Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who has an A rating from the National Rifle Association, refused to say if he would support stronger gun safety measures in the aftermath of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Appearing on CNN’s Starting Point on Wednesday, Scott repeatedly dodged host Soledad O’Brien’s specific questions about which reforms, if any, he would support, at one point responding to a query about limiting assault rifles with a trite, “I support the Second Amendment.” O’Brien repeatedly pressed Scott for a more detailed reply, but the Florida governor claimed that the nation must “respect the families, mourn their losses” but avoid a detailed conversation about what can be done to prevent such tragedies in the future:
O’BRIEN: Well, you know, I understand that people often say that in the wake of a tragedy, let’s wait, and I actually think I’ve covered enough of them that, you know, we’ll wait until we bump up against the next tragedy and there will be one no, doubt about it. I guess I would like to hear from elected officials what are you willing to change? [...]
SCOTT: Right now, what we ought to be doing, let’s talk about all of the issues and think about what we can do to improve it. But here is what I think. one, I have been to the law enforcement funeral desk in our state. And the heart goes out to those families. [...]
O’BRIEN: Okay. I think with all due respect, are you not going to answer my question, because I guess — I just want you to tell me what you would be comfortable to support, and I get it, it will be part of a conversation, but I think there have been a number of things on the table and I don’t feel like you’re telling me, you know, should people not be able to buy high-capacity magazines? What are you willing to say would be a good start, that would you bring to the table in control? Any conversation about guns?
SCOTT: Well, you know, my focus is, one, respect the families, mourn their losses, make sure our schools are safe, and then start the conversation and listen to the Floridians. What I do every day is travel the state, almost, pretty much every day, and listen to Floridians and get their ideas and then come back, based on those ideas of what we can improve.
O’BRIEN: Well, I hope it all goes — all those conversations turn into meaningful conversations before I get to go out and cover another tragedy of which we’ve now done a bunch of them.
During the GOP convention in Florida, Scott made headlines when he rejected a request by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn (D) to temporarily ban guns in the downtown area.
The mayor feared that in the “potentially contentious environment surrounding the RNC, a firearm unnecessarily increases the threat of imminent harm and injury to the residents and visitors of the city.” But Scott dismissed his concern, arguing that “It is at just such times that the constitutional right to self defense is most precious and must be protected from government overreach.”
CNN’s Soledad O’Brien tore into Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) efforts cut food stamps on CNN’s Starting Point Tuesday morning, arguing that the lawmaker’s efforts would disadvantage thousands of lower-income constituents who rely on the program. Earlier this year, Sessions proposed an amendment to the Farm Bill that would have removed $11 billion from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over 10 years. The effort ultimately failed.
The conservative lawmaker defended his proposed cuts to a visibly skeptical O’Brien, arguing that growing enrollment in food stamps during a period of shrinking unemployment suggests that Americans are free riding on the program for free government meals. O’Brien observed that Sessions himself twice voted to grow SNAP during the Bush administration and cited a study showing minimum fraud and abuse in the program.
“Twenty percent of your constituents are on food stamps and they look at the people who are actually eligible, it’s something like under 70 percent who [are] eligible who sign up,” O’Brien said:
O’BRIEN: You voted in fact in 2002 and 2008 to grow the program yourself. I think first under President Bush in 2002, and when it comes to fraud, this Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said SNAP has ‘the most rigorous quality control systems of any public benefit program in recent years, it’s received its lowest error rates on record.’ … Most people who are on it aren’t working the system, they are just hungry people. [...]
When you’re thinking of things to cut, people basically say, why are you trying to balance the budget on people making less than $23,000 a year, I think that range roughly, is the national average of a family on food stamps. So why not cut something else? There are other things that could be on the table before you pick a program that is feeding the nation’s poor children.
SESSIONS: I’m not picking a program. I say all programs need to be examined in this government. This government wasting money every day. There is no doubt about that. We have got to do better. And food stamps is a program that was totally exempt from any oversight and change when it has gone up four times in the last ten years in the amount we spend …
O’BRIEN: Two of those times you voted for it, sir. 2002 and 2008 you voted for it. Some people are saying, it’s growing because people are hurting.
SESSIONS: I voted for the ag bill that had that in it, probably so.
SNAP’s fraud rate rests at 1 percent and overall error rates have plunged in recent years, hitting an all-time low in 2010, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
A study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture find that food stamps reduced the poverty rate by 8 percent in 2009 and “lifted the average poor person’s income up about six percent closer to the [federal poverty] line.” In 2010, the program kept more than 5 million Americans from falling below the poverty line and reduced the number of children living in extreme poverty — defined as less than $2 per day, before government aid — by half in 2011.
A new CNN poll has found that a majority of Americans do not think the Obama administration intentionally misled the public in explaining what happened in the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks on U.S. assets in Benghazi, Libya in September.
Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and Fox News have been engaged in an all out attack campaign against U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice and other Obama administration officials to try to convince Americans that the White House was trying to execute a Watergate-style cover up of the U.S. response to the Benghazi attacks. But the CNN poll has found that it failed:
On Libya, 54% of the country is dissatisfied with the administration’s response to the Benghazi attack, with only four in ten saying they’re satisfied with the way the White House handled the matter.
“But that dissatisfaction is not because Americans see a cover-up,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Only 40% believe that the inaccurate statements that administration officials initially made about the Benghazi attack were an attempt to deliberately mislead the public. Fifty-four percent think those inaccurate statements reflected what the White House believed to be true at the time.”
News of the CNN poll comes as Rice will meet today with McCain and two other Republican senators who have been most vocal in attacking the U.N. ambassador on Libya, Lindsey Graham (SC) and Kelly Ayotte (NH).
McCain vowed to block Rice’s potential nomination as the next Secretary of State but has since backed away from that pledge after facts emerged to undermine his claim that Rice and Obama administration officials lied about Benghazi. McCain said on Sunday that he would give Rice the “benefit” of explaining her position. But the Washington Post reports that Ayotte is still holding out . “I would hold the [Rice] nomination until I got sufficient answers,” Ayotte said.
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) appeared on CNN Wednesday morning to press his case against U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, the target of Republican criticism for initially claiming that the Sept. 11 attacks on Benghazi were inspired by spontaneous protests to an anti-Islamic video. Burgess joined 97 House Republicans in opposing Rice’s potential nomination to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, even though her public statements about the incident originated from unclassified talking points provided by the intelligence community.
Host Soledad O’Brien challenged Burgess’ opposition to Susan Rice, noting that Republicans had supported Condoleezza Rice’s nomination as Secretary of State in 2005, despite the Bush administration’s role in the massive intelligence failures that led to the Iraq war. Burgess struggled to explain the contradiction. He initially claimed that the media was far more critical of Bush’s intelligence failures than Obama, but when O’Brien laughed away that claim, he told her to take up the question with Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), both of whom supported Condoleezza but now oppose Susan:
O’BRIEN: I have asked others before how this does not compare, the Susan Rice issue, to the Condoleezza Rice issue on weapons of mass destruction. She was also wrong when she was the national security adviser, right? … Fast forward three years in 2005 when she was up to be secretary of state, it was Lindsey Graham who was furious that the Democrats were pushing back. It was Sen John mccain who were furious that the Democrats were pushing back on Condoleezza Rice to be Secretary of State. She was wrong on weapons of mass destruction. How is this different?
BURGESS: The difference is the scrutiny provided by our free press in this country. Condoleezza Rice was exposed to withering criticism by the press. I don’t see that happening now. Maybe I’ve missed something in the talking points, but I don’t see that happening. ….
O’BRIEN: So you’re confusing me there for a moment. When you say the scrutiny on the press — are you saying five days after comments of weapons of mass destruction, you feel like the media was picking apart Condoleezza Rice? I don’t think that’s true, Sir. Most people say that’s not the case. It took a long time. …. Hey, I’m all about scrutiny. I guess I like consistency, too. You were not calling for more scrutiny and you weren’t saying that the fact that Condoleezza Rice was wrong on weapons of mass destruction was going to damage her credibility as secretary of state. Again, McCain and Lindsey Graham were supporting that. It seems contradictory to me.
BURGESS: You’ll have to take that up with Senator McCain and Senator Graham.
Indeed, the media largely accepted Bush’s argument that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and rarely aired dissident voices or challenged the administration’s allegations.
The very same Republicans who advanced these false claims and remained silent after it became obvious that the Bush administration molded intelligence to substantiate war with Iraq, are now criticizing Susan Rice’s performance. The Obama administration has changed its assessment of the events that led up to the Libya incident as the intelligence evolved.
Report: Petraeus To Tell Congress He ‘Knew’ Of Attackers Behind Benghazi Attack |
CNN’s Barbara Starr reported on the Situation Room today that a source tells her that in tomorrow’s closed-door hearings on Capitol Hill, former CIA Director David Petraeus intends to tell lawmakers that he “knew” that the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya was carried out by the Ansar al-Sharia militia group. He will also indicate that his initial briefing to Congress, in which he indicated that the attack was spurred by protests in Cairo against an anti-Islamic video, was both based on intelligence available at the time and later disproved. Starr cautioned CNN host Wolf Blitzer that the issue was still very complex and that while the perpetrators have possibly been identified, “a combination of many factors” may be involved in the motivation behind the attack.
After Donald Trump’s Joker-esque stunt yesterday promising to donate $5 million to charity if President Obama released his college transcript and passprt, Trump went on Piers Morgan’s CNN show to explain himself. Given that Trump gave Morgan his first claim to American fame when Morgan won the first edition of Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice show, it wasn’t a particularly challenging interview.
But Morgan’s deficiencies as a journalist aren’t limited to his friendship with the Donald: Piers’ 9 PM hour has been a ratings mess and a trainwreck, a perfect storm of substanceless, venal chatter glued together by Morgan’s uncanny ability to make everything about him. But to understand the five biggest problems in Morgan’s approach to journalism, you have to see him in the act:
1. Piers Morgan Interviews An Empty Chair
Morgan booked Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin shortly after the infamous “legitimate rape” comments, only for Akin to cancel at the last minute. Morgan’s response was to lecture an empty chair — before Clint Eastwood made it cool:
While it’s admittedly amusing, the rant is a perfect example of how Morgan makes everything about Piers. The host notably does not lecture the chair about either its limited understanding of the human reproductive systems or the misogynist underpinnings of the idea of sorting rapes by their supposed “legitimacy.” Instead, the issue is Akin inconveniencing Morgan; the congressman cancelled at “the last possible minute,” making him a “gutless little twerp.” Even in his follow-up interview with Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Morgan shies away from the substantive issues raised, asking Schakowsky “[Akin] bailed on us. What do you think is going on here?”
2. Piers Morgan Interviews An Empty Chair…Again
While technically this interview with another GOP Senate candidate, Christine “I am not a witch” O’Donnell, didn’t involve an physically empty chair, it might as well have. After asking O’Donnell a series of questions about the witch comments and her, er, idiosyncratic views about masturbation, he asks her about marriage equality and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. When she declines to address either issue, Morgan harangues her, prompting O’Donnell to get up and leave while he continues to ask her questions:
This interview illustrates Morgan’s incredibly frustrating habit of being on the right side of an argument, but prosecuting it in nearly the most counterproductive fashion imaginable. If Morgan wanted to have a substantive exchange with an anti-equality advocate, O’Donnell might not have been the smartest guest to book, and it’s hard to see what value comes from haranguing her on the issue. Indeed, Morgan’s has a noxious habit of treating LGBT issues as a cudgel with which to beat his guests rather than a critical rights campaign. His interview with Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) is not a genuine attempt to point out the deficiencies in her worldview, but rather a referendum on whether or not she’s “judgmental.” Of course she’s judgmental! But she’ll never say that, and making the debate about Bachmann’s personality and rhetoric rather than policy isn’t telling us anything we don’t know or making a single viewer more supportive of LGBT rights than they were before.
3. Piers Morgan Loses A Debate To A 9/11 Truther
Speaking of Morgan’s argumentative acumen…
In this segment, Morgan invites former Governor Jesse Ventura (I-MN) onto his show with the express intent of debating his crackpot theories about 9/11. Usually, the purpose of such an exercise on a major cable channel would be an epic debunking, as otherwise the host is simply broadcasting insane ideas to a wider audience. Unfortunately, Morgan isn’t prepared to do that — he simply asserts over an over again that Ventura’s claims are madness, ridiculous, or irrational, which is, needless to say, totally unpersuasive. This problem isn’t limited to Morgan’s interviews with conspiracy theorists – he repeatedly approaches argument as a contest of who can say “no, you’re wrong!” more, an approach to discourse that ends up being somewhat less than enlightening.
4. Piers Morgan Degrades An Already Frivolous Story Into A Parody of Frivolity
It’s not a problem that Morgan often interviews celebrities on somewhat fluffy issues — such interviews can be very and interesting and he did, after all, inherit his timeslot from Larry King. But it’s one thing to cover less important stories, and another thing entirely to degrade the quality of journalism even on frivolous issues:
Here Morgan interviews Casey Anthony’s lawyer about a conversation that Morgan had with Anthony, supervised by the lawyer, in which he generally allows Anthony’s lawyer to expound on his client’s behalf without the faintest challenge (see the full interview if you don’t believe me). The problem here isn’t that he’s covering Casey Anthony; I’m not Aaron Sorkin. Rather, it’s the inane topics of conversation like Anthony’s purported weight gain and reading list that drags down an already gossipy story.
5. Piers Morgan And The Phone Hacking Scandal
Finally, we arrive at the most important issue on the list – Morgan’s utter shamelessness in using his program to cover his ass on an issue that seriously threatens his own credibility. Morgan worked as an editor at several Rupert Murdoch papers in the UK during the time period in which, according to an investigation last year, Murdoch employees routinely hacked private voicemails to get scoops. CNN failed to publicly probe its new hire’s connections to the issue when it broke (he was a former News of the World editor, the paper most heavily implicated in the investigation) despite suggestive evidence from his own book that Morgan was involved in phone hacking. Morgan, for his part, did a series of segments sympathetic to Rupert Murdoch’s line, including this fawning (unembeddable) interview with another former Murdoch employee.
As evidence continues to mount that Morgan was involved in phone hacking, including allegations in the past few days that another paper helmed by Morgan was involved, the importance of Morgan giving an honest public accounting of his past grows exponentially. His seeming inability to come clean creates a credibility problem that dwarfs the other concerns with his show.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN last night that neither he, nor the Iranians, would consider an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities an act of war.
Rogers said that he believed there are options “short of war” that could prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and, strangely, CNN host Erin Burnett wondered if bombing suspected nuclear weapons facilities would be an option that is “short of war.” While Rogers at first appeared taken aback by Burnett’s odd question, he then went a bit further, saying definitively that such an attack would indeed be “short of war” and the Iranians would see it that way too:
BURNETT: Do you think that bombing those key facilities, whether it’s Parchin or Fordow, is that short of war, in your opinion, or would that actually spark a war? If we use one of those, you know, massive ordinance, penetrators, 30,000 ton bombs that could actually penetrate deep under the ground, where as you say they have been placing some of their facilities?
ROGERS: Well, again, I would be cautious of — short of war. I will say that —
BURNETT: So that’s not — that would be war. OK.
ROGERS: Well, in very targeted strikes, we use very targeted strikes against al Qaeda. And so if it is a very targeted strike, many would argue that that’s short of war. And if it only seeks to go after their nuclear program, that is — we’re not talking about invasions or naval engagements or troops on the ground, none of that. And this has been used by other — President Clinton used this tactic.
But there’s also other things under that. I’m not saying that’s — that is the right answer. That is an option that I believe is short of war if it is very selective, very targeted, only to the nuclear program. And we do know, those — that the Iranians believe that there is a whole panoply of options — war and then these targeted strikes they don’t see as — wouldn’t see as an act of war.
Watch the clip:
There’s really no question about this one. Attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities with missiles and/or bombs would be an act of war and the Iranians would most likely see it that way too.
CNN Anchor A ‘Proud, Card-Carrying Member’ Of The Gay Gestapo |
Last week, CNN anchor Carol Costello spoke with Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, who has been objecting to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Mix It Up At Lunch” school diversity day, because he believes it “punishes Christian students” who don’t promote homosexuality. Costello abruptly ended the interview after Fischer started claiming that gays are a threat to society. Since then Fischer has railed against her for being a member of the “gay gestapo.” Today, she responded by proclaiming, “Well, Mr. Fischer, if that’s the definition of the ‘ gay gestapo,’ then I’m a proud, card-carrying member.” Watch it (via Equality Matters):
The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has been railing against the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Mix It Up at Lunch” day, where students are encouraged to simply connect with someone new at lunch on October 30. Fischer told the New York Times that the day “punishes Christian students” who don’t approve of homosexuality, and he doubled down on those comments in a CNN interview this morning, comparing the day to Halloween candy that has been laced with cyanide:
FISCHER: Parents need to understand that this is about pressuring public schools and students in public schools to accept homosexuality as a normal healthy alternative to heterosexuality. You know, it’s interesting to me that they’re doing this October 30, the day before Halloween, and what this problem is, it’s like poisoned Halloween candy. Somebody takes a candy bar, injects it with cyanide, the label looks fine, it looks innocuous, it looks fine — it’s not until you internalize it that you realize how toxic it is. And we want parents to be aware that any program that comes from the Southern Poverty Law Center is going to be toxic to their student’s moral health.
CNN anchor Carol Costello challenged Fischer’s ideas, reminding viewers that he has claimed that the Nazis recruited gay stormtroopers because they were more ruthless. Watch the full interview (via Equality Matters):
At the end of the interview, Costello cut him off, pointing out he was spewing untruths. She concluded the segment by saying, “Thanks for sharing your views, I guess.” Fischer claimed on Twitter that she “interrupted me more than Alan Colmes, which I heretofore thought was humanly impossible.”
Tomorrow night’s presidential debate has been positioned as a critical one for President Obama after his passive showing in his first outing and Vice President Biden’s fiery attempt to regain momentum. But it’s also a debate that highlights two important issues: the essential invisibility of women’s issues (as well as other social issues like gay rights and immigration reform) in this year’s presidential debates, and the expectation of deference, rather than vigorous questioning, from presidential debate moderators. The person with the hardest task tomorrow probably isn’t President Obama: it’s moderator and CNN anchor Candy Crowley.
As a woman, a journalist, and a debate viewer, I’m at least glad to hear that Crowley views her role as to push forward the debate and to challenge the responses the candidates give the audience, or, as she she said of her plan for the debate: “Once the table is kind of set by the town-hall questioner, there is then time for me to say, ‘Hey, wait a second, what about X, Y, Z?’” At Time, Mark Halperin has a long piece up about how both the Obama and Romney campaigns have reacted to that statement of intent, which is to say, unenthusiastically. But Crowley apparently was never asked to abide by the memorandum of understanding that the campaigns agreed upon before the debates started, which govern other issues like banning pledges and naming people in the audience other than their own families. And it’s telling that the campaigns expect her to be on board even without asking her to agree.
It’s already frustrating that the lone female moderator for the presidential debates was assigned to the town hall-format debate, a setting where the Gallup Organization picks the audience, who in turn get to submit questions. Crowley can cut questions and order them, and there is room for her to ask follow-up questions, though she is obviously constrained by the subjects the attendees prioritize. Through both the first presidential debate and the lone vice-presidential debate, there’s been a single question asked about issues that particularly concern women, Martha Raddatz’s query about how Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan’s religious beliefs affected their personal views of abortion. There are a lot of questions that could be posed about the candidate’s national approaches to abortion policy alone, not to mention the inquiries that moderators, male and female alike, could make into the many creeping restrictions on women’s reproductive health and autonomy on the state level.It’s frustrating that women should have to be responsible for raising questions about issues like contraception or pay equity, which of course affect men as well. But given that it seems that if women and the men who care about these issues care about these issues want to see them discussed, women have to ask them ourselves, it’s difficult to see Crowley assigned the debate with this format and its limitations. Read more