Birthers, Billionaires and Fox: The GOP Freak Show in Full Effect
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This is going to be an election season unlike any other. And not in a good way.
With a new breed of conservative media outlets making their presence felt during the 2012 campaign season, the emerging general election is being waged by the right with an unmistakable stamp of irresponsibility and a complete lack of adult supervision. Each passing day draws new revelations and guffaws.
Raise your hand if you thought 14 months after the White House released the president's long-firm birth certificate that birther booster Donald Trump would be dominating multiple campaign news cycles. But thanks in part to Fox News and the right-wing blogosphere, led by Breitbart.com, which finds the debunked birther topic fantastically alluring, the birthplace charade powers on indefinitely, complete with Mitt Romney's tacit endorsement.
And who ever thought they'd read a dispatch like the one posted at Politico that announced a small stable of right-wing billionaires are willing to try to buy the November elections by flooding the campaign season with a tsunami of unlimited cash (ten figures), aimed at swamping the media landscape and driving down the approval ratings of Democrats with a nonstop barrage of attacks ads.
Of course, this week Fox News gave the billionaires' secretive super PACs a run for their money by producing its own campaign attack ad. Like Glenn Beck's infamous wake-up appearance three summers ago when he announced to Fox's breakfast audience that Obama was a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people," Fox & Friends debuting its blistering, four-minute evisceration of Obama, complete with jarring graphics and ominous music, will likely live in cable news infamy.
The brash and unethical move, which had been in the works for weeks and was cheered in real time by Fox hosts, represented yet another door the Fox Team has marched through in its unapologetic transformation into a purely political operation. Tired of playing the middle man and increasingly eager to be the origin of partisan attacks and campaign initiatives (not merely reporting on them), the ad was Fox News' not very subtle nudge to the Republican National Committee: This is how you go after a sitting president!
And yes, that's the type of professional hijinks the White House warned about in 2009 when it pointed out that Fox News was not a legitimate news organization and should not be treated as one. At the time, lots of Beltway media insiders protested and actually rushed to Fox's defense, insisting the White House had no business critiquing the press or calling out Fox News by name.
Fast forward and Fox News is now in the business of producing and airing campaign attack ads. At least most Beltway insiders have smartly silenced their defense of Fox.
But it's not just Fox. What we're seeing unfold this year, and what came into such sharp focus this week with the Zombie-like return of Trump's birther sideshow, is just how radical today's conservative movement has become, and how that radical streak is being championed by the right-wing press, which enjoys unprecedented influence at the highest levels of the Republican Party.
Witness the type of fringe, hate-based bloggers Romney personally met with for two hours last month. Witness the fact Romney refused to even mildly rebuke Rush Limbaugh when he spent three days on his nationally syndicated radio show unleashing a non-stop barrage of sexist attacks against Sandra Fluke. And note how Romney refused to denounce his prominent supporter, and Fox News favorite, Ted Nugent after he unleashed a violent rhetorical attack on the president that earned him a private visit from the Secret Service.