The Biggest Surprises for MSNBC In 2010: Ed Schultz and Lawrence O’Donnell

Dec 31 2010 Published by under Featured News

In a year of highs and lows, and plenty of circus like atmosphere and drama, two of the biggest pleasant surprises for MSNBC in 2010 were the late blooming success of The Ed Show, and the immediate success of The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell. Let’s take a look at two of MSNBC’s bright spots for the year.

Back in 2009 MSNBC was looking for their next big hit, and they thought that liberal radio show host Ed Schultz would be it. After his debut program drew 825,000 total viewers, the audience quickly eroded and stayed mired in the 500,000 viewer range, but something interesting happened in 2010. As the post 2008 victory glow wore off and Democrats in Washington began to struggle, the audience for Ed Schultz’s blue collar populism began to grow.

According to MSNBC, “2010 marks the best total viewer performance in the 6 p.m. hour ever for MSNBC, with “The Ed Show” ranked #2 in both A25-54 and total viewers for the full year. Compared to 2009, “The Ed Show” is up +8% in A25-54 and +20% in total viewers, while CNN has dropped –28% in A25-54 and –29% in total viewers. CNN had their lowest 6 p.m. delivery in A25-54 since 1999 and the lowest total viewer average since 2002. “The Ed Show” had 642,000 total viewers (vs. 543,000 for CNN) and 157,000 A25-54 (vs. 149,000 for CNN).”

As more left leaning middle class Americans, the group that Ed Schultz advocates for, became disenchanted with the economy, they more they tuned in to The Ed Show. Back in 2009, I originally found the program to be a dull carbon copy of other MSNBC programs, but Schultz has found his voice, and his personality, love it or hate it, shines through. He has managed to capture the voice of blue collar America in a way that Keith Olbermann can’t. Ed Schultz has found his niche and he is one of the few cable news hosts who actually saw his audience grow in 2010.

The other surprise of 2010 was the immediate success of The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. For years, MSNBC viewers had been asking for a new 10 PM ET program to replace the nightly repeat of Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and when they finally got their wish, they tuned in heavily and often. Powered by an interview with Vice President Joe Biden, The Last Word’s debut was MSNBC’s most watched program on September 28.

Unlike what Ed Schultz went through after his big debut, O’Donnell’s program has sustained its ratings, and on occasion draws more viewers than its lead in, The Rachel Maddow Show. O’Donnell’s show finished as the 16th most watched program on cable news, and The Last Word actually performed better with younger viewers than both Olbermann and Maddow. I had wondered when his show was announced how O’Donnell was going to approach doing a ten o’clock without rehashing all of the same stories and material that the hosts before him discussed.

The Last Word accomplished being different by doing something the other shows on the network haven’t been able to do. O’Donnell has been able to get Republicans on his show. Whereas Keith Olbermann doesn’t seem interested in having Republicans on, and Republicans are so terrified of Rachel Maddow that they won’t come on her show, O’Donnell has managed to attract a rather eclectic guest list.

O’Donnell is a veteran of both scripted television, and politics, and he and his staff appear to have an idea of how they want their show to be different from the others on the network. O’Donnell has shown himself to be a sharp interviewer who is not afraid to spar with his guests. His program is a great follow up to Rachel Maddow. Both shows share a bit of a wonkish tone, where opinion is secondary to describing what is going on and why it is happening.

MSNBC may never be in Fox News’ league, but the network has continued to add to its lineup. MSNBC’s initial success was accomplished on the back of Keith Olbermann, but now there is a lot more talent on the roster. I would love to see MSNBC add a minority host to prime time, and the network needs to be available in more homes around the country, which is something that Comcast will likely address when they take over NBC, but I think that they are missing the boat in one key area.

In my opinion, MSNBC won’t really grow until they stop catering to the small class of progressives that has issues with Obama. It is not a coincidence that the fastest growing show on the network features an old school blue collar liberal. Maybe MSNBC will someday get the message that there are a lot of potential viewers out there who might like to see less emotional criticism of the President, and more of a return to core liberal values. If MSNBC wants to reach and retain their audience in 2011 they should consider broadening the range of opinion that they present.

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Christine O’Donnell Responds to Federal Investigation By Going Completely Insane

Dec 30 2010 Published by under Featured News

In response to the federal investigation launched into the allegation that she used $20,000 of campaign funds to pay for her own living expenses, Christine O’Donnell has lost the last thread of sanity that she had left. O’Donnell did her best to keep the cash flowing by claiming that the left is out to get her, while forgetting that it was her own Republican campaign staff that outed her for misuse of funds. In short, Christine O’Donnell is completely insane.

Here is Christine O’Donnell on CNN claiming that there is a left wing vendetta against her:

O’Donnell accuses CREW of being “left-wing” as if this should automatically discredit CREW, which is an interesting notion given the attention and credibility that O’Keefe and Breitbart were given even though both were known for their politics and for being loose with the truth. The left wing owes O’Donnell a giant thank you, not payback. In her clearly delusional state, much like Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell doesn’t understand that having her special brand of insanity and ignorance on the ballot helps the Democratic Party.

The truth is that O’Donnell has been floating the Soros boogeyman for months now. Talking Points Memo reported CREW’s response to these allegations when they were made a few months ago:

CREW responded months ago by pointing to their record of being non-partisan, “We have a clear record as a non-partisan organization. I’m aware these allegations are out there — you know has always been an equal opportunity antagonist. CREW accepts money from ordinary citizens who support our cause and we’re supported by people on both sides of the aisle for actions that CREW takes,” Adam Ratliff of CREW told TPM. Ratliff pointed out that CREW had gone after Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters, and said the O’Donnell filing was not partisan at all.

Furthermore, Media Matters reported:

“It is true that OSI (Soros’s Open Society Institute) contributed $100,000 to CREW in January 2006 and that Soros is a member of the Democracy Alliance, a recently formed organization of donors that has provided financial support to CREW. But the Democracy Alliance is made up of nearly one hundred donors….”

O’Donnell hasn’t limited her diversion campaign to George Soros. She is also attacking the former staffer that blew the whistle on her treating campaign money like a personal slush fund. O’Donnell described the accusations as “a vendetta to stop this movement in its tracks.” She said one of her accusers, former campaign staffer David Keegan, is “obsessed” and has posted “pornographic statements” about her on Facebook. She also slammed Keegan as someone who gave everyone the “creeps”. So, we shouldn’t believe the charges against her but we should believe her slams against her accusers.

This is close to her mentor Sarah Palin’s old standby of accusing every man who doesn’t worship her of being a rapist or pedophile. Glad O’Donnell kept her smears to a minimum, relatively speaking. At least this time she didn’t float a rumor about her accusers being homosexuals like she did to Mike Castle during the GOP primary. O’Donnell is taking Republican crazy to a whole new level. She is the political bastard child of Glenn Beck (Soros, Soros, Soros!!!!) and Sarah Palin (Victimization is Us).

What Christine O’Donnell is trying to desperately hard to distract the right from is a former member of her own staff from her previous Senate run submitted an affidavit stating that Christine O’Donnell used campaign funds to pay her rent and living expenses. In short, she embezzled from her own campaign. O’Donnell thinks that by blaming the left, instead of members of her own party, she can garner sympathy and not so coincidentally more cash in her bank account by creating an alternate reality in which she is the victim.

O’Donnell has responded to the news of the federal investigation by possibly suffering a psychotic break with reality. Christine O’Donnell knows that it is awfully tough to land a cushy gig on Fox News, sell a book, and hit the right wing speaking circuit while dressed in a orange jumpsuit and having all your mail forwarded to the federal prison, so she has concocted a nonsensical defense that is completely out of touch with the facts. It is stunning that the Republican Party could nominate someone so devoid of ethics as a candidate for the United States Senate. Christine O’Donnell is more G. Gordon Liddy than Sarah Palin, and she may soon have the rap sheet to prove it.

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After 2 Years Obama’s Approval Rating Is Higher than Clinton and Reagan

Dec 30 2010 Published by under Featured News

The latest Gallup poll on President Obama’s job approval rating contained an interesting nugget of information. After two years on the job, Barack Obama’s approval rating is higher than that of two recent presidents who had big reelection victories, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. One term Presidents George HW Bush and Jimmy Carter, and post-9/11 president George W. Bush had higher ratings than Obama at the halfway mark.

According to the Gallup poll, Obama’s weekly job approval rating is holding steady at 47%. Despite all of the criticism that this president has faced his approval rating is down only slightly from the same week in 2009 when it was 51%. The problem with weekly job approval ratings is that at best they only provide an immediate snapshot of public opinion. They do not encompass long term trends, or the possible shifting of attitudes based on long term unfolding political developments, but with the economy continuing to struggle, the fact that Obama’s approval rating is remaining steady is good news for the White House.

At the halfway point of Obama’s term, his approval rating is right in the middle of the pack when the last six presidents are ranked. George H.W. Bush had the highest approval rating at the midpoint of his term, (63%). Second on the list was his son, George W. Bush, (61%). Next on the list is Jimmy Carter at 51%. Obama was fourth at 47%, and surprisingly two most popular recent presidents were at the bottom. Ronald Reagan was at 43%, and Bill Clinton was at 40%.

Both of the Bush presidencies had their midterm popularity boosted by the patriotism of being war time presidents. For George H.W. Bush, the Gulf War boosted his approval, while George W. Bush was still benefiting from the nation’s emotional reaction to 9/11 and their support of the war in Afghanistan. Because of this neither of these presidents’ approval ratings are an accurate comparison to Obama. Carter is an interesting case, but his approval rating was soon to plummet under the weight of the Iran hostage crisis.

A more accurate comparison for Obama is to the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. In 1994, Bill Clinton saw his approval rating sink to as low as 39%. The high water mark for Clinton from July of 1994 through the rest of the year was 48%. President Clinton’s approval rating from Thanksgiving until the end of the year did not go any higher than 42%. Clinton also suffered a disastrous midterm defeat where his party lost control of both the House and the Senate.

Until the current recession, the Reagan recession was the worst in recent memory. It might seem hard to believe now, because Reagan is remembered as a popular president, but Reagan’s job approval rating for his second year in office was 43%. Reagan struggled through most of 1983. He began the year with an approval rating of 35%, and it took him 11 months of the year to reach a 50% job approval rating.

After closing the year with a string of legislative successes, the talk of Obama being a one term president, or facing a 2012 primary challenger has faded, but the ongoing recession has taken a toll on the President’s job approval ratings. By looking at the differential between Reagan and Clinton’s recessionary and post-recession approval ratings, it is possible to argue that a poor economy can cost a president 10-15 points of approval. These things considered, President Obama isn’t in that bad of shape as he heads into the second half of his first term.

Only George W. Bush had a midterm approval rating of over 50% and went on to win reelection. Bush is somewhat of a special case as he benefitted at the midpoint from terrorism concerns and the war in Afghanistan, and he was able to narrowly win reelection by campaigning on being a wartime president, and the war in Iraq. In 2004, Bush was able to capitalize on American voters’ reluctance to change presidents during wartime.

As the economy turns upwards, Obama’s approval ratings will follow. The fact that this president has managed to keep his approval rating near 50% despite the economy, an epic midterm election loss by his party, and daily criticism by his opposition is not good news for Republicans looking ahead to 2012. Should the economy improve by the time Obama faces reelection, I think he will probably achieve a similar result to what Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton will able to accomplish with their reelection bids.

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Country Legend Merle Haggard Calls Out The Lies Of Fox News

Dec 29 2010 Published by under Featured News

In an interview with Rolling Stone about receiving the Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievement, outlaw country legend Merle Haggard reflected on meeting President Obama. He blasted “the media,” for making up and spreading lies about Obama, “It was also nice to meet Obama and find him very different from the media makeout. It’s really almost criminal what they do with our President.” It is obvious that Haggard was talking about Fox News.

When asked by Patrick Doyle of Rolling Stone about the highlight of the Kennedy Center Honors Haggard talked about meeting both former President Clinton, and President Obama. Haggard said of Obama, “It was also nice to meet Obama and find him very different from the media makeout. It’s really almost criminal what they do with our President. There seems to be no shame or anything. They call him all kinds of names all day long, saying he’s doing certain things that he’s not. It’s just a big old political game that I don’t want to be part of. There are people spending their lives putting him down. I’m sure some of it’s true and some of it’s not. I was very surprised to find the man very humble and he had a nice handshake. His wife was very cordial to the guests and especially me. They made a special effort to make me feel welcome. It was not at all the way the media described him to be.”

When asked what is the biggest lie out there about Obama, Haggard answered, “He’s not conceited. He’s very humble about being the President of the United States, especially in comparison to some presidents we’ve had who come across like they don’t need anybody’s help. I think he knows he’s in over his head. Anybody with any sense who takes that job and thinks they can handle it must be an idiot.”

Now where could Merle Haggard have possibly ever gotten the idea that Obama is conceited? The myth of Obama’s arrogance is the favorite personal attack that Fox News uses against this president.

Here is Sean Hannity calling Obama arrogant:

Here is Karl Rove on Hannity also calling Obama arrogant:

Then we have Charles Krauthammer discussing Obama’s arrogance on Special Report with Bret Baier:

We can safely conclude that Merle Haggard either got the idea about Obama’s conceit from watching Fox News, or that the people who Haggard talks to everyday informed him about Obama based on what they had seen on Fox News. Many people have written about Haggard defending Obama, but to me Haggard’s surprise when he met the real Obama demonstrates both the power and the spread of Fox News’ misinformation.

Merle Haggard is a white man in his 70s with a GED. He is the base audience for Fox News. I thought his comments about what Fox News and right wing media are doing to Obama were right on the money. The misinformation and lies that they are spreading about this president on a daily basis is almost criminal. The problem is that Fox News is not only misinforming the 2 million people that tune in every day. They are also misinforming all of the people that the Fox News audience talks to. A mass media misinformation campaign becomes a grass roots campaign as viewers individually spread the inaccurate information and character attacks on Obama via word of mouth.

Merle Haggard by his own admission was a Republican up until 2007, and in a Time interview, he described himself as a born again Christian who turned away from Bush, but is not a liberal. Haggard said, “I supported George W. I’m not exactly a liberal. But I know how that Texas thing works, who those oil folks are and what they wanted in Iraq. I’m a born-again Christian too, but the longer I live, the more afraid I get of some of these religious groups that have so much influence on the Republicans and want to tell us how to live our lives.” Haggard supported Hillary Clinton in 2008.

The Fox News message seeps into the entire culture. This is what many on the left don’t understand. When Americans who don’t follow politics hear this misinformation about Obama from friends, relatives, neighbors, or co-workers, they don’t know any better and they accept the information as truth from a personally trusted source. I wish more people could have the same experience that Haggard did. They need to see the disconnect for themselves between the lies on Fox News and the truth about the President of the United States.

The truly vile part of this attack on Obama is the underlying racial component. Notice that Fox News likes to call the President arrogant and conceited. These terms are euphemisms for uppity. The message from Fox News is that Obama is an arrogant and conceited black man who doesn’t belong in the White House.

The story here isn’t just that Haggard defended Obama, but that we got to see one man’s reaction to being deceived by a right wing media/Fox News message. I have a feeling that Haggard’s anger at being lied to by the right wing media would be echoed by many other Americans if they could be reached with the truth. Countering the attacks and misinformation of Fox News is the challenge that President Obama, his supporters, and every single American who care about truth must face in 2011 and beyond.

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A President Reborn: Heading Into 2011 Support For Obama Surges

Dec 28 2010 Published by under Featured News

According to the latest CNN/Opinion Research poll, President Obama’s latest string of legislative victories including the ratification of the START treaty and repeal of DADT have resulted in people coming back to the President. The number of Americans who want the Democrats to renominate Obama is at its highest level of the year, while the number of Americans who want someone else has dropped.

According to the poll, 78% of Democrats want to renominate Obama. This is a five point increase from the last time the question was asked days before the 2010 midterms. Just as important for Obama is that while more people are looking to support him in 2012, fewer wanted a different Democratic candidate. The number of respondents who wanted the Democrats to pick a different candidate to head up the 2012 ticket dropped from 22% to 19%.

Women support the renomination of President Obama more than men, (80% to 76%). Those making more than $50,000 support the President in greater number than those who are earning under $50,000, (83%-73%). Interestingly, support for the President’s 2012 candidacy reaches some of its highest levels with voters over age 65. Eighty percent of senior citizens supported the idea of nominating Obama again. However, those under age 50 support Obama being the 2012 Democratic nominee by 3 points more than those over 50, (79%-76%).

Eighty percent of liberals supported nominating Obama again, as did 78% of moderates. Interestingly 70% of Independents supported the idea that Obama should be the 2012 Democratic nominee, and only 27% thought it should be a different candidate. 82% of self-identified Democrats supported renominating Obama, and only 14% wanted a different candidate. The idea of Obama being the Democratic nominee again is slightly more popular in the suburbs than in urban areas, (80%-78%). 83% of college graduates supporting renominating Obama compared to 72% of non-college grads.

To put Obama numbers into context, in 1994, only 57% of those polled thought that the Democratic Party should nominate Bill Clinton, but by 1996, Bill Clinton cruised to a second term with a landslide victory over Bob Dole. In comparison to where Clinton was in 1994, President Obama is in really good shape. Other polling has shown that the reason for the turnaround in the President’s numbers was the tax compromise. As American’s give Obama credit for the compromise, and see his legislative victories pile up. Obama has his momentum back.

In their post-November victory euphoria, Republicans have made a huge tactical mistake. After using their minority powers for more than a year to stifle the Obama agenda, the Republicans decided to compromise on tax cuts, START, DADT, and food safety, and gave the President new life. Many on the left blasted Obama for “caving” to the Republicans on tax cuts, but the Republican leadership was just as eager to make the deal, and they apparently had no idea how much this compromise would help the President.

Sure they got two years of their precious tax cuts for the rich, but at what cost? Obama got all the political credit, and went on to rattle off a string of victories before the lame duck Congress adjourned. If both the Republicans and the White House are smart, they will realize that compromise is mutually beneficial and will continue to work together, but when Republicans went from the Party of No to the Party of Well Okay Just This Once, they gave the Obama the opening he needed to revive his presidency. Once again, Barack Obama outwitted the leadership of the GOP, and heading into 2012, has look of a president reborn.

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A Tough 2010: Keith Olbermann’s Ratings Drop by 25%

Dec 28 2010 Published by under Featured News

The bad news keeps coming for MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. The 2010 ratings data is starting to trickle in, and the news is not so great for the Countdown host. In a down year for cable news where all three networks registered a decline in viewers, Keith Olbermann lost 11% of his total audience, but what is most troubling is that among the coveted age 25-54 demographic Olbermann lost 25% of his audience.

In terms of total viewers all three of the cable networks suffered. Fox News declined 5% in 2010 from a Monday-Friday average of 2.568 million viewers in 2009 to 2.426 million in 2010. MSNBC was down 9% in 2010 from 953,000 viewers in 2009 to 870,000 viewers in 2010. CNN suffered a stunning 36% drop in total viewers from 1 million viewers in 2009 to 636,000 viewers in 2010. In the 25-54 demo, Fox News suffered only a 6% drop, because almost 70% + of the audience is older than 54. MSNBC declined by 18% in the demo, and CNN fell by a whopping 37%.

Keith Olbermann’s total drop in viewership was 2% higher than MSNBC’s network average, (11% vs 9%). In contrast, Rachel Maddow lost less of her audience than MSNBC as a whole. Maddow only declined by 6% compared to the network’s 11%. Maddow’s total loss was almost half of her lead in Olbermann, (6% compared to 11%). Olbermann also lost a higher than network percentage of those viewers age 25-54. MSNBC lost 18%. Olbermann lost 25%. Maddow only lost 14%.

Olberman is still MSNBC’s most watched host. Overall, he is the 11th most watched cable news program, but Rachel Maddow was right behind him at 13th, and Lawrence O’Donnell was 14th. The gap between Olbermann and his MSNBC primetime colleagues is shrinking, which is good for the network. The point is that Olbermann’s audience is getting older, and he is working on a network that is trying to target younger viewers. This isn’t to say that Olbermann is doomed at MSNBC, far from it actually, but that 2010 was not a good year for him.

With new bosses about to take over NBC, this is a trend that Olbermann and his staff would be wise to take seriously. Olbermann’s contract is up after the 2012 election, and I suspect that the presidential election will serve its usual purpose as a ratings elixir for the cable news industry, but if Olbermann can’t attract younger viewers, and the ad dollars that come with them, the network could make a switch, but two years is a long time away.

If CNN stays in the tank, I could see them welcoming Olbermann and his million viewers a night with open arms, which would be a big reason why MSNBC would not let him ago, along with the fact that a million viewers is still the best number MSNBC has at any hour. Olbermann has cost himself some viewers on the left in this past year, and I think he has been hurt by not having a Republican foil to play off of in the White House, plus, the passing of his father had to impact him, so I don’t think Olbermann is finished yet. However, it is worth watching going forward to see if 2010 was just a bad year or the beginning of a trend.

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Obama’s 2011 Resolution: Escape the Presidential Bubble

Dec 26 2010 Published by under Featured News

Senior White House adviser Valarie Jarrett was on NBC’s Meet The Press today where she offered up an interesting New Year’s resolution for President Obama and the White House. Jarrett said they are going to get the president out more to listen and engage with the American people, “It’s really what gives him his energy and his strength, and so we’re determined in the new year to make sure that his schedule reflects that priority.”

Here is the video from NBC News:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

On November 3, Obama lamented being stuck in the presidential bubble, “When you’re in this place, it is hard not to seem removed, and one of the challenges that we’ve got to think about is, is, is how do I meet my responsibilities here in the White House, which require a lot of–lot of hours and a lot of work, you know, but still, you know, have that opportunity to engage with the American people on a, on a day-to-day basis and know–give, give them confidence that I’m listening to them.”

Host David Gregory asked Senior White House adviser, Valarie Jarrett about doing a better job connecting with the American people and she answered, “Well, he often says that this is his biggest regret, is that when he took office, because of the crisis that was presented to him, he had to spend almost every waking hour in Washington focusing very hard on solving that crisis, and what he missed sorely was the engagement with the American people. He said it right before he left for vacation. He said, “When I get back, I really want to figure out a way where I can spend more time outside of Washington listening and learning and engaging with the American people.” It’s really what gives him his energy and his strength, and so we’re determined in the new year to make sure that his schedule reflects that priority.”

All presidents get trapped in the presidential bubble, and they all hate it. In 2008 presidential historian Richard Norton Smith discussed with ABC News how lonely the job of the president can be. Smith said, “There are a number of factors that contribute to the loneliness [of being president]. Ultimately, it’s the sense of responsibility. The crushing sense of personal responsibility -– think of what this president is up against: a couple of wars and a spiraling economy –- there’s no escape, and that’s lonely.”

In 1947 then President Harry Truman said, “The White House is the finest prison in the world,” and that was before the Kennedy assassination lead to even more isolation for all future occupants of the White House. There is also a political consideration to getting Obama out of the bubble often in 2011. As we all know, President Obama will be running for a second term in 2012. It has become standard operating procedure for every challenger of an incumbent president to label the sitting president as out of touch with America. By getting the President out of the White House more, his administration is launching a preemptive strike against this criticism.

Whether it because of Obama’s personal preference or political concerns, only positives can come from getting the President out of the bubble, it is a good resolution for this White House to set for 2011. If President Obama is able to get out more, it will also be a sign that the troubled times of the last two years may finally be on their way towards being behind us. Having a president that is more in touch with the American people is a win for the president and the people. This is one resolution that I hope will make it through the New Year.

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The Top 5 Presidential Christmas Quotes

Dec 25 2010 Published by under Featured News

Every year, the President of the United States delivers a Christmas message. Some are good. Some are bad, but on this Christmas Day we take a look back at the 5 best presidential quotes about Christmas. In the spirit of the season, these quotes aren’t ranked. Please enjoy them, and have a Merry Christmas.

“It is the day when we remind ourselves that man can and must live in peace with his neighbors and that it is the peacemakers who are truly blessed. In this year of 1962 we greet each other at Christmas with some special sense of the blessings of peace. This has been a year of peril when the peace has been sorely threatened. But it has been a year when peril was faced and when reason ruled. As a result, we may talk, at this Christmas, just a little bit more confidently of peace on earth, good will to men. As a result, the hopes of the American people are perhaps a little higher. We have much yet to do. We still need to ask that God bless everyone.”

President John F. Kennedy Christmas message 1962

“But, in perhaps every home in the United States, sad and anxious thoughts will be continually with the millions of our loved ones who are suffering hardships and misery, and who are risking their very lives to preserve for us and for all mankind the fruits of His teachings and the foundations of civilization itself. The Christmas spirit lives tonight in the bitter cold of the front lines in Europe and in the heat of the jungles and swamps of Burma and the Pacific islands. Even the roar of our bombers and fighters in the air and the guns of our ships at sea will not drown out the messages of Christmas which come to the hearts of our fighting men.”

— FDR Christmas message 1944

“On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ with prayer, feasting, and great merriment. But, most of all, we experience it in our hearts. For, more than just a day, Christmas is a state of mind. It is found throughout the year whenever faith overcomes doubt, hope conquers despair, and love triumphs over hate. It is present when men of any creed bring love and understanding to the hearts of their fellow man. The feeling is seen in the wondrous faces of children and in the hopeful eyes of the aged. It overflows the hearts of cheerful givers and the souls.”

— Ronald Reagan Christmas Message 1981

“In this blessed season, let not blind passion darken our counsels. We shall not solve a moral question by dodging it. We can scarcely hope to have a full Christmas if we turn a deaf ear to the suffering of even the least of Christ’s little ones.”

Harry Truman Christmas Message 1949

“Love, peace, joy, hope — so many beautiful words are woven through our Christmas songs and prayers and traditions. As we celebrate this last Christmas of the 20th century, let us resolve to build a future where all people learn to love one another and to live together in harmony; where our children know true joy; and where our hopes for peace, freedom, and prosperity for all are finally realized.”

— Bill Clinton 1999 Christmas Message

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Assange Truthers and The Death of Progressive Compassion

Dec 24 2010 Published by under Featured News

Even though women lean towards the Democrats more than any other party, a small minority of the left has become embroiled in a conspiracy theory regarding the accusations of sexual assault against Julian Assange. This radical group has sought to trample decades of Democratic Party advocacy on behalf of women by smearing the two possible victims of Assange. These Assange Truthers believe that the women are not victims but part of an international conspiracy to bring Assange down.

In the December 18, 2010 NY Times, Assange himself floated the conspiracy theory that powerful forces were out to get him, “Mr. Assange told the BBC that he did not know “precisely who is behind” the “conspiracy” against him, although his supporters have flooded the Internet with charges that the C.I.A. is working to discredit him. But he added, “It’s the case of any organization that’s exposing major powers, and has major opposition, that they will be attacked.””

If this sounds a little familiar to American audiences, it should. Progressives, say hello to the right wing conspiracy theorist you love to mock.

Glenn Beck:

Once Assange planted the conspiracy theory, parts of the left went wild with conspiracy theories claiming that the US government wants Assange dead. Their claim is that Obama and the Pentagon have drummed up the sexual assault allegations against Assange to punish, or gasp, even silence him. To these Assange Truthers, it doesn’t matter that the Wikileaks founder walked back the conspiracy rhetoric a few days later, or that previously Assange had no time for conspiracy theories. Since these Assange Truthers can’t psychologically reconcile the divergent notions that Assange might be both a hero for his work on behalf of transparency and a deeply flawed or troubled person, they had to find a way to blame the two women who might be victims.

These lefty truthers have accomplished this by turning the women into evil co-conspirators who are out to bring their hero down. According to the Times, the two women went to the police, not too file a complaint, but because they, “wanted to get some advice” and were “unsure of how they should proceed.” It was the prosecutor who decided to pursue the matter, not the women. The Assange Truthers also ignore the time line. These are allegations that date back to August, they are nothing new.

The new twist is the willingness of some on the left to embrace a conspiracy theory, and throw an entire gender under the bus. Many of the same people who celebrated the Lily Ledbetter Equal Pay Act are now alleging that at best these women are whores, at worst they are co-conspirators. You have to hand it to these Assange fan boys and girls. They sure know how to put a creative spin on blame the victim. The Republicans could learn a lot from these Assange supporters. The question is why would members of a movement that has supported women’s rights unjustifiably demonize these women? The answer is that if these women aren’t in on the conspiracy then the whole theory falls apart. (I am not suggesting that every Assange supporter believes this, just the ones who have embraced the conspiracy theory).

What fascinates me about this story isn’t Assange’s personal behavior. He may be innocent. He may be guilty. That’s for other people to decide. What interests me is how some on the left have managed transform themselves into a Tea Party like movement that comes complete with their own conspiracy theories about the evil that is the United States government. What has happened to the left’s ability to see nuance, critically think, and examine? Many of these individuals who are blindly championing Assange are exhibiting behavior that is no different from the far right.

The comparison between the left and right also stretches into the media. The far right has Glenn Beck as their source of truth. The far left has Keith Olbermann, who in this matter has been Assange Truther # 1. We have already seen the behavior of the Olberbaggers in action when they betrayed the traditional Democratic value of taking care of the less fortunate, in order to throw an ideological hissy fit over the Bush tax cut compromise, which it turns out they were completely wrong about. These people are extremists who guided by a sense of self-righteous entitlement, and they have found their hero in the self-righteous Julian Assange. Traditional liberal values need not apply anymore. The fringe left has become just as selfish as the right. They will stomp on women and tell the unemployed to starve all in the name of ideological purity.

As a counter to the Assange Truthers, here is a bit of reality. The US government is not trying to bring down Assange with sexual assault charges. Frankly, given the size of the government it would be nearly impossible to keep such an international conspiracy a secret. What is most likely going on here is that the US government would like Assange held because they are building a case against him for conspiring to steal state secrets. They want to keep tabs on him until they are ready to charge and extradite him. The end game isn’t the sexual assault allegations. What Julian Assange has to truly fear is the possibility of being convicted and spending the rest of his life in US federal prison.

President Obama is leading a nation that has been at war for almost a decade now. The economy is still bad, and people need jobs. In short, Obama has enough to do without giving Assange a second thought. Get over yourselves Assange supporters, you aren’t that important.

Those on the left who are working every day to discredit the two women at the center of these allegations should be ashamed. They have betrayed a proud movement and turned it into a farce, not by supporting Assange, but by being so willing to neglect those in our society who need our advocacy the most.

Recently, Sarah Jones was baselessly attacked for daring to suggest that Julian Assange might be a hypocrite and that it would be possible for Assange to do great work, and maybe not be such a great guy. Julian Assange is not an infallible god. He is a human being. Not only is this post a statement of support for Sarah Jones, but it is a statement against the behavior of this new radicalized left.

These people don’t represent the left, and as we get together with friends and family this holiday season, it important to remember our true liberal/progressive values. We can support both government transparency and the rights of women. As I sit down to Christmas dinner my thoughts will be with the scared girl or woman in the emergency room having a rape kit done, or the girl waiting at the walk in clinic waiting in line to get an HIV test. Those are the real people who used to matter to the left as much as ideological principles. The far left has lost its compassion. Today, Tea bags and Revolutionary War costumes are the only things that separate the far left from the far right.

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Rachel Maddow: Obama Has Accomplished 85% of First Term Agenda in 2 Years

Dec 22 2010 Published by under Featured News

On her MSNBC program last night Rachel Maddow highlighted an often overlooked fact concerning the presidency of Barack Obama. Maddow said, “By my estimation it is halftime, right, in the first term and with this vote tomorrow they will have gone 85% of the distance they said they wanted to go in the first term of the president.”

Here is the video of the segment from MSNBC:

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Maddow hailed the passage of START as victory for Obama, “If this treaty gets ratified tomorrow, it will be political malpractice to not call it an unqualified victory for this president and for this presidency. Reducing the world’s nuclear stockpiles, working toward Ronald Reagan’s goal of a world without nuclear weapons, locking down loose nuclear materials so it doesn’t end up in the hands of terrorists, the whole smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud except for real?”

She highlight the ways that this is a win for Obama, “Getting this treaty ratified is a huge victory for President Obama and something that Republicans said they would deny him. It is a political win for the president because it has been on his agenda for a long time. It is a signature issue for him, a tactical win because Republicans said he wasn’t going to get it. It is a save the world win because if you care about, oops, it’s the nuclear end of the world you care about treaties like this getting passed.”

Maddow discussed how historic the past two years have been, “If the Senate ratifies the START treaty tomorrow it caps an astonishing period in American political history. For the last two years, Democrats have held the White House as well as big majorities in the House and Senate. The record of achievement in that time, even in the face of unified at times totally random republican opposition, Republican opposition even to things Republicans had proposed in the first place, unified Republican opposition to their own ideas? Their track record even in the face of that is historic. Whether you agree or disagree with what Democrats have done in the first two years of President Obama’s presidency, they have freaking done it.”

She listed all the accomplishments, “The fair pay act for women, expanding children’s health insurance, new hate crimes legislation they said could not be done, tobacco regulation, credit card reform, student loan reform, the stimulus — which in addition to helping pull this country back from the brink of a great depression, was also the largest tax cut ever, the largest investment in clean energy ever, the largest investment in education in our country ever. There was also a little thing you may have heard of called health reform. Also, Wall Street reform, the improvements to the new G.I. Bill, the most expansive food SAFETY BILL SINCE THE 1930s. And tomorrow, President Obama will officially sign a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Later Rachel Maddow delivered the kicker, “There are big things this administration said that it wanted to do that it hasn’t done yet. Energy reform, immigration reform, the bush tax cuts for the rich were extended, closing Guantanamo. Those are some of them. Today it looked like one of the important judicial nominees will not get a vote to become a judge this year. There is territory the White House has said it would like to cover that it has not yet covered. By my estimation it is halftime, right, in the first term and with this vote tomorrow they will have gone 85% of the distance they said they wanted to go in the first term of the president.”

If you would have told policy people and political scientists two years ago that halfway through his term in office, Barack Obama will have accomplished 85% of his agenda, they would have laughed at you and told you how impossible that would be given the amount of polarization in our legislative process. If you would go on to tell them that after one year Obama would lose his 60 vote majority in the Senate, and would still pass major legislation the experts would have told you to seek mental help, but this is exactly what President Obama has accomplished.

What Obama has managed to achieve has not been seen in this country since FDR and the New Deal, and on a smaller level LBJ after President Kennedy was assassinated. The past two years have been historic, yet a small vocal minority of Obama’s base is upset with this president and the nation as a whole tends to give him little credit for what he has done.

It would be easy to blame his supporters and the American people for not paying attention, but that isn’t an accurate portrayal of what’s going on here. The problem is that Obama is not interested in victory laps, and publicly taking credit for his accomplishments. Obama wants to get things done, but the President has hopefully learned the hard lesson that if he doesn’t sell his own accomplishments, his opponents are more than happy to use the media to distort and tear them down.

Obama may be a great legislative president, but he needs to also be the Salesman in Chief. After the repeal of DADT passed he should have been out in front of the cameras with a statement. The White House needs to understand that the American people will never give Obama the credit he deserves unless he tells them what he has done. As Rachel Maddow pointed out, Obama has already had an unprecedented, for the modern era, run of success.

Obama will probably win a second term, but it is a shame that so many people don’t understand what this president has done. Recognizing the facts as Rachel Maddow did does not make one an Obama apologist, or an Obama cheerleader, but it is important to note that the facts don’t back up the notion that Obama is somehow a failed president, or unworthy of the left’s support. You may not always agree with what he has done, but there can be no denying the epic weight of his accomplishments. Obama deserves some credit, even if he refuses to take it himself.

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