Thursday, August 27, 2015

Media Appearances

View my appearances this week on:

Access Hollywood  Discussing the Jorge Ramos -- Donald Trump confrontation.

HuffPost LIVE Discussing the media coverage of the Virginia shootings that took the lives of two journalists.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Trump vs. Ramos

Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos is a most powerful force in the Latino community.  His nightly newscast, which he has co-anchored with Maria Elena Salinas for nearly 30 years, draws more than two million viewers each evening.  In 2013 he told the Los Angeles Times, "The United States gave me opportunities that my country of origin could not: freedom of the press and complete freedom of expression."  

But Ramos' views were tested Tuesday night when Donald Trump had him removed from a news conference in Iowa.  "Go back to Univision," Trump dismissively scolded Ramos for persistently asking questions about the candidate's immigration policy without being called on.  As a member of one of Trump's security escorted Ramos from the room, the journalist said,  “I am a reporter. Don’t touch me. I have a right to ask the question.”

Trump and Ramos have one thing in common, they have both appeared on the cover of Time.  But they are on the opposite sides of an important issue that has dominated this year's Republican primary campaign: immigration.  Ramos, who had been attempting to get an interview with Trump for some time, asked the candidate about his call to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and to build a wall along the Mexican border.  "Excuse me sir, you weren't called on," Trump responded.  "Sit down.  Sit down."

After Ramos had been escorted out of the room, Trump was asked why he wouldn't take a question from Ramos.  He then said he would take a question from Ramos, and soon the journalist returned to the room.  Trump called on Ramos, who asked questions about immigration.  A testy back-and-forth exchange took place between the two men.  

When Ramos pointed out that 71 per cent of Hispanics had an unfavorable view of the candidate according to a Univision poll, Trump pounced.   "How much am I suing Univision for?" he asked Ramos.  He then said, "$500 million, and you're in the suit."   He has sued Univision for cancelling its airings of the Trump owned Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants in response to his offensive remarks about Mexicans in his presidential announcement in June.   

Late Tuesday evening the National Association of Hispanic Journalists condemned Trump's treatment of Ramos at the Trump news conference.   In a statement, Mekahlo Medina, NAHJ President, said, “Ramos was simply trying to hold a candidate for president accountable for statements he made about a very important topic to the American people. Mr. Trump has avoided Mr. Ramos’ attempts for an interview to reasonably discuss Mr. Trump’s opinions and ideas about immigration and American children born to undocumented immigrants.”

Trump's actions Tuesday night were reprehensible and undemocratic.  60 per cent of the nearly 60 million Latinos in the United States were born in this country.  Hispanics make up this country's second largest voting block.  Those who only or mostly speak Spanish rely on Spanish language outlets, like Univision and Telemundo, to get their information.   Jorge Ramos is a highly respected and Emmy award winning journalist who has asked tough questions of President Barack Obama and countless other leading political figures.  He was not screaming, as Trump claimed, he was simply being persistent.

One of Donald Trump's strategies this campaign is to attack the press that he feels are not being "fair" to him.  He banned the Des Moines Register from Tuesday's press conference because it had published an editorial two months ago critical of Trump's comments about Senator John McCain of Arizona.  And he has again attacked Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly for being unfair to him at the Republican debate, including calling her a "Bimbo" on Twitter.  

While some ardent Trump supporters will no doubt support Trump's tactics against the press, over the long term most Americans will reject them because they are not good for the country.   Our democratic system will be put at great risk if candidates can ban or kick reporters out of public functions.  In 1823, Thomas Jefferson told Lafayette, "The only security of all is in a free press."  

Jorge Ramos, who became and American citizen in 2008, takes his role as a journalist seriously.  He left his job as a reporter in Mexico because he didn't want to be told what to say.  He has succeeded beyond his dreams in reporting on the issues and concerns of his audience.   He explained his interest in immigration in that Los Angeles Times interview"I am emotionally linked to this issue," Ramos said. "Because once you are an immigrant, you never forget that you are one."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The GOP's Dissonant Campaign

As billionaire Donald Trump unleashes his barrage of sharp attacks on Fox News and its anchor Megyn Kelly, other Republican candidates have improved their chances to gain their party's presidential nomination over the past few days.   Yet, as each of the seventeen announced candidates jockeys for position, Trump still continues to be the center of attention. 

Thursday's prime time debate on Fox News drew a record 24 million viewers, and they saw quite a show.   Fox News anchors Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace asked tough questions and skillfully managed the time among the ten candidates on stage.  While all of their questions were fair, many important subjects were not raised, like climate change, gun violence and voting rights. 

Trump attempted to lower expectations for his performance in advance of the debate.  Many pundits predicted he would not attack his opponents as he has done regularly in his campaign.   Yet, Trump found himself on the defensive from the opening question.

Bret Baier began the debate by asking if all of the candidates would promise not to run as an independent candidate and support the party's nominee.  Trump would not, saying, “I will not make that pledge at this time… I have to respect the person.”  Kentucky Senator Rand Paul chimed in, “This is what’s wrong.  He buys and sells politicians of all stripes…He’s already hedging his bet on the Clintons … He’s already hedging his bets because he’s used to buying politicians.”  Trump smugly responded to Paul, “Well, I’ve given him plenty of money.”

Later, moderator Megyn Kelly grilled Trump on his comments about women.  

“You’ve called women you don’t like 'fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals,'” she said.

“Only Rosie O’Donnell,” Trump interrupted.

“For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell,” Kelly retorted.

“Yes, I’m sure it was,” Trump said dismissively.  

Kelly continued, “Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?”
Trump answered, “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.” 

Following the debate Trump went to the airwaves and Twitter to attack Kelly's questions as "ridiculous" and "off base."  He told CNN, "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes...Blood coming out of her wherever." But the comment drew the ire of conservatives, even though Trump later said he meant blood coming out of her nose or ears and nothing more.  Trump added, "Only a deviant would think anything else."  But the conservative group withdrew its invitation for Trump to appear at its weekend gathering.  

Trump's attacks on Megyn Kelly only diminish him and makes him look overly defensive.  Meanwhile, he found himself aggressively reassuring his supporters in a round of interviews on the Sunday public affairs shows.  On CBS's Face the Nation, he said, "I will be phenomenal to women."  On ABC's This Week he said, "I have many executives that are women."  And on NBC's Meet the Press he said it would be difficult for women to criticize him, "It's very hard for them to attack me on looks because I'm so good looking."

As Trump struggles to contain the damage from his remarks, several other candidates have made headway in their campaign among conservative Republicans.  Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was the big winner Thursday even though she appeared in the afternoon debate.  She showed she is ready for prime time and might make a strong vice presidential candidate.  

Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich both did well in Thursday night's debate, and their performances could build real momentum for their campaigns.  Meanwhile, one-time front-runner Jeb Bush did not hurt himself among likely Republican voters with his debate performance, which may be viewed as a victory by those who are supporting him.

The Republican Party conducted an "autopsy" following Governor Mitt Romney's loss to President Barack Obama in 2012.  Its report said, “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”

Thursday night's dissonant debate once again shows that the Republican party has not changed.  

Monday, August 3, 2015

The GOP Scrum

Thursday's Republican debates among the large field of announced presidential contenders promises to be the summer's premier political event.  And much of the focus is already on Donald Trump, the party's unlikely front-runner, who has surged ahead of his competitors in the polls and will be at the center of the debate stage.  

While Trump is lowering expectations for his performance, "I've never debated," his competitors are busy practicing on how to handle the brash and unpredictable billionaire.  But Trump is a skilled performer who once had a hit network television show.  His campaign has entertained and excited millions of frustrated Republicans who feel let down by their party's establishment.  

Trump will join the nine other contenders in the main event Thursday night, which will be hosted by Fox News.  Each will be prepared to score points with pithy soundbites while attempting to convey a presidential demeanor.  Most of the verbal attacks are likely to be directed at President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democrat front-runner. 

However, the debate moderators, Fox News' Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace, are certain to try to get the candidates to engage with each other.  There is plenty of material to draw on, especially from Trump, who has slammed most of his competitors.  For instance, speaking in an interview with Fox News about former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, he said, "I'm not a big fan of Jeb Bush. The last thing we need is another Bush."  Or about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, in a speech over the weekend, he said, "Wisconsin is doing terribly."  

By now most of his opponents have learned that direct attacks on Trump are not likely to play well with voters.  Yet, while Trump currently enjoys a wide lead in most polls, he has taken positions in the past that his fellow debaters can exploit.   Former Texas Governor Rick Perry noted, in an interview with Fox News over the weekend, "He's for single payer...How can anyone who's a conservative stand up and say I am for single-payer health care?"  Trump's bombast on illegal immigration launched his campaign, but many Republicans feel he is "mushy" when it comes to what he will specifically do on the issue.   

Nonetheless, handling Trump in Thursday's debate will be challenging, especially for Jeb Bush, who may have the most to lose if he performs poorly.  Although it is very early in the campaign, first impressions can be important.  And, other than his ability to raise an enormous amount of money for his campaign, Bush has stumbled.  Governor Scott Walker will need to make a strong impression too.  While he has pleased conservatives with how tough he has been on the state's unions, he has been weak on foreign policy.  The person with the most to gain is Governor John Kasich of Ohio who, if he makes the cut, is the most experienced candidate at both the state and federal level.  

Some candidates are still dismissing Trump's early success in the polls.  For instance, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did so in an interview with CNN over the weekend.  "Anybody can do well for a month in this business, especially if you have talent and personality, and Donald has both those things.  Let's see how this goes over the course of time," he said.  Christie should know because his disapproval ratings in New Jersey are at an all time high.  Christie is polling in the middle of the Republican field, and, in seeking to move up, he is sure display his blunt personality at the debate.

On NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, Trump said, “I think I’m a nice person. I really do. And I think that’s why my numbers always go up as they get to know me better."  But he also observed, "I guess my whole life has been a debate in one way."   So Trump has his debate opponents worried and fretting over how to handle him, which is just the way he likes things to be.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Rubio Rebuke

Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican presidential candidate from Florida, may be frustrated that his campaign is lacking traction, but there is no excuse for him to say that the president has "no class."  His comment is a feeble attempt to get attention because he is lagging behind the frontrunners, especially Donald Trump, in the polls.

Rubio made the comment on Fox News this week in the context of an answer about Donald Trump's campaign.  "It’s important we have– to conduct the presidency, it has to be done in a dignified way, with a level of class,” he said. “I don’t think the way he’s behaved over the last few weeks is either dignified or worthy of office he seeks.”  

But then Rubio continued with an attack on President Barack Obama.  “We already have a president now that has no class,” Rubio sputtered.  “I mean, we have a president now that does selfie-stick videos, that invites YouTube stars there, people who eat cereal out of a bathtub… he goes on comedy shows to talk about something as serious as Iran. The list goes on and on.”

Rubio sounded more like a high school freshman with an inferiority complex, or, at least, a candidate who is deeply discouraged with his poor performance among Republican presidential candidates in recent polls.  The fact that he would say such an outrageous thing about President Obama shows that he is only interested in scoring political points.

When it comes to scoring political points among Republicans, nothing is an easier target than the nuclear deal with Iran that Congress is in the process of reviewing.  At a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, Rubio took an aggressive tone with the lead U.S. negotiator, Secretary of State John Kerry.  Rubio said that a new president would be in his or her rights to rip up the whole agreement.  

“It’s important for the world and especially Iran to understand that this is a deal whose survival is not guaranteed beyond the term of the current president,” Rubio said--clearly threatening what he may do should he become president.  "Even if this deal narrowly avoids congressional defeat, the Iranian regime and world should know this deal is your deal with Iran, meaning yours — this administration — and the next president is under no legal or moral obligation to live up to it,” Rubio continued. “The deal can go away the day president Obama leaves office.”

The Iran nuclear deal, agreed to on July 14 by the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, plus Germany (P5 Plus 1), calls for Iran to roll back its existing nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions.  The UN Security Council approved the agreement last week, which puts in place a rigorous verification process.  If Iran violates the agreement, an automatic "snap back" provision kicks in that would reinstate sanctions on Iran.

While Americans are skeptical about Iran, a majority of those asked in a recent Washington Post/ABC poll support the agreement.   But in calling for Congress to vote against the agreement Rubio says that a majority of Americans are against it.  Oops.  Congress may vote the agreement down, but the President has said he will veto such a congressional action.  In the end, it is likely the president will eke out enough votes to uphold the agreement.

Rubio's position that "The deal can go away the day President Obama leaves office" is silly, presuming Iran lives up to its side of the bargain.  Why would a President Rubio cancel an agreement that is working and risk alienating the U.S. from its allies?  It would be far better for him to take the position that, if elected president, he would do a better job of enforcing the agreement than his Democratic opponent.  Of course, saying he'd rip it up makes a better soundbite that appeals to the conservative base of the party.

Rubio has stumbled before.  In March of this year he told Fox News that it was not a mistake to invade Iraq in 2003, noting, "the world is a better place because Saddam Hussein doesn't run Iraq."  But when asked in a May interview at the Council on Foreign Relations if he would have favored the Iraqi invasion if he knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, Rubio replied, "not only would I have not been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it."  Two different audiences, two different answers.  And Rubio has also changed his position on immigration under pressure from conservatives. 

Perhaps realizing that his ridiculous slander that President Obama has "no class" was a bit too much, Rubio backtracked a bit in an interview Thursday with Fox News' Bret Baier.  After Rubio noted that the president is a great father and husband but was divisive, Baier asked, "So you stand by that statement that the president has no class?"

Rubio responded, "I think, on the major issues of our time, he has not conducted himself of the dignity of worthy of that was office. Demonization of political opponents and divisions in America which have made it harder for us to solve our problems, and have poisoned the political environment as a result."  Does Rubio think most Americans are fools?  

Republican leaders met on the day of President Obama's first inauguration and plotted how they were going to make him a one-term president.  Republican Congressman Joe Wilson, of South Carolina, yelled "you lie" to the president in a speech before a joint session of Congress nine months after he took office.  For years Republicans questioned whether the president was born in the United States.  Republicans attacked the president's health care law with distortions and lies, like saying it called for death panels.  In 2009, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich denounced what he called Obama's "Kenyan anti-colonial behavior."  Tea Party inspired Republican members of Congress shut the federal government down in 2013 because they wanted deeper budget cuts and the repeal of Obamacare.  Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer waved her finger at President Obama on an airport tarmac in early 2012.

Throughout his tenure President Obama has been subject to disrespectful, and sometimes racist, attacks from the right.  A recent example is Rubio's swipe against the president that he has "no class."  But all this attack does is reveal that Rubio is a sanctimonious hypocrite who will say anything to get ahead.  

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Donald Speaks!

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump has sucked the oxygen out of the Republican Party by dominating media coverage since he announced his presidential candidacy last month.   As a result of his brash and often outrageous statements he has soared in the polls to the top of a crowded field of candidates.  Meanwhile, Trump's theatrics have exposed the weaknesses in the Republican Party.

Trump strongly appeals to a core group of Republican voters who are anti-immigrant and anti-Washington.   His comments last month about Mexicans resonated with this group.  “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”   

Never mind that this statement is not true, it is what some Republicans strongly believe.  In fact, the Republican Party has long struggled with the immigration issue.  Following their loss in the 2012 Presidential Election, the party released an autopsy report with its analysis of what went wrong.  It noted that candidate Mitt Romney received only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote and recommended increasing the party's appeal to Latinos.  GOP party chairman Reince Priebus said at the time, "The question is: instead of getting 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, can I get 35?"  

Yet, knowing the increasing numbers of Hispanics in the American electorate, most of the announced Republican candidates failed to aggressively challenge Trump's ridiculous comments about Mexicans.  Now the party is on the defensive about immigration reform.  The 2013 Republican autopsy report concluded that the party "must embrace and champion immigration reform."  It warned,  “If we do not, our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”

When it comes to other important issues facing America Trump speaks as a man who is never in doubt, although he is frequently wrong.  For instance, he has claimed he has a plan to defeat the terrorist group ISIS, which now controls oil fields in Iraq.  "I would bomb the hell out of those oil fields," he told CNN earlier this month, "I wouldn't send many troops because you wouldn't need them by the time I got finished."  Many military experts agree destroying the oil fields would do little to slow ISIS, but it would damage Iraq's future source of revenue.  But this kind of muscular, shoot from the hip approach to foreign policy appeals to a segment of the Republican base.

Trump claims he will put unemployed Americans back to work, explaining,
"They can’t get jobs, because there are no jobs, because China has our jobs and Mexico has our jobs."  He claims that he will be a tough negotiator with China, and he blames the fact that Trump branded shirts and ties are manufactured in China on the Chinese!  “Quite frankly, I was never satisfied with manufacturing my product in China, but because of what they’ve done in terms of devaluing their currency, it is very hard for other companies to compete and make such apparel in the United States."  If he was never satisfied with making apparel in China, why did he do it?  

Trump has joined the chorus of Republicans who attack Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton.  In an interview this week with NBC News, he said, “Hillary Clinton was the worst secretary of state in the history of the United States.”  He continued, “There’s never been a secretary of state so bad as Hillary. The world blew up around us, we lost everything, including all relationships. There wasn’t one good thing that came out of that administration or her being secretary of state.”  He concluded, "I think she would be a terrible president." 

While most Republicans agree with Trump, they may be surprised to hear that he praised her in a 2012 interview with Fox News.  "Hillary Clinton I think is a terrific woman...I think she really works hard and I think she does a good job."  In fact, Hillary and Bill Clinton had a front row seat at Trump's 2005 wedding to supermodel Melania Knauss.  

Trump is attracting support among many Republicans because he has a well-known name and he is saying things many party members feel.  He will no doubt be formidable in the upcoming debates.  But his ad hominem attacks, his insults, his bombast and attacking tirades are only hurting a Republican Party that is deeply divided and struggling to find its way to the White House. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Christie for President

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is the latest Republican to announce he is running for president.  He joins an already overcrowded field of candidates seeking their party's nomination.  But Christie stands out because an overwhelming majority of his own state's registered voters disapproves of his performance in office. 

His announcement speech, which will take place Tuesday at his former high school, will be given without the aid of a teleprompter.  It will reflect his campaign theme, "Telling it like it is," and be targeted to Republican voters in New Hampshire, where he will go next to begin campaigning.  He will highlight his middle-class upbringing, his family values, and his willingness to make tough decisions on entitlements and government spending.

But many Republicans have not forgotten Christie's post Hurricane Sandy walking tour in 2012 with then candidate President Barack Obama, which came in his closely contested state at the expense of GOP candidate Mitt Romney.  Teachers in the state have not forgotten his harsh attacks on educators and college administrators in his effort to reform the education system.  Public sector unions have not forgotten that the governor has run roughshod over their pensions.  And commuters have not forgotten that it was Christie's appointees who shut down lanes of the George Washington Bridge, aka Bridgegate, as political retribution against those who did not support the governor's reelection.

In his announcement Christie is expected to point to his governance of a blue state as an example of how he can work with both sides of the political aisle.  But state Democrats would argue differently.  Christie will say he can make the tough decisions, but many of his opponents will criticize his tough tactics.

Christie's brash and in-your-face style will win him supporters among Republican voters seeking a candidate who seemingly has strong leadership skills.  He will stand out among the field of announced Republican candidates, and will likely do well in the upcoming party debates.  

But this self-described pragmatic conservative Republican is thought by many in the party to be too moderate to win the nomination.  While he has raised a lot of money as the Chairman of the Republican Governor's Association, more than $100 million, some of his political positions are not in sync with the Republican base, including immigration and gun control.  

Governor Christie was reelected to a second term in 2013 with 60.3 percent of the vote, which was driven largely by his leadership in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.  Because he is term limited he will not be able to run for governor again in 2017.  But even if he were eligible then it is unlikely that New Jersey voters, who have soured on his act, would reelect him.  So for him a run for the presidency is his next best option to be elected to public office.  

The fact is Christie has nothing to lose and everything to gain by pursuing the White House.   He has said, "I think what the American people want more than anything else right now is someone who's just going to look them in the eye and tell them the truth, even some truths that they don't like."  But the reality is do enough Republicans trust Christie enough to nominate him as their standard bearer in 2016?