The debt-ceiling showdown, which threatened to send the country into default, kept us enthralled. But the fiscal cliff won’t plunge us into a recession on Jan. 1. Howard Kurtz on the mass tune-out.
From the outside, it must appear that Washington is gripped by high drama as the country faces the daunting prospect of plunging over the fiscal cliff.
Um, not exactly.
We’re as bored as the rest of the country. People aren’t chatting about this at the coffee machine or arguing the angles over lunch. The cliff notes are just background noise, humming along at far lower volume than the roar that greeted Robert Griffin III’s latest Redskins performance.
Sportscaster should have written op-ed on gun control instead, he says
'Mike Wise tells Howard Kurtz that he wouldn't have done what Bob Costas did.'
Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise says he wouldn’t have done what Bob Costas did—at least not in the way he did it.
Rather than focusing on gun control in the wake of that murder-suicide involving a Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, “I would have used it as a platform for domestic violence in sports,” Wise tells me in a video interview. Athletes are disproportionately involved in incidents involving their significant others, he says.
But Wise doesn’t share the outrage of those who have pummeled Costas for using his Sunday Night Football commentary for a sympathetic take on gun control. “The moment a guy who’s kind of an icon in sports announcing and broadcasting throws his opinion out and it doesn’t dovetail with someone else’s opinion, you’ve crossed the line,” says Wise. But “wait a minute: MSNBC and Fox have been crossing that line for awhile…That’s the part I don’t get: Bob Costas crossing a line that’s been obliterated by other people in society.”
Pundits paying a price for faulty forecasts
Even a casual viewer of Fox News has seen them again and again, the network’s two most prominent political commentators, spending most of 2012 explaining why Barack Obama was going to lose.
Now Karl Rove and Dick Morris have virtually vanished, seemingly airbrushed from the airwaves.
Marion Curtis, StarPix / AP Photo
Turns out they’ve been sidelined, at least temporarily, by Roger Ailes. Rove, regularly introduced as George W. Bush’s architect, and Morris, a onetime Bill Clinton strategist who moved to the right, are a reminder of Fox’s faulty forecasting.
Fox News chief downplays private advice to general
Roger Ailes isn’t quite denying that he tried to entice David Petraeus to run for president.
After all, in the wake of a secret recording showing that a Fox contributor carried that message to the general in Kabul, that would be hard to do.
Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images
Instead, the Fox News chairman is trying to minimize the fallout from a Bob Woodward scoop that shows him trying to meddle in Republican politics—in precisely the way his worst critics might imagine.
Speaks out during halftime after Kansas City Chiefs tragedy
Bob Costas clearly stepped outside the white lines with his Sunday Night Football plea for stricter gun control, and some in the stands are hooting and hollering.
But the problem isn’t that he called an audible by taking a political stand, risky as that is. It’s that he did a stutter-step and never made it to the end zone.
Michael Loccisano / Getty Images
Ordinarily, my reaction to athletes, movie stars and rock stars popping off on politics is to hit the mute button. I mean, who cares what they think? And Costas is, after all, a guy who is famous for his mellifluous commentary on balls and strikes, touchdowns and field goals.
Can the president’s Twitter followers strengthen his hand on the fiscal cliff? Howard Kurtz on whether Obama for America’s social media prowess can fire up the grassroots with the presidential campaign won.
It was a startling moment, but almost no one realized that a sea change had occurred.
The president of the United States was urging the great American public to rise up and demand change through social media.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at The Rodon Group manufacturing facility on November 30, 2012 in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. Obama made a case for action on "fiscal cliff" legislation and urged congress to work together for a solution. (Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images)
Urging voters to pressure Congress to accept his financial plan, Obama said last week: “I want you to call, I want you to send an email, I want you to post on their Facebook wall. If you tweet then use a hashtag we’re calling #My2K. Not Y2K. My2K. because it’s about your 2K in your pocket. We’re trying to burn that into people’s mind here.”
Opposition could force president’s hand on Hillary successor.
Could President Obama be forced to name Susan Rice as his secretary of State, now that she’s under fire by Republican lawmakers?
“I wonder how this boxes Obama in,” Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker’s Washington correspondent, told me in a video interview. “Does he now have to nominate her?”
Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, among others, have denounced the U.N. ambassador for delivering false information about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
His lunch with Obama gives the defeated candidate one more opportunity to redefine his battered image. Howard Kurtz on Romney’s stark choice—slip into a waiting car or face the microphones.
Mitt Romney may have one more brief moment in the sun.
Having disappeared without a trace after losing the election—except for some clumsy leaked comments that made him sound bitter—the Republican nominee will visit the White House on Thursday, though not in the way he had hoped.
President Obama is having his defeated rival over for lunch.
Activist dismisses GOP defectors from his anti-tax pledge
Grover Norquist slammed critics of his anti-tax pledge when he sat down with Howard Kurtz.
Grover Norquist isn’t shy about slamming critics of his anti-tax crusade. But in one instance, at least, he says he may have gone too far.
Peter King, the Long Island congressman, said the other day that he considered The Pledge—the vow that most Republican lawmakers have made to Norquist not to support tax hikes—to be binding for only one session of Congress. Whereupon the head of Americans for Tax Reform said of King that he hopes “his wife understands that commitments last a little longer than two years.”
“Perhaps I should have cut him some slack on that because he said something stupid” while appearing on television to talk about Libya, Norquist tells me in a video interview. “He knows perfectly well the pledge is for as long as you’re in Congress. For him to suggest there’s an expiration date is irritating…I consider that a real cheap stunt.”
As the fiscal cliff approaches, some GOP stalwarts are talking about raising taxes and soft-pedaling abortion. Howard Kurtz on the party’s rebranding effort.
The winds of moderation seem to be blowing through the Republican Party.
Lindsey Graham is among the GOP senators who say they are prepared to set aside Grover Norquist. (Win McNamee / Getty Images (FILE))
OK, maybe it’s just a breeze, and a gentle one at that. But after four years of stuck-in-cement opposition, the Party of No is sounding like the Beatles singing “We Can Work It Out.”
What a difference a White House walloping makes. Now even the party’s biggest stalwarts are saying the Republicans face demographic disaster unless they overhaul their image.
John Feehery says Republicans are a "flawed party"
John Feehery, a veteran Republican strategist, has a blunt message for his party: It’s time to stand up to “the Rush Limbaughs of the world.”
Taking aim at conservative talk show hosts, Feehery tells me in a video interview, “we cannot be cowed by them. When they say things that are culturally insensitive and stupid, we need to go after them.”
Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, among others, have a strong following on the right. But Feehery, a former House GOP official, says there is too much “inflammatory” rhetoric: “We can have honest, open discussions about the future of the country without unnecessarily jabbing our fingers in the eyes of Hispanic voters, African-American voters, Asian voters.”
David Plotz on why journalists love scandal.
Howard Kurtz sits down with Slate's David Plotz
David Plotz, the editor of Slate, makes no apology for enjoying the David Petraeus saga.
“There’s a biblical element in this whole scandal which resonates with all of us,” he tells me in a video interview. “Who can’t be mesmerized by it and feel that great leaders are perhaps entitled to great sins, private sins?”
But doesn’t the current level of coverage amount to overkill?
Virtually every journalist in D.C. is feasting on the sex scandal. Howard Kurtz on the irresistible lure of tawdry affairs.
There’s no escaping Petraeus madness.
Former Commander of International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus speaks during an armed forces ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va., Aug. 31, 2011. (Susan Walsh/ AP Photo)
Pick up the paper, turn on the tube, crack open the laptop, stop at any Starbucks, and the chatter is all about Dave and Paula and John and Jill.
The news that Petraeus’s paramour is hiding out here in the nation’s capital, at her brother’s house, prompted this breaking-news tweet from Politico’s Byron Tau: “After an hour in the cold, I can report that Paula Broadwell eats food and wears sweaters.” But it did produce a through-the-window photo that replaced the sleeveless-blouse pictures of Broadwell from her Daily Show appearance plugging her Petraeus-walks-on-water book.
The president praised his former CIA director and delivered a tongue lashing to Republicans who have ripped Ambassador Susan Rice. Howard Kurtz reports.
President Obama managed to avoid getting buried under an avalanche of David Petraeus questions on Wednesday and took an unusually hard shot at two Republican snators who have asailed his U.N. ambassador over the fatal attack in Benghazi.
Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images
If his goal was to avoid fueling the media fire over the Petraeus scandal, Obama probably succeeded. But it was telling that the first question at the press conference, asked by the Associated Press, was about the sex scandal that led to the CIA director’s downfall, and it will probably overshadow anything else the president said.
Obama said he had “no evidence at this point” that Petraeus’s affair with Paula Broadwell, or Gen. John Allen’s correspondence with Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, has endangered national security. He took pains to praise Petraeus for an “extraordinary career” and tried to cast the extramarital relationship that prompted his resignation as a “side note” that should not tarnish his image.
Boston Globe's Marty Baron taking over newsroom hurt by cutbacks
The Washington Post, after a difficult four-year retrenchment, has tapped Boston Globe Editor Marty Baron to run the newsroom.
Baron replaces Marcus Brauchli, the onetime editor of the Wall Street Journal, who has had a difficult tenure in presiding over deep cutbacks in the newsroom made famous by Watergate.
The Post has "a defining and distinctive role" in covering politics and policy, Baron told me Tuesday, even as he acknowledged that "running a newsroom is a challenge these days. We're all confronted with financial pressures. You see it happening at the New York Times as well, the networks, magazines, even websites.
"It's not easy being an editor. I don't ask for any sympathy. But we will have to make tough choices...I can't duck those decisions. There's pain involved with that. We're journalists--our job is to deal with reality."
Obama’s appointment of Clifford Sloan to head the Office of Guantánamo Closure has many hoping the president finally means business. Miranda Green on whether Gitmo’s days are numbered.