March 23, 2017: Drip, Drip Defend | Repeal, Replace, Retreat | Pundit Death Watch

James Comey Red for the Blue

1. How to Combat Drip, Drip…? We List the Strategies.

For the Trump loyalists in the Red Media, this has been a difficult week on the Russian front. On Monday, the F.B.I. director, James Comey, confirmed at a House Intelligence Committee hearing that the bureau is investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. He also confirmed that there was no evidence that Barack Obama ordered a wiretap on Donald Trump. Then, yesterday, The Associated Press dropped a Paul Manafort bombshell: Trump’s former campaign manager had taken $10 million a year starting in 2005 from a Russian oligarch looking to “advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” More bad news landed last night. CNN reported, “The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign.”

Here at Red for the Blue we watched the Red Media spin strategies to defend the near indefensible. Here were their key tactics:

a.) Plame Them (i.e. Turn the Democrats attacks back on them.)

The South Carolina Republican congressman Trey Gowdy was shredded by the Mainstream Media for focusing his questions to Comey at the hearing on the leaks around the Russian allegations (all but saying the press should be prosecuted for publishing those leaks) instead of focusing on the obviously greater crime of Russian interference in U.S. elections. Republicans like Gowdy, they pointed out, thrilled to intelligence leaks about Benghazi back when they damaged Hillary.

Laura Ingraham’s site, Lifezette, tried to reverse this accusation of hypocrisy by pointing to the furor in 2003 over the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative, Valerie Plame, by the conservative columnist Robert Novak. As we’ve noted in past newsletters, the conservative voices have consistently pointed to the Plame incident when framing the leak narrative. Plame’s husband criticized President Bush for his justification for the Iraq invasion, namely that Saddam Hussein had obtained material for nuclear weapons. Or as Lifezette huffed: “In the previous decade, Democrats demanded prosecution of leakers of classified information, and with gusto. In fact, the last time the Republicans held the White House, the Democrats and media built a witch hunt around a journalist’s news column. The goal was to embarrass the administration of President George W. Bush. 

b.) Point out that even if there are Russia-Trump connections, it doesn’t mean Russia actually had any influence on the election.

Rush Limbaugh attacked the hearings, particularly trying to discredit the implication that the Russians affected the outcome of the 2016 election:

Earlier on today, the Democrats — led by their chairman, Adam Schiff — asked… Well, no, the Democrats did not ask this. In fact,< this was Devin Nunes: “Any evidence that the Russians tampered with the votes?” Comey: “No.” “Rogers, NSA?” “No.” “Any evidence the Russians tried to tamper with the outcome of the votes? Ballots?” “No. No.” “Any attempt made by the Russians?” “No, we’re not aware of any attempt.” That should have ended the hearings! But it didn’t. Both Comey and the director of the NSA have said there was no effort.

There is no evidence of any kind that the Russians had anything to do with the counting of votes or the casting of votes in the 2016 election. And if that’s the case, there’s no “there” there. But that’s not what this is about. This is not about the evidence. This is not about (certainly) any exculpatory evidence. This is about furthering the narrative that Trump’s election is illegitimate, and this is designed to move forward whatever efforts there are that we don’t know about yet to impeach Trump and to get rid of him.

c.) Focus as heavily as possible on the news that supports the President.

Nearly all of the alt-right new sites led yesterday afternoon with the announcement by the intelligence committee chairman, Devin Nunes, that he had recently confirmed that “on numerous occasions the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.” Even though the collection was incidental, not deliberate, the Trump media (like Trump himself) saw at least some vindication of his claims that he had been bugged.

Infowars, always a center of Red Media paranoia, had this blaring headline:


The Red Twittersphere went wild with “we told you so.”

@RedNationRising with 100k followers wrote:

Trump: Obama wiretapped me. Obama: Nuh-Uh. Nunes: Uh-huh!

@ThePatriot143 with 112 k followers wrote:

Trump makes a charge. MSM and the GOPe have a meltdown claiming it's not true. Trump is proven to be right. Rinse and Repeat!Nunes

What We’re Watching:
While conservatives have generally toed a very loyal line to the president, we have been monitoring discussion among the Trump faithful about his Russia connections and we are seeing a growing concern that there may be justification for the investigation after all. As one contributor to this conservative Reddit thread said, “Honestly, this looks like Nunez trying to get out ahead of something bigger coming down the pipeline.”

2. Pundit Death Watch: What Does Murdoch Think?

First, The Blaze’s Tomi Lahren got the heave-ho after she went on The View and made a libertarian hands-off-my-body argument for freedom of choice. Then, Judge Andrew Napolitano was pulled from Fox after making false allegations that British intelligence had wiretapped President Trump. Then Independent Journal Review suspended two staffers who published a widely ridiculed report linking a recent trip by Barack Obama to Hawaii to a decision by a Federal judge there to block Trump’s revamped immigration order. In an optimistic moment, you could almost see the Napolitano and IJR moves, at least, as a trend -- a desire on the Right for more respectability.

But the pulling of Judge Napolitano is the one that has us scratching our heads. After all, the judge worked for the empire of Rupert Murdoch, who has been pretty pal-sy with Trump since the election. He brags of speaking with Trump frequently by phone and even staying at The White House. But yanking Napolitano could be a signal that the big boss has lost patience with Trump’s crazier accusations. That analysis, perhaps overly rosy, is buttressed by a stinging editorial this week in The Wall Street Journal, another Murdoch property:

“If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.

The latest example is Mr. Trump’s refusal to back off his Saturday morning tweet of three weeks ago that he had “found out that [Barack] Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory” on Election Day. He has offered no evidence for his claim, and a parade of intelligence officials, senior Republicans and Democrats have since said they have seen no such evidence.

Yet the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims.”

What We’re Noticing:
National Review’s POV is less harsh than the WSJ’s but concedes that Trump’s high-flying accusations have opened the door for everyone else to play the same game, which has resulted in the current mess. 

Russian meddling led to then-candidate Trump’s celebration of it during the campaign — “I love WikiLeaks!” — which led to illegal partisan leaks, which led to Trump accusing his predecessor of “wiretapping” Trump Tower and then suggesting that the British did the spying for us. The ensuing chaos required Comey, at the hearing on Monday, to break protocol and divulge that an investigation is taking place. It’s like the “Chicago way” applied to democratic norms. Once one side starts violating them, everyone feels justified in doing likewise...

My hunch is that some of Trump’s henchmen were involved in skullduggery with WikiLeaks and other proxies for Russian intelligence (which may explain why some were fired). But even if no one did anything wrong, the United States clearly needs to take Russia to task — which won’t happen if the party in control of Congress focuses exclusively on leaks.

3. Repeal, Replace, Retreat

The big vote on Obamacare is scheduled for today and it’s going to be a close one. Trump has been lobbying for it, but, as we’ve reported here before, the alt-right media is not lining up.

Support is so shaky that Fox’s political editor, Chris Stirewaltin his Halftime Report  email yesterday, suggested that the bill’s failure in the House could be the best thing to happen to Trump.

If Trump can stick the blame on conservative Republicans for not repealing ObamaCare, he will be off the hook for his campaign promises in this area indefinitely. Ryan’s next demands can be met with raspberries at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, as well. Yes, markets will skid and worries will grow, but better to do it now on an issue Trump cares less about than later when the core of his policies – tax cuts and a trillion-dollar infrastructure stimulus package – are on the line.

If Republicans really don’t care about deficits and are ready to accept the federal government’s obligation to try to provide universal coverage, maybe Trump should just keep the more generous plan propped up for at least another year or so, and, absolved of blame in this matter, simply move on.

What’s the point of being post-ideological if you can’t take advantage of the political upsides?”

Polls We’re Watching:
So far, Trump has been a super Teflon president. Despite all the furors of his brief presidency, his popularity with the Republican base has remained in the high 80s and even 90s. But a Quinnipiac Poll out yesterday found that Russia and health care may be beginning to catch up with him. His support has started to erode for the first time among his stalwarts. Republican approval has slipped from 91 percent two weeks ago to 81 percent and white voter disapproval hit 50 percent, compared with 45 percent in the previous poll.  

That's all for today. Stay tuned for Monday when we and debut our very first "Influencer Inquisition," and interview a major conservative influencer.