As former President Ronald Reagan's hundredth birthday approaches, Republicans continue to mythologize his political successes. Conservatives like to portray Reagan as the man who brought down the Berlin Wall, cut taxes and saved the economy. But when Reagan negotiated with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev over nuclear arms, many Republicans at the time felt he was wrong for his willingness to negotiate with an evil dictator. Many people forget that Reagan was divisive for the country and won almost no support among African-Americans. Conservatives also fail to acknowledge that Reagan raised taxes throughout his presidency, including one tax hike that at the time was the biggest in American history. Reagan's legacy is one of unprecedented federal budget deficits fueled by tax cuts made at the same time the federal budget grew due to massive increases in military spending. Reagan also willingly worked with Democrats on major policy issues, like Social Security. Praise for his economic policies is inflated, according to Lou Cannon, author of several books on Reagan. Cannon points out that the domestic accomplishment most attributed to Reagan -- ending runaway inflation in the late 1970s -- occurred not as a result of the "supply side" economics that conservatives embrace as part of Reagan's legacy, but because Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker drastically tightened interest rates at the time.
It is a known fact that money taints every aspect of American politics, and most prominently, elections. The Raw Story reports that sometimes you actually don't have to pay to play, or at least that if you pay enough, sometimes the favor is returned.
Being on the Fox News payroll has its advantages. Not only did five potential Republican candidates get regular paychecks from the network last year, but they also got something even more valuable: airtime. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee appeared for almost 48 hours. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin had nearly 14 hours of appearances. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was given close to 12 hours. Former senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum and former UN Ambassador under George W. Bush John Bolton both received about six hours.
The answer is when it is home-grown.
The mainstream media largely ignored a story about an especially sophisticated and deadly backpack bomb found along a Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Washington last week, barely covering it beyond an initial mention. The device drew special attention from some news outlets because it contained shrapnel, was equipped with a remotely-controlled detonator, was "directional" (meaning aimed toward the parade route) and in the FBI's words, was "capable of inflicting multiple casualties." The major media barely mentioned the incident, and the lack of follow-up stories on it is even more deafening now that the FBI has concluded that the connection between this incident and racism is "inescapable."
Recently the use of the political phrase "dog whistle" came to my attention while listening to the Sunday morning political talk shows. According to Wikipedia, "Dog-whistle politics" refers to political speechmaking or campaigning that uses coded language to signify one thing to the general public, while also signifying a different and more specific meaning to a targeted subgroup of the audience. The analogy is a reference to dog whistles, which emit an extremely high-frequency pitch that only dogs can hear, and humans can't. Political "dog-whistling" as a tactic of public persuasion can take a variety of forms.
U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), 40, was shot in the head at close range at a public event in front of a Safeway store in northwest Tucson. Giffords was one of 20 House Democrats Sarah Palin targeted last March on her Facebook page in response to their votes for health care reform. At that time, Palin posted a map of the United States with gunsight-style crosshairs superimposed over the districts of Democratic House members who had voted in favor of the health reform bill. Around that same time, a wave of threats and intimidation was ongoing against members of Congress which led Capitol Police to meet with lawmakers and advise them about taking precautions to protect their personal security. In one of the more alarming incidents, Giffords' office window was smashed on the night of the health care vote. In June, Nevada senatorial candidate Sharron Angle advocated use of "second amendment remedies" if voters fail to get their way at the ballot box.
A poll conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org has found that the higher amounts of money flowing to the 2010 elections led to a more poorly informed public. The poll, titled "Misinformation and the 2010 Election: A Study of the U.S. Electorate," was the first conducted after a national election since the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission, which freed corporations and unions to spend unlimited money to influence U.S. elections. The poll found strong evidence that voters were significantly misinformed on many issues that figured prominently in the 2010 election campaign, including the stimulus legislation, the healthcare reform law, TARP, the state of the economy, climate change, campaign contributions by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and President Obama’s birthplace. In most cases, increased exposure to news sources decreased misinformation, but exposure to certain news sources were found to create higher levels of misinformation. For example, people who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely to hold beliefs that are not true, including that their own income taxes have gone up, that most scientists do not believe climate change is occurring, that most economists estimated the new health care reform law will worsen the deficit, that most Republicans opposed the TARP bailout, and that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and cannot legitimately serve as president.
District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson, who issued the ruling that the new health reform law's individual mandate is unconstitutional, has at least a $15,000 ownership interest in the Republican consulting firm ''Campaign Solutions, Inc." Since 2003, Judge Hudson has pocketed dividends between $32,000 and $108,000 from that interest. Campaign Solutions played a big part in the 2009 elections in helping Republican legislators like John Boehner, John McCain and Michele Bachmann devise public messages to help turn public opinion against health care reform. All three legislators made dismantling health reform a part of their campaign platforms. In another potential conflict of interest, Virginia Attorney General Tom Cuccinelli, who challenged the new health reform law and on whose case Hudson ruled, paid Campaign Solutions $9,000 in the last election, so Judge Hudson decided a case in which one of the litigants was a client of a company he owns.
In the weeks before the 2010 mid-term elections, the Tea Party and its activities dominated the media, but there was a decided lack of discussion about exactly what the Tea Party is. Major media seemed sold on the idea that the Tea Party is one big homogenous, spontaneous grassroots uprising, but this was not the case. Apart from a single, exhaustive article in the August 30, 2010 edition of The New Yorker (aptly titled "Covert Operations,") that linked the wealthy billionaire Koch Brothers' and their corporate interests to the Tea Party, few media outlets discussed which factions of the movement were truly grassroots, which were corporate-backed, and to what extent corporations supported the "movement."
Here at PRWatch, we strove to tease out the difference between various Tea Party factions, like the GOP-backed Tea Party Express, the grassroots Tea Party Patriots and the for-profit corporation called Tea Party Nation. We found out which factions were getting the big money, who their PR operatives were, what types of PR tricks they were engaging in, and more.