Coverage of the 2016 primaries and, now, the general election, has been one yuge biased affair, at least two years from the start. To begin with, one must credit the mainstream media for having given candidate Donald J. Trump at least two billions dollars’ worth of free coverage early on in the GOP primary.
Those we count on for news and analysis didn’t bother thinking through the consequences of the level of coverage Trump was given, what with an electorate that had long been showing very troubling signs of restlessness with the establishment. That is what the implosion of the GOP in the House of Representatives, culminating in the departure of John Boehner, was all about. Add to that the milquetoast candidacies of the competitors in the GOP primary, and lavishing that much attention on Trump should have been deemed risky. It wasn’t, and we are where we are now because of it.
Do any of Donald J. Trump’s horrendous negatives make the DNC’s presidential nominee any less flawed than she was portrayed all throughout 2015? No. She does still have some pretty horrendous negatives of her own. Whereas Trump continues to make his presence felt throughout the media, Hillary Clinton hasn’t given a press conference in 300 days. Last time she gave one, the questions were rough, and in an embarrassing way. For now, as Politico reports, Clinton has found a novel way of getting around the media:
“Her campaign launches a podcast with an on-payroll moderator whose first interview is the nominee herself.”
How Clinton, who is said to be a sure winner in November, plans on finally facing the media is a good question, at this point. Surely, Clinton’s won’t be the first ever presidency without a press conference or media exposure only through a paid interviewer? How will she handle questions about emails and Clinton Foundation money then? Surely White House reporters will remember to ask them?
Of the two parties, the Democrats’ turned out to be the most contentious, issue-filled primary campaign, one that had every promise to carry over to the general election, burying a Republican candidate who is ill-equipped to speak to the issues. But that is not the general election we are heading towards, with the focus of million-watt bright lights being placed on the Republican’s relationships, rather than an airing out of national and international policies.
Meanwhile, the media is facilitating the rewriting of recent American history, with emerging narratives, lies, really, on the following topics:
The DNC’s role in Primary 2016:
The entire year that was Primary 2016 was filled with bitterness on the part of progressive voters who cried foul all year at the tactics employed by the DNC and the Clinton camp. That bitterness came right back with the vindication found in the WikiLeaks email. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC’s former chair, spent the entire last year of her tenure insisting she was treating all Democratic candidates the same. Now we not only know she wasn’t, but that under her supervision, she allowed staffers to engage in ugly racial politics, using known age old racial divisions to thwart a candidate she opposed.
Post-resignation, the DNC has limited itself to allowing for the resignations of three additional high level staff, with no further comment on the content of the emails or what possible actions those officials might have taken that is not explicit in the publicized exchanges. There has been no explanation why or how these behaviors were encouraged or allowed. To date, there still has been no public apology to millions of Jewish Democrats, or millions more Sanders supporters, even though they are owed both. Instead, the public has been treated to a game of “look, shiny!” with Donald J. Trump, WikiLeaks and Russia as the focus of the fallout from the leaked emails. That tack is a part of a long tradition of Democrats using the “Red Scare” to focus the attention away from problems. While interference in an election by a foreign power presents all kinds of problems, as journalist Glenn Greenwald explains, this is a behavior America is certainly no stranger to as a participant in other nations’ politics:
“When Bernie Sanders looked earlier this year to be the one who was standing in Clinton’s way, slimy suggestions began emerging of his dark connections to Russia. In January, Clinton’s Senate ally Claire McCaskill went to The New York Times to warn of ads “with a hammer and sickle” if Democrats nominate Sanders (smearing opponents by pretending to be concerned about how they’ll be attacked by the GOP is a Clinton speciality: it’s how her 2008 campaign justified inflaming the Obama-is-a-Muslim falsehood by being the first to circulate the now-infamous picture of Obama in Muslim garb while in Indonesia).”
I noticed that too, along with the specter of antisemitism rearing its ugly head, early on in the primary. We have no reason to suspect that Donald Trump, as distasteful as he is, isn’t as much a patriot as Hillary Clinton. Until there is actual proof he might be a traitor to our nation, such accusations, veiled or overt, should cease, and the focus remain on the millions of issues and problems with Trump’s candidacy. Those are valid and provide fertile ground for spirited debates.
The influence of the media on Primary 2016:
In a recent study on the influence of media in the election process during Primary 2016, The Harvard University Gazette published a piece in which it quotes a new study by the Shorenstein Center that found that complaints of media bias against Senator Sanders were justified. Media bias was the topic of a piece I published in Alternet and other media outlets in September 2015, in which I documented instances in which the media published highly biased pieces. Proof of that bias, its nature and provenance were uncovered in the trove of emails released by WikiLeaks in July. Since then, what should have been the focus of the media in this WikiLeaks story: the corrupt tactics employed by the DNC in its all-out effort to thwart Senator Bernie Sanders, the focus has been on interference in a U.S. election by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and a purported relationship with Donald J. Trump. While the latter is a perfectly and validly worrisome phenomenon, one must not lose sight that all nations spy on each other and occasionally ensure that embarrassing documents see the light of day. In this case, the authenticity of that embarrassing trove of emails isn’t in dispute, making the problems they brought to light no less worrisome, if not more, given the fact that the DNC has largely been able to get away with a scandal by allowing four officials to resign and nothing else.
Jobs and the extent of unemployment:
I’ve written extensively about unemployment, underemployment, and a new social class called the precariat on this blog over the past two years. I began my writings by curating some of economist Jared Bernstein’s writings (with his permission), and then supplementing with pieces of my own, some extending Bernstein’s and many others analyzing different aspects of the impact of the economy on this or that aspect of what Americans prize the most, life as a member of the middle class.
So, it has been rather puzzling, over the last three years, to see how coverage of unemployment and underemployment have radically changed in tone and focus – to the point where I’ve devoted several pieces to the topic:
and, on the topic of how exactly we even count the unemployed, I put this together:
This week, journalist David Sirota of the International Business Times put out a damning piece on real unemployment and the fiction that the monthly jobs report really is:
EXPOSED: The real unemployment rate is 12% – here's how the government's official jobless rate hides that https://t.co/97UuiC8JkC
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) August 10, 2016
While, had this been my piece, I would neither have chosen the headline or accompanying photo, I highly recommend reading the entire piece as it has far more to do with how ugly the unemployment reporting sausage really is, than with the man pictured above.
“Though Trump didn’t say so, the larger criticism of the unemployment rate revolves around how it counts — and doesn’t count — the jobless. Today, the official unemployment rate counts only those actively seeking a job. It doesn’t count those who have dropped out of the official labor force either because they have not been able to find a job, or because they are working part-time and cannot find full-time employment.”
Some snippets from Sirota’s Twitter timeline:
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) August 10, 2016
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) August 10, 2016
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) August 10, 2016
Trump’s angry rich white following:
I’ve written many pieces about trade and jobs in the context of the Democratic primary and the candidacy of Donald Trump. Those pieces culminated in my profile of the angry (white) voter:
Last week saw the publication of a piece by Max Ehrenfreund and Jeff Guo in the Washington Post, which gives an odd spin to a study by Gallup (which I referred to in my own piece about white angry voters).
“Economic distress and anxiety across working-class white America have become a widely discussed explanation for the success of Donald Trump. It seems to make sense. Trump’s most fervent supporters tend to be white men without college degrees. This same group has suffered economically in our increasingly globalized world, as machines have replaced workers in factories and labor has shifted overseas. Trump has promised to curtail trade and other perceived threats to American workers, including immigrants.
Yet a major new analysis from Gallup, based on 87,000 interviews the polling company conducted over the past year, suggests this narrative is not complete. While there does seem to be a relationship between economic anxiety and Trump’s appeal, the straightforward connection that many observers have assumed does not appear in the data.”
The Gallup study came out at about the same time as an analysis by Pew Research on a related topic. I quoted extensively from the Pew study as it provides a snapshot of what has happened to the middle class in general, but also on a regional level, using different data points and looking at society as a whole, rather than just one segment. That work shows the radical change the middle class has undergone in the years since the start of the Great Recession. I quoted from both studies in my piece on angry white voters, extending the information Jared Bernstein wrote about those same angry voters in his piece for the Washington Post.
Last week, I wrote an essay in reply to Washington Post writer and Brookings Institution fellow, E.J. Dionne, in which he acknowledged that Trump voters have valid reasons to be angry.
The trend, across mainstream media publications over the past week, has been to revise the narrative on the angry white voter by reframing Trump’s followers as wealthy or at least middle class, and completely ignoring either those who fell out of the middle class with the start of the Great Recession, their children who are now out of college and not finding sustaining jobs, and completely ignoring those among them who vote progressive and supported Senator Bernie Sanders. It’s as if millions of people just ceased to exist in this narrative, or they are assumed to have fallen in line and are voting blue. This is another dangerous narrative pushed by a corporate media bend on influencing an election it has already interfered with and with disastrous results. We have Trump thanks to the media and now we are about to have an even more acrimonious class war thanks to it.
The purpose of making it appear as if those who follow Trump are well to do is to dispel the myth of the unemployed or underemployed working class angry voter. The problem is that those voters exist and on both sides of the political divide. Why marginalize two groups of voters who already feel left out? If the calculus of the media and the Democratic establishment in creating and floating this narrative was a failure during the primary, why would it succeed now?
The corrupting influence of Russia and Ukrainian money on Donald Trump:
Donald J. Trump’s former campaign manager retweeted a New York Times story about current manager, Paul Manafort’s financial dealings in the Ukraine and over $12 million in funds transferred to him from that nation. The discovery of foreign financial ties so close to a presidential candidate, to be sure, is disturbing. That those ties might lead to Donald J. Trump and all he represents is even more disturbing.
But let us not forget that, a year ago, the New York Times reported on Hillary Clinton’s own ties to Ukrainian money through the Clinton Foundation, while she was still serving as Secretary of State and negotiating an international nuclear power deal. In “Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal,” the Times reported:
“But the untold story behind that story is one that involves not just the Russian president, but also a former American president and a woman who would like to be the next one.
At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Bill Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold off to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.
Beyond mines in Kazakhstan that are among the most lucrative in the world, the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
The stench and the very real dangers of quid pro quo relationships are virtually equal in this case.
The likely influence of mass-support of Hillary Clinton by prominent Republicans:
In a recent piece that predates the mass exodus of high-profile Republicans from the Trump camp, I wrote about the emboldening of both presidential candidates in following their tendencies, rather than keep their ears close to the ground and listening to an angry electorate:
Donald J. Trump’s worsening streak of gaffes since that piece was written has caused a veritable stampede of frightened notable Republicans in all the major industries, into the waiting arms of the Clinton campaign – to the point where Clinton has been so focused exclusively on fundraising that we’ve not seen hide nor hair of her since her speech closing the DNC convention in Philadelphia. While a wide range of support is always desirable, it shouldn’t come at the price of risking either one of one’s flanks, especially in times of turmoil. Former Mayor Bloomberg was who was prominently featured as a speaker at the Democratic convention is a perfect example of the double-edged sword Republican support presents for Clinton. While he spoke out in favor of her candidacy and against Donald Trump’s, he is putting his money behind candidates who will work against a Clinton presidency in the future. Journalist David Sirota commented on Twitter:
If ur promoting neocon support for your presidential candidate, don't be shocked when that candidate promotes neocon policies when in office
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) August 14, 2016
Mike Bloomberg, who gave that rousing DNC speech for Clinton, is spending $1.1 million to undermine her by re-electing Pa. Sen. Pat Toomey
— Will Bunch (@Will_Bunch) August 14, 2016
If the Senate is to be retaken by Democrats, this is not exactly the kind of support Clinton should be substituting with that of her progressive flank.
Clinton’s supposed steadfast opposition to the TPP
The WikiLeaks email dump was restricted to DNC emails but we’ve since learned that the RNC and Clinton campaign’s emails were hacked. RNC emails were released over the weekend, revealing mostly mundane chatter. It is expected that more will come from the DNC and Clinton campaign caches and that that information will be far more embarrassing than the materials about the way the DNC defeated Bernie Sanders.
More specifically, it is expected that private communications on the TPP will be released. The progressive grassroots organization, Common Dreams, has put out this piece regarding Hillary Clinton’s involvement with TPP:
Response for FOIA request was ‘abruptly’ changed from spring 2016 to late November 2016
While Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has publicly reversed her position on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), it remains unknown how much she helped advance, or even craft, the international trade deal while serving as U.S. Secretary of State—and the Obama administration appears interested in keeping it that way.
On Monday, International Business Times (IBT) senior editor David Sirota reported that the State Department is refusing to release correspondence between Clinton’s State Department office and the United States Trade Representative related to the TPP until after the 2016 presidential election.
After initially saying that the requested materials would be made available in April, a U.S. State Department representative “abruptly” told Sirota last week, “Our office was recently informed that the search process has been completed and that the information located from that search is currently being prepared for the review process. The new estimated completion date for your request is November 31 [sic], 2016.”
Were these materials to be found in a WikiLeaks or Guccifer email dump, everything about this election might well change, especially after the refusal of Clinton superdelegates to include language against the TPP in the DNC platform, the choice of Tim Kaine as running mate, and the announcement by the White House of its intent to submit the TPP to a vote in the lame duck session.
In a piece written by The Hill’s senior correspondent, Mike Lillis, opposition to the TPP seems to be mounting ahead of a vote. Lillis, curiously, labels the opposition as “liberal,” when in fact, all of the parties named are progressives:
“Liberal TPP opponents this month have launched a new wave of petition campaigns and fundraising drives; a free concert series is touring the country through the summer; and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are vowing to do “everything we possibly can,” in the words of Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), to block a vote this year.
“Make no mistake about it, Speaker [Paul] Ryan and the administration are working hand-in-hand to plot a path for the TPP in a lame duck session of Congress,” DeLauro, who’s among the loudest TPP critics, said this week in an email. “They will do everything possible to try to pass the TPP after the election.”
Fueling those concerns, Obama on Friday sent notice to Congress that he intends to deliver TPP implementing legislation to Capitol Hill later in the year — a maneuver dictated by the fast-track trade resolution Congress passed in 2015.”
Trump as the war-monger candidate:
Trump has long been portrayed as the war-monger of the two candidates. But what hasn’t been emphasized nearly enough is Clinton’s history as a foreign and military policy hawk. This week, we were reminded of her predilection for more right wing policies via endorsement from the intelligence and military communities:
Of 34 Bush Cabinet officials, Trump has Rumsfeld, Mukasey, Thompson in his corner, Clinton has Paulson, Ridge, Chertoff and now Gutierrez.
— Ryan Teague Beckwith (@ryanbeckwith) August 14, 2016
Then, Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce has these comments on a new endorsement of Hillary Clinton by one of this nation’s biggest war hawks:
“In her continuing tour of the dingier side of the 20th Century American diplomatic elite, Hillary Rodham Clinton picked up the endorsement on Wednesday of one John Negroponte.
As Fox News reports:
In a statement provided by the Clinton campaign, Negroponte touted the former secretary of state’s “leadership qualities” in his decision. “She will bring to the Presidency the skill, experience and wisdom that is needed in a President and Commander in Chief,” he said. “Having myself served in numerous diplomatic and national security positions starting in 1960, I am convinced that Secretary Clinton has the leadership qualities that far and away qualify her best to be our next President.”
Well, that’s special, isn’t it? And what did Negroponte do while serving “in numerous diplomatic and national security positions starting in 1960”? I’m glad you asked.
In the 1980s, he served as the U.S. ambassador to Honduras. In addition to (at best) covering for that country’s murderous autocrats, he also served the Reagan Administration by helping to turn Honduras into a staging area for American-trained death squads in places like El Salvador and Guatemala.”
As the headline in Pierce’s piece asks, why indeed is Clinton bragging about that endorsement? It is one she should have rejected even more forcefully as she did the endorsement of the Orlando shooter’s father a few days ago. But she didn’t. Then, there is that other endorsement she is actively courting from her “friend,” the guy with lots of blood on his hands, Henry Kissinger:
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) August 10, 2016
Now, we are seeing new lines of attack and a blurring of the lines between “scholars,” think tank researchers and the influence of money on institutions we’ve wrongly thought of as impervious to corruption. But the New York Times, in an excellent piece released last week, informs us of the dirty goings on at think tanks:
“As Lennar Corporation, one of the nation’s largest home builders, pushed ahead with an $8 billion plan to revitalize a barren swath of San Francisco, it found a trusted voice to vouch for its work: the Brookings Institution, the most prestigious think tank in the world.
“This can become a productive, mutually beneficial relationship,” Bruce Katz, a Brookings vice president, wrote to Lennar in July 2010. The ultimate benefit for Brookings: $400,000 in donations from Lennar’s different divisions.”
Then, concurrently, Brookings Institution fellows, put out this piece on Ezra Klein’s Vox.com:
“Clinton has indeed often favored the use of force. But President Hillary Clinton would not likely be the uber hawk that so many expect. First, her record is in fact more nuanced than is often appreciated—she has just as often pushed for diplomatic solutions as military ones.
But more importantly, it is because, as president, she will find that the use of force abroad will offer precious few opportunities for making a difference, and will come at a considerable political cost at home.”
Transparency and both candidates:
Trump is currently under renewed pressure from the media and politicians on both sides of the political divide to release his tax returns. The pressure on Clinton to release her Wall Street speech transcripts has vaporised, even as she disclosed earnings of upwards of $10 million from paid speeches.
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) August 14, 2016
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) August 13, 2016
Hillary Clinton quietly attends mega fundraiser at Colorado home of fracking mogul https://t.co/85lmSmiOOF
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) August 3, 2016
That last tweet was barely a couple of days after the Democratic convention…
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