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.