Juror Wants Big Bucks for Interview
The great media scramble is on to land the first interview with a juror in the Casey Anthony murder trial—and the smell of money is in the air.
Given the huge amount of coverage her acquittal on murder and manslaughter charges is generating, there is obvious interest in getting an inside account on why the jury so quickly dismissed the prosecution’s charges that Anthony had killed her 2-year-old daughter.
Juror No. 6 is interested in talking—for a price of at least $50,000.
Undoubtedly mindful that the networks have sometimes paid big licensing fees for photos or other property of interview subjects, the “college-educated” juror has hired a North Carolina publicist to shop his story around. Below is the e-mail that PR man Rick French sent to the networks.
Casey Anthony Verdict (Casey Anthony Verdict)
From: "Rick French"
Date: July 6, 2011 12:02:07 PM EDT
To: < >
Subject: Juror in the Casey Anthony Trial
Good Morning, my name is Rick French and my firm has been retained to handle media requests of Juror #6 in the Casey Anthony murder trial. Your name has been forwarded to us because you gave your contact information to the court and that information was in turn passed along to all jurors.
Our client—a married, college-educated, 33-year-old white male with two young children – is willing to consider granting one or more media interviews so long as the opportunities are paid, which I know is always a sticky subject and believe me, I understand the delicacy of this type of negotiation. He will not entertain any offers that don’t include compensation for a myriad of reasons.
If you are interested in discussing his request with me and can meet our client’s terms, feel free to e-mail me or call me at the number below.
The Daily Beast’s Diane Dimond witnessed the following exchange between juror No. 6 and a prosecutor during jury selection:
Asst. Prosecutor Frank George: "You know you have the right not to talk to any media after this is over...media like Dateline, shows like that. Would you do that?"
Juror No. 6: "I don't see why I would."
Environmental group uses Newsweek and Daily Beast report to blast the congressman’s personal stake in oil subsidies he has sought to protect.
Last month, a Newsweek Daily Beast investigation looked into the personal finances of Rep Paul Ryan, and how the policies in his “Path to Prosperity” budget squared with his personal holdings.
Now, at least one environmental group has seized on the report to accuse Ryan of hypocrisy.
A new TV ad from the Washington-based nonprofit League of Conservation Voters contrasts Ryan’s public comments about getting rid of tax breaks for oil companies with his efforts in Congress to protect $45 billion in energy subsidies over the next decade. That, and how several oil, gas and mineral companies Ryan and his wife, Janna, co-own in Texas and Oklahoma would benefit from the subsidies. The holdings earned the couple as much as $117,000 in income last year, according to Ryan’s financial disclosure.
“A Newsweek investigation reveals Ryan, his wife and father-in-law made hundreds of thousands from oil companies that lease their land—companies that will profit from the tax breaks that Ryan helped pass,” the announcer ominously booms.
“Paul Ryan, protecting Big Oil profits. Lining his own pockets.”
When reached for a response, Ryan’s office dismissed the ad. “The baseless attacks in this ad are too ridiculous to be taken seriously,” said Kevin Seifert, a spokesman for Ryan.
The spot will air in the Milwaukee media market, which includes Ryan’s district. The congressman is up for reelection for his House seat next year, but he has also flirted with higher aspirations. In early June, when Fox News’ Neil Cavuto asked Ryan whether he’d consider a bid for the White House in 2012, Ryan danced around the question -- "Look, I think I want to see how this field develops” – before saying he wasn’t “really thinking like that.”
Still, at least one online movement has tried to draft him into running.
Her lawyer was right to denounce the coverage, but it’s worse than he says
Casey Anthony’s lawyer was half-right in complaining about “media assassination” soon after she was acquitted of murder and manslaughter.
Cheney Mason said Tuesday that he hoped “incompetent talking heads…talking about cases they don’t know a damned thing about” had learned a lesson from the surprise verdict.
Lots of legal loudmouths in our Judge Judy culture convicted Anthony of killing her 2-year-old daughter. The Nancy Graces of the world are more interested in vociferous opinions--in her case, siding with prosecutors in almost every case--than in dispassionately weighing the evidence.
But many of them failed to make the crucial distinction between when someone seems guilty as hell and whether prosecutors have proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt--especially in a death penalty trial. Jurors are usually cautious in a circumstantial case, as was clear from the quickie nature of their verdict.
Group claims credit for Twitter posts claiming president was killed
The hacking of a Fox News account on Twitter has set off some Fourth of July fireworks, made all the more disturbing by the vicious content involving President Obama.
And the choice of Fox doesn’t seem to be an accident.
Fox issued a statement saying the messages—that Obama had been assassinated—were obviously wrong and that it regrets “any distress the false tweets may have created.”
What point the hackers were trying to make remains a mystery, though their distaste for Fox appears to underline the malicious exercise.
Adam Peck, who blogs at a Stony Brook University site called Think, reported that he interviewed a member of the hacker group Script Kiddies, which claimed responsibility for the hack. Peck reports that Script Kiddies has joined with such groups as Anonymous and the now-defunct LulzSec in the anti-security movement that has targeted corporations and government.
Peck quoted his Script Kiddies informant as saying: “I would consider us to be close in relation [to Anonymous], 2 of the members of our group were members of Anonymous. I was a member of Anonymous. We hope to be working with them soon…
“We are looking to find information about corporations to assist with antisec. Fox News was selected because we figured their security would be just as much of a joke as their reporting.”
The unnamed source indicated that Fox could be the subject of further attacks: “I’ve looked into their security and site defacement does not seem to be an option. Everything else is fair game.”
The tweets from @foxnewspolitics, which has 37,000 followers, ricocheted around Twitter and were not removed until around noon on Monday. The New York Times says the Secret Service is looking into the matter and that Fox is conducting its own inquiry. Twitter declined to comment, citing privacy concerns.
One of the first tweets from the hackers, in the early-morning hours Monday, said Obama “has just passed. The President is dead. A sad 4th of July indeed.”
A subsequent tweet said he Obama been “shot twice in the lower pelvic area and in the neck; shooter unknown,” and had “bled out.” The next one said he had been shot at Ross’s restaurant in Iowa.
In fact, Obama had been spending the weekend with his family at Camp David and returned to Washington on Sunday.
The final message said stated: “We wish @joebiden the best of luck as our new President of the United States. In such a time of madness, there’s light at the end of tunnel.”
The style of the tweets makes them seem an obvious fake, but anything can go viral in today’s wired culture. Hackers have been able to access all kinds of accounts, and the damage can be significant: When Sony was hacked by the LulzSec outfit, personal information from more than 1 million users’ accounts was released. The Fox attack was different in its attempt to discredit a news network by released fabricated and disturbing reports.
Jeff Misenti, general manager of Fox News Digital, says that “FoxNews.com is working with Twitter to address the situation as quickly as possible. We will be requesting a detailed investigation from Twitter about how this occurred, and measures to prevent future unauthorized access into FoxNews.com accounts.”
Time columnist apologizes for dickish description of Obama as the White House calls comments “inappropriate.”
Barack Obama has been called plenty of names on television, as cable fans know all too well.
But I don’t think anyone has called the president of the United States a dick—at least until now.
Mark Halperin, the Time magazine columnist and MSNBC contributor, was assessing Obama’s performance at a news conference when he delivered this opinion Thursday morning on Morning Joe:
“I thought he was a dick yesterday.”
Yup. He went there.
Host Joe Scarborough was not pleased, saying: “Delay that. Delay that. What are you doing?” But the program has a new executive producer who didn’t react by hitting the seven-second delay button.
Now I would be a dick if I didn’t point out that Halperin quickly tried to make amends: “Joking aside, this is an absolute apology. I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize to the president and the viewers who heard me say that.”
But as more than one wit has pointed out, playing off the title of the best-seller co-authored by Halperin, that was a game changer. Two hours after Morning Joe went off the air, MSNBC suspended him.
The comments, the network said in a statement, “were completely inappropriate and unacceptable. We apologize to the president, the White House and all of our viewers. We strive for a high level of discourse and comments like these have no place on our air. Therefore, Mark will be suspended indefinitely from his role as an analyst.”
Halperin, in an accompanying statement, called MSNBC’s reaction “totally appropriate. Again, I want to offer a heartfelt and profound apology to the president, to my MSNBC colleagues, and to the viewers. My remark was unacceptable, and I deeply regret it.”
Halperin and co-author John Heilemann had incredible access to most of the 2008 campaigns for their book Game Change, which is being made into a movie, but didn’t get much inside stuff from the Obama camp. With the two journalists now working on a sequel for 2012—sold for a reported $5 million—Halperin’s locker-room epithet won’t be terribly helpful in terms of his relations with the White House and Obama reelection campaign.
I know that people can blurt out stupid things on live television; a few weeks ago a Gawker writer used the same word on my CNN program in referring to Anthony Weiner’s package, and I apologized on her behalf. But Halperin is a seasoned veteran who should know better than to use that word in front of the cameras—and I’m sure he is kicking himself as we speak.
Update: The Halperin suspension didn’t take place in a vacuum. The White House quickly complained to MSNBC.
Press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Halperin’s comment “was inappropriate. It would be inappropriate to say that about either president of either party.”
Carney added that “on behalf of the White House, I expressed that sentiment to executives at the network.” He declined to comment on the suspension.
Halperin is a former ABC News political director whose day job is at Time, where he writes a weekly column and a Web site called The Page. The magazine did not suspend him but issued this scolding: “Mark Halperin’s comments on air this morning were inappropriate and in no way reflective of Time’s views. We have issued a warning to him that such behavior is unacceptable. Mark has appropriately apologized on air, via Twitter and on The Page.”
Cap and trade used to be cool--now it's radioactive.
Jon Huntsman has come up with a novel explanation for his decision to run away from the cap-and-trade policy he once embraced:
It used to be popular, and now it’s not.
“Cap and trade is something that every governor looked at, every governor consulted CEOs and the experts on many years ago,” the newly minted presidential candidate told Fox’s Sean Hannity in an interview that aired Wednesday. Sitting in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, Huntsman said: “In today’s economic environment, there’s no way we should be promoting anything that stands in the way of economic and business recovery, and that would.”
Nor was this an off-the-cuff response to Hannity’s declaration that cap and trade, like civil unions for gays, is not a conservative position. The former Utah governor also told Fox & Friends that “many, many years ago,” “everybody talked about it…Everyone took it seriously.”
Seriously? That’s his explanation? That was then, this is now? If cap and trade is such a flawed policy, wouldn’t it have hampered economic growth back then as well?
The veteran anchor says he wasn’t trying to criticize her in praising the new CBS newscast.
Ted Koppel has become a fan of Scott Pelley. But he wants it clear he isn’t dissing Katie Couric.
“I thought Katie did a terrific job as anchor,” he says. “I watched Katie’s broadcast almost every night.” But, he says, Couric and her executive producer Rick Kaplan—a onetime Koppel producer at Nightline—“were operating under the structure of CBS News as it existed then,” which requires that “you go with the sexiest story of the day.”
By contrast, Koppel says of the new CBS Evening News, “what pleases me is that they are leading with the most important story of the day rather than the Weiner story of the day.” Picking up on what he said at the New America Foundation, Koppel says: “The broadcast is going hard news and I consider that to be an improvement.” He credits the new CBS News chairman, Jeff Fager, for change in direction.
“There’s a desperate competition which leads newscasts to provide what the public wants, not what the public needs. I realize that’s an elitist point of view, but that’s what journalists are paid to do.”
How convenient for some in the GOP to rethink their commitment on Obama’s watch.
The pundits are offering all kinds of explanations for the emergence of a vocal antiwar faction in the Republican Party.
Here’s one they’re missing: The turnover in the White House.
If George Bush were still president—or if John McCain had managed to succeed him—most, by not all, of the GOP voices expressing qualms about Afghanistan and Libya would be muted or silent.
The New York Times says Republicans are developing “a more nuanced view,” with candidates such as Jon Huntsman saying we have to consider the cost of remaining in Afghanistan and Michele Bachmann questioning whether we should have intervened in Libya. Well, maybe.
But prosecuting unpopular wars is like raising the debt ceiling: You hold your nose and do it when your party controls the White House, and you have a free shot to oppose it—or at least criticize it—when the president is from the other party. The applause lines write themselves: We should be spending that money in Kansas, not Kabul, and so on.
During the Bush years, Democrats who dared suggest that we get out of Iraq—especially considering the false premise on which we got in--were accused of cutting and running in the fight against terrorism. If Bush were still in office, Afghanistan would still be his war and most Republicans would be reluctant to stray from the party line. (The Democrats, as a more fractious party, don’t do lockstep unity very well, and many would love an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan even though their guy is in the Oval Office.)
To be sure, the strains of propping up the Karzai regime after a decade are taking a toll on the public and both political parties. Since Obama’s surge was supposed to lead to a withdrawal starting next month, it’s natural there would be a vigorous debate over whether more than a token number of troops will come home.
In similar fashion, Obama casually inserted the U.S. military into the war in Libya, delaying a televised speech for more than a week, and even though other NATO countries have taken the lead in the bombing campaign, it’s fair to ask whether America’s vital interests are at stake.
But let’s admit the obvious: It’s a lot easier for some Republicans to break with the Bush orthodoxy now that America’s military conflicts are Obama’s wars.
The blogger who told me the Anthony Weiner saga deserves little or no coverage admits he screwed up.
On Sunday, Jeff Jarvis seemed absolutely certain.
I invited him on my CNN program, Reliable Sources, to talk about the Anthony Weiner frenzy and he proceeded to scold those of us in the news business. (Here’s the video.)
Jarvis isn’t just some random blogger. He directs the interactive journalism program for the City University of New York’s graduate journalism program, was the founding editor of Entertainment Weekly, and is a former television critic for People and TV Guide, among other things.
“It's a fine story for Gawker, absolutely. It's a fine story for Jon Stewart,” Jarvis said on the air. “But all in all, what's the real story here? You know, that a congressman has a penis? Let's stipulate that, there's no news in that.
That he wears underwear? Who cares. That he might have accidentally sent out the wrong photo on Twitter? OK, big deal…The amount of effort that was put into this was just pathetic.”
When I pressed Jarvis about Weiner’s hard-to-believe alibi, he said: “If he had sexually harassed someone, then maybe there's a legitimate story. But if, at the most, he sent out a photo from his hard drive with his photo on it, what's the big deal? What's the news there? What's the impact on democracy and how we live our lives? Zippo.”
On Monday, of course, the New York congressman admitted that not only had he lied about tweeting that underwear photo to a 21-year-old college student, he had sent explicit photos and exchanged sexual messages with six women over the last three years. And Jarvis took to his Buzz Machine blog with an unabashed mea culpa.
“I was wrong about Anthony Weiner…Weiner lied. That is the story. That’s what haters said in email to me after the CNN segment. They were right.
“What’s most amazing to me is that anyone in politics in this age could still be stupid enough to think that the coverup won’t be what kills them…
“I’m trying to pull back from my personal embarrassment and stupidity at giving this shmuck the benefit of the doubt and see the lessons here about our age of publicness. There are many. It fascinates me that Twitter provides such an easy way for people to connect for *any* purpose. It astounds me that Weiner thought he could do this under his name with his face and think it would not end up being a public act…
“I keep forgetting to calculate into this view the forgetful, venal stupidity of the public official. That’s where I was wrong. Have I said that enough?”
Once is enough, Jeff. What he missed is that whatever one thinks of Weiner’s online shenanigans, you can’t tell a flimsy cover story in a dozen national television interviews and expect to get away with it.
He doesn’t know if that’s him in the gray underwear? Howard Kurtz on why the congressman’s evasive answers are fueling the media frenzy.
I have just watched a number of respected anchors and correspondents discussing a package that may or may not belong to Anthony Weiner.
It has come to this.
“Is this you?” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked, brandishing said photo.
“You would know if this was your underpants.”
“Have you ever taken a picture like this of yourself?”
Fox’s Bret Baier: “Is this Twitter picture in question a picture of you?”
“Is there a picture out there of you in your drawers that you are worried about?”
ABC’s Jonathan Karl: “You can’t tell me definitively that is a photo of you or not a photo of you?”
CBS’s Nancy Cordes: “I think any normal person could say with certainty whether a picture was a photo of them or not, whether they had taken a photo of them or not.”
The truth is, they had no choice. The New York congressman’s shifting explanations—his refusal to say whether the bulge seen round the world is in fact his—have stretched this Twitter tale into a weeklong soap opera.
At the outset, I argued that Weiner was entitled to the presumption of innocence. He claimed his Twitter account had been hacked. He insisted that he didn’t send the underwear shot to a 21-year-old Seattle student, who said she had never met the Democratic lawmaker and didn’t think he had tweeted it to her. The guy was married less than a year ago to former Hillary Clinton aide Hume Abedin. He couldn’t be so dumb, could he?
But after listening to Weiner bob and weave and talk about how photographs can be manipulated, and how he’s called in experts to determine whether that is or isn’t his junk, I have to say: he’s not acting very smart. The explanations seem increasingly bizarre. In the court of public opinion, at least, Weiner has forfeited the presumption of innocence.
His continued insistence that some hacker had sent the photo is a bit more suspect in light of his non-denial denials of the other details. The Twitter exchange he had with a porn star sounds a little more incriminating.
It’s the oldest story in Washington: the cover-up—even of a crotch shot—is what trips you up in the end.
If Weiner had confessed from the start, it would not have been a one-day story, not when the perpetrator is a hard-charging congressman widely expected to run for New York mayor when Mike Bloomberg’s term ends. But it would have, forgive me, petered out before long.
Instead, the tangled tale became a cable news and Web fixture precisely because there were so many unanswered questions.
From the moment the tweet was reported on Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government site, conservatives have argued that the liberal media were protecting Weiner, but I think most journalists showed admirable restraint while continuing to report on the story. You don’t want to smear him, or the young woman involved, if it turns out he was pranked.
“I have seen myself labeled as the ‘Femme Fatale of Weinergate,’ ‘Anthony Weiner's 21-year-old coed mistress’ and ‘the self-proclaimed girlfriend of Anthony Weiner,’” Gennette Cordova said. “All of this is so outlandish that I don't know whether to be pissed off or amused, quite frankly.”
Weiner tried to pass the thing off as a practical joke inspired by his last name, hoping the press would move on. That proved to be a spectacular miscalculation, as he must have realized as reporters on the Hill cornered him and challenged his increasingly testy answers.
When Chris Lee, an upstate New York Republican, was caught sending a shirtless photo to a woman on Craigslist, he resigned his House seat within hours. Mark Sanford admitted he wasn’t really hiking the Appalachian Trail. Eliot Spitzer quit two days after the New York Times revealed that he was patronizing prostitutes. John Ensign apologized for having an affair with an aide’s wife, though it took him nearly two years to resign. Arnold Schwarzenegger confessed to fathering a child with his housekeeper after confronted by the Los Angeles Times. None of them mitigated the damage, but they spared themselves the tortured path of continued deceit.
A conspicuous exception was John Edwards, who denied both having an affair with his campaign videographer and fathering her child until he was busted on both counts by the National Enquirer. He now faces possible indictment for misuse of campaign funds.
Sending a young woman a lewd photo is not an impeachable offense, but it is monumentally bad judgment. Saying you’re not sure if that’s you in the gray underwear is unimpeachably stupid.
Yes, the media are enjoying weinergate a little too much. But the congressman has no one to blame but himself.
The congressman says he's a Twitter victim, and the press won't let go.
My Twitter feed filled up over the holiday weekend with demands that I write about Anthony Weiner and stop covering up his awful behavior.
Talk about mob justice. Can we find out first whether it was true?
By “it,” in case you were away for the Memorial Day break, I mean the lewd underwear photo that the New York congressman was alleged to have sent from his Twitter account to a 21-year-old student in Seattle.
Huh? Putting the weiner jokes aside, could he have been so stupid as to do that so soon after another New York lawmaker, Chris Lee, had to resign his House seat for sending a woman a shirtless photo on Craigslist? And after Weiner just got married last year to former Hillary aide Huma Abedin? He can’t be that bored yet.
I don’t know whether Weiner is a victim here or not. Of course the media, and especially the New York press, should look into the matter involving a rising political star. But what we have at the moment is a salacious picture that we’re not sure is Weiner (no face is shown), the congressman claiming he was hacked, and the student in question saying the picture wasn’t from him and she has no relationship with him.
After Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government site broke the story, New York’s Daily News got a pretty emphatic knockdown from a key source—the student, Gennette Cordova, who says she has never met Weiner.
“The account that these tweets were sent from was familiar to me; this person had harassed me many times after the congressman followed me on Twitter a month or so ago,” Cordova said in a statement. “Since I had dealt with this person and his cohorts before I assumed that the tweet and the picture were their latest attempts at defaming the congressman and harassing his supporters…
“I have seen myself labeled as the ‘Femme Fatale of Weinergate,’ ‘Anthony Weiner's 21-year-old coed mistress’ and ‘the self-proclaimed girlfriend of Anthony Weiner.’ All of this is so outlandish that I don't know whether to be pissed off or amused, quite frankly.”
So is Weiner merely the victim of a hack?
Well, not according to the conservative blogosphere. Among the questions bouncing around the Net:
--Why hasn’t the congressman called for an investigation of the hacking?
--Why did Weiner tweet what time one of his East Coast interviews would be shown in Seattle?
--Why is Gennette Cordova one of the 198 people he is following on Twitter? As the New York Post points out in a story headlined “Too Many Coincides in Weiner’s Tale,” “If two people follow each other on Twitter, they can send private messages unseen by others.” (Weiner told Talking Points Memo that he follows some fans who use the hashtag #WeinerYes. And yes, he seems to have sent one message to a porn-star fan.)
Weiner, who’s hired a lawyer, isn’t saying much right now, trying to put the flap behind him.
Part of the right-wing chest-thumping about this involves the false notion that the liberal media are protecting the Democrat (as opposed to the likes of Mark Sanford, David Vitter, John Ensign, Arnold Schwarzenegger—all of whom fessed up). Just like the press supposedly protected John Edwards until the National Enquirer got the goods on his mistress and love child.
But the reticence in both the Weiner and Edwards cases was due to a lack of evidence (unlike, say, in the Eliot Spitzer scandal, which was broken by The New York Times). I don’t mind saying that the mainstream media would get aroused by the Weiner story if it were confirmed.
Weiner’s account could still fall apart, but for the moment, he seems entitled to the presumption of innocence.
A gang of governors could surprise the pundits—but they’ve got their own vulnerabilities.
You may have been hearing—say, in a few million places—what a sad and weak field the Republicans have mustered for 2012.
And it’s not just left-wing media types. Even National Review Editor Rich Lowry says: “It is slowly dawning on the Republican mind that the party’s choice may effectively come down to Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty. This prospect produces a range of emotions running from disappointment to panic.”
But what if they’re all wrong? What if the MSM is clueless? What if the GOP contingent is stronger than it looks?
The Weekly Standard’s Jay Cost makes the case for the current crop of 2012ers. He makes two key points:
“Crossover appeal. Huntsman, Pawlenty, and Romney all won statewide elections by performing better than the party normally does in each state.
“Records as governors. All three of these candidates earned a national reputation as governors, which will give them all an opportunity to point to their executive records in contrast to President Obama's.”
Both true. Except that they’re not really running on their gubernatorial records. Romney, most obviously, is spending much of his campaign trying to explain away his Massachusetts health plan. Nor is he advertising his pro-choice stance as governor, which he has since abandoned. Huntsman, in his brief time on the trail, hasn’t talked much about Utah. Pawlenty does campaign as the guy who held the line on taxes and spending in blue-state Minnesota—but is often pressed on having raise cigarette taxes (which he calls a fee) and leaving his successor a deficit of nearly $5 billion.
Another key point by Cost:
“No ‘gotcha votes.’ There's a second advantage that comes from not having been in Congress. When you're in the House or the Senate, you end up having to vote on pretty much every divisive issue that the country deals with. Many of these votes are irrelevant -- having to do with the legislative process or being for/against bills that have literally no chance of becoming law.”
That’s true, but there is an alternative playbook for use against governors. I know this because George Bush 41 used it against both Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton. A determined oppo team vacuums up every bad thing that ever happened in the state—tax increases, low test scores, pollution, corruption, a murderer’s furlough—and hangs it around the former governor’s neck. Here’s the tag line of a 1992 Bush ad that pictured a lone buzzard against a bleak landscape: “Now Bill Clinton wants to do for America what he has done for Arkansas. America can't afford that risk.”
It’s true that governors make better presidential candidates, which is why four of the five men to make it to the White House before Obama had previously served in Atlanta, Sacramento, Little Rock and Austin. But it hardly promises a free ride.
The former president says more senior citizens will die under Paul Ryan's Medicare proposal. But Howard Kurtz reports that he also has a warning for Democrats.
Bill Clinton is wading into the red-hot Medicare debate, slamming Republicans for hypocrisy but not sparing his own party.
The Third Way is back, however briefly.
At a "fiscal summit" Wednesday sponsored by the Pete Peterson Foundation, Clinton said President Obama's effort to trim Medicare spending helped cost his party the House. "The Republicans ran to the left of the Democrats last year," he said. "They excoriated us for all these savings now embedded in Congressman Ryan's budget."
Clinton threw a roundhouse right at Paul Ryan's plan, approved by the House, to turn the health care program for the elderly into a voucher system. Not only would that approach fail to cut costs, he said, "people will use less, get sicker and die quickly. Or they will be poorer because they'll have to spend so much of their money on health care."
Donning a pundit's hat, the former president said a Democratic victory Tuesday in a suburban Buffalo district that had been in GOP hands for half a century took place for one reason: "It was about Medicare."
Then came the patented Clinton pivot from a man who worked with Newt Gingrich in forcing his party to swallow welfare reform. "I'm afraid the Democrats will draw the conclusion that because Congressman Ryan's proposal is not the right one, that we shouldn't do anything. I completely disagree with that."
It was a wonky session as Clinton, questioned by PBS's Gwen Ifill, waded deep into the weeds of such issues as health care reform. He mused about scrapping the payroll tax in favor of taxing "things," what he called a "progressive VAT tax." And he couldn't resist a few plugs for his administration's economic record.
For all the talk about the dangers of red ink, Clinton flashed a yellow warning light. "In classic economic terms, this is the worst time to cut the deficit," he said. The reason: "The economy is so weak." He believes the heavy lifting should take place next year, which, of course, happens to be an election year.
Ryan took the stage moments later and defended his plan. (Would have been so much more interesting if the two men had debated!)
The Wisconsin Republican cast his approach as progressive, saying he would cut Medicare subsidies for "wealthy people" and boost them for those who are "less wealthy." he said that recipients, like federal employees, could choose among competing plans. "The power comes to the senior, not to the government bureaucracy," he said.
But critics say the elderly's purchasing power will be eroded over time. CNBC's Maria Bartiromo asked Ryan about a Congressional Budget Office study saying his plan could double out-of-pocket costs for senior citizens.
Ryan disputed this, saying: "It's comparing Medicare to a fiscal fantasy. The current system is unsustainable."
A battered candidate insists he's still alive and kicking
Newt Gingrich now finds himself channeling Mark Twain, insisting that "reports of my campaign's death are highly exaggerated."
As if to demonstrate that he has a strong political heartbeat, the former House speaker called the Democrats a "fundamentally irresponsible" party pushing health care "rationing" and, for good measure, branded President Obama "patently dishonest."
Despite the fact that he was attending his 36th Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Monday morning, Gingrich insisted he was a "people's candidate," not a Washington figure. In a bit of rhetorical jujitsu, he said the negative coverage of his mistakes over the past week made clear that "I'm definitely not the candidate of the Washington establishment."
Gingrich has now gotten with the (Paul Ryan) program to turn Medicare into a voucher program, despite dissing it on Meet the Press as "right-wing social engineering." He said seniors can choose among 258,000 items at Wal-Mart "but we have a giant bureaucracy in Washington that controls every aspect of their health." (One of the things that makes the Ryan plan hugely controversial, of course, is that the elderly are generally satisfied with Medicare as we know it.)
Gingrich sort of conceded he faces some heavy lifting in changing hearts and minds on the subject, saying that neither party should impose a major program "against the will of the American people."
One interesting twist is the way in which Gingrich now praises the president he helped impeach. He cited his ability to compromise with Bill Clinton on welfare reform and balancing the budget as evidence that he's no mindless partisan. "We romanticize this stuff. Ronald Reagan was a very partisan president."
Gingrich pronounced himself "totally mystified" over the Tiffany's flap, which drew a series of questions Sunday on Face the Nation. He may have run up a tab as high as $500,000, but "I owe no personal debts, none...It's all after-tax income, none of it is public money...I love my wife." He pivoted into an argument that he had made money - enough to afford expensive jewelry - by creating jobs through his organizations, "the opposite of the Obama model."
Gingrich spent part of the time saying he would no longer answer "gotcha" questions - which he defined as reporters asking him about long-ago votes or comments - and briefly donned his media critic's hat, chiding the New York Times for devoting "one quarter" of its front page Sunday "to Lindsay Lohan."
"We live in a society in which gossip replaces serious policy and everyone wrings their hands about how hard it is to have a serious conversation."
Which may be true. But the Times piece was about the rise of outlets such as Radar and TMZ making money and obtaining confidential records about celebrities such as Lohan. No matter: Newt seemed pleased with himself for whacking the paper.
For all the focus on the punditocracy, it helps when actual voters turn out
It’s perfectly clear that Newt Gingrich is toast, history, kaput, right?
I mean, he infuriated conservatives by trashing “right-wing social engineering” and spent the rest of the week apologizing and explaining that he was or was not referring to the Paul Ryan plan or something else.
But I’m not joining the obituary writers. Perhaps because I remember reading too many stories in 2007 about how John McCain was finished, before he limped his way to the GOP nomination.
Newt has dug himself a hole, but even with pundits shoveling dirt on top of him, he could climb out.
What’s striking is that the former speaker is drawing big crowds in Iowa. That may merely reflect his celebrity; I saw him get a rock-star reception at CPAC. Or it could be that Gingrich generates a certain degree of grass-roots enthusiasm, even as the commentators and establishment types view him as an unguided missile.
Gingrich himself may lean toward that view, judging by some comments he made Friday in Waterloo, Iowa: “It's going to take a while for the news media to realize that you're covering something that happens once or twice in a century, a genuine grass-roots campaign of very big ideas,” he said. “I expect it to take a while for it to sink in.”
This may reflect an inflated view of his candidacy, but it’s also true that Gingrich does traffic in big ideas. He just stumbles when he tries to explain them to lesser mortals.
Contrast Gingrich’s rough ride with the media treatment of Jon Huntsman, which has been quite respectful. The consensus is that he’s a long shot for the nomination but a smart and worthy candidate.
So how is the former ambassador doing on the trail? Atlantic’s Josh Green has this report from New Hampshire:
“If his debut last night as an unofficial presidential candidate is any indication, Jon Huntsman will have to work hard to win over New Hampshire voters -- not because he served in the Obama administration or holds moderate views, but because he'll have to crawl over swarms of reporters just to get to them. Billed as a low-key ‘meet and greet’ at Jesse's Restaurant, the media that showed up easily outnumbered the diners. It was a little ridiculous. While introducing Huntsman, the event's host had to ask reporters to step back so that actual voters could hear him speak.”
Green says Huntsman presented himself as “pleasant and reasonable… steered clear of specifics and displayed a diplomat's talent for speaking well without saying much.”
Reporters like pleasant and reasonable and an absence of inflammatory language. But if the voters aren’t showing up—and yes, it’s early—that’s not a good sign.
When George Stephanopoulos asked Huntsman the “why you?” question, he got such language as “we are at a very serious inflection point in terms of where this country goes.” Zzzz.
Excitement is an important part of any presidential campaign. We’ll see how much Tim Pawlenty generates when he becomes a declared candidate on Monday. I would guess Michele Bachmann will whip up more when she, as everyone now expects, jumps into this race.
Republican joke-writers were shocked by Ted Cruz’s smoothly comedic performance at the Gridiron Club this weekend. And yes, there is such a thing as Republican joke-writers.