Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.
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Reprinted with permission from PressRun
By any traditional measure, Vice President Kamala Harris has enjoyed a productive November:
• While President Biden went under anesthesia on Friday for the routine medical procedure, she became the first woman to assume the powers of commander in chief.
• She traveled to France and helped smooth over relations with a longtime U.S. ally.
• She took part in the public signing ceremony for the recently-passed infrastructure bill, a centerpiece of Biden’s agenda.
• She announced an historic $1.5 billion investment to help grow and diversify the nation’s health care workforce.
So why is she getting buried in bad press by the Beltway media, as they gleefully pile on? Unloading breathless, gossip-heavy coverage that is detached from reality, the press has gone sideways portraying Harris as lost and ineffective — in over her head.
It’s impossible to miss the increasingly condescending tone of the coverage, as Harris serves as the first woman vice president in U.S. history, and the first person of color to hold that position. The Atlantic has dismissed her as “uninteresting” and mocked her lack of political agility.
The recent frenzy of gotcha stories, which perfectly reflects petty, right-wing attacks on Harris, represents an entirely new way of covering a sitting vice president. None of the white men who previously served in that position were put under this kind of a microscope, and certainly not months into their first term. “News outlets didn’t have beat reporters who focused largely on covering Dick Cheney, Joe Biden, or Mike Pence, but they do for Harris,” the Post’s Perry Bacon noted. “Her every utterance is analyzed, her exact role in the Biden White House scrutinized.”
Worse, the premises used to support the steady drumbeat of negative, nit-picky coverage revolve around dopey optics and pointless parlor gossip. (She’s now rivals with Pete Buttigieg!)
“The vice president herself has told several confidants she feels constrained in what she's able to do politically,” CNN breathlessly reported this month, using that as the centerpiece for a hollow and meandering 5,000-word hit piece. (“Exasperation,” “dysfunction,” “frustrating” — and that was just CNN’s doomsday headline.) But of course, every VP in American history has likely made the same observation about feeling constrained, so as to not overshadow the president— that’s been the defining characteristic of the vice president’s office since the birth of the nation. But in 2021, it’s used as some sort of blockbuster development with Harris.
Keep in mind, Trump’s VP is most famous for being chased by a mob that wanted to hang him during a deadly insurrection. But today, Harris supposedly feeling constrained is treated as breaking news.
Politico claimed Harris has been forced out of “the national spotlight” because she’s been given so much work to do by the administration. But A) She most certainly has not been “drawn away from the national spotlight,” as compared to previous vice presidents and their visibility; B) If the administration hadn’t given her weighty issues to tackle, such as voting rights and immigration, Politico would be claiming she was being shunned.
Straining to paint her trip to France as a failure, the Washington Post pointed a single, uneventful question asked by a reporter during a press briefing as proof that her overseas foray had gone astray.
From the Associated Press: “When she delivered her speech on the infrastructure law, there was little sign of Democratic enthusiasm. The crowd of invited guests barely filled one-quarter of a local union hall.” So according to the AP, Harris gave an important policy speech but it was tagged a failure because the attendance was all wrong. The same AP report on Monday claimed, “Harris’ allies are especially frustrated that Biden seems to have limited the vice president to a low-profile role with a difficult policy portfolio.” Of course, not a single Harris ally was quoted making that claim.
Meanwhile, AP reporter Steve Peoples dinged Harris last week on Twitter, noting it had been 90 minutes since the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case had been announced and she still hadn’t issued a statement. As if the vice president is put on the clock every time a high-profile murder trial concludes.
The double standard for Harris has become impossible to ignore. “Media has been more critical of VP Harris for her image than of VP Pence for his propaganda OpEd claiming the COVID wave was a hoax as 600K+ Americans have since died,” tweeted author and attorney Qasim Rashid. “Not saying VP Harris is above criticism—but my God how low is the bar for rich white men who enable mass death?”
Part of the ceaseless critical coverage stems from the media’s beloved Dems in Disarray storyline, where the party has to be perpetually portrayed as being undone by internal strife. It’s also fueled by the media’s need to create drama so they can present current events with a dramatic arc, as a way to keep news consumers tuned in. During the Trump years there was no need to invent White House drama, since it erupted on an hourly basis on many days. But reporters are frustrated by the No Drama Biden approach to governance (the New York Times: He’s “boring”), and have taken it upon themselves to create conflict. Harris has become a favorite prop for that.
Also, note how the D.C. media career game is played. Back in June, The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere wrote a completely over-the-top hit piece on Harris, announcing her vice presidency was a failure (“She continues to retreat behind talking points and platitudes in public”), even though she was just four months into her term. The takedown generated lots of Beltway buzz though, and Dovere was soon hired by CNN where this month he helped write … a completely over-the-top hit piece on Harris.
CNN’s coverage of Harris has been relentlessly negative all year. This spring the network attacked her “defensive” behavior, questioning her “political agility,” stressing her “political missteps,” mocking her “clumsy” and “tone deaf” media performance; her “shaky handling of the politics” surrounding immigration. All of that was to condemn her successful diplomatic trip to Mexico.
Kamala Harris made history this year, the best kind. The Beltway media seems determined to treat her achievement as an opportunity to rewrite to rules on how to cover the first woman VP in a new, hyper-critical way.
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Washington (AFP) - Occupying an entire city block a short walk from the White House, the Trump International Hotel is a splashy neolassical palace steeped in more than a century of Washington lore.
The towering atrium features a huge skylight that dapples the lobby bar in winter sun as the nation's power brokers savor $140 glasses of wine served in Hungarian crystal, or $10,000 tumblers of vintage Macallan scotch.
After a drink, guests with $385 to spare can rejuvenate with a "hydrafacial" skin treatment downstairs before reclining on designer linens in one of the 263 stately, wood-paneled rooms.
"It's a beautiful place," one-time White House spokesman Sean Spicer gushed about the hotel, which is set to become a Waldorf Astoria in the New Year, ending six years of ownership by Donald Trump.
"It's somewhere that he's very proud of, and I think it's symbolic of the kind of government that he's going to run."
Spicer turned out to be correct.
Trump promised to "drain the swamp" of corruption in Washington, but instead opened his very own quagmire on Pennsylvania Avenue -- inviting a dizzying array of conflicts of interest.
During Trump's four years in office, the 19th-century Romanesque Revival-style hotel became a magnet for top donors, corporate lobbyists and foreign governments seeking to spend big in the hope of winning influence.
"The law is totally on my side, meaning the president can't have a conflict of interest," Trump said in 2016 when asked about mixing his day job with promoting his sprawling business empire.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) lobby group tracked 150 officials from 77 foreign governments that visited a Trump property during his presidency.
According to a congressional probe, the Washington hotel took in $3.7 million from countries including China, Kuwait, Turkey, India, Brazil and Romania.
The Philippines told a television station back home its decision to use the hotel for a 2018 Independence Day celebration was "a statement that we have a good relationship with this president."
The clientele raised concerns about possible violations of anti-corruption provisions written by the nation's founders restricting the acceptance of gifts to office-holders from foreigners.
"Donald Trump should never have been allowed to keep his DC hotel as president," CREW's head Noah Bookbinder said.
"He should have divested himself of it along with the rest of his businesses before taking office. Instead, he rode out four years of using it for influence peddling and constitutional violations."
Altogether, domestic political groups spent $3 million at the hotel across some 40 political events during the Trump era.
Special interest groups, such as the American Petroleum Institute, often took part in White House meetings alongside a hotel event, and many secured favorable policy outcomes, according to CREW.
AFP reached out to the Trump Organization, but there was no response.
The former president handed control of his businesses to his two adult sons and a trustee when he entered the White House, promising not to get involved while in reality promoting the venues at every opportunity.
Meanwhile, the Trump Organization pledged to donate its profits from foreign governments to the US Treasury.
Built in the 1890s, the 12-story Old Post Office that houses the Trump International is the third-tallest building in the capital, after the Washington Monument and National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
$12,000 Per Night
Scheduled for demolition several times, it was bailed out in 2011 when Trump pipped Hilton and Hyatt with a bid pledging to sink $200 million into a makeover.
The hotel opened in the fall of 2016, a few months before Trump entered the White House, effectively making the new president his own landlord, in violation of a provision banning elected officials from "any share" of the lease.
A review of rates by AFP found the least expensive room around the end of November would cost $512 per night. A night in the Franklin Suite, including breakfast in bed, was on offer for a cool $12,109.98.
But the sky-high prices did not translate into profit.
Investigators in Congress found the hotel lost more than $70 million during Trump's presidency, concluding that he had "grossly exaggerated" its profits.
The Trump Organization called the report "intentionally misleading, irresponsible and unequivocally false" and described it as "political harassment."
But reports in US media have chronicled low occupancy as the Trump International has struggled to contend with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Trump Organization sold the lease for a reported $375 million to an investment fund, which plans to reopen the hotel in the first months of 2022 as a Waldorf Astoria.
"The Trump Hotel DC stood as a bright neon sign telling foreign countries and moneyed interests how to bribe the president and a stark reminder to Americans that his decisions as president were just as likely to be about his bottom line as about our interests," CREW's Bookbinder added.
"Selling it now that he's out of office and the grift dried up is, to say the least, too little, too late."
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