As usual, there is no way I can address all of the ghastly news that is happening today in Trump’s America, so I’m not going to try. There is an unbelievable amount of horrible stuff happening. Let’s just stipulate that Trump has successfully instituted the “American Carnage” he talked about in his Inauguration speech.
So I’m just going to focus on one topic today, and leave it to you to add more in the comment thread.
Recently sexual harassment has become big news because of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Then, as victims became empowered, accusations were leveled against other powerful men. The latest to stand accused are “journalist” Mark Halperin and former POTUS George H.W. Bush.
Veteran journalist Mark Halperin sexually harassed women while he was in a powerful position at ABC News, according to five women who shared their previously undisclosed accounts with CNN and others who did not experience the alleged harassment personally, but were aware of it.
“During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me,” Halperin said in a statement to CNN Wednesday night. “I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain. For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologize. Under the circumstances, I’m going to take a step back from my day-to-day work while I properly deal with this situation.”
MSNBC announced that Halperin would no longer be an analyst on NBC or MSNBC, where he regularly appeared on Morning Joe. More from the CNN story:
Widely considered to be one of the preeminent political journalists, Halperin, 52, has, among other career highlights, been political director at ABC News; co-authored the bestselling book “Game Change,” which was made into an HBO movie starring Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin; and anchored a television show on Bloomberg TV. He is featured in Showtime’s “The Circus,” a show that chronicled the 2016 campaign cycle and the early days of the Trump presidency, and has a project in development with HBO, which, like CNN, is owned by Time Warner.
The stories of harassment shared with CNN range in nature from propositioning employees for sex to kissing and grabbing one’s breasts against her will. Three of the women who spoke to CNN described Halperin as, without consent, pressing an erection against their bodies while he was clothed. Halperin denies grabbing a woman’s breasts and pressing his genitals against the three women.
One specific example from the article:
The first woman told CNN she was invited to visit his office in the early 2000s, when he was political director at ABC News, to have a soda, and said that while she was there with him he forcibly kissed her and pressed his genitals against her body.
“I went up to have a soda and talk and — he just kissed me and grabbed my boobs,” the woman said. “I just froze. I didn’t know what to do.”
When she did make her way out of his office, the woman told a friend at ABC News what had happened. That friend told CNN she remembered the woman telling her about the incident and seeing her visibly shaken.
Much more at the CNN link.
George H.W. Bush was accused by actress Heather Lind of sexually assaulting her. CNN:
“…when I got the chance to meet George H. W. Bush four years ago to promote a historical television show I was working on, he sexually assaulted me while I was posing for a similar photo,” the post went on to say. “He didn’t shake my hand. He touched me from behind from his wheelchair with his wife Barbara Bush by his side. He told me a dirty joke. And then, all the while being photographed, touched me again.”
A Bush spokesman responded in part:
“At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures,” McGrath said. “To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke — and on occasion, he has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.”
Last night Deadspin reported: Second Woman: George H.W. Bush Groped Me.
Jordana Grolnick, a New York actress, has a story to tell that doesn’t sound very different at all [from what Lind described]. “I got sent the Heather Lind story by many people this morning,” Grolnick says. “And I’m afraid that mine is entirely similar.”
Rumors about Bush groping actresses in this manner have been circulating for a while. More than a year ago, a tipster passed word about the Heather Lind incident to Deadspin. We were told that Bush had, during a photo opp, groped her and told her that his favorite magician was “David Cop-a-Feel” while fondling her.
(Reached for comment, Bush spokesperson Jim McGrath provided the following statement: “At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures. To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke — and on occasion, he has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.”)
More detail from Grolnick:
In August 2016, Grolnick was working at a Maine production of Hunchback of Notre Dame. The former president, who summers in nearby Kennebunkport and frequents this theater, caught a performance. He came backstage during an intermission, she says, and she and the rest of the cast gathered for a photo with him.
Grolnick now says that other actors had told her before the photo that Bush had a reputation for fondling during photo ops, but she didn’t take it seriously.
“I guess I was thinking,” she says, “‘He’s in a wheelchair, what harm could he do?’”
Then her question got answered.
“We all circled around him and Barbara for a photo, and I was right next to him,” she says. “He reached his right hand around to my behind, and as we smiled for the photo he asked the group, ‘Do you want to know who my favorite magician is?’ As I felt his hand dig into my flesh, he said, ‘David Cop-a-Feel!’”
Bush is a very old man. Perhaps he has frontal lobe damage or dementia. It might be time for him to stop appearing in public.
Good old Scott Brown has already gotten into trouble after Trump appointed him Ambassador to New Zealand. Yesterday Stuff.com reported: US ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown faced complaints over ‘cultural misunderstanding.’
Speaking to Stuff with wife Gail Huff at his side, Brown confirmed there had been an official “administrative inquiry” into his conduct at a Peace Corps event in Samoa in July.
It related to an official complaint about comments he made when arriving at the event, when he told some of the guests they looked “beautiful”. There had also been a complaint about a comment he made to a woman serving food and drink that she could make hundreds of dollars in the hospitality industry in the US, Brown said.
That was the extent of the complaints, and the inquiry had concluded with a warning that he should be more culturally aware, Brown said….
“When we walked into the Peace Corps event we walked in and there was a receiving line and prior to walking they were all like dirty and grungy … We walked in and everyone was dressed to the nines. They all looked great, Gail looked great, you know I was dressed up and Gail and I both walked in and said ‘you guys are beautiful, you look really handsome sir, you guys are great’. And apparently somebody took offence to that.
“Fine…I did say it. Gail and I did say it absolutely.”
The Guardian this morning: Scott Brown: more complaints surface over behaviour of US ambassador to New Zealand.
Over the past two months,…the Guardian has spoken to various witnesses who attended the party and who claim the behaviour of the ambassador – the first appointed by the US president, Donald Trump – was worse than he has admitted.
It is understood that two complaints under investigation by the US state department against Brown originally came from two female peace corps volunteers who were at the event, and who served food and drink to the guests as a way to flip the cultural norm of Samoans serving westerners.
There are also other complaints that the ambassador’s behaviour was “shocking”, “culturally insensitive”, “rude” and “undiplomatic”. The Guardian contacted more than a dozen people who attended the party and spoke to a number who said he had made them feel uncomfortable.
One woman told the Guardian that Brown allegedly stared at her body when she was introduced to him. She did not want to be identified, but said: “The first time I met him, he looked at my chest immediately.” She alleged that another female colleague had a similar experience.
“I felt immediately uncomfortable and it didn’t feel right,” she said.
A bit more:
A male former peace corps volunteer described a strained atmosphere developing at the party as the ambassador shouted at guests to be quiet and listen to him. “It was very culturally insensitive,” he said. “He just did multiple things in 15 seconds that really put me off, and looking around [I] saw it put off a lot of other people as well.
“At least twice, maybe three times, he was telling everybody: ‘Stop talking, be quiet, listen to me.’”
Another former peace corps volunteer called Brown’s speech “really pompous and sort of shocking”. The man, who again did not want to be named, said he approached Brown after his speech, hoping to gauge the man representing his country.
He described their exchange as candid, and claimed Brown became aggressive when he mentioned he was disappointed by Trump’s actions following his inauguration. Brown angrily told him to get over it, he said.
“A lot of people were really upset by the tone of his speech that night,” said another attendee. “He was rudely shouting everyone down. After the speech I was so put off I didn’t approach him. I wanted no personal contact with him.”
Another former peace corps volunteer who attended the party told the Guardian: “I know someone who works at the US embassy … and he said Scott went totally off the book [in the speech].
“He said something like: ‘When Kennedy started the peace corps 100 years ago’, so it seemed he didn’t really know what he was talking about.”
And yet the pussy-grabber-in-chief is still POTUS and no one is investigating him for sexual misconduct.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?
Can you smell the “death stench?” coming from the Romney campaign? Mark Halperin is beginning to. Yesterday he wrote about The Troubles: all the bad news piling up for Mitt Romney following the conventions–like the fact that the Obama camp raised more cash than Romney in August, multiple polls suggest that Obama is getting a bounce from his convention and Romney didn’t. Halperin says all this bad news is leading to a “congealing” media narrative that Romney’s campaign is dying. And all that was written before the latest CNN poll showed Obama at 52% with a lead of 6 points.
Until Romney breaks this cycle, he is in danger of living out the Haley Barbour dictum: in politics, bad gets worse. Super PACs might start shifting their money from the presidential race to save the House majority and look to pick up Senate seats. Romney’s own fundraising will take a hit. Stories about Romney pulling up stakes in Michigan and other ostensible battlegrounds will add to the death stench. And there will be an avalanche of suggestions and second-guessing from pundits and Republican operatives and politicians about Romney’s tactics, strategy and staff.
How tragic! The “death stench.” Oooh That Smell!
Ooh that smell
Can’t you smell that smell?
Ooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you, yeah
Priorities USA has released a new ad to kick Romney while he’s down.
Everyone is still talking about Romney’s wacky interview with “Disco Dave” on Meet The Press and how he pretended to be in favor of parts of Obamacare on national TV and then quickly flip-flopped in such a way that low information voters might not find out about. From TPM:
“Mitt Romney literally went on ‘Meet The Press’ and misled the American people,” Brad Woodhouse, communications director for the DNC, said on a conference call with reporters Monday. “He acted as if he supports something that he clearly does not.”
Romney said Sunday that he intends to keep parts of ‘Obamacare,’ and cited the law’s rule forbidding discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions as an example.
“I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform,” Romney said. “Of course there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage.”
The Romney campaign later clarified that his position on pre-existing conditions had not changed, and that he only supports coverage for people with pre-existing conditions if they have had “continuous coverage,” according to a statement released to National Review. “[Romney’s] own plan will deal with pre-existing conditions but not in the same way that Obamacare does,” a Romney campaign aide told TPM after Romney’s interview.
Ezra Klein wrote a post about the Obamacare kefluffle called “when begin vague backfires.”
Romney has been playing a little trick. Here’s what he told David Gregory:
There are a number of things that I like in health-care reform that I’m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with preexisting conditions can get coverage.
To most of the world, that sounded like Romney was saying he was going to keep Obamacare’s protections for people with preexisting conditions. And enough reporters know Obamacare well enough to know that you can’t keep those protections without keeping quite a bit of the law. That’s why people thought Romney’s position had changed.
But to folks who’ve been following Romney’s game of three-card monte on this issue, it was clear he was just being strategically vague in describing his position: Romney has long said he would protect people with continuous coverage from being discriminated against due to preexisting conditions. But this is something that the law mostly does now, and that would leave 89 million Americans out in the cold.
Romney’s play here was obvious enough: By being a little fuzzy about what, exactly, he was proposing, he could sound like he had a way to protect people with preexisting conditions while still saying he wants to repeal Obamacare. He’d get the best of both worlds. But the problem with trying to strategically confuse people is that you actually confuse them, and that’s what happened here. Rather than coming away thinking Romney had a secret plan to protect people with preexisting conditions, they went away thinking Romney had a secret plan to protect Obamacare.
Disco Dave tried half-heartedly to get Romney to provide just one specific loophole that he would close in order to pay for the massive tax cuts he’s proposing. But Romney was determined not to reveal whether he wants to get rid of the mortgage deduction, the charitable contributions deduction or something else. We know he’s not going get rid of all those loopholes that make it possible for him to pay less than 15% of his income in taxes. I’m sure of that.
Fortunately, TV Pundits are beginning to confront Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan with their attempts to con less-informed voters. Here are two examples.
MSNBC’s Chris Jansing asking Romney adviser Tara Wall for specifics on which tax loopholes Romney would close and getting word salad.
JANSING: What are the loopholes you would close? Will you tell the American people how you’re going to to this better place that you say they have?
WALL: Well, again, the campaign has laid out a number of specifics relative to the principles that will guide the policies of a Romney-Ryan ticket. […] Again, the specification include policies that are pro-growth in nature, that reduce the deficit, that reduce the burden on taxpayers and small businesses, small businesses number one have been hit hard by a number of regulations that have stifled growth and job creation. And so number one, those are some of the things you have to start with.
JANSING: Well, with all due respect, a pro-growth policy is not specific.
WALL: The other part of that is energy independence. That’s an approach to energy independence that will create millions of jobs. There is a target of 12 million jobs by the Romney-Ryan target. Relative to those loopholes that you mention, I agree that Congressman Ryan pointed out taht have to be put out in a public debate. But I think, again, we have to look at the overall principles that are going to drive the policies and not ram through policy as we saw with Obamacare.
WTF?! Is that the kind of thing Romney is going to say in the debates?
Here’s Norah O’Donnell of all people confronting Paul Ryan on his vote for the sequester that he’s blaming on President Obama.
Amazing! Too bad Disco Dave can’t do that.
Yesterday Jonathan Chait reported another Romney conspiracy theory: the media is conspiring with pollsters to help Obama win.
These comments from a “top Romney adviser” to National Review…are pure derangement:
PPP has these polls that just put chum in the water for the media. Sometimes I think there’s a conscious effort between the media and Chicago to get Republicans depressed. And I hope our friends realize that all these media analysts out there are Democrats WHO WANT US TO LOSE. And the more Washington DC controls our economy, the more important inside-the-beltway publications are and the more money they make. The 202 area code is dominated by people who will make more money if Obama is reelected, so it’s not just an ideological thumb they’re putting on the scale for him, it’s a business interest.
If this is the Romney campaign’s genuine theory of the race — that political reporters are deliberately trying to mislead America into believing Obama is winning in order to fatten their profits — the Romney campaign is in a lot of trouble.
Again, WTF?! That “death stench” is getting stronger.
Think Progress caught something else odd in Romney’s interview on MTP. I noticed it when I listened to the interview but I thought it was just more Romney strangeness. Romney told Disco Dave, “I’m as conservative as the Constitution.”
The Tenther movement is a political ideology and a social movement in the United States that espouses that many actions of the United States government are unconstitutional. Adherents invoke the concept that the states share sovereignty with the federal government and with the people by citing the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as the basis for their legal and ideological beliefs:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”
Adherents believe that political authority enumerated in the United States Constitution as belonging to the Federal Government must be read very narrowly to exclude much of what the national government already does. They argue for the recognition of limited sovereignty of the States. Opponents use the term in order to draw parallels between adherents and 19th century states’ rights secessionists, as well as the movement to resist Federal Civil Rights legislation.
This is the Ayn Randish version of the “Constitution” that Paul Ryan believes in.
Last September, GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan spoke at the Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center, a Washington, D.C. arm of the conservative institution that was founded under the leadership of Supreme Court spouse Virginia Thomas. The speech was delivered in commemoration of Constitution Day, and it provides a fairly substantial window into how he understands America’s most important document. Unfortunately, the speech also raises very real doubts about whether Mr. Ryan can distinguish the founders’ vision from his own. Ryan’s speech does not simply defend his laissez faire vision for the country, it suggests that this austere vision is mandated by the Constitution itself:
We can strengthen our defense of liberty if we remember to keep in mind those who are struggling to make ends meet. What makes our Constitution such an extraordinary document is that, in making the United States the freest civilization in history, the Founders guaranteed that it would become the most prosperous as well. The American system of limited government, low taxes, sound money, and the rule of law has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed.
That is scary. Make sure you click on the link and read the whole thing. Good thing that “death stench” is surrounding Ryan too.
I guess this has been kind of a strange post, but I’m in a strange mood today. I hope it makes at least some sense. I realize I didn’t mention that today is the anniversary of 9/11, but JJ will have something about it later on.
So… what are you reading and blogging about today?
I know hope has become a bit of a dirty word since 2008, but that’s what I get when I listen to Elizabeth Warren talk. Hope, and an infusion of energy and enthusiasm. Yesterday, the Morning Joe crowd tried to throw Warren off her stride, but she didn’t even blink. No matter how nasty they were, she was just as nice as can be while putting them in their places. This woman is a natural politician. Watch it:
I can hardly believe I’m doing this, but I’m going to link to a diary at Dailykos by jobu. Don’t feel you have to click on the link. Here’s what jobu had to say:
First up was Mark Halperin. His gotcha question was regarding China and its military and its (blah blah blah) National Security implications. EW took his question, reframed it, tossed it right back in his lap and watched as the oatmeal oozed from from his ears. She rightfully answered the question in terms of our Economic Security and refused to budge from this position despite Halperin tossing his oatmeal all over his high chair. Priceless. But just an appetizer to what was to follow.
The conclusion, the grand finale of her Grucci like display was a follow up question from Willi Geist. He wondering how she was going to be able to take on the special interests all by her poor, helpless little self. What followed was what I have been waiting for from a Democratic Party Candidate for quite some time. EW started with a question to the effect of why should I give up? She built on that to a crescendo of I will fight for you common sense positive.
Warren took it to four snotty men that I cannot tolerate. And what she has to say is so genuine, so intelligent, so empathetic. I’m sooooo ready to vote for her!
I have never been a fan of Mark Halperin or watched Joe Scarborough so I can’t say that I particularly care about either of their careers or politics. I will say that I believe that all cable news pundits take themselves WAY too seriously. This item gave me a great pre-coffee giggle so I have to pass on the collective villager on-line gasps! We’re shocked!!! Shocked I tell you!!! I’ll start out with Steven Benen of Washington Monthly.
It’s hard not to love that “liberal” media.On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the three-hour program co-hosted by a conservative Republican former congressman, Time magazine’s Mark Halperin was asked for his assessment of President Obama’s White House press conference. “I thought he was kind of a dick yesterday,” Halperin said.
If you can watch the video, note how Halperin, ostensibly one of the nation’s most influential pundits, was smiling, with a smug satisfaction. It wasn’t a word he just blurted out in the heat of a larger discussion — Halperin thought about it, asked about whether the broadcast was on a seven-second delay, and then took his shot.
Not to be left out, Politico gives us this one. Notice how quickly the ‘real’ press is running for the door.
Time issued a statement later Thursday calling Halperin’s comments “inappropriate and in no way reflective of TIME’s views.”
The magazine did not suspend Halperin but said, “We have issued a warning to him that such behavior is unacceptable” and noted that he had “appropriately” apologized.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Thursday afternoon that he called Halperin’s bosses at MSNBC.
“The comment that was made was inappropriate,” Carney told reporters in his daily briefing. “It would be inappropriate to say that about either president of either party.”
During the Morning Joe show, host Joe Scarborough asked Halperin what he thought of Obama’s press conference and Halperin asked if the seven-second delay were in effect so he could give his real opinion – apparently thinking it would be bleeped out before hitting the air. Scarborough told Halperin to go for it because they would use the delay to prevent whatever he said from being broadcast. “You fall down, I’m going to catch you,” Scarborough told Halperin.
Scarborough isn’t experiencing any fall out so far. Here’s a fun one from WAPO’s Greg Sargent. Go read beyond this quote. The word sanctimonious comes to my mind, but I’ll let you dissect and see if you agree.
I’m sorry, but this is crazy. Halperin’s crack was crude and dumb, but it doesn’t deserve indefinite suspension. Halperin’s use of an expletive is trival when compared with the degradation of our political discourse we witness on a regular basis from Halperin and many others — degradation that is seen as perfectly acceptable because no curse words are employed. Suspending Halperin only reinforces a phony definition of “civility” in our discourse, in which it’s unacceptable to use foul language and be “uncivil,” but it’s perfectly acceptable for reporters and commentators to allow outright falsehoods to pass unrebutted; to traffic endlessly in false equivalences in the name of some bogus notion of objectivity; and to make confident assertions about public opinion without referring to polls which show them to be completely wrong.
Salon‘s Alex Pareene published a pretty brutal capsule of Halperin’s poltical analysis.
This is a great excuse for MSNBC to fire Halperin, though! I mean if they won’t fire him for being incompetent at understanding and explaining politics they now have an opportunity to fire him for being disrespectful and vulgar. (Ed Schultz was suspended over as much.)
Being a professional observer of the “horse race” is bad enough, but Halperin doesn’t even understand the horse-race element of politics. He fails at being a hack. He’s too dumb to correctly parrot conventional wisdom. He is pretty sure Sarah Palin and Donald Trump are 2012 front-runners. He thought “suspending his campaign” to fix the economy and not knowing how many houses he has were both huge messaging victories for John McCain. He wrote a book about how to win in 2008 that predicted everything Hillary did, but in his world it all worked. He thought Bush’s political comeback would come any day now throughout the entirety of the years 2006-2008. He can’t interpret polls or see through the spin of GOP consultants who are much smarter than he. If I were revising the Hack list I’d put him above No. 1.
So this indefinite suspension is a nice first step, but I bet it won’t be long before they allow him to come crawling back into Mika and Joe’s little parlor of inanity. (And will Joe get in trouble for egging him on? Does Joe get in trouble for anything?)
So, is this a case of it takes one to know one? Go check out the huge list of reactions via memeorandum. See the Village. See the Village Gasp. See the Village react in a predictably partisan pattern.