Thursday Reads: Villagers Turn On Obama, Texas Tornadoes, West TX Investigations, and Boston Bombing NewsPosted: May 16, 2013
It’s beginning to look like Obama’s second term is pretty much over before it begins. We’re facing years of Republican scandalmongering and “investigations” of a president who won’t fight back or even fight for his own favored legislation or judicial and government appointments.
What is Obama actually doing every day? Does he spend the time he isn’t fund-raising or doing meaningless public appearances deciding which “extremist” to drone strike next? Because he certainly doesn’t seem to be governing.
Maybe I’m wrong. Who knows. All I know is that the Villagers are finished with him. We got the news yesterday from Politico’s top gossip mavens Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen in one of their trademark “Behind the Curtain” posts: D.C. turns on Obama.
The town is turning on President Obama — and this is very bad news for this White House.
Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama — and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now. Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.
Buy-in from all three D.C. stakeholders is an essential ingredient for a good old-fashioned Washington pile-on — so get ready for bad stories and public scolding to pile up.
Really? if powerful Democrats weren’t “big fans” of Obama, why did they work their asses off to hand him the nomination in 2008 when they could just as easily have chosen Hillary Clinton?
Of course the “establishment Democrats” that Vandehei and Allen choose to quote in their piece are hardly current insiders, as Charles Pierce pointed out:
Not to minimize the inherent political savvy of Chris Lehane, one anonymous former Obama aide, one anonymous “longtime Washingtonian,” or Vernon Jordan — who, I admit, I’d thought had long gone off to peddle influence in the Beyond — but I think they’re pretty much camouflage here for the fiery tantrum summoned up by the authors.
(And, not for nothing, but “longtime Washingtonian” may well be the beau ideal of TBOTP sourcing. They should make it the company motto. And the two presiding geniuses are going to be shocked one morning when they look in the mirror and see Sally Quinn staring back at them.)
Nevertheless, the Villagers certainly pay more attention to Vandehei and Allen’s pontifications than Pierce’s. Here’s a little more of their venom:
Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.
This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system. “It feel like they don’t know what they’re here to do,” a former senior Obama administration official said. “When there’s no narrative, stuff like this consumes you.”
Even Greg Sargent acknowledges that Politico probably speaks for the DC establishment, particularly the corporate media.
A lot of liberal bloggers have harshly criticized Politico’s big, much-discussed piece today reporting that “the town is turning on President Obama — and this is very bad news for this White House.” If Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei claim this to be the case, then it’s self evidently true, though it’s unclear that the consequences of this will be quite as bad as VandeAllen suggest they might.
It turns out that “the town,” as a term describing Washington’s political and media elite, actually has a history that goes back to elite Washington’s disdain for Bill Clinton. That history is well explained here by Digby, who ultimately coined the phrase “the Village” as a catch-all description of Washington’s insular ways.
Sargent says we should pay close attention to Vandehei and Allen’s claim that “the DC media now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.”
The claim that the press now has “every incentive” to be “ruthless” is fascinating, and worth unpacking. Why, exactly, is it more in reporters’ interests to be more aggressive in its coverage of Obama right now than it was before? Easy. Now that ”the town” has turned on Obama, being as aggressive as possible in going after him will lead to accolades among media colleagues and ingratiate you with sources, including even Congressional Democrats who will presumably now distance themselves from the White House, in the knowledge that ”the town” has decided the President is in political trouble. It’s hard to interpret this any other way. This is not a particularly flattering description of the proper role of the press, and few reporters would cop to it or accept it. But there’s no reason to doubt VandeAllen’s candid suggestion that this is how parts of the Beltway media genuinely function.
The other important thing here is what this says about scandal coverage. The Politico piece says this:
This is a dangerous — albeit familiar — place for a second-term president. Once the dogs are released, they bark, they bite and it takes a very long time to calm them down. Bill Clinton got hit early and often, and George W. Bush never really recovered from it…The long-term danger is that the political system and the public start to view the president, his motives and ideas through a more skeptical lens. The short-term danger is the press races for new details, new scandals, new expressions of indignity with each passing day.
Again, points for candor. The whole “second term curse” narrative is mostly a media construct, but it’s actually a self-perpetuating one. The danger is that once the “second term curse” idea becomes the story, the actual factual makeup of any given ongoing “scandal” becomes less and less relevant, while the focus intensifies on the White House’s handling of it.
Here’s Dana Millbank, one of the most powerful voices among the Village media: “Obama, the uninterested president.”
President Passerby needs urgently to become a participant in his presidency.
Late Monday came the breathtaking news of a full-frontal assault on the First Amendment by his administration: word that the Justice Department had gone on a fishing expedition through months of phone records of Associated Press reporters.
And yet President Obama reacted much as he did to the equally astonishing revelation on Friday that the IRS had targeted conservative groups based on their ideology: He responded as though he were just some bloke on a bar stool, getting his information from the evening news.
In the phone-snooping case, Obama didn’t even stir from his stool. Instead, he had his press secretary, former Time magazine journalist Jay Carney, go before an incensed press corps Tuesday afternoon and explain why the president will not be involving himself in his Justice Department’s trampling of press freedoms.
And so on. Millbank is outraged like the rest of the DC media. I strongly agree that the DOJ seizing phone records of AP reporters is a breathtaking violation of the First Amendment. The problem I have with all this is that these same corporate media reporters have shown little outrage over the DOJ’s refusal to prosecute the banksters who brought the U.S. economy to its knees or the idiotic behavior of the Republicans House of Representatives which has paralyzed Congress and caused untold misery for millions of poor, working class, and middle class Americans; the deadly drone strikes that have killed innocent civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan; or the horrendous human rights violations at Guantanao. The corporate media is outraged when their rights are trampled, not so much when ordinary people are being ground down by unemployment and austerity politics.
The biggest concern I have is that the press is going to help make it possible for Republicans to take control of the Senate. If that happens we are all in big trouble, including the media. The Republicans aren’t likely to worry about press freedom–as if they ever have. They’ll be too busy passing Paul Ryan’s budget and dismantling Social Security and the Affordable Care Act.
In any case, it sure does look like the rest of Obama’s second term is going to be frustrating to watch.
In other news,
WFFA in Dallas-Ft. Worth reports that “at least 6″ people are “confirmed dead in Texas tornadoes.”
GRANBURY, Texas (AP) — A rash of tornados slammed into several small communities in North Texas overnight, leaving at least six people dead, dozens more injured and hundreds homeless. The violent spring storm scattered bodies, flattened homes, threw trailers onto cars.
In Granbury, the worst-hit city, a tornado tore through two neighborhoods around 8 p.m. Wednesday. Resident Elizabeth Tovar described the fist-sized hail that heralded the tornado’s arrival, prompting her and her family to hide in their bathroom.
“We were all, like, hugging in the bathtub and that’s when it started happening. I heard glass shattering and I knew my house was going,” Tovar said, shaking her head. “We looked up and … the whole ceiling was gone.”
The powerful storm crushed buildings as it tore through the area, leaving some as just piles of planks and rubble. Trees and debris were scattered across yards, fences flattened.
At least 100 people are injured and 14 are still missing.
Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds described the devastating aftermath and the hunt for bodies in Granbury, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth.
“Some were found in houses. Some were found around houses,” Deeds said. “There was a report that two of these people that they found were not even near their homes. So we’re going to have to search the area out there.”
From West, Texas, former EMT Bryce Reed pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges of possessing bomb-making materials and giving them to someone else.
Bryce Reed was arrested last week and indicted Tuesday on a charge of possessing an unregistered firearm. Authorities have not announced any link between Reed and the April 17 blast in West, Texas, which killed 14 people.
Federal investigators allege Reed had materials for a pipe bomb that he gave to someone else. An agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wrote in a court filing that other investigators told him Reed admitted to having the bomb parts.
Reed’s attorney, Jonathan Sibley, said that he agreed with prosecutors to postpone a previously scheduled detention hearing, but would not comment on why. Reed remains in custody.
“We dispute the allegations against him,” Sibley told reporters outside the federal courthouse in Waco, about 15 miles south of West.
He also called on federal authorities either to present evidence connecting Reed to the explosion or to say he wasn’t connected. The McLennan County Sheriff’s Office said Friday that no evidence suggesting a link has been found so far.
So far the investigation of the explosion of the West fertilizer factory has found “No evidence bomb caused Texas fertilizer blast,” according to NBC News.
The news comes ahead of a Thursday press conference at the site in which officials from the ATF will discuss their work to investigate the cause of the disaster and lay out their initial findings.
Officials from the Texas fire marshal’s office are also expected speak on the explosion that killed 15 people and injured hundreds while leveling much of the tiny town, NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reported.
It was not revealed, however, what precisely officials will say about the cause of the blast.
And one official told NBC News that he did not expect mention of a first responder who is charged with owning pipe bomb components.
This morning CBS News’ John Miller broke the news that Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wrote a note on the inside of the boat he hid in for hours in Watertown after the shootout that killed his brother Tamerlan.
Sources tell Miller that Tsarnaev wrote the note in the boat he was hiding in as police pursued him, and as he bled from gunshot wounds sustained in an earlier shootout between police and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
The note, scrawled with a pen on the interior wall of the cabin, said the bombings were retribution for U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and called the Boston victims collateral damage in the same way Muslims have been in the American-led wars. “When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims,” the note added.
Dzhokar said he didn’t mourn older brother Tamerlan, the other suspect in the bombings, writing that by that point, Tamerlan was a martyr in paradise — and that he expected to join him there.
Miller also reports that police fired many bullets into the boat where the unarmed suspect was hiding.
Miller’s sources say the wall the note was written on was riddled with bullet holes from shots fired into the boat. The shots were fired after Dzhokhar came up through the tarp covering the boat amid police fears that he had another bomb.
So basically, the kid was trying to surrender when police unleashed their firestorm of bullets.
The inaccuracies in this story have been breathtaking. At first we were told that both Tsarnaev brothers were firing at police and that they had an arsenal in their apartment. We were told that Tamerlan was wearing a suicide vest. and that the brothers shot a transit policeman who almost died. It turns out there was one gun, no arsenal, and the transit policeman was hit by friendly fire from other officers during the firefight. So far the only evidence we have that Tamerlan shot the MIT patrolman is the word of the victim of the carjacking, who remains anonymous. How do we even know the Tsarnaev’s were at MIT that night, since the carjacking took place in Allston, which is in Boston, not Cambridge? I have so many questions…
Okay, this post is getting way too long, so I’ll end there. What’s on your mind today? What are you hearing and/or reading. Please share your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a great day!