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Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

 

During Barack Obama’s presidency, perhaps no conservative media outlet lamented as loudly about the frequency of the president’s golf games as Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller.

Year after year, a parade of Daily Caller staffers lined up to feed the phony outrage machine by detailing the supposedly mountainous taxpayer costs associated with the excursions. The headlines often stressed that Obama’s golf trips took place against the backdrop of grim news events, suggesting the president was pampered and out of touch:

Milwaukee Burns, Louisiana Floods, Obama Golfs” (August 15)

As Suspected Terror Rages In Berlin, Obama Hits Hawaiian Golf Course” (December 19)

For eight years, the “Obama golfs too much” narrative served as shorthand for the right-wing press to denigrate the president as lazy, not serious, and tone deaf.

And then came President Donald Trump.

His relentless trips to the links and to his Florida resort have quickly turned any previous complaints about Obama into a punchline.

Overall, the taxpayer expenses for Trump’s domestic travels, including his golf trips to Florida, have been staggering: $20 million in less than three months, a clip that would add up to $80 million a year.

As CNN recently reported, Trump’s outings are “putting the president on pace in his first year of office to surpass former President Barack Obama’s spending on travel for his entire eight years.”

All of this family travel and the colossal, unprecedented costs paid by taxpayers make the conservative media look completely absurd. Why? The Daily Caller once complained about two Obama golf trips that cost an estimated $1,031,685 and $804,870. Today, that’s in the ballpark of what it costs every time Trump goes to Mar-a-Lago — and he’s already been seven times this year.

Last month, The Daily Caller at least conceded that Trump had previously criticized Obama for playing golf as president and was now playing ever more himself. But like so many in the conservative media, The Daily Caller refused to acknowledge its own, years-long hypocrisy on the issue. Instead, the Caller is now framing Trump’s golf outings as helpful for diplomacy.

For conservative media, it’s not just the golfing hypocrisy that’s been driven off the charts this year. Instead, it’s becoming clear that many of the unlikable traits that the far-right press desperately tried to assign to Obama — he’s lazy, he’s secretive, he’s a bully, he’s corrupt — are all now being proudly embodied by Trump.

For eight years, right-wing media invented an unflattering image of Obama that never fit the reality. But now it fits Trump perfectly, and the conservative press is too embarrassed to admit it.

Recall that so few of the far right’s relentless attacks on Obama were based on policy. Instead, they were personality driven. But confronted by a mainstream, center-left Democrat who eschewed drama and displays of pure partisanship, far-right press critics simply invented a villainous figure with obnoxious traits that would fit their narrative.

Today, Trump perfectly mirrors that figure.

On Friday, the Trump administration announced that the White House visitor logs would not be released to the public, ensuring that the administration would work in secret. The decision directly contradicted the transparent protocols used by the Obama White House, which released nearly 6 million White House visitor records. “Mr. Trump has rejected other basic standards of presidential disclosures, like the release of his tax returns,” notedThe New York Times.

Of course, right-wing media spent years hammering Obama for being secretive and trying to hide his true agenda from the public. In fact, Obama’s press critics routinely weaponized the White House visitor logs, which were released to the public, in order to concoct bogus claims of scandal and corruption. (No, Bertha M. Lewis, the CEO of ACORN, did not visit the White House in 2009. Yes, according to the visitor log, a “Bertha E. Lewis” did go on the White House tour while Obama was president.)

And don’t forget that conservative media famously implied Obama was hiding his personal history and claimed he was secretly a Muslim born outside the United States. He wasn’t being transparent!

Today, those same media critics turn away as the Trump White House retreats behind a wall of secrecy and refuses to even acknowledge who’s visiting the White House.

And the visitor log issue isn’t just about optics either. It’s related to an ongoing investigation into possible White House malfeasance. From The Washington Post:

The existence of the visitor logs burst back into the news last month when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) went to the White House to review intelligence reports on which he later briefed the president. Nunes and White House officials declined to say whom Nunes had visited and who had cleared him onto the grounds, information that is typically contained in the logs, along with the length of the stay.

What else did the far-right press love to hit Obama on? Corruption, naturally. (Note that unlike some of Obama’s predecessors, during his two terms “there were no grand juries investigating his aides. There were no impeachments. There were neither convictions of White House staffers, nor pardons to protect government officials.”)

Today, while Trump and his family obliterate all the norms for White House corruption and self-enrichment, the same critics remain mostly mute.

Trump now seems to embody everything the right-wing press complained about regarding Obama. And suddenly they’re fine with it.

Image via the Obama White House Flickr account.

 

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

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(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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