April 7, 2017: Spinning Bannon | Trump Slumps in Poll | O’Reilly Troubles
1. The Perfect Storm: Susan Rice Furor Explained
The Red Media have been pounding Susan Rice over reports that the former national security adviser asked the intelligence agencies to “unmask” the names of Trump associates who had been picked up incidentally as part of the wiretapping of foreign operatives. The issue has set the Right on fire --even though Rice did nothing illegal and could just have been doing her job in learning who in the incoming Trump administration might be colluding with a hostile foreign power.
Why? Well, perhaps because Rice is a kind of trifecta -- an embodiment of the traits that tend to win the Alt-Right’s scorn: She’s a woman, a person of color and an Obama staffer. The story has the added benefit of appearing to prove the president’s wild allegation that he was wiretapped by the Obama administration.
A few other things make this catnip for the right. First, back in 2012 on talk shows, Rice said the Benghazi attacks were the result of organic reactions to a U.S.-made YouTube video instead of a pre-planned terrorist attack. Benghazi is, of course, the non-scandal that the Right can’t let go of. The Red Twitterati hit that link hard.
National Review’s Jim Geraghty @jimgeraghty, with 78k followers, wrote:
Laura Ingraham @IngrahamAngle got 15K likes for this snipe:
Susan Rice was rewarded for her Benghazi testimony with her Nat'l Security post. She did what she was directed to do.— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) April 4, 2017
Larry Elder @larryelder, with 161k followers, wrote:
Poor Susan Rice. Obama WH tells her to tell Benghazi lies--she loses Sec State job. Obama WH tells her to unmask, she loses her reputation.— Larry Elder (@larryelder) April 4, 2017
In addition, there was chortling in the Red Media over the fact that the story had been unearthed originally by none other than Mike Cernovich on Sunday. It was ignored by most outlets because Cernovich, best known for peddling the false story that linked top Democratic officials to a child pornography ring run out of a pizzeria basement, has been profiled as the worst kind of false news agitator by The New Yorker and “60 Minutes.” But the Trump administration promoted the info like crazy. On Monday, the story was picked up by Eli Lake of Bloomberg and thus given a new level of legitimacy. Tuesday, the president’s son, Donald Jr., tweeted that Cernovich deserved to win the Pulitzer Prize. Others in the alt-right press like The Daily Caller were downright joyous:
“Mike Cernovich, a journalist who has promoted conspiracy theories and was deemed “fake news” by “60 Minutes,” was the first to break the news that Obama’s former national security advisor Susan Rice made requests to unmask the identities of Trump associates.
Cernovich said in his report Sunday that New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman knew about the Rice requests, and “has chosen to sit on it in an effort to protect the reputation of former President Barack Obama.” A New York Times spokeswoman told The Daily Caller, “Cernovich’s claim regarding Maggie Haberman is 100 percent false.”
Bloomberg’s Eli Lake confirmed Cernovich’s report Monday, but did not include any details about Haberman sitting on the story. Cernovich told TheDC in an interview that Lake also sat on the story over the weekend. Lake tweeted Tuesday, “Reports that I sat on the Susan Rice story are false.”
The Bloomberg story didn’t give Cernovich any credit for his scoop and he said he wasn’t upset as he has more influence than Bloomberg.”
2. Bannon Booted. Spinners Punt.
Yesterday, as the Trump camp vigorously pointed fingers at Ms. Rice, Steve Bannon was removed from the principals committee at the National Security Council. The Mainstream Media saw a major demotion. Neo-Cons liked the news. The alt-right Press not so much.
The White House’s spun furiously -- saying that Bannon had only been on the committee to keep an eye on Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the now-deposed national security adviser. Bannon and his former website, Breitbart, tried to point the finger back at, yes, Susan Rice. Breitbart’s headline was “Steve Bannon Leaves National Security Council After Susan Rice Takedown.” The article led with Bannon’s statement to The Wall Street Journal that linked Susan Rice to his N.S.C. tenure. Said Bannon: “Susan Rice operationalized the NSC during the last administration. I was put on to ensure that it was de-operationalized.”
But the traditionalists were skeptical. Jonah Goldberg, at National Review, agreed with Breitbart’s argument that Susan Rice turned the N.S.C. into something “it wasn’t supposed to be,” but was quick to criticize Breitbart’s Flynn spin:
Well, wait a second. I thought the current story was that Flynn was a great pick who had been unfairly hounded out of the position by illegal leaks and unmasking? Now the spin seems to be that they knew there was something sketchy about Flynn all along and so they tasked Steve Bannon (!) to keep him on the straight and narrow. That’s interesting. I wonder what Flynn, who is seeking immunity for the story he has to tell, thinks about that.
John Podhoretz, a Neo-Con and editor of Commentary, also didn’t buy the Flynn spin for a second, either:
Oh so Bannon was there to keep an eye on Flynn, was he? One word for this: BULLSHIT.— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) April 5, 2017
Meanwhile, Bill Kristol, editor-at-large for The Weekly Standard, focused on the rise of H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser. He told Jake Tapper on CNN:
"This is a story about H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, who now clearly has control of the National Security Council, who is bringing in pretty mainstream Republicans and some bipartisan senior directors into that body…
If the Trump administration ends non-disastrously, I believe historians will look back saying that the day that H.R. McMaster replaced Mike Flynn was a huge moment…
He went from having a national security adviser who is problematic in all kinds of ways to a really experienced and savvy professional who is used to assuming responsibility as a general in the Army and who has really stepped up on this case."
As expected, the alt-right Infowars crew was unhappy to see the resignation. Paul Joseph Watson was quick to blame the Neo-Cons and the “deep state”:
Paul Joseph Watson @PrisonPlanet
Deep state/Neo-Cons/establishment Republicans tighten their grip over the administration. https://t.co/p5i1ALxVSy— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) April 5, 2017
He also retweeted a video by Jack Posobiec, D.C. bureau chief of The Rebel that received 1,040 retweets and 955 likes as of this morning. It argued that Paul Ryan was to blame for pushing for Bannon’s removal.
Breaking: Paul Ryan Pushed for Bannon Removal from NSC https://t.co/ecbbrVoemb— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) April 5, 2017
What We’re Watching:
David Frum, a senior editor of The Atlantic and a NeverTrumper, speculated, as did others, that Bannon’s removal was linked to his support of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.
It is notable that in a press conference yesterday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Trump shifted his stance on Assad. The change came after news emerged of horrific chemical attacks that killed many small children. He said: “My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much…. It crossed a lot of lines for me.”
And Don’t Miss This:
Meanwhile, amid the shakeup, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry (better known for his energy department “oops” moment and who has called climate change a “contrived, phony mess.” ) was elevated to the N.S.C.’s principals committee.
3. Red Media See Hints of War
The Red Media like nothing more than a firm President who is capable of unilateral action. So perhaps it was only natural that Red pundits saw war when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released an enigmatic statement after North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile off the coast of Korea -- “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment."
Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard speculated:
Who knows with this administration...but it does seem as if we might be on the verge of doing something dramatic on North Korea. https://t.co/6pq2bjwe9I— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) April 5, 2017
The Daily Caller suggested the same in an article quoting the retired Gen. John Keane, who turned down Trump’s offer to serve as secretary of defense. According to Keane, “Bombing the North’s nuclear and weapons facilities may be the only option left.”
Infowars also asserted that all signs point to action from the U.S.and then went on step further to broaden the hypothetical war to include retaliation from China:
China has vowed to defend its territory “at all costs” if the United States launches military action against North Korea.
An editorial in the Global Times, which is widely regarded as the voice of the Chinese government, warns the Trump administration that North Korea “trusts nothing but nuclear weapons” and that the regime in Pyongyang is “unlikely to surrender”.
“China has a bottom line. It will safeguard the security and stability of its Northeast area at all costs,” states the editorial.
What We’re Watching:
All eyes are on Trump’s talks with China’s president, Xi Jinping. As Right and Left underscore, the U.S. has been challenged in getting China to pressure North Korea. So far, the Right seems optimistic. A news article on Fox’s website credited “experts” for saying Trump’s “candor and blunt approach” could help him in China. And The Daily Caller wrote, “ While Trump may lack diplomatic experience, his unpredictability has the potential to serve as an advantage in negotiations with the Chinese, who Trump calls ‘the best negotiators in the world.’”
4. Poll Watch: Trump Slumps
Meanwhile, polls give us mixed results on how Trump is faring with the public and his most loyal supporters.
Rasmussen’s tracking poll for Wednesday shows that 46% of likely U.S. voters approve of Trump’s job performance. Fifty-four percent disapprove. The latest figures include 28% who strongly approve of Trump’s performance and 43% who strongly disapprove. This is largely unchanged from last week.
But, according to Quinnipiac University’s latest poll, Trump is beginning to drop with his key constituencies. For example, men now disapprove of him by 51 - 39 percent and white voters disapprove 48 - 43 percent. Even Republican voters, whose approval rates have been rock solid in the 80s, now only approve of him 79 - 14 percent.
5. O'Reilly Reality Show
Life was once so simple inside Bill O’Reilly’s “No Spin Zone.” But the all-powerful Fox News anchor keeps taking hits. Despite a defense from the President himself who called him “a good man” in a New York Times interview, advertisers continue to flee his show -- four dozen had dropped spots by late yesterday, according to CNN’s count. (Good bye, Lexus. See you around, Jenny Craig. Good luck, Credit Karma.)
And the media showed no signs of taking off the pressure on coverage of the fallout from a New York Times report that five women had received a total of $13 million in settlement payouts after making harassment claims against him.
The Red Media had little appetite to take on the issue, save for a few comments here and there about media persecution. For example, the Conservative Tribune, the 50th largest site in the U.S. with over 19 million monthly unique visitors known for deceptive headlines and fake stories, wrote:
“CNN continues to live up to its reputation of being a peddler of fake news that cannot be trusted. Instead of covering the scandal involving former President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice, the network decided to launch an attack on Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, pushing for companies to pull their ads from his show. Apparently, the allegations of sexual harassment against O’Reilly are more important than the reports that Susan Rice leaked, or unmasked, the names of members of President Donald Trump’s team before the 2016 election.”
What We’re Watching:
The Financial Times published a state-of-the-art piece yesterday on how the scandals at Fox News are jeopardizing Rupert Murdoch’s long-coveted goal of gaining control of Sky, the European pay-TV group. It’s worth a read.