Saturday, July 30, 2016

How to inspire: advice from the Republican experts

This morning's Washington Post brings us a verdict on Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech from an, um, unimpeachable source: a guy who used to write speeches for the Great Inspirer, George W. Bush.  What did he think of Clinton's rhetorical effort?  Guess:

And given his record, let's just say his advice on inspiring speeches has a great deal of validity.  Who could forget perhaps his proudest moment of inspiration?  Not us.

From The Washington Post, May 2, 2003:
ABOARD THE USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, May 1 -- President Bush proclaimed victory in Iraq tonight from aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier returning to home port, but he cautioned that much remains to be done in the broader war against terrorism.
"The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001, and still goes on," the president said in his national address beamed from the deck of the Lincoln. . . .
"The war on terror is not over, yet it is not endless," Bush said. "We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide." Victory in Iraq, he said, was "a crucial advance. . . . We've removed an ally of al Qaeda and cut off a source of terrorist funding."   . . .
Although his words were triumphant, Bush's tone was measured. Some in the audience of sailors and airmen sat on the upper fuselage and wings of two F/A-18 Hornets on deck. Most stood quietly between what were clearly the applause lines and then clapped respectfully. Their most enthusiastic and lengthy cheers came when Bush congratulated their performance in Iraq and told them near the end of his speech "you are homeward-bound."  [Bush had ordered the ship stopped just off San Diego so that he could make his inspiring speech, thus delaying said homecoming – Ed.] . . . .
Bush was to spend the night on the Lincoln, and both his arrival and stay here provided the ultimate in presidential symbolism. For a president fresh from victory in battle, who has cultivated an aggressive, can-do image, it was a scene straight from "Top Gun" that is sure to appear in future campaign ads.
Bush was so exhilarated by the sights and sounds of the ship, he abandoned his usual media aversion and became a virtual camera hog, grinning and posing with sailors, shouting at journalists to take more pictures and ask about his flight.
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said the speech had been written over the past week, by chief speechwriter Michael Gerson  . . . .

Friday, July 29, 2016

Doesn't the tangerine-faced grifter know there's an internet?

(with apologies to Jon Stewart)

July 29, 2016:

The New York Times, July 1, 2016:

With just over two weeks until the Republican National Convention opens in Cleveland, Donald J. Trump’s preparations for what is usually a polished and highly choreographed affair are looking a lot like the Trump campaign itself: chaotic, freewheeling and unpredictable.

Much of the program remains in flux, including who will speak, how and when Mr. Trump will arrive, and what he will say when he does.

And after months of promising that his convention would be special, and not “boring” like previous ones, Mr. Trump says he is now embracing a less-is-more approach.

One thing there will be less of, which might come as a surprise to anyone expecting all the brashness and ubiquity of Trump branding, is the candidate himself.

“What they’ve asked me to do is to speak all three nights. I turned it down,” he said in an interview from his Fifth Avenue office one recent afternoon.

Not that people aren’t clamoring to see more of him, of course. “Everybody wants that,” he insisted. But he said he demurred for fear of looking too self-absorbed. “I don’t want people to think I’m grandstanding — which I’m not,” he said, before adding, almost reflexively, “But it would get high ratings.”

In fact, the convention Mr. Trump described sounded rather humdrum, at least by his standards. He promised it would be fun — but not too fun — tasteful, serious and on message. And while he dismissed recent Republican conventions as lackluster affairs, he said he would not attempt anything too loud and bold.
 . . . .
At one point, two aides confirmed, Mr. Trump was not even aware that the event had to be held in Cleveland, a decision made almost two years ago by the Republican National Committee.
Much of what Mr. Trump and his team have decided is what will be off the agenda, not what will be on it.
When he saw the drawings for the stage he would speak on, Mr. Trump sent them back. “I didn’t like the shape,” he said. “Too straight. Too nothing. Didn’t have the drama.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Times copy editor Debbie Downer strikes again

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

The redoubtable Digby has complained on Twitter that the New York Times headline writers were rather downbeat about the historic nomination of Hillary Clinton:

But emphasizing the negative has been typical for Times copy editors for as long as we can remember.  Who can forget their D-Day headline?

All true, but really, couldn't they have been a little more upbeat about the greatest invasion in history?

And the moon landing?  It really was not the time for complaining, was it?

Even President Obama's inauguration set off the Times copy desk:

Can't the Times ever pretend to enjoy anything, people?

Monday, July 25, 2016

You read it first in The Spy, W. edition

At the dawn of the new millennium, America stood unchallenged as the greatest military and economic power in the history of the world: the Cold War had ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the economy had created vast, albeit somewhat overheated, prosperity and technological advances, such as the one you are using now to read these words, that transformed life on earth, and the fiscal strength of the United States Government, thanks to modest tax increases on the richest and spending restraint, had created surpluses that were on track to eliminate the entire national debt.

Nine years later, America lies in ruins. Thousands died from a predicted and preventable attack by a handful of fanatic extremists armed with nothing more than credit cards and box cutters. One of its greatest cultural treasures was destroyed by a foreseen natural disaster and remains in large part an uninhabitable wasteland. Its riches were squandered by a brutal and counterproductive war of choice and the failure to regulate the inevitable and controllable excesses of capitalism. Its government finds itself trillions in debt, with trillions more needed to prevent a second Great Depression. 

Catastrophe on this scale is beyond the power of any single person, no matter how powerful or evil. Yet one reckless individual bears responsibility in large measure for the consequences of all, and the perpetration of most, of these disasters. That man is the departing President of the United States, George W. Bush.

The Massachusetts Spy, January 20, 2009

Readers of the presidential historian Jean Edward Smith’s mammoth new biography, “Bush,” will surely be cured of this political amnesia. Smith — who has written biographies of Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower — is unsparing in his verdict on our 43rd president. “Rarely in the history of the United States has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of George W. Bush,” Smith writes in the first sentence of the preface. And then he gets harsh.

The New York Times Book Review, July 24, 2016

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Good and Dead: The Great Divider

The obituary page of The Massachusetts Spy

By Luke Reschuss
Obituary Editor

His demise had been predicted for years, and anticipated ever since Rupert Murdoch appointed two of his issue over his bulbous, sagging head, but the death of the career of Roger Ailes still came as a shock, as if a chronic and supposedly incurable febrile affliction of the body politic had suddenly broken.

Whether his half century of sexual harassment led to his demise or was simply the excuse seized on by Rupert's boys doesn't matter; either way his morbidly obese body was trundled down Sixth Avenue, albeit swathed in a $40 million shroud.

Ailes's legacy is all around us, whether in the spectacle of a tangerine-faced grifter and hatemonger accepting the nomination as the Presidential candidate of the party that Ailes ran for almost half a century or simply in the non-stop white man hate-mongering that he had the audacity to successfully rebrand as “news.”

The young Roger Ailes learned the power of
Republican ideas
Roger Ailes has been a finger in the eye of the American polity for almost half a century.  He first attained wide notoriety as the impresario who in 1968 turned a washed-up paranoid loser into a tanned, rested, and ready paranoid winner.  You recall the results.

Later, he persuaded Australian oligarch Rupert Murdoch to rev up a cable news channel that would pass off reactionary propaganda as journalism.  To the surprise of many, it succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectations.  In large part, its success was due to the structure of cable television in that era.  Without about 100 to 150 basic channels, a channel could succeed with a fringe audience of around 3,000,000 regular viewers – a level of viewership that would have doomed any news program in the days of broadcast TV and seems not especially relevant compared to Facebook's billion-plus user base.

But 3 million angry old white people, although a sliver of the viewing population, was an attractive market for the peddlers of reverse mortgages, mail-order catheters, and a wide variety of investment scams.  They would listen to comforting drivel pouring out of the mouths of old white men and younger blonde women. For some years, some of the garbage washed up on the shores of real news outlets, until years of internet fact-checking finally sealed the leaks.

Ailes's genius, if indeed he had any, was to brand the ignorant ravings of random supposed experts, some now doing time for impersonating intelligence agents,  Grade-B talk show talent and washed-up  New York City mayors as news, and even more diabolically, as “fair and balanced.”

Of course it was nothing of the sort.  Ailes whipped out the slogan as often as little Roger, but for differing reasons.  The latter was used as a truncheon to demonstrate his power over hapless women in his employ.  The slogan was used to destroy journalism as we now it.

The point of the slogan was not to legitimate Fox News; it was to demonize all other media as no different from Ailes's smoke machine.  If Fox News wasn't fair and balanced, well, then, neither was CBS News or The New York Times.  Ailes tried to pull all media down to his level.  Judging by the responses of Republicans and other Fox News viewers when confronted by facts as reported by real news sources, he's succeeded.

It should go without saying (but thanks to Ailes, it can't) that there is a difference between a news outlet motivated by discovering and reporting the truth and one pushing a reactionary fairy tale, but it appears that we are losing the ability to make the distinction.

Ailes may be dead.  Who knows how long real journalism will survive his passing?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Bush family shocked by GOP indifference to their snub

By David Bloviator
Political Editor

CLEVELAND, Ohio – This year's Republican Convention is missing a lot of things: a candidate they can rally around, a professionally-managed campaign, the semblance of a program to take to the country, boozy receptions paid for by big corporations, and non-white delegates.  But there's one absence that no one cares about: the Bush family.

The elder Bush is said to be disgusted by the blatantly
racist appeals of the current Republican nominee
Still smarting from the temerity of an electorate that rejected Jeb Bush's rightful ascension to the White House in favor of a tangerine-faced grifter with no qualifications other than his ability to run businesses into the ground and serially roger Slavic “models,” the entire Bush family, including two former Presidents and one former candidate, have stayed home, sulking in their tents like Achilles, if Achilles had dodged the draft.

While Jeb worked up the energy to commission a column in the Washington Post containing the usual empty smears of Hillary Clinton leading to the conclusion that he wouldn't vote for either party's nominee, his younger brother, George, said nothing, preferring to remain on his cattle-free “ranch” to finish his series of 50 paintings of his toes.

Sources close to the Bush family describe how shocked they were to find out that the Republican Party intended to carry on without them.  They say the Bushes don't recognize what happened to their Grand Old Party.

The elder Bush is said to be gobsmacked by the blatant bigotry and race-baiting on display in Cleveland.   John Sununu, formerly Poppy Bush's Clerk of the Works, explained “Of course, Bush used racist tactics by making sure that everyone knew that Willy Horton was black, but that was a subtle, indirect way of appealing to racists.”

“As President Bush always told me, just because you don't let Negroes in your club doesn't mean you have to put a Whites Only sign out front.  That's just not done,” Sununu said.

The second President Bush is equally disappointed with the goings on inside the GOP.   “He can't believe that the Republicans are actually going to nominate a man who doesn't believe that America won a brilliant victory in Iraq,” said former occupation authority mouthpiece Dan Senor, in Cleveland as a member of the New York delegation.

You won't see the 2016 nominee touching a peon
The younger Bush is also said to be discouraged by the negative tone of the Convention.  “At the 2004 GOP Convention, President Bush was proud of the positive tone he set by not letting a single delegate take the podium,” Senor said.  This allowed the false Swift Boat attacks against his opponent John Kerry to circulate freely among party activists without attracting the kind of media criticism that is proving so damaging to the snarling rich man's son in the fright wig, Senor explained.

Only Barbara Bush is said to be taking the breach in stride. “I wouldn't let most of the Trump people into my home anyway, so letting them run around in Cleveland should work very well for them, ” she said.

But the chasm separating the Bush dynasty from today's Republican Party goes deeper than petty disputes about deporting 11,000,000 people or the wisdom of invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, according to former Bush liege Josh Bolten. “The real issue is that the Bushes believe that the nation and the Republican Party should be led by the right people, who went to the right schools, if you catch my drift,” Bolten said.

When it was pointed out to Bolten, a Princeton grad, that Donald Trump did in fact graduate from an Ivy League school, he chortled drily: “Penn?  An Ivy League school?  I don't think so.”

Friday, July 8, 2016

Coming soon - another Spy book exclusive

How to Score with Chicks by Roger Ailes ( HarperCollins).

In Chapter 9, you'll learn a powerful technique
I call “Bitch, I'm firing your ass”
Advance praise:

“A brilliant work of genius.  I learned so much!”

– Steve Doocy, top-rated morning host

“A brilliant work of genius.  I learned so much!”

– Brian Kilmeade, also a top-rated morning host

“Don't miss this one!  Grab your loofahs!”

– Bill O'Reilly, top-rated evening host

“On behalf of my father, please be advised that he does not give endorsements.”

– Lachlan Murdoch.  You know who I am.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How to handle emails extremely carefully, Republican edition

WASHINGTON, April 13 — Karl Rove, the chief political strategist for President Bush, did not intentionally delete e-mail messages to avoid creating a paper trail detailing his work, his lawyer said on Friday. Rather, he mistakenly thought that the messages were being preserved by the Republican National Committee.

“Karl has always understood that his R.N.C. e-mails were being archived,” the lawyer, Robert Luskin, said in an interview. “He has never asked or sought any kind of special treatment to permit him to delete anything.”

In addition to their government e-mail addresses, Mr. Rove and 21 other White House officials maintain e-mail accounts with the national committee that are supposed to be used for political business only.

Facing questions from Democrats and in the news media, the White House has said that some e-mail messages from the political accounts are missing and that it is working to recover them. The party committee, which until August 2004 automatically deleted e-mail from its server after 30 days, has said it has no e-mail records for Mr. Rove before 2005. But Rob Kelner, a lawyer for the R.N.C., said that work to recreate the lost records was under way on Friday and that some e-mail had already been retrieved.

On Friday, a watchdog group called on Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, to reopen his investigation into whether Mr. Rove was involved in leaking the name of a C.I.A. agent. Mr. Rove had been cleared in the inquiry, but the group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said this week’s revelations about missing e-mail raised questions about whether he might have destroyed or hidden documents. . . .

The e-mail controversy arose after the disclosure that Scott Jennings, a deputy to Mr. Rove, had used his national committee e-mail account to discuss plans to fire federal prosecutors. The disclosure prompted Democrats to begin an investigation into whether White House officials used their R.N.C. e-mail accounts for official business, to avoid scrutiny or creating a paper trail.

On Thursday, Representative Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat who is chairman of the House committee conducting the inquiry, said he had “particular concerns about Karl Rove” after a briefing his aides received from Mr. Kelner, the R.N.C. lawyer.

Mr. Waxman raised questions about an R.N.C. policy, aimed only at Mr. Rove, that Mr. Waxman said “removed Mr. Rove’s ability to personally delete his e-mails from the R.N.C. server.”

In an interview Friday, Mr. Kelner said the committee had indeed adopted such a policy, in January 2006. Mr. Kelner would not say if the Fitzgerald leak inquiry sparked the change, but he said the new policy was aimed simply at preserving Mr. Rove’s e-mails.

“It wasn’t because the R.N.C. thought, uh oh, Karl Rove’s going to destroy e-mails, we have to save them,” Mr. Kelner said. “Absolutely not. That’s exactly the impression Waxman is trying to create. I don’t think there’s any evidence of that.”

At issue is how White House officials complied with two laws: the 1978 Presidential Records Act, which requires administrations to preserve records of their deliberations and decision-making, and the Hatch Act, which specifies that government equipment may not be used for campaign purposes.

To avoid violating the Hatch Act, the White House permitted employees with political duties to have access to Republican Party equipment. But the administration had no explicit policies on how R.N.C. equipment should be used until this week. . . .
The New York Times, April 14, 2007

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Spy exclusive: the rundown on Trump's convention

While you were getting fried on a beach somewhere (and getting sunburned too), the Spy's crack political team was hard at work scooping the world on plans for Trump's upcoming coronation in Cleveland.  They managed to get their hands on the schedule of events for the convention's first day, and what can we say except that it's big.  Really really big.  It's so big you'll be tired of its bigness before it's over, as Trump's PR team never ceases to tell us.

But why take John Barron's word for it when you can check it out for yourself:

So pull up a chair America and open up that bag of cheddar-flavored Trumpos.  You haven't seen anything as loud or as spectacular as this convention since Independence Day 2.