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In late 2011, John Oliver and his Daily Show cameraman made a trek to my office, then in Providence, Rhode Island, to take me to task. I had recently referred to the Tea Partiers who had pushed America to the brink of a disastrous default as "economic terrorists."
Oliver had apparently swallowed whole a series of barbs directed my way by a Wall Street Journal blogger who didn't seem to like women much. The blogger kept calling me the "Civility diva" and a "Baroness Catherine Ashton lookalike." (A member of the British parliament, Ashton was said to be homely.) He was quite the wit.
The blogger found what he thought was more ammo in learning that I was head of a journalistic organization then formulating something called a "civility project." The mission was to debate what made honest opinion writing — not to censure robust, withering commentary. The blogger obviously didn't inquire.
Nor did The Daily Show. The interview featured Oliver repeatedly blurting a bleeped-out "F" word, followed by canned laughter, followed by a shot of me supposedly looking shocked. It was on that level.
I was not alone in applying the "economic terrorist" label to a group taking the economy hostage, and mainly because a Democrat, Barack Obama, was president. The New York Times' Thomas Friedman, for one, made references to the Republican "Hezbollah faction" taking the GOP on a "suicide mission."
We are now 12 years on, and it is gratifying to see a headline in the Times reading, "Don't Try to Appease Economic Terrorists." Economist Paul Krugman was pointing at the new team of Republican extremists threatening the full faith and credit of the United States and, by extension, the world economy.
Then as now, the vote to raise the debt ceiling has nothing to do with enabling federal spending. It's about making good on the debt already incurred.
Note that under Donald Trump, Democrats quietly voted for raising the debt ceiling year after year. This was despite a Trump tax cut that tacked about $2 trillion onto the federal deficit and Trump's signing almost $3 trillion in new spending — and that was before COVID even hit.
Twelve years ago, an economic cataclysm was averted at the last minute, but the terrorists had still wrought terrible damage. The spectacle of a major political party putting into question America's willingness to meet its debt obligations astounded the planet, prompting Standard & Poor's to take away America's triple-A rating for the first time in history. The Republican stunt cost the U.S. Treasury, that is, we taxpayers, at least $19 billion in higher interest costs.
The final vote, covered live on TV, was unforgettable viewing. There was that famous split screen. On one side you saw Congress casting its votes. On the other, you saw the stock values simultaneously cratering as the political horror show continued without a clear outcome.
Given the Republican barfight to choose a House speaker, one holds little hope of a peaceful vote to raise the debt ceiling. Speaker Kevin McCarthy tries to look sane when he calls for negotiations. But what does he want to negotiate? Whether America will default on its debt. And why? Because a Democrat is again president.
The voters may not thank Republicans for putting them through another trauma. In the 2012 election, Obama won a second term, and his party gained two seats in the Senate and eight in the House.
People who threaten to blow up an airplane if their political demands aren't met are political terrorists. People who threaten to blow up the economy if their demands aren't met are economic terrorists. Let's not be shy about calling them such.
Reprinted with permission from Creators.
Several mainstream media outlets are manufacturing a political narrative that the discovery of classified documents at the homes of both President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence should alleviate pressure on disgraced former President Donald Trump, who not only took a vast trove of federal records but also refused to give them back.
Biden and Pence have both cooperated with federal investigators to recover and return documents that belong to the government, and both situations have rekindled scrutiny at the overall system of federal document classification and retention, which appears to be in serious need of reform. Their two examples stand in stark contrast to Trump’s behavior, and possible misconduct, regarding his own handling of government records.
According to reporting, Trump repeatedly obstructed the government’s efforts to retrieve documents inappropriately removed from the White House to his home in Florida. First, his legal team tried to excuse their mishandling of records by claiming the documents had been hastily packed away after his failed coup, before they later falsely told the government that they had returned all of the documents upon request. Evidence later emerged that Trump or his team were moving documents around his estate to evade discovery, as part of Trump’s ongoing defiance of a federal subpoena to return the materials.
This was the context of events that culminated in an August 2022 search of Trump’s residence by the FBI, which recovered hundreds of classified items among thousands of other government records. Trump then responded to these events by falsely claiming the government records were his personal property and that he had actually declassified the relevant materials, as well as making multiple threats of violence via his supporters if he were ever indicted for his potentially criminal behavior.
No Reason To Be “Evenhanded” In Wildly Different Cases
CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel, who co-authored the network’s original breaking story in the Pence case, pointed out Wednesday night on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer that “the Justice Department, this is Merrick Garland’s Justice Department, they want to appear evenhanded, as if they are treating all of these cases the same.” However, she added: “I think it is important to remember the Donald Trump case and the Joe Biden case and the Mike Pence case are very, very different. Trump had hundreds of documents. The intent, the obstruction, not — you know, holding on to these documents — is vastly different from how the Biden team reacted and cooperated.”
The problem here is that Gangel herself, and many others in mainstream media, spent crucial time this week saying that the Biden and Pence cases may both influence the Justice Department against taking any real action against Trump.
Reporters Suggest Trump Is Now Off The Hook Legally
Gangel had previously asserted multiple times that the Pence and Biden cases together could help Trump’s legal situation, despite the clear and obvious differences. For example, Gangel appeared on the January 24 edition of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper and proclaimed that “even though his situation is completely different” the disgraced ex-president would gain some legal cover from the discovery of documents at Pence’s home.
Gangel later appeared during The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, where both she and CNN chief national affairs analyst Kasie Hunt discussed the key differences of Trump’s obstruction versus Pence’s and Biden’s cooperation. “What we've seen thus far with both Biden and with Pence is vastly different from Donald Trump,” Gangel said, “who at the very least seemed to want to take all of these things as souvenirs or for whatever, and then wouldn’t give them back.”
But later that night, appearing on Anderson Cooper 360, Gangel again said that these developing stories could help Trump, even as she reiterated his pattern of obstruction: “He clearly wanted to keep those things as souvenirs or for whatever and fought giving them back. But it may help him legally. So, you know, the issue of intent, which we've looked at with Trump. It just may be that Merrick Garland decides that there are so many of these cases that the Justice Department may decide not to bring charges.”
Gangel is not alone among CNN commentators promoting this argument. Former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Tom Dupree said Tuesday that for the special counsels in both the Trump and Biden cases, “I don't see how you can help but factor in what’s going on with Pence as a calculus in your determination” as to whether to recommend criminal charges, adding, “Any distinctions among the situations of the three main players, I think are going to be lost on a large fraction of the American public.” (Dupree's assessment that the public won’t understand the basic differences in these three cases could be read as a stinging indictment of the reporting provided by CNN and other news outlets.)
CNN political analyst Margaret Talev also proclaimed, “I think, Pence revelations aside, the drip, drip of the Biden discoveries does defuse this issue, takes it off the table as a real weapon to use against Trump.” (Talev never actually explained why the Biden situation would act as a buffer for Trump.)
The New York Times also ran an article Tuesday comparing the Biden and Trump cases, effectively disregarding the relevant facts that distinguish them.
Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker noted that the “cases are markedly different in their particulars, as has been noted repeatedly,” contrasting Biden’s cooperation with Trump’s obstruction. He continued, however: “But they are similar enough that as a practical matter Democrats can no longer use the issue against Mr. Trump politically, and investigators may have a harder time prosecuting him criminally.”
After proclaiming that the Biden case would neutralize any political attacks against Trump, the article briefly mentioned the emerging Pence case, arguing that people following the news would be led to believe misbehavior on the scale we saw from Trump was commonplace: “The public perception that everyone does it will only be fueled by the latest discovery of classified documents at the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence.”
As the Pence story further developed on Tuesday, The Associated Press joined the chorus of false equivalency, misleadingly claiming “While a very different case, the Pence development could bolster the arguments of Trump and Biden, who have sought to downplay the significance of the discoveries at their homes.”
Yet another AP article Wednesday morning sought to present a further false equivalence of scandals between the Trump and Biden camps, even as it included the glaring differences:
Trump, a Republican, took it as an affront that the government came searching his quarters for classified material he wasn’t supposed to have, even though he fought efforts to reclaim them for months, and the government was forced to issue a subpoena to get them. Aides to Biden, a Democrat, say they cooperated quickly and fully when such material was found at a former office in Washington, though they waited for months to make public what had happened.
The obvious fact should be that the Pence and Biden cases are more alike, and in turn both are “very different” from Trump’s situation.
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.
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