 1945. Still, nothing seems to prevent him from masquerading as an unparalleled expert on the era.

But perhaps Chris Matthews is right. Maybe the Red Scare really is on its way back. This week, notorious Tea Party Rep. Allen West announced that he’s “heard” that up to 80 House Democrats are members of the Communist Party.

This is how it starts – with a whisper campaign. When a Palm Beach Post reporter asked him to back up his assertion, West refused to “name names” – but a Fox News staffer later tweeted that West’s flack told him the congressman was referring to members of the House’s Progressive Caucus.

Chris Matthews will probably try to convince us that he had a sneaking suspicion about those Netroots types all along.

Emily Theroux, the newest member of  Zest of Orange, is a former magazine editor at The Times Herald-Record and writes occasional political commentary on social media sites.