Telling the Truth is “Controversial” and “Incendiary” at Politico

Former Politico White House Reporter Joe Williams

This morning, Politico fired their White House Reporter Joe Williams for supposed “incendiary” remarks that he made in an appearance on MSNBC’s Martin Bashir show last week. He had been suspended after complaints from ultra-right-wing outlets Breitbart.com and The Washington Free Beacon.

POLITICO reporter Joe Williams has been suspended pending review of recent controversial comments he made on television and Twitter, POLITICO editors informed staff late Thursday night.

On MSNBC today, Williams made a remark suggesting Mitt Romney was only comfortable around white people. The video was first flagged by conservative website Washington Free Beacon. Breitbart.com ran the video and also flagged a series of tweets Williams had written that made fun of the Republican candidate, particularly in regard to his wealth.

“Regrettably, an unacceptable number of Joe Williams’s public statements on cable and Twitter have called into question his commitment to this responsibility,” POLITICO’s founding editors John Harris and Jim VandeHei wrote in a memo to the staff. “His comment about Governor Romney earlier today on MSNBC fell short of our standards for fairness and judgment in an especially unfortunate way.”

Here is the appearance in question, followed by a transcript of the offending comments:

Transcript:

It’s very interesting that he does so many appearances on “ Fox & Friends .” And it’s unscripted. It’s only time they let Mitt off the leash, so to speak. But it also points out a larger problem he’s got to solve if he wants to be successful come this fall. Romney is very, very comfortable, it seems, with people who are like him. That’s one of the reasons why he seems so stiff and awkward in some town hall settings, why he can’t relate to people other than that. But when he comes on “ Fox & Friends,” they are like him, they’re white folks who are very much relaxed in their own company, so it really is a very stark contrast, I think, and a problem that he has not been able to solve to date, and he’s going to have to network harder if he’s going to try to compete.

Frankly, I have no problems with any of that. I think it’s demonstrably true that Romney is more comfortable with people like himself–whether they’re right-wingers, rich people, or white people. Williams’ tweets are a little more inappropriate. Here’s a collection of them at Breitbart.com. The worst was a retweet of a penis joke about Ann and Mitt.

So what are Politico’s “standards?” Supposedly they want their reporters to be objective and unbiased. Really? The site was founded by two conservatives, John Harris and Jim VandeHei, who were previously at the Washington Post. In my opinion, Politico has a definite Republican slant–in fact I’ve always thought of it as a Republican blog.

I’m not alone in my point of view on this. Here’s TBogg’s characterization of the firing:

The ankle-nippers at Big Dead Andy’s Big Mausoleum of Otherwise Unemployables have claimed another head to be mounted on their wall of Black People We Don’t Like Because They Are Black People. In this case, Joe Williams from the Beltway Daily Racing Form known as Politico

.

This is probably a rude question, but how many black reporters does Politico employ? I’m sure there must be a few, but Williams is was the only one I’m aware of. And Breitbart is now an acceptable arbiter on journalistic ethics? Seriously?

I think it’s understandable that Williams would be thinking in terms of race as well as ideology when he refers to Romney’s comfort level on Fox and Friends. I suppose Fox’s token black guy Juan Williams may occasionally appear on the show, but would Romney even be comfortable with Juan Williams? Remember when he was booed at a Republican debate for asking some questions about Newt Gingrich’s attitudes about poor people and food stamps? I don’t recall Romney protesting the audience’s vile reaction.

At the African American blog NewsOne, Syracuse University Professor Boyce Watkins has a different take on the suspension than Joe Williams’ former bosses at Politico:

[T]here’s a pattern and unfortunately Joe has been affected by it. For the most part, being born a Black man who speaks conscientiously or accurately about issues of race effectively defines you to be a rogue. There isn’t much of a disconnect between the Black man who is stopped and frisked on the street, and the Black male professor/journalist/doctor/lawyer who has his capabilities questioned, even when he does nothing wrong.

Cornel West was a rogue at Harvard for seeking to reengage the black community. I was a trouble maker in elementary school when I answered questions without raising my hand. Barack Obama was defined as a radical leftist by the Republican Party for saying that the wealthy should pay slightly higher taxes. It’s easy for black men to be marginalized very quickly in most mainstream environments, primarily because people are waiting for you to say something that they can define to be volatile or dangerous.

In media, the pattern is quite the same: Just a couple of years ago, Marc Lamont Hill was ambushed by the Right Wing and fired from Fox News for no good reason. After that, Roland Martin was suspended from CNN for making remarks that I personally didn’t agree with, but were acceptable to many millions of African Americans. The consistent and unfortunate reality for many African Americans who work with mainstream (read: White-owned) media organizations is that you must either be a good little boy who goes along with the program or you have to “take your black ass back to the ghetto.” Most of these organizations have little interest in true and meaningful diversity of ideas, they only want to have a black face or two at the table so they can pretend that they are making racial progress.

I’m sure Joe Williams saw the writing on the wall as soon as he was suspended without pay. That’s probably why he went on Current TV on Wednesday, without getting approval from his Politico masters, and spoke honestly once again.

Williams acknowledged to host Bill Press that he made “errors in judgment” but pointedly blamed right wing publications such as The Daily Caller and Breitbart.com for relentlessly reporting on Williams’ purported liberal bias. “Certainly they’re in the business of gathering scalps and we’ve seen it,” he said. He said the story quickly became “about him” rather than what he said. This made him uncomfortable.

After several patronizing attempts by Press to school him on journalistic ethics, Williams said:

“We are paid to observe, but we are not blind.” The host asked if Williams would apologize to Romney. He said if he did that, then “a lot of other people would have to as well.” Further, he said his thoughts on white people are nothing new and that he should not have to apologize: “I probably should have selected my words more carefully. In some people’s minds they were incendiary.”

And finally,

Williams declared that the Washington Press Corps. as a whole has a problem with minority hires and said Politico is no exception.

I’d say he knew he was already gone and had nothing to lose–so why not speak the truth? I’m hoping MSNBC will continue to use Williams as a commentator. He’s far more insightful than hacks like Howard Fineman and Richard Wolffe.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Deadly Shallows

Wonk the Vote mentioned a great article today about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her commentary on the ACA published in New Yorker Magazine and written by Amy Davidson.  I wanted to follow up on this with some more information on the court’s sharpest mind.

“Staying power” is something that Ginsburg has. As Jeffrey Toobin says in this week’s Political Scene podcast, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg is seventy-nine. She is about five feet tall, eighty pounds, she has had every disease known to humanity. She is as tough as nails.” She made her way at a time when you could have a legal education from Harvard and Columbia and still be turned down for a job because you were a woman. She is not as loud or colorfully charismatic as Scalia—who is?—but neither does she seem to have learned to give up. (Those wondering about the liberal future of the Court might note that, on a point related to Medicaid expansion, Ginsburg was joined by only one Justice: Sonia Sotomayor.) We don’t know what happened inside the Court, or why Roberts voted the way he did. But by writing a scathing opinion, Ginsburg may at least have done him the favor of showing him what he might have looked like if he had signed on with Scalia: a political opportunist, and almost a fool.

She wasn’t the only one exerting that pressure, of course. But she is the leader of the liberal wing and the one who articulated what would have been the Court’s internal reproach.

Ginsberg’s writing on the case was full of gems including her use of Romney Care as one reason for upholding the Obama version.

In her opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made note of Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care law as a reason why the individual mandate was constitutional.

While Ginsburg was a part of the majority opinion, she had differing reasons as to why the mandate was constitutional. The rest of the justices found that under the Commerce Clause, the mandate requiring all U.S. citizens to buy health insurance was not valid. They upheld it as a tax.

Ginsburg, however, said it should have been upheld under the Commerce Clause, and explained how Congress followed Massachusetts’ lead in preventing only sick people from signing up for health insurance:

“Massachusetts, Congress was told, solved the adverse selection problem. By requiring most residents to obtain insurance … the Commonwealth ensured that insurers would not be left with only the sick as customers. As a result, federal lawmakers observed, Massachusetts succeeded where other States had failed.”

Ginsburg continued, citing briefs “noting the Commonwealth’s reforms” and “noting the success of Massachusetts’ reforms.” She noted that the reforms reduced the number of uninsured to less than 2 percent, the lowest rate in the nation. 

“In cou­pling the minimum coverage provision with guaranteed­ issue and community-rating prescriptions, Congress followed Massachusetts’ lead,” Ginsburg wrote.

Ginsberg did not write an ideological screed like the opposition.  Instead, she actually focused on well known economic theories like adverse selection or the “lemons” problem and indicated a direct knowledge of the concept of externalties noting that broccoli was a private good.  It is a good that is separable from public benefits and costs.  This is the traditional microeconomic way of looking at how to determine if a good should remain in a basically unfettered private market or should be considered for regulation or public provision.  Scalia’s broccoli horrible indicates the man has no knowledge what so ever of basic market structures and economics. Ginsberg toasted his cerebral marshmallows on that one.

It’s the noxious “broccoli” argument, a Tea Party cock-and-bull story elevated to law by the chief justice of the United States. But as the unflagging Ruth Bader Ginsburg explains, in her often hilarious separate opinion, “although an individual mightbuy a car or a crown of broccoli one day, there is no certainty she will ever do so;” nor will she get broccoli for free “at the expense of another consumer forced to pay an inflated price”. Ginsburg calls this freshman slippery-slope reasoning “the broccoli horrible”, and she mocks her conservative benchmates for imagining that “a vegetable-purchase mandate” could bring down the healthcare costs of “lithe Americans”:

“The court would have to believe that individuals forced to buy vegetables would then eat them (instead of throwing or giving them away), would prepare the vegetables in a healthy way (steamed or raw, not deep-fried), would cut back on unhealthy foods, and would not allow other factors (such as lack of exercise or little sleep) to trump the improved diet.”

Unlike broccoli, healthcare is something everyone, but everyone, will need at some time. For Ginsburg and the other liberal justices, the individual mandate is not the unprecedented dilemma Roberts insists it is. There is nothing particularly new here. On the contrary, it fits in naturally with what Ginsburg calls “Congress’ large authority to set the nation’s course in the economic and social welfare realm”, and failing to recognize the legislature’s power to do so under the commerce clause is for her “stunningly retrogressive”.

Scalia was so played in her argument that he should blush every time he sees her if he had any intellectual honesty at all.

Again, the argument is insane. It’s even difficult to apply the term shark-jumping because that sounds too mundane for this leap to surreality.

What’s so horrible about eating broccoli?, the legal naïf might wonder. But then Justice Ginsburg comes back at him very sharply:

Consider the chain of inferences the Court would have to accept to conclude that a vegetable-purchase mandate was likely to have a substantial effect on the health-care costs borne by lithe Americans. The Court would have to believe that individuals forced to buy vegetables would then eat them (instead of throwing or giving them away), would prepare the vegetables in a healthy way (steamed or raw, not deep-fried), would cut back on unhealthy foods, and would not allow other factors (such as lack of exercise or little sleep) to trump the improved diet.Even in her brave opinion, Justice Ginsburg reveals the heart of the problem: nobody on the Supreme Court knows how to cook broccoli.

Speaking of intellectual dishonesty,Governor/exorcist/kidnapper Bobby Jindal took the leap to intellectual dishonesty infinity and beyond with this one. He obviously spent know time with the court’s opinion.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said Thursday’s “frightening” Supreme Court ruling could lead to penalties for Americans whose lives are out of step with government priorities.

On a call with reporters, Jindal said that the decision to uphold the healthcare law as a tax is a “blow to our freedoms.”

“What’s next?” he said, expressing concern for people who “refuse to eat tofu” or “refuse to drive a Chevy Volt” — a popular hybrid car.

He doesn’t even realize how he just got dumped into Ginsburg’s trap. But, that’s about what happens when you go after the crazy little Teabot vote.

She even managed to call Roberts an “activist” judge by reminding every one of precedent.

“Rather than evaluating the constitutionality of the minimum coverage provision in the manner established by our precedents, THE CHIEF JUSTICE relies on a newly minted constitutional doctrine. The commerce power does not, THE CHIEF JUSTICE announces, permit Congress to `compel individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product.’” This argument gets “no force from our precedent and for that reason alone warrants disapprobation.”

Jindal sure missed this one.

Ginsburg: Congress can’t do silly things like compelling people to eat broccoli or buy General Motors cars because that would violate the well-established reasonableness test under previous Supreme Court decisions. But even if it did, the voters would rebel.

“As the controversy surrounding the passage of the Affordable Care Act attests, purchase mandates are likely to engender political resistance. This prospect is borne out by the behavior of state legislators. Despite their possession of unquestioned authority to impose mandates, state governments have rarely done so.”

It’s a good thing we have a few true intellectuals and scholars around still. May we continue to be blessed by her fine mind.

You can read the entire ruling here.


Caturday Heroines

1950’s Jean Patchett

Morning, news junkies! Okay so not a cat picture, but Jean Patchett qualifies as pretty darn feline in my books… heh. Also, I can’t get this pic to post because it’s copyrighted, but here’s a photo of Hemingway and Patchett in tow with kitties.

Well that’s it in the way of an intro for today. Let’s get right to the links.

First up… by now I’m sure you’ve all read quite a few of the “Hillary makes history” items in the headlines lately, so I won’t reinvent that news wheel. But, in case you missed it…here’s a neat profile on Hillary Rodham Clinton at makers.com, entitled “The Lesson of ‘Hillarycare'”. Includes several video interview clips of Hillary reflecting on her life. Snippet from the write-up:

Wellesley College seniors had never before chosen a commencement speaker from their own ranks when Hillary Rodham stepped to the podium on the last day of May in 1969. Education, she said, must grant “the courage to be whole” and permit people to live “in relation to one another in the full poetry of existence.” The speech received national attention and marked Rodham as a leading light for the young women of her generation.

By now, it’s safe to say that the early promise has been borne out; had Hillary Rodham Clinton “merely” attended Yale Law, served on the staff of the Senate Watergate Committee, become a respected children’s rights advocate, been the first female partner at her law firm, been a mother, and served as First Lady of Arkansas, we would think of her as a leader. And yet she has by now spent two additional decades at the very heart of the national consciousness—as a sometimes-embattled First Lady, as a distinguished senator from New York, as a groundbreaking 2008 Presidential candidate, and now as the 67th Secretary of State. Clinton has outlasted the smears to top Gallup’s “most admired woman in America” a record 16 times since 1993. “The courage to be whole,” indeed.

Next, from the New Yorker’s Amy Davidson… Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hero:

I am glad that John Roberts, the Chief Justice, voted to uphold almost all of the Affordable Care Act. But the stance of humble gratitude toward Roberts that’s been assumed by many in the past day is beginning to be a bit much. This is especially true since the real hero of the day is Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

On the front page of the late edition of the Times Friday morning, there were four stories on the Supreme Court decision. One talked about Roberts’s “exquisite delicacy,” and how he “considers himself the custodian of the Supreme Court’s prestige, authority and legitimacy.” Ginsburg’s name didn’t appear before the jump in any of them; she only ever appeared in one, seventeen paragraphs in. Her picture and surname were in the infographic—all the Justices were there. There were four pull-quotes: two from Roberts, and two from the joint dissent from Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy.

And yet Ginsburg wrote what would have been the dissent—and a strong one—if Roberts had voted with the four conservatives to throw out the entire health-care law.

Read the rest. It’s worth the click and it’s news you won’t find out from the Dewey Defeats Truman newsrooms of America!

Historiann on Nora Ephron…. I highly recommend clicking on the first link in her post, which I’ve linked here too for your convenience:

Now I will really miss her.

From the New York Times obit:

The producer Scott Rudin recalled that less than two weeks before her death, he had a long phone session with her from the hospital while she was undergoing treatment, going over notes for a pilot she was writing for a TV series about a bank compliance officer. Afterward she told him, “If I could just get a hairdresser in here, we could have a meeting.”

Ms. Ephron’s collection “I Remember Nothing” concludes with two lists, one of things she says she won’t miss and one of things she will. Among the “won’t miss” items are dry skin, Clarence Thomas, the sound of the vacuum cleaner, and panels on “Women in Film.” The other list, of the things she will miss, begins with “my kids” and “Nick” and ends this way:

“Taking a bath

Coming over the bridge to Manhattan

Pie.”

And, on that note. I’m gonna go draw a nice soothing bath and bake something yummy this Saturday. You know what to do in the comments, Sky Dancers… Have a lovely weekend!


Late Nite Lite: Open Thread Wave…Heat Wave

Damn it is hot down here in Banjoville!

Good Evening!

Time again for those funny cartoons, Fridays do seem to come on you fast sometimes, with all the news this week…it is gonna be a good one.

First up, 7/1 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Pre-existing condition | Mike Luckovich

For more on the SCOTUS Decision:

BB will like this one:

So many to choose from, I love the expression on this elephant:

But…it is all Bush’s fault!

Obamacare Roberts © Steve kelley,The New Orleans Times, Picayune,John Roberts, Supreme Court, Constitution, Obamacare

And what about Holder?

Holder and Contempt of Congress © Daryl Cagle,MSNBC.com,Fast and Furious,the fast and the furious,Eric Holder, Darrell Issa, Congress, Contempt of Congress,Gun Running, elephant,clown,seltzer

Okay, I have to add this one from last week…on Sandusky:

Sandusky Cellmate © Bruce Plante,Tulsa World,Jerry Sandusky, Penn State, prison

And finally a couple of comments about immigration:

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Chan Lowe, Sun-Sentinel – 06/28/2012

Now this last one is particularly fabulous because of the scene it portrays:

Arizona immigration law Flesh wound © J.D. Crowe,Mobile Register,arizona immigration law, us supreme court

Alright…we’ll call it a draw!


Just in Case You Didn’t Notice …

Congress finally renewed highway funds and extended the lower student loan rate.  This news comes via the HILL.  This should save a few jobs and fill a few potholes.  It also renews my Flood Insurance during the hurricane season!!!

Congress on Friday approved legislation that will extend federal highway programs through 2014, a low interest rate on student loans for one year, and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years.

Leaders in the House and Senate negotiated the giant package, leaving no doubt that it would have enough support to pass. The bill will likely be the last major piece of legislation approved by Congress until after the November elections.

The House voted 373-52 in favor of the bill, which was supported by every voting Democrat, while 52 Republicans opposed it. In the Senate, the tally was 74-19, with 23 Republicans joining every Democrat in voting for the measure. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) voted present, while Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) missed the vote.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama looks forward to signing the bill.

Congress faced a weekend deadline for extending the highway and student loan provisions. The rates for federally backed student loans were set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, and transportation funding was due to expire.

See?  They can work together ever so often.