June 15, 2017: Alexandria Blame | Mueller Back Talk | Virginia’s Anti-Trump Message

1. Blame and Loathing in Alexandria

It didn’t take long. Soon after a gunman opened fire on members of a Republican congressional baseball team in Alexandria, Va., the Red Twittersphere was seething with blame. Who was responsible for a gunman gone mad? None other than the liberal media for vilifying Trump.

The conservative press had been aboil in recent weeks about a photo of the comedian Kathy Griffin holding the head of a decapitated Trump and, more recently, of a Trump-like Caesar being assassinated in a Shakespeare in the Park production in New York. Now, the critique goes, all of this has helped create an atmosphere of hatred where it’s open season on the president and his supporters.

The conservative reaction was fed by the shooter’s support of Bernie Sandersduring the 2016 campaign. Sanders condemned the violence in strong terms. It still wasn’t enough.

Makada 🇺🇸‏ @_Makada_, with 85.7k followers, wrote:

Turns out #Alexandria terrorist James Hodgkinson was a Bernie campaign volunteer. If he was a Trump campaign volunteer MSM would be OUTRAGED

Larry Elder‏ @larryelder, with 173k followers, demanded to know:

Did ANY comic post a bloody mock of Obama's head? ANY host call him a "piece of s---"? ANY GOP pol call his cabinet "scumbags"?

The alt-right press shared Red Twitter’s outrage. “Hateful: Scalise Shooting Puts Focus on Left’s Vilification of GOP,” screamed a LifeZette headline, “Alexandria ambush highlights Democrats' dehumanizing, hyperbolic, anti-conservative rhetoric.”

Infowars seconded the broad condemnation of “leftists:” "The man who shot several Republicans, including the majority whip, said that it was 'time to destroy Trump,' proving just how incredibly insane the leftists have become.”

Chris Stirewalt in his Fox Halftime Report wrote:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the man for whom the slain suspect volunteered and passionately campaigned, condemned political violence in the wake of the attack. But that’s not enough… What matters now is whether you condemn political hatred – whether you renounce and reject the kind of toxic rhetoric that makes this shooting and this vile moment in American political history possible.

What We’re Watching For:

Any awareness from the right that it has contributed to a poisonous atmosphere……

2. How to Talk Back to Mueller

Last night, The Washington Post reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice. Philip Rucker of The Post got a hold of the Republican National Committee’s talking points on how to respond to the story.

Some highlights:

  • Call the leaks "inexcusable, outrageous, and illegal. The leaks are the only crime here.
  • Claim the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is a "fishing expedition," and if the investigators "had a real case, they wouldn't be leaking information.”
  • The obstruction of justice charges are "baseless" and it's time to "get back to the real issues that matter to Americans."

The talking points were already in line with much of the rhetoric already coming from the Right about the leaks.

Laura Ingraham @IngrahamAngle wrote:

Mueller's office is leaking. Another sign that this investigation has (at the very least) the appearance of taint.

Broadcasting live from the baseball field, Sean Hannity, a vocal opponent of Mueller, claimed that Mueller investigation was another example of the deep state’s desired retribution. He demanded that Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation’s involvement with Russia be investigated instead.  He then called for Mueller and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed the special counsel, to resign immediately.

Meanwhile, Bill Mitchell @mitchellvii, the host of Your Voice America, doubted the Post’s story.

Either WAPO story is poorly sourced fiction or Mueller is openly leaking while the spotlight is on. Doubt the latter.

By now, the Red Press has settled into two camps. The Alt-Right, led by the self-styled investigator Mike Cernovich, thinks the Republicans shot themselves in the foot with the appointment of Mueller in the first place. It argues that he has evil intentions and points to his hiring of Jeannie Rhee, a Washington lawyer who in 2015 performed work for the Clinton Foundation, defending it from FOIA requests related to Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

Here is just one example of Cernovich’s‏ @Cernovich copious tweets on the topic:

Mueller deliberately hired Hillary donors with blood lust in their eyes, their goal is to ruin the lives of Trump staffers. Fire Mueller.

Meanwhile, some on the traditional Right believe that while the investigation can’t be stopped, it must at least be reined in. As National Review wrote: “President Trump should not dismiss Mueller, but the Justice Department must revise the special counsel’s jurisdiction. Maybe this time, it could be conformed to, you know, the law . . . specifically, the law that limits special counsels to criminal investigations, not counterintelligence probes.”

What We’re Watching:

Of course, a fair number of lifelong Republicans are simply exhausted by Trump and don’t want to be corralled into defending him. Exhibit One is Bill Kristol, editor at large for The Weekly Standard. Apparently, he is proposing a breakoff Republican party. Any takers?

3. Healthcare Reform II: “What Was He Thinking?” 

Senate Republicans have been taking a hammering from the Mainstream Media for refusing to release a draft of their health care bill until they have the votes to pass it. But criticism is coming from the conservative press as well. The Washington Examiner wrote in an editorial:

Republicans, bring your healthcare bill out for inspection. “Committee hearings or some other open, collaborative process create something like a consensus among lawmakers whose votes leadership needs. It also allows a public airing. Policymakers have an obligation to convince the public when they are changing laws and policies. Legislative leaders have an obligation to give their members the chance to propose changes, defend their proposals, and, when it is possible, hold votes on their ideas. If your idea for solving a problem doesn't make it into the final bill, it will then be because it lost a vote and lawmakers found a different solution. This is a more acceptable way to lose than if your idea never got heard.Transparency produces support.”

In one of those confusing and volatile moves that have become his trademark, President Trump reportedly told a group of Republican senators that the House version of the bill “mean, mean, mean.” This after Trump had celebrated its passage in a Rose Garden ceremony just last month.

HotAir, a conservative blog site that has had its issues with Trump, was stunned: “What is he thinking throwing Ryan, Mark Meadows, and the House GOP under the bus when he’s going to need them to pass something later — which will be less to their liking ideologically than the previous bill was?”

4. Divining the Meaning of Virginia

On Tuesday, Virginia held a primary for Governor. Since this was one of the few significant off-year elections, held in a swing state no less, the results were closely parsed.

It was a mixed bag for Trump. Anger at him propelled a much larger-than-expected Democratic turnout. But, in a huge surprise, the establishment Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie, barely squeaked by against a fringe figure, Corey Stewart, a fierce Trump supporter.

While Trump-types may be holding their own with the G.O.P. voters of today, we see increasing concerns among pundits that he may be driving away the next generation -- and for good. Here is a take from Hot Air:

In 20 years, will a new crop of old people simply tune into Fox News and replace them? Or will the Fox News Trump voter (for lack of a better term) simply go extinct? The old line that says “a person who is not a liberal at 20 has no heart and a person who is not a conservative at 40 has no head” became a cliché for a reason. It’s probably not a surprise that young people skew more liberal. The question here is whether a party can long endure when its standard bearer has the support of just 19 percent of young voters.


5. Fox’s New Message

New York Magazine reports that Fox News has changed its longtime tagline from “Fair and Balanced” to “Most Watched. Most Trusted.”

It is hard to overstate the significance of what shedding “Fair & Balanced” means for Fox News. (It would be like the New York Times giving up “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”) Ailes invented the slogan when he launched the network in 1996, and over the years it became a quasi-religious doctrine among Fox’s anchors and viewers. The effectiveness of Fox News as a vehicle for conservative ideology depended on it. “If you come out and you try to do right-wing news, you’re gonna die. You can’t get away with it,” Ailes once told a reporter.