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Good Friday Morning! It’s been an earth shattering week in the conservative media sphere. Bill O’Reilly, the man responsible for helping build Fox News into the juggernaut it became, is gone from the network. Allegations of harassment sunk O’Reilly’s career. I go into why Fox News was left no other choice in the matter. Next, I cover the GA-06 special election and what lessons we can take from it. Finally, I wrap things up with a legislative battle brewing on the horizon: the reauthorization of FISA. Links follow. Thanks for reading!
Bill O’Reilly Out at Fox News
I’ve worked on six different political campaigns, from local state House races all the way to the legal side of a Presidential campaign. Along the way, you learn lessons on how much good name matters in a race. For instance, the first campaign I ever worked on was a Lt. Governor’s race in Georgia. I was involved with a group that was training young teenagers on the basics of running a campaign ground game.
The primary for this Lt. Governor’s race was particularly contentious. The candidate I was working for, Ralph Reed, had several bad stories come out about him during the campaign that implicated him in corruption. He ended up losing that race with bribery stories hounding him every step of the way. After Election Day, we asked one of the directors why he supported Reed over the other candidates. He said he initially believed Reed was the best horse in the contest. But that he had learned a lesson; Proverbs is right: “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”
That experience brings me to the ouster of Bill O’Reilly at Fox News. No one involved in the O’Reilly story has a good name; which is why O’Reilly had to leave. After a mountain of allegations involving Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and other employees, Fox News lost its integrity, moral compass, and name. Until Fox News correct these mistakes, it will continue to struggle, and a dark cloud will remain over the “Fair and Balanced” network.
Bill O’Reilly came under attack after allegations surfaced from lawsuit settlements including evidence he had harassed women verbally, physically, and sexually. Fox News had known about the allegations for years and papered over them with settlement money and sealed court documents.
O’Reilly’s indiscretions track even worse allegations involving former Fox News Channel head Roger Ailes. The number of lawsuits and settlements involving Ailes and O’Reilly, plus the prominent on-air female talent leaving Fox over this issue (Greta Van Susteren, Megyn Kelly, and Kirstin Powers, to name a few) suggests that there is moral rot in Fox News’s culture. And to compound matters, Fox insiders are expecting more allegations to surface. The more that is exposed, the more we learn that Fox needs to clean house.
In the end, this is why O’Reilly had to go: Fox News has no moral high ground, no good name, and no integrity to rely on when defending itself. When Fox or O’Reilly say that the charges are false, they lack the authority to have us believe them. The allegations ring more true than false. If Fox had a good name or reputation to fall back on, it might have been able to defend itself or O’Reilly. But after Ailes and a large number of allegations, Fox lacks both and needs to focus on rebuilding its name.
The shakeup at Fox News is part of a larger shakeup across right-wing media. The big names from a year ago, many who helped in Trump’s rise, are no longer present. Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes are gone. Megyn Kelly, Greta Van Susteren, and Kirstin Powers all fled Fox. Young social media stars Milo Yiannopoulos and Tomi Lahren are out at Breitbart and The Blaze respectively. The Wall Street Journal lost columnists to the New York Times, most notably conservative foreign policy columnist and Pulitzer winner Brett Stephens. National Review and The Weekly Standard, once institutional conservative stalwarts, have seen their influence wane, even as subscriptions have gone up.
In short, the landscape in traditional media has shifted considerably. People with big names in the right-wing space are gone, leaving giant vacuums. Those voids will be replaced, hopefully with better people than have been removed. The shakeups at Fox News likely aren’t over. Some have even said Hannity could be next as Fox tries to clean up its image. The fallout from Ailes and O’Reilly will loom over Fox and conservative media as a whole for years to come. The remaining question is: will we see something equivalent on the left? Will the reverberations extend beyond Fox into the larger media?
As for Bill O’Reilly, what should we expect from him? It’s unlikely any other news company hires him to do TV ever again. Hiring Bill O’Reilly would help establish one of the first factors of workplace harassment. Companies would open themselves up to hostile workplace lawsuits. Given that, I suspect we’ve seen the last of O’Reilly on cable news. But I also suspect that he will reappear in a year or so with a new book about his time at Fox and what happened when he was forced out. He’ll probably try to use that book as a public rehabilitation tool and then do a cable news and talk show tour to rehabilitate his name and image. The Fox News Channel has a similar task ahead of it.
GA-06 and Lessons Learned ahead of the 2018 Midterms
The race to replace HHS head Tom Price’s old seat goes to a runoff this June. Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel will face off after finishing in first and second place, respectively. Ossoff failed to hit 50% + 1 of the vote to avoid a runoff election, so now the race heads towards the runoff election in June.
The GA-06 race is the first good look we’ve gotten at the potential headwinds in the 2018 midterm cycle. The GA-06 race featured a massive influx of money from outside Democratic groups. Ossoff was able to consolidate Democratic support behind his campaign, while the rest of the Republican field remained divided. Neither Ossoff or Handle is an exciting candidate. Both are flawed. As such, the runoff election should be close and quarrelsome.
The only lessons I’d take away from the GA-06 race is that Democrats are showing greater signs of enthusiasm and engagement. The few special elections we’ve observed so far show a 1-2 point improvement over Hilary Clinton’s 2016 numbers. Ossoff needed to beat 46.8% of the vote to beat Clinton, and he received 48.1%. So while Ossoff and Democrats are showing improvements, these aren’t huge gains over Clinton. The June runoff will turn on voter turnout. What base of the electorate will come out the strongest in June? If Ossoff can get 48% of the vote again, he’ll likely win. He can’t afford to lose any momentum between now and then. I wouldn’t call Ossoff a clear favorite, but he has some of the ingredients necessary for a special election upset.
Special elections are difficult to use as projections into Midterm and Presidential elections. Between January of 2009 and November of 2010, Republicans lost practically every special election. While you could discern some signs that Republicans were more energized than Democrats, none of the special elections held in that period pointed towards a wave election that would allow Republicans to retake the House.
In broad terms, there are fundamental forces at play in elections. In midterm years, the party holding the Presidency typically loses seats in a Midterm election. In fact, since 1922, only two Presidents have maintained majorities in a Midterm election: Calvin Coolidge in 1926 and George W. Bush in 2002. Every other President in that period lost seats or barely held on to their coalitions. Republicans hold a 25 seat advantage in the House. Democrats will hold strategic benefits in 2018. The fundamental forces at play in 2018 will give Democrats a competitive edge over Republicans. The reason people are looking at the special elections is to get an idea of what level of enthusiasm Democrats have and how many Republican-held seats are ultimately in play come 2018.
I’d argue we will learn little from 2017’s special elections. There are too many variables and local factors in play to project outward. However, four races should allow us to forecast: 1) The French Presidential Elections (the first round is 04-23-2017); 2) The Virginia Gubernatorial Primary in June; 3) The UK general election just announced by PM Theresa May; and 4) The Virginia Gubernatorial Election in November.
The French and British elections will give us a sense of whether the global populist push is still advancing or receding. Virginia will provide us with a statewide race with a direct connection to DC. The Virginia primaries will tell us which factions are ascendant in each party. The ascendant groups will then compete and say who can win in November.
As an aside, something to keep an eye on next week is how the recent ISIS terrorist attacks in France affect votes on April 23rd. France experienced the most terrorist attacks in Europe in 2016. Another attack, just days before the first round of voting may impact the electorate.
The big point to remember for any election between now and November 2018 is this: the electoral fundamentals favor Democrats. Americans typically turn on a President, no matter how successful. Is it possible for Trump to beat this trend? Yes, but he would also buck over 100 years of electoral trends. George W. Bush won seats in 2002 because Americans were united in the aftermath of 9/11. Republicans now control all legislative branches of government. Every election will be a referendum on how Republicans are governing. Republicans need to start ruling. Otherwise, they will face a wave election in 2018 that could give control to Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. Republicans could also lose several governorships. The clock is ticking for Republican governance.
FISA Reauthorization Battle looming
Before the year is up, Congress will have to make a major decision regarding whether or not to renew FISA powers (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act). The legislative battle over that reauthorization is bound to be contentious. Attorney Andrew C. McCarthy made a similar point in National Review Online:
Before 2017 is out, we are going to have a brawl over FISA — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Specifically, over FISA section 702, on which much of the sprawling American intelligence enterprise is now based. It will lapse if not reauthorized by Congress.
We ought to be headed into that brawl with a sense of how dangerous the world has become: Competitive great-power geopolitics has reemerged, yet international jihadism remains as threatening as ever. Instead, foremost in our minds will be how readily the government’s awesome intelligence capabilities can be abused. That is the real significance of the controversy over Obama-administration spying on the Trump campaign and transition.
The scandal that CNN is hell-bent on ignoring brings into sharp relief the very abuses the media, echoing civil-liberties activists, have warned against for years: pretextual uses of intelligence-collection powers to spy on political opponents and dissenters. As a national-security conservative with no illusions about government, I’ve acknowledged these concerns. I’ve countered, though, that the powers are, yes, essential to national security. The abuse of power is thus a reason to get rid of the abuser, not the power.
The last time FISA was up for reauthorization, the Wikileaks and Edward Snowden leaked bombshells about the CIA and NSA. The ensuing debate made the reauthorization fight contentious and threatened FISA’s viability. Congress must reauthorize FISA before the end of the year, or it will lapse.
The battle over FISA this time will face similar scrutiny. I believe two factors will expand the debate: 1) The problem of whether or not the Obama and Trump administration’s use FISA for political purposes and 2) Russian intelligence using Wikileaks to discredit and attack US spying agencies.
On the first point, it’s an open question of whether or not Obama administration official Susan Rice had political motivations when petitioning the NSA to unmask Trump transition officials. Rice was well within her legal rights to request name unmasking. Proving intent or motivation is next to impossible. But will the public or the Republican House and Senate believe her story? Rice is known for lying about Benghazi, Syria, and the Iran Deal. She lacks any integrity that would encourage people to trust her. And that’s the point of FISA law: Do we trust our officials with the responsibility that is FISA? Do we trust them to use it for non-political reasons? If not, people like Rice could encourage a backlash against regranting the government broad FISA powers.
On the second point, Russia also recognizes that FISA needs reauthorization before the end of the year. Russian intelligence hates the CIA and NSA. They will do anything in their power to defeat American intelligence agencies. The last time authorization was up, Russian intelligence used Wikileaks to launch an active measures campaign against the CIA and NSA. Wikileaks is a front for Russian intelligence. Anything Wikileaks does against the US is an attack on the US intelligence services. It is highly likely Russia would use the reauthorization debate as a pretense for Wikileaks to attack the US.
CBS News reports that the CIA is in the middle of a manhunt for another alleged contractor who stole classified documents. Furthermore, there is widespread concern within the CIA that they have an active Russian mole who is leaking to Wikileaks and other sites. Leaks and moles could be utilized very effectively by the Russians to further damage the public’s trust of the NSA and CIA. The Russians would have the specific goal of ensuring FISA laws lapsed.
How would this play out? In the weeks leading up to the reauthorization, Wikileaks or another similarly situated group would release a trove of damaging classified documents on the CIA and NSA. These revelations would be designed to paint US spy agencies as enemies of the American public. Stories of shady dealings by the Obama administration with their use of FISA powers would further fan fears. Add to these events an already plummeting American trust in institutions, and you get a dangerous scenario where FISA could be allowed to lapse.
The point is this: when reauthorization comes back up, watch the events surrounding reauthorization. Nothing during this time will happen by accident. The Russians want to hamstring the US ability to spy on them. Removing FISA powers or damaging our spying agencies would go a long way towards enhancing Russian power abroad. As I’ve argued for several months now, the US is involved in another cold war with the Russians. We have to take this threat seriously. Protecting US intelligence services and their ability to keep us protected should be priority number one.
Links for your radar
So guess what? In the last weeks before the election, the Hillary Clinton campaign did no polling. No. Polling. Whatsoever. Oh, it had data. Lots and lots of data. Analytics, even. Data analytics! But it had no independent information on the overall field of battle in states like Florida, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
So when the election began to turn Donald Trump’s way, the Clinton campaign had no idea. This is one of the thousand revelations in “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign,” the new book by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes that, for political junkies, redefines the word “juicy” for our time.
Side Note: Page Six of the NYPost is reporting that Clinton insiders are working overtime to find out who in the campaign leaked stories for this book. Expect a Clintonian retaliation campaign soon.
O’Reilly, Ailes, and the Toxic Conservative-Celebrity Culture by David French, National Review Online
Knifework, not character or integrity, is what we demand from our ideological gladiators. We’re paying the price.
There are those who say that the Left is “taking scalps,” and they have a list of Republican victims to prove their thesis. Roger Ailes is out at Fox News. Bill O’Reilly is out at Fox News. Michael Flynn is out at the White House. Those three names — the head of the most powerful cable news network, the highest-rated cable news personality, and the national-security adviser — represent a stunning wave of resignations and terminations.
But this isn’t scalp-taking, it’s scalp-giving. Time and again prominent conservative personalities have failed to uphold basic standards of morality or even decency. Time and again the conservative public has rallied around them, seeking to protect their own against the wrath of a vengeful Left. Time and again the defense has proved unsustainable as the sheer weight of the facts buries the accused.
Consider this one of the worst-kept secrets in a place known for being worst at keeping secrets. Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley made it a little more public on Tuesday at an event in Muscatine, Iowa. Grassley told the audience at Kent Corporation that he expects to get the gang back together again this summer to consider a new nominee for the Supreme Court following a resignation.”
During a visit to Muscatine Tuesday morning, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he expects a Supreme Court Justice resignation within the year.
“I would expect a resignation this summer,” he said.
Back in 2009, it was Tapper who stood up to the White House, expressing shock that the Obama administration had tried to deny Fox News access. Does anyone remember that? Or that Tapper, three years in a row, won awards from the White House Correspondents’ Association for breaking news? No, because the news was about the Obama White House, and why did Tapper have to be so hard on our wonderful president?
“President Obama was not friendly to the press, but the press was very friendly to President Obama,” Tapper says. “I mean, President Obama did not like me, and I understand why. I was a pain in his ass and I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid, and, you know, a lot of other people did.”
There were no righteous RTs back then. No loving memes. There were eye rolls, the word “blowhard” attached to his name. So, yes, it’s nice when the thanks come—but the same brain holding Trump’s receipts can’t forget the ones he’s got on us, too. He’s aware that many who love him today used to criticize or, worse, ignore him. And maybe that’s what’s bothering him now—how fair-weathered we are. He’s been doing this all along, but now that we have a president who is polling astoundingly low, we suddenly approve?
Some Republicans Think They May Have A Health Care Deal – The Huffington Post
GOP moderates and conservatives are nearing a deal on health care that in theory could get the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act out of the House and over to the Senate. The changes also might move Republicans even further away from passage ― no one really knows.
The deal, brokered between House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Tuesday Group co-chairman Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), would allow states to get waivers eliminating the so-called community rating provision ― the rule that prohibits insurers from charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions. In order to obtain the waiver, states would have to participate in a federal high-risk pool or establish their own, and satisfy some other conditions.
In exchange for that conservative concession, the amendment would reinstate the Essential Health Benefits that were already taken out of the bill ― though, again, states could waive those provisions as well if they were able to show that doing so would lower premiums, increase the number of people insured, or “advance another benefit to the public interest in the state.”
How Late-Night Comedy Fueled the Rise of Trump – The Atlantic
A month after the election, Trevor Noah, the host of The Daily Show, published an op‑ed in The New York Times that sought to position himself and his show as instruments of healing in a broken land. It was called “Let’s Not Be Divided, Divided People Are Easier to Rule,” and it zapped around progressives’ inboxes and Facebook feeds like a digital balm of Gilead. It was a reminder that we were not, in those fevered early weeks, being our best selves: “Instead of speaking in measured tones about what unites us, we are screaming at each other about what divides us.” How true that was, and—one might churlishly observe—what a sea change from Noah’s tone during the campaign, when he berated the Republican candidate for tweeting with “those fat little tiny fingers of yours” and for trying to think with “that stupid head,” and when he advised the candidate that “maybe you should look in the mirror, asshole.”
This combination of sentiments—the excoriating, profanity-strewn, ad hominem tirade against the president (and by extension against anyone who might agree, in any small measure, with his actions), and the saintly appeal for reaching out to the other side—dominates the political discussion inside the blue bubble these days. The excoriating outweighs the reaching-out at a ratio of about 20 to 1, but the earnestly expressed desire for a more humane form of discourse is enduring.
But somewhere along the way, the hosts of the late-night shows decided that they had carte blanche to insult not just the people within this administration, but also the ordinary citizens who support Trump, and even those who merely identify as conservatives.
The New York Times’ public editor called out her own paper Tuesday for publishing an op-ed by Marwan Barghouti without disclosing the fact that Barghouti was convicted in 2004 of killing five Israelis in a terrorist attack.
On Sunday, the Times published an essay by Barghouti complaining about Israeli prison conditions, but left out any mention of his terrorism conviction.
The paper described Barghouti simply as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian” — keeping their readers in the dark about the fact that Barghouti is a convicted terrorist.
Why North Korea Is a Black Hole for U.S. Intelligence – John R. Schindler, the Observer
Given the threats emanating from the DPRK—above all, the nuclear ones—it’s not surprising that our Intelligence Community devotes significant resources to trying to figure out what’s going on in that hermit kingdom. But that’s extraordinarily difficult in practice. IC professionals wanting an easy job avoid North Korea, since making accurate predictions there can be dangerous. This, after all, is a country that might do anything.
Therefore, we face the dangerous situation where North Korea, a rogue regime possessing nuclear weapons and no shortage of aggression, remains a black hole for American intelligence. For decades, the IC has tried hard to get information to help our decision-makers in Washington deal more effectively with Pyongyang, yet time and again we’ve been surprised by North Korea’s latest gambit. As the stakes of this game are getting higher, with increased nuclear saber-rattling, the risks of missteps are too.
Satire piece of the week
BERKELEY, CA—Advising students to remain in their dormitories and classrooms until the situation was resolved, the University of California, Berkeley declared a campuswide lockdown Thursday after several loose pages from The Wall Street Journal were found on a park bench outside a school building. “At 11:15 this morning, several pages from two separate sections of today’s Wall Street Journal were discovered spread across a bench outside of Eshleman Hall in Lower Sproul Plaza,” read the urgent alert sent to all students and faculty, emphasizing that while campus security and local police had safely disposed of the pages, there was no way of knowing if others were strewn elsewhere on university grounds. “As of now, the perpetrator remains at large, so it is vital that you stay where you are until the all-clear is given. In the meantime, notify police immediately if you have any additional information at all regarding this incident.” At press time, a black-clad group of 50 students were throwing bottles at the bench while chanting, “No Nazis, No KKK, No Fascist U.S.A!”
Thanks for reading!