Monday, July 25, 2022

Last Call For Still Full Court Pressed, Con't

As David Freedlander points out in New York Magazine, Republican candidates in 2022 increasingly have decided that they no longer need a free press, and that the far friendlier confines of right wing talk radio, podcasts, viral social media and FOX News are all they need to reach in order to get enough votes to win in November.

When Fox News host Tucker Carlson appeared last week at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa — an annual cattle call for Republican would-be presidential contenders — he insisted that he was a not a candidate, but he had advice for what GOP voters should look for in one: “You need to be really wary of candidates who care what the New York Times thinks,” he said. Singling out former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who, after the murder of George Floyd, tweeted that his death was “personal and painful,” Carlson accused the likely presidential candidate of pandering to the wrong audience.

“You’re trying to please the people whose opinions you actually care about — at the New York Times,” he said, mocking Haley.

This view — that approval from the mainstream press isn’t just unnecessary but actually suspect — is one that has come to dominate GOP politics in the Trump era. And while railing against the so-called liberal media has long been a part of the Republican playbook, more than a dozen GOP campaign operatives, senior Hill aides, and political reporters from major news outlets say the past few years have brought something new: actively courting the media’s scorn while avoiding anything that may be viewed as consorting with the enemy.

At this point in the political cycle six years ago, Rand Paul was on the cover of Time magazine. “The Most Interesting Man in Politics,” the headline said of the junior senator from Kentucky and 2016 presidential aspirant. He was on the cover of The New York Times Magazine too, billed as a “Major Threat” (with a design riffing off the visual language of the punk band Minor Threat).

In both instances, Paul spent lots of time with the reporters, posing for pictures, and his views were given at least a fair, if not flattering, airing. And if Paul was a sympathetic figure for the media in his pre-2016 days — a civil libertarian who opposed military escalation abroad and seemed to hate the Republican Establishment as much as Democrats did — he wasn’t alone in receiving and participating in coverage from the elite media. Ted Cruz was profiled in The New Yorker, pictured in his cowboy boots before a painting of Ronald Reagan. He was portrayed as an archconservative, but a swashbuckling one, with his father and various employers, friends, and former college professors speaking to his intelligence. Marco Rubio was also in the magazine and was compared to a Republican Kennedy.

It wasn’t just Paul, Cruz, and Rubio. Take a look at any of the prestige- and Establishment-media outlets from around this time (including this one), and all of their pages were graced with the Jeb Bushes, Chris Christies, John Kasichs, and other contenders who were making up an already overstuffed presidential-primary field.

We are at the same point now in the 2024 election cycle, and again two fistfuls of Republicans are making noises about running for president. But that kind of long look at the life and career of the contenders has been all but absent so far this election cycle. Save for a recent Time profile of Glenn Youngkin, still considered a long shot for a 2024 run, the closest we’ve seen to what used to be a staple of political journalism is a long New Yorker profile of Florida governor Ron DeSantis — one in which the subject didn’t participate, a previously almost unheard-of press strategy for a presidential aspirant. And it is not just the prepresidential campaign profile that is suffering from a lack of Republican engagement. Increasingly, even simple news stories from national newspapers and wire services will feature a direct quote from a Democrat but just a tweet or a line from a speech by a Republican, typically a sign the latter declined to respond to the reporter.

“I just don’t even see what the point is anymore,” said an adviser to one likely GOP presidential aspirant, who requested anonymity to discuss press strategy. “We know reporters always disagreed with the Republican Party, but it used to be you thought you could get a fair shake. Now every reporter, and every outlet, is just chasing resistance rage-clicks.”
After years of Trump declaring the media "enemies of the people", the modern GOP simply no longer feels it needs to engage with or even have a free press anymore.  This is despite networks like CBS falling all over themselves to hire former Trump regime sycophants in order to maintain access to a Republican-controlled Congress that they now believe is a sure thing.

And waiting in the wings is Justice Clarence Thomas, who is all but begging for a SCOTUS case in order to strip newspapers, networks, and websites of First Amendment protections.

America doesn't come back from a 2024 GOP trifecta, folks. None of it survives, and that includes a free press.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov finally admitting what Moscow's plan for Ukraine always was, not "liberating the Donbas" or "freeing ethnic Russians" in the country, but full-on regime change in order to re-create Soviet-era satellite states.

Russia’s top diplomat said Moscow’s overarching goal in Ukraine is to free its people from its “unacceptable regime,” expressing the Kremlin’s war aims in some of the bluntest terms yet as its forces pummel the country with artillery barrages and airstrikes.

The remark from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov comes amid Ukraine’s efforts to resume grain exports from its Black Sea ports, something that would help ease global food shortages, under a new deal tested by a Russian strike on Odesa over the weekend.

Speaking to envoys at an Arab League summit in Cairo late Sunday, Lavrov accused Kyiv and its Western allies of spouting propaganda intended to ensure that Ukraine “becomes the eternal enemy of Russia.”

“We are determined to help the people of eastern Ukraine to liberate themselves from the burden of this absolutely unacceptable regime,” he said. Apparently suggesting that Moscow’s war aims extend beyond Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region in the east, Lavrov said: “We will certainly help the Ukrainian people to get rid of the regime, which is absolutely anti-people and anti-historical.”

Lavrov’s comments followed his warning last week that Russia plans to retain control over broader areas beyond eastern Ukraine, including the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south, and will make more gains elsewhere.
So yeah, Putin finds other former Soviet states not bowing to him as "unacceptable regimes" and they will be removed by force. If you think the Russians are going to stop at Ukraine, well.
We all know how this turns out.  Ask the Poles.

Abbott, Elementary Con't

First-term Texas GOP governor Greg Abbott, busy reducing women to second-class citizens, running a third-world power grid, covering up for a fourth-grade police force, giving kids a fifth-rate education and with his sixth sense on immigration an absolute failure, is all shaping up to give Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke a seventh heaven of a chance in November.

One of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. The revival of a 1920s ban on abortion. The country’s worst episode of migrant death in recent memory. And an electrical grid, which failed during bitter cold, now straining under soaring heat.

The unrelenting succession of death and difficulty facing Texans over the last two months has soured them on the direction of the state, hurting Gov. Greg Abbott and making the race for governor perhaps the most competitive since Democrats last held that office in the 1990s.

Polls have shown a tightening, single-digit contest between Mr. Abbott, the two-term incumbent, and his ubiquitous Democratic challenger, the former congressman Beto O’Rourke. Mr. O’Rourke is now raising more campaign cash than Mr. Abbott — $27.6 million to $24.9 million in the last filing — in a race that is likely to be among the most expensive of 2022.

Suddenly, improbably, perhaps unwisely, Texas Democrats are again daring to think — as they have in many recent election years — that maybe this could be the year.

“It seems like some the worst things that are happening in this country have their roots in Texas,” said James Talarico, a Democratic state representative from north of Austin. “We’re seeing a renewed fighting spirit.”

At the same time, the winds of national discontent are whipping hard in the other direction, against Democrats. Texans, like many Americans, have felt the strain of rising inflation and have a low opinion of President Biden. Unlike four years ago, when Mr. O’Rourke challenged Senator Ted Cruz and nearly won during a midterm referendum on President Donald J. Trump that lifted Democrats, now it is Republicans who are animated by animus toward the White House and poised to make gains in state races.

But in recent weeks there has been a perceptible shift in Texas, as registered in several public polls and some internal campaign surveys, after the school shooting in Uvalde that killed 19 children and two teachers and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that brought back into force a 1925 law banning all abortions except when the woman’s life is at risk.

“Dobbs at the margins has hurt Republicans in Texas. Uvalde at the margins has hurt Republicans in Texas. The grid has hurt Republicans in Texas,” said Mark P. Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University who helped conduct one recent poll. “Biden and inflation have been their saving grace.”

Most voters polled did not rank guns or abortion among their top issues in the recent survey, by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs, but many of Mr. O’Rourke’s supporters did, suggesting the issues could help to energize his voters, Mr. Jones said.

And the issue of gun control was a top concern among another group that Republicans have been fighting hard to win away from Democrats: Hispanic women.

A separate poll, conducted by the University of Texas at Austin and released this month, showed 59 percent of respondents thought Texas was on the “wrong track,” the highest number in more than a decade of asking that question. Another, from Quinnipiac University, found Mr. O’Rourke within 5 percentage points of the governor.
I think Abbott has fouled up so badly that Beto has a real chance, and I think this race is only going to get closer.
We'll see.
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