Matthew Sheffield

Kevin McCarthy Wants to Replace Paul Ryan: Will the Far Right Stop Him Once Again?

Paul Ryan was uninterested in becoming speaker of the House of Representatives when his fellow Republicans drafted him for the position in 2015. He was wise to be wary, considering how John Boehner, the man who preceded him in the role, was hounded from office by the far-right zealots of the House Freedom Caucus.

Less than three years later, in the wake of Ryan's announcement that he won't run for re-election to Congress, the GOP has no shortage of speaker-wannabes. That's so even though the job has only gotten harder of late, thanks to the perpetual turmoil that exudes daily from the White House. An ongoing and unresolved tension between conservative anti-government ideology and the responsibilities of the federal law-making apparatus will make the task even more difficult.

Whoever ends up replacing Ryan will have to prevail in what shapes up to be several months of a grueling but unofficial campaign, which really began even before Ryan announced on April 11 that he would retire from congressional politics, but would remain as speaker until his term ends early next year.

While there are only 36 or so Freedom Caucus members out of 246 House Republicans, the small group has an inordinate amount of leverage over who becomes speaker. This stems from simple arithmetic: The speaker must be elected by the entire Congress. So whichever party holds a majority must iron out its differences ahead of time and vote as a bloc, since the minority party can be counted on to oppose that person.

As in 2015, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California is once again seeking the speakership, after previously being denied it at the hands of Freedom Caucus members. They saw McCarthy as too moderate because he joined Boehner in opposing far-right Republicans’ efforts to shut down the government in 2013, in their vain attempt to stop much of the Affordable Care Act from being implemented.

Just as Boehner did before him, Ryan is trying to rally his troops behind McCarthy, now the second-highest ranking Republican. He’s formally endorsed the Californian and has succeeded in pressuring the party’s third-in-command, majority whip Steve Scalise, of Louisiana to let McCarthy try to muster up the votes for himself.

“Whip Scalise’s focus remains on moving our conservative agenda forward and maintaining our Republican majority,” Scalise spokesman Chris Bond said in a statement. “When a Speaker’s race is called, he’ll be supporting Leader McCarthy.”

Despite that pledge, it's worth noting that there is no official race, since Ryan has made clear that he won't relinquish the speaker’s chair until next January, So Scalise could campaign unofficially as much as he wants. To this point the GOP whip has only pledged not to oppose McCarthy -- unless the latter is unable to get the necessary number of votes.

A protracted intra-GOP succession battle is something that most Republican members want to avoid. Some of McCarthy’s allies have been particularly vocal about trying to make the conflict as short as possible.

“I think there’s a lot of goodwill for Paul Ryan, but I don’t know if there’s so much goodwill that they’ll let him stay as speaker,” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, a veteran member who is also retiring at the end of this term, in an interview  last week. “I think nobody would have a problem if he resigned the speakership and stayed in Congress to fulfill a commitment to his constituents in Wisconsin.”

Other Republicans are upset that the GOP is preparing to battle over the speakership, considering the strong possibility that Democrats will win control of the House in the midterm elections this fall. If that happens, Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will once again become speaker, a prospect most Republicans dread.

“If we’re not going to have control of the House of Representatives, then why even bother with this internal fight that could result in schisms and hurt feelings and making it more difficult for us to prevail in November?” Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, a member of the Freedom Caucus, told Roll Call.

A shorter race would seem to work to McCarthy’s benefit since several Freedom Caucus members are pledging to withhold their support unless he offers them concessions to them. Others are promoting the so-far-hypothetical candidacy of one of their own, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.

Even before Ryan’s announcement, McCarthy had become far more solicitous toward far-right Republicans by helping them raise money for their re-election campaigns. He has also gestured toward supporting the Freedom Caucus members' plans to slash federal spending, although they invariably get rejected by the Senate or never even reach a floor vote.

One possible wild card in the Ryan succession battle is the ever-unpredictable Donald Trump. McCarthy was one of Trump’s earliest congressional supporters in 2016, when most GOP elites were fearful of endorsing a rookie candidate who had already enveloped himself in controversy. Since Trump's inauguration, McCarthy has assiduously flattered the president both in public and in private. That has evidently paid off: Trump has even given McCarthy a nickname, “My Kevin,” reminiscent of the time he referred to a black supporter in a speech as “My African-American.”

Thus far, Trump has made no endorsement in the speakership contest. While he frequently ignores his advisers’ counsel, several high-level administration officials are reportedly urging him to be cautious about any such intervention. Vice President Mike Pence has the added motivation that he has been close to Scalise for years; both come from the GOP’s Christian-right wing.

As with so much of the Trump presidency, expect the struggle to replace Ryan to play out on Fox News, which Trump is said to watch for multiple hours every day. Last Wednesday, the day of Ryan’s announcement, Scalise managed to score a quick hit on “Fox & Friends,” the network’s reliably Republican morning show. McCarthy was on the next day. Both were full of praise for the president and avoided talking any policy specifics.

To this point, the battle to succeed Paul Ryan has remained on the sunny side, at least in public. As it goes on, especially if defeat in November looks likely, expect the GOP's darker internal divisions to come to the fore.

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Comey’s PR Tour Has Almost No News Value - But It’s Driving Trump Nuts

After failing to mount any real defense against Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury,” Donald Trump and his allies are trying to push back hard against the release of James Comey’s memoir “A Higher Loyalty.” They really ought not to bother, since the fired FBI director’s book offers very little that has not been heard before.

It’s notable in some sense that one of America’s former top law enforcement officials is willing to compare the sitting president to a mafia boss, something Comey also did during his interview broadcast Sunday night by ABC. Still, MSNBC and other channels frequently feature the commentary of Comey’s former intelligence colleague James Clapper denouncing Trump as a “Russian asset” and various other insults. Given how many left-leaning television comedians willing to make such jibes on a nightly basis, after a certain point the imprecations start to blend together. They certainly have no effect on the president’s fans.

In this regard, Comey is far from an original wit. He described Trump as "orange," and remarking on the size of the president's hands, the length of his ties and his the obvious willingness to lie about anything. Only the latter accusation actually matters, of course, but it is so evident that hearing yet another person say it is meaningless. Trump is a lout with no respect for the rule of law, which is why the man he unjustly fired should be above such pettiness.

Having scooped himself in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last June, Comey seems to have padded his word count with endless anecdotes from his childhood and frequent odes to his own personal uprightness disguised as lectures on “leadership.” As the Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada observed, the former FBI director only seems willing to own up to the most trivial of transgressions, such as lying a few times about having played college basketball. At the same time, Comey makes sure to tell readers of an incident in which he informed a colleague that he was re-gifting a tie (“we considered ourselves people of integrity”) and that he never cut in line at the FBI lunch counter while serving as the director.

On matters of much more consequence, Comey seems to have no regrets. In his book and during his ABC interview, the fired FBI head defends his decision not to publicly disclose the existence of the bureau’s investigation into possible connections between the Trump 2016 campaign and Russia. He also spends considerable time and effort trying to justify his handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.

Despite the conventional wisdom that Comey may have affected the election results -- an opinion expressed by Clinton herself -- a rigorous analysis of polling data shows that the FBI director's unusual statements about the investigation (first its conclusion, then its resumption, and finally its conclusion again) did not necessarily impact the 2016 election. Comey seems to believe he did, but that none of it was his fault. Asked by ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos if he supports the idea of impeaching the “morally unfit” Trump, the former FBI chief flatly opposed the idea.

“I hope not because I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they’re duty bound to do directly,” Comey said. “People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values.”

As a practical matter, this is probably true. Nonetheless, Comey seems remarkably unperturbed about his past actions, which is strange considering how dangerous he claims to believe that Trump is to the republic.

While Comey’s book and his publicity tour thus far have offered relatively little value on their own terms, they are likely to produce news in another way. Trump is notoriously thin-skinned, and seeing Comey’s name and image splashed all over the cable news channels he so obsessively watches obviously angers him. From a public relations standpoint, the best thing Trump could do would be to ignore “A Higher Loyalty,” but to do that would be completely out of character. And sure enough, mere hours before ABC’s heavily edited interview with Comey aired, the president unwittingly giving him a boost on Twitter:

Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe. In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!

Comey throws AG Lynch “under the bus!” Why can’t we all find out what happened on the tarmac in the back of the plane with Wild Bill and Lynch? Was she promised a Supreme Court seat, or AG, in order to lay off Hillary. No golf and grandkids talk (give us all a break)!

The big questions in Comey’s badly reviewed book aren’t answered like, how come he gave up Classified Information (jail), why did he lie to Congress (jail), why did the DNC refuse to give Server to the FBI (why didn’t they TAKE it), why the phony memos, McCabe’s $700,000 & more?

He even came back later in the day to plug Comey's TV appearance yet again:

Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!

I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty. I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies. His “memos” are self serving and FAKE!

On its own, the James Comey Show isn’t likely to amount to much. But consider how frequently Trump’s ravings at people he hates, either on Twitter or in impromptu news interviews, end up with him saying things he should not. In that light, it’s entirely possible the fired FBI director’s self-indulgent memoir could actually do some good.

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Comey’s PR Tour Has Almost No News Value - But It’s Driving Trump Nuts

After failing to mount any real defense against Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury,” Donald Trump and his allies are trying to push back hard against the release of James Comey’s memoir “A Higher Loyalty.” They really ought not to bother, since the fired FBI director’s book offers very little that has not been heard before.

It’s notable in some sense that one of America’s former top law enforcement officials is willing to compare the sitting president to a mafia boss, something Comey also did during his interview broadcast Sunday night by ABC. Still, MSNBC and other channels frequently feature the commentary of Comey’s former intelligence colleague James Clapper denouncing Trump as a “Russian asset” and various other insults. Given how many left-leaning television comedians willing to make such jibes on a nightly basis, after a certain point the imprecations start to blend together. They certainly have no effect on the president’s fans.

In this regard, Comey is far from an original wit. He described Trump as "orange," and remarking on the size of the president's hands, the length of his ties and his the obvious willingness to lie about anything. Only the latter accusation actually matters, of course, but it is so evident that hearing yet another person say it is meaningless. Trump is a lout with no respect for the rule of law, which is why the man he unjustly fired should be above such pettiness.

Having scooped himself in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last June, Comey seems to have padded his word count with endless anecdotes from his childhood and frequent odes to his own personal uprightness disguised as lectures on “leadership.” As the Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada observed, the former FBI director only seems willing to own up to the most trivial of transgressions, such as lying a few times about having played college basketball. At the same time, Comey makes sure to tell readers of an incident in which he informed a colleague that he was re-gifting a tie (“we considered ourselves people of integrity”) and that he never cut in line at the FBI lunch counter while serving as the director.

On matters of much more consequence, Comey seems to have no regrets. In his book and during his ABC interview, the fired FBI head defends his decision not to publicly disclose the existence of the bureau’s investigation into possible connections between the Trump 2016 campaign and Russia. He also spends considerable time and effort trying to justify his handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.

Despite the conventional wisdom that Comey may have affected the election results -- an opinion expressed by Clinton herself -- a rigorous analysis of polling data shows that the FBI director's unusual statements about the investigation (first its conclusion, then its resumption, and finally its conclusion again) did not necessarily impact the 2016 election. Comey seems to believe he did, but that none of it was his fault. Asked by ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos if he supports the idea of impeaching the “morally unfit” Trump, the former FBI chief flatly opposed the idea.

“I hope not because I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they’re duty bound to do directly,” Comey said. “People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values.”

As a practical matter, this is probably true. Nonetheless, Comey seems remarkably unperturbed about his past actions, which is strange considering how dangerous he claims to believe that Trump is to the republic.

While Comey’s book and his publicity tour thus far have offered relatively little value on their own terms, they are likely to produce news in another way. Trump is notoriously thin-skinned, and seeing Comey’s name and image splashed all over the cable news channels he so obsessively watches obviously angers him. From a public relations standpoint, the best thing Trump could do would be to ignore “A Higher Loyalty,” but to do that would be completely out of character. And sure enough, mere hours before ABC’s heavily edited interview with Comey aired, the president unwittingly giving him a boost on Twitter:

He even came back later in the day to plug Comey's TV appearance yet again:

On its own, the James Comey Show isn’t likely to amount to much. But consider how frequently Trump’s ravings at people he hates, either on Twitter or in impromptu news interviews, end up with him saying things he should not. In that light, it’s entirely possible the fired FBI director’s self-indulgent memoir could actually do some good.

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Inside the Right-Wing's Ridiculous Facebook Obsession: Snowflakes Claim There's a Bias Against Conservatives

The most surreal aspect of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony during two congressional hearings this was easily a Wednesday episode featuring Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., who made detailed inquiries about whether the internet giant was secretly recording his private conversations in order to serve him advertising. Aside from the fact that such activity is blatantly illegal, if Facebook were actually surreptitiously recording its users, paranoid programmers would have discovered that long ago.

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Is the Radical Right Finally Turning on Trump?

President Donald Trump's most ardent far-right fans are in a rage against him, alleging the he's betrayed them in two major ways: first by appointing former Iraq war booster John Bolton to head the National Security Council and second by signing a federal budget deal that increases spending while also not providing any funding for his long-promised border wall with Mexico.

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Donald Trump's Infrastructure Plan Is a Massive Fraud from Top to Bottom

One of the biggest reasons why Donald Trump was able to flip so many normally Democratic voters his way in 2016 was that he did not campaign as a normal budget-cutting Republican.

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Now Far-Right Pundits Are Calling for the Death of Trump's Opponents

While he is notoriously stubborn and self-assured, President Donald Trump is also famous for being susceptible to the power of suggestion.

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Facebook's Newsfeed 'Fix' Is a Disaster in the Making

In a post shortly after New Year’s Day, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed that 2018 would be be the year when he will “fix“ his social network. Last week, he announced that as part of that focus, Facebook will be attempting to clean up its News Feed Feature, the portion of Facebook that features a mix of updates from users' friends along with content posted by businesses, nonprofits and political organizations.

The most significant change, Zuckerberg wrote on Jan. 11, will be that “public content” from brands and media outlets will no longer be given as much prominence in users' feeds. Instead, posts from friends and family will be boosted.

“We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being,” Zuckerberg wrote. He then referenced several academic studies that have shown that Facebook addicts who scroll through the site’s news feed for even relatively short periods of time end up feeling depressed as a result, whether from feeling that they’ve wasted time, a sense of information overload or an unhealthy desire to compare their own lives to the unrealistically positive narratives their friends are posting.

Citing other research claiming that online conversations with Facebook friends was psychologically more helpful to people, Zuckerberg wrote that the social network would give higher priority to posts “that spark conversations and meaningful interactions.”

In a Jan. 13 interview with Wired, Adam Mosseri, the Facebook vice president who runs the News Feed feature, stated that the company would be giving lower priority to published videos because watching them is a “passive” activity. He also said that content with long-winded comments posted would also receive higher visibility than posts with lots of “likes.”

In a post shortly after New Year’s Day, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed that 2018 would be be the year when he will “fix“ his social network. Last week, he announced that as part of that focus, Facebook will be attempting to clean up its News Feed Feature, the portion of Facebook that features a mix of updates from users' friends along with content posted by businesses, nonprofits and political organizations.

The most significant change, Zuckerberg wrote on Jan. 11, will be that “public content” from brands and media outlets will no longer be given as much prominence in users' feeds. Instead, posts from friends and family will be boosted.

“We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being,” Zuckerberg wrote. He then referenced several academic studies that have shown that Facebook addicts who scroll through the site’s news feed for even relatively short periods of time end up feeling depressed as a result, whether from feeling that they’ve wasted time, a sense of information overload or an unhealthy desire to compare their own lives to the unrealistically positive narratives their friends are posting.

Citing other research claiming that online conversations with Facebook friends was psychologically more helpful to people, Zuckerberg wrote that the social network would give higher priority to posts “that spark conversations and meaningful interactions.”

In a Jan. 13 interview with Wired, Adam Mosseri, the Facebook vice president who runs the News Feed feature, stated that the company would be giving lower priority to published videos because watching them is a “passive” activity. He also said that content with long-winded comments posted would also receive higher visibility than posts with lots of “likes.”

In his post, Zuckerberg indicated that the "news quality" survey was his attempt to remove the company from making value judgments about media outlets and to avoid consultation with "outside experts," whose objectivity would invariably be questioned.

Almost certainly, the idea is going to provoke strife in the political realm, largely because conservatives, especially those on the far right, get their news from sources most other people have never heard of.

In a 2014 Pew Research Center poll, only 45 percent of respondents said they knew who Sean Hannity was, even though he has been the host of a prime-time evening news program on Fox News Channel for about 20 years. The study found that only 35 percent of respondents knew of the Drudge Report, the conservative news aggregator that has been popular among news junkies for two decades. An even smaller number, 15 percent, had ever heard of Breitbart News.

The only right-leaning outlet that has almost universal name recognition is Fox News Channel which, thanks to its polarizing effect, is simultaneously the most trusted and distrusted major news operation.

Added together, the conservative media's isolation and Facebook's desire to ignore professional reputations in favor of asking its users to determine news outlets' merits is likely to create a problem. It will either resort in a profusion of exaggerated or fabricated stories flooding into users' news feeds or it will is result in complaints about Facebook's perceived unfairness to conservatives.

While Facebook has offered a few clues as to how its news-feed changes will impact users and publishers, the company admits that it still has not quite figured out its strategy.

“This change will take some time to figure out,” Campbell Brown, the former NBC reporter who is now Facebook’s head of news partnerships, told publishers in a Jan. 12 message. Off the record, the company has been telling legitimate news sites that their content will still have a chance in users’ news feeds, but has not provided much in the way of specifics.

The new policies have underscored just how powerful the company has become in the global media landscape. As things stand, Facebook is the news source for about 47 percent of Americans, half of whom say they don’t turn to any other social media outlet.

“I think that news is going to remain highly popular on Facebook because people will always want to know about the world and their communities,” David Chavern, CEO of the News Media Alliance told Poynter. “This change does highlight, however, the power of Facebook to decide (and alter) the kinds of information that people are exposed to. It is an incredible power that carries incredible responsibilities.”

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The Utter Absurdity of the Right Accusing Google of Liberal Bias

As tech companies have continued their efforts to combat the epidemic of fake news and misinformation, several conservative media outlets are denouncing Google for alleged bias.

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If You Think Fox News Is in the Tank for Trump, Wait Until You See OAN

The emergence of Donald Trump as the Republican standard-bearer dramatically reshaped online conservative media in 2016 and continues to do so today. When Fox News Channel began to falter in the ratings after a series of sex scandals, leadership firings and lineup changes, it started to look as though a similar thing might happen within the realm of conservative TV.

Eventually, however, FNC caught its wind, rejiggered its schedule again and has returned to the top of the ratings heap, according to data published by the industry blog TVNewser.

As Fox News struggled with its identity amid the departure of its superstar Bill O'Reilly and founder Roger Ailes, an upstart rival called One America News Network tried to make the most of the bigger channel's misery, publicly dangling job offers to O'Reilly and other Fox personnel.

"We are getting a lot of request to hire Bill O'Reilly here at One America News Network," the company's CEO and founder Robert Herring tweeted on April 21, two days after the former Fox News stalwart was shown the door after a series of explosive allegations about his workplace conduct toward women.

O'Reilly and his agent took up Herring on his offer to talk, but negotiations ended in June. Herring claimed it was because O'Reilly took too long to make a decision even though the anchor supposedly stood to make more at the fledgling network.

The O'Reilly flirtations were the latest in a series of attempts by Herring and his staff to become part of Republican voters' media diet. It's been a difficult task, particularly given how difficult it is for new channels to get distribution through the various cable and satellite companies across the country. As it is, residents in several states, including Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming, cannot tune in to One America unless they subscribe to DirecTV.

To compensate for its lack of star power and viewership, One America has sought to outdo Fox News in loyalty to Republican political figures. This was not always the case. Originally, the premise behind OAN (or OANN, the network has never been clear on its preferred acronym) was that it would be a channel completely free of opinion — a headline service for people somehow incapable of using the internet. That initial approach garnered praise from the New York Daily News and the Huffington Post.

The larger direction of OAN was still evident, however, thanks to hyper-patriotic graphics and a two-hour primetime bloc that has always featured stridently conservative commentary. Given how difficult it seems to be for center-right media outlets to exist within today's news market, it is unsurprising that the channel ended up moving to the ideological position its commentators had always occupied.

The startup took another page from the Fox News banner with many extremely young female hires of a certain look.

"They don't respect women over there," said one person familiar with OAN's hiring practices. "They'll only hire women if they are bikini models."

The channel gave credence to that argument in August 2014 when it hired Tomi Lahren, a 22-year-old who has publicly stated that "sitting down with a book is very difficult for me." She had applied to be an intern.

“My jaw dropped. I was stunned. I just wanted an internship. He gave me a show,” Lahren told her hometown newspaper as she described her interview session with Herring. While her bombastic rants against Black Lives Matter and other left-wingers raised awareness for the channel, Lahren soon left for TheBlaze, Glenn Beck's would-be Fox News competitor. She eventually made it to the big leagues when Fox hired her this past August.

OAN did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Herring didn't skip a beat with Lahren's departure, seemingly deciding to remake the channel in the image of Donald Trump as the real estate billionaire soared to the top of the Republican presidential primary polls in 2015. OAN became the first cable news channel to air the rookie politician's speeches in their entirety. According to emails obtained by Washington Post senior editor Marc Fisher, Herring and other higher-ups told staffers not to give the same treatment to other GOP candidates.

"We should ALWAYS take the trump speeches live in their entirety," executive producer Lindsay Oakley wrote in an email message to producers that Fisher obtained.

The decision seems to have been motivated both by ideology and money. Fox News chairman Roger Ailes opposed Trump's candidacy in its early months and much of his network's coverage reflected it. Ailes' reluctance was an opening for Herring.

"Trump is being treated unfairly by the mainstream media and we need to provide the other side," Oakley wrote later in her message. "Not to mention we have loyal viewers that tune in specifically to see the Trump speeches live because no one else carries them. We also see some of our highest ratings during the Trump speeches."

Since his electoral victory, OAN has kept up its worshipful coverage of Trump, it even hired his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski as a commentator for a short while. The president and his communications staff have reciprocated, frequently calling on the channel's correspondents during White House press briefings.

The network has also been a staunch defender of the president from accusations that he benefited from Russian assistance during his campaign, once dangling an offer of $100,000 to promote a conspiracy theory about the murder of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

Once Fox had flipped back to Trump, however, OAN no longer had a distinct market proposition. That changed this fall after former Alabama Supreme Court judge Roy Moore faced a number of allegations of sexual assault and harassment during his U.S. Senate campaign.

As Republicans nationwide began retracting their endorsements of Moore and as Fox News GOP stalwart Sean Hannity began threatening to withdraw support, Herring encouraged Trump to hold firm.

"Mr. President, go ahead and back @MooreSenate with confidence," he wrote on Twitteron Nov. 22. "Our country needs a man like him."

Herring made his calculation public two days later. "OAN is getting a lot of mail...90% favorable to @MooreSenate," he tweeted.

It was 2015 all over again. Herring told his social media followers that he would broadcast Moore's speeches, just as he had done with Trump.

"One America News will be airing all @MooreSenate speeches that we can," he wrote. "The people of Ala. can make their decision off the facts they see and hear."

Herring ordered his employees to openly support Moore's candidacy on the air as well.

"We here at One America News want to say thank you to Alabama for standing up for what you believe in and we urge you to get out there and vote on December 12. We also believe that Sean Hannity owes Moore an apology for not standing by the judge," an OAN anchor pronounced Nov. 26.

The network went well beyond airing Moore's speeches, however. It eagerly repeated several conspiracy theories floated by self-proclaimed "hand-writing experts" and an anonymous woman who says she is a "body language" expert.

According to Laura Keiter of the progressive media watchdog group Media Matters, the Alabama Senate election marked a tipping point where OAN crossed over into the sort of fare regularly peddled by outlandish radio host Alex Jones.

"OAN is a lot like the child of Fox News and Alex Jones — its programming looks a lot like Fox News and sounds a lot like Alex Jones," Keiter told Salon. "For at least a year now, the programing on OAN — which has a strong history of shilling for Donald Trump — has been a bizarre combination of far-right propaganda and seemingly innocuous local and international stories that OAN rips off from other outlets."

Herring took his devotion to Moore even further when he directed his staff to call the Dec. 12 election for the Christian nationalist former judge even before the Alabama polls had closed.

"The president of One America News, Robert Herring, would like to congratulate Moore on the fine campaign that he and his wife have run," an unidentified anchor can be heard saying in the clip below.

After it became clear that Moore had in fact lost the election to Democratic rival Doug Jones, OAN removed its video and article glorying in Moore's supposed victory.

Not very many people are tuning in to get their news from OAN, but it is developing a small but devoted following among die-hard conservative political junkies who are unlikely to read media-industry articles such as this one. If you have a Fox News- and Breitbart-addicted relative in your family, chances are you might be regaled with tales of the greatness of OAN this holiday season.

You may even hear about to OAN's glowing coverage of Moore's refusal to concede, a week after his defeat, and its promotion of a bevy of unsupported theories about "multiple voting irregularities."

It's not clear how large OAN's target market is. But certainly Sandy Rios, a Christian supremacist radio host spoke for many when she complained to her audience about Fox News' coverage of the Alabama race. According to Rios, the right-leaning network was glad to see Moore lose.

"I think they're happy about that," she said during her Dec. 13 program.

"The accusations were overblown and Fox never sorted that out so they didn't have his back," Rios claimed. "Fox was eager to declare [for] Doug Jones."

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Trumped-Up Charges: Feds Try to Criminalize Inauguration Day Protest

While most of America has been preoccupied with year-end holiday festivities and the Alabama U.S. Senate race, federal prosecutors in Washington have been hard at work trying to convict six people who were present during a demonstration against the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

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Now Joe Arpaio Wants to Run for Jeff Flake's Senate Seat

For anyone who can't stomach the idea of Roy Moore occupying a seat in the upper chamber of Congress, here are three words that may send a shiver down a spine: Senator Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff who has had several brushes with the law of his own, is thinking about running for the open Senate seat that will be vacated at the end of 2018 by the retiring Jeff Flake. Arpaio told ABC News he was "strongly considering" mounting a run, and also told the Daily Beast Thursday that he wanted to take Flake's seat.

Given the Republican electorate's recent willingness to overlook controversial candidates like Donald Trump and Alabama's Roy Moore, he might have a chance.

Arpaio, 85, came back into the national spotlight in August after he was issued a presidential pardon by Trump for a contempt of court citation after he continued authorizing semi-official citizen "patrols" in defiance of a judge's order.

The July contempt sentence was the latest in a string of episodes during which Arpaio had run afoul of the criminal justice system in his desire to exact harsh punishments against inmates and illegal immigrants.

In 2008, Maricopa County, his former jurisdiction, was required to pay more than $1 million to a man that Arpaio's deputies had framed in a fake assassination plot against the sheriff in which deputies purchased bomb parts and delivered them to the defendant.

In a preview of Republican voters' seeming willingness to overlook numerous charges of sexual harassment against Trump, Arizona voters continued re-electing Arpaio despite the incident. They also seemed not to care about Arpaio losing court rulings for his operation of outdoor tent prisons which he called "concentration camps."

Several years later, Arpaio and Trump became political allies as the then-sheriff became the top law enforcement booster of Trump's conspiracy theory that former president Barack Obama had not been born in the United States. Arpaio became a hero to far-right Republicans for sending deputies to Hawaii and Africa in pursuit of proof that Obama had forged his birth certificate.

An Arpaio Senate run might also be a boon to Trump's former adviser Steve Bannon who has reportedly been seeking to find a better candidate for the Senate seat than Kelli Ward, a state senator who failed to gain significant traction in a previous campaign she had operated against Arizona's other U.S. senator, John McCain.

Bannon has been trying to encourage far-right candidates who will swear undying loyalty to Trump in several states. The president, meanwhile, has been trying to enlist Senate candidates on his own as well, reaching out to Maine's bellicose governor Paul LePage to encourage him to run against Angus King, a political independent who usually votes with Democrats.

Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts cast doubt on the idea that Arpaio might right for Senate, citing the fact that he is 85, has become increasingly unpopular with Republican voters in recent years, and has become known locally for repeatedly trying to raise money for himself through fake campaigns that never materialize.

"This isn’t the first time that Arpaio has floated the idea that he would run for higher office. By my count, it's the sixth time," she wrote.

On the other hand, Trump himself was known for pretending to run for office as well. In 2015, he actually followed through. We all know what happened next.

In Roy Moore and Donald Trump's GOP, it would seem that anything is possible.

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Trump's Muslim-Bashing Channeled a Worldwide Current of Hate

Given his evident difficulties with basic foreign affairs knowledge, it's unlikely that President Donald Trump had heard of the Britain First political party when he decided on Tuesday morning to promote three anti-Muslim videos the group posted to Twitter. Nonetheless, his retweets cast a light on the central role that hostility to Islam now occupies in far-right movements worldwide.

In essence, antipathy and fear of Muslims has become the ideological glue that is allowing more secular forms of white nationalism to fuse with Christian supremacism in many countries, including the United States.

Britain First is perhaps one of the best examples of this trend. The group is an offshoot of the British National Party, a right-wing extremist group with fascist overtones that formally banned nonwhite people from joining until it was forced in court to rescind that policy in 2009. Britain First was founded in 2010 by Jim Dowson, a former fundamentalist Calvinist who was ejected from the BNP after he was accused of groping a fellow party member. The group deliberately patterned itself after the Irish Republican Army and even has its own paramilitary wing which trains members in "knife defense."

The party has become even more notorious in recent years, after Thomas Alexander Mair, the convicted murderer of Jo Cox, a Labour Party member of Parliament, was reported by multiple witnesses to have screamed "Britain First" before he shot and stabbed Cox in June of 2016. Britain First disavowed Mair and denied any connection to the act, although it had boasted of its knife training just four days earlier.

The controversy over Cox's death has not stopped the party from engaging in repeated "Christian patrols," in which members burst into mosques screaming and passing out Bibles. Britain First has also publicly boasted that its members would stalk public officials and political candidates who are Muslim, supposedly to determine if they have ties to terrorist organizations.

"Our intelligence led operations will focus on all aspects of their day-to-day lives and official functions, including where they live, work, pray and so on," the party wrote on its website, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Despite its failure to win any of the elections for which it has fielded candidates, and its tiny dues-paying membership, Britain First has developed a large online following. Nearly 2 million people have "liked" the group on Facebook as of this writing, a direct parallel to the small but web-savvy "alt-right" movement of white nationalists in the United States.

Trump does not follow Britain First or Jayda Fransen, its most prominent representative and the source of the tweets he quoted. Far-right columnist Ann Coulter does, however, and hers is one of the few Twitter accounts that Trump personally follows. Just a few hours before Trump promoted Fransen's clips, Coulter had retweeted one of them.

That Coulter would promote something from Fransen is no surprise, considering that Coulter has frequently attended white nationalist events in recent years. She has also been increasingly open about sharing opinions that are difficult not to characterize as anti-Semitic. Coulter's repeated expressions of bigotry against Muslims predates all of that, however. Her post-9/11 opinion column urging President George W. Bush to "invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity" while avoiding "punctilious" concerns about carpet-bombing civilians is still her most infamous example of this tendency.

Trump's own antipathy toward Islam is also no secret. "Islam hates us," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper in March of 2016. After claiming that he was actually opposed to "radical Islam," Trump went on to say that he didn't think one could really differentiate between a Muslim who was violent and one who wasn't. "It's very hard to define," he said later. "It's very hard to separate. Because you don't know who's who."

That logic appears to have been the basis for Trump's December 2015 call for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," a proposal he repeatedly described as a "Muslim ban," until his attorneys told him that doing so lessened the chances that his proscription on travel or immigration from several Muslim-majority countries would survive in court. Shortly thereafter, he began calling it a "travel ban" instead.

Judging from his numerous statements against Islam, it would appear that Trump believes his own anti-Muslim rhetoric. His passion for bigoted statements against a major world religion and the roughly 1.8 billion people who practice it is clearly in line with the viewpoints of his former strategic adviser and campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, who has repeatedly warned that the "Judeo-Christian" world is in a "clash of civilizations" against Islam.

This apocalyptic vision is also extremely common among many Republicans in the United States, even if Trump's blatant bigotry often overshadows theirs.

“This is a clash of civilizations and either they win or we win," Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said in November of 2015, as he challenged Trump for the GOP nomination. "They hate us because of our values. They hate us because young girls here go to school. They hate us because women drive. They hate us because we have freedom of speech, because we have diversity in our religious beliefs. They hate us because we’re a tolerant society."

While Rubio and others, with varying degrees of sincerity, cite Western-style societies' greater freedoms for women and minority groups as justification for military interventions in Islamic countries, many within the global Christian nationalist movement have begun to cite religious and racial justifications.

For several years now, many members of the religious right have hyped concerns about "demographic winter," the hypothesis that Christianity will die out in the Western world due to low birthrates and high immigration from Islamic countries. More recently, the idea has been recycled by the more secular "alt-right" under the concept of "white genocide." Trump himself toyed with the notion in February of 2016, when he retweeted a white nationalist account with the name "WhiteGenocideTM" which claimed to be posting from "Jewmerica."

As with other white nationalists Trump has promoted on Twitter, Fransen of Britain First responded ecstatically to her moment in the spotlight in an all-caps post referring to herself in the third person: "THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, DONALD TRUMP, HAS RETWEETED THREE OF DEPUTY LEADER JAYDA FRANSEN'S TWITTER VIDEOS! DONALD TRUMP HIMSELF HAS RETWEETED THESE VIDEOS AND HAS AROUND 44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA! OCS"

The "OCS" reference at the end of her tweet is an abbreviation for "Onward Christian Soldiers," according to the British newspaper the Independent.

Not all conservatives are comfortable with such rhetoric, it must be pointed out. British Prime Minister Theresa May, leader of the U.K.'s Conservative Party, strongly condemned Trump for sharing Fransen's tweets.

"British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents -- decency, tolerance and respect," she said through a representative. "It is wrong for the president to have done this."

Whether motivated by Christian fanaticism, racism, hawkish foreign policy views or a simple desire to find a replacement for the role of global villain once played by the Soviet Union, right-wing politicians worldwide have latched on to the idea of attacking Muslims for electoral gain.

“There is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global,” Bannon said in a 2014 speech. “Every day that we refuse to look at this as what it is . . . will be a day where you will rue that we didn’t act.”

While Trump, Britain First and Coulter have used exceptionally coarse language about Islam, their view that Western nations are in a worldwide death struggle with followers of Muhammad is mainstream among many on the political right. Promoting fear of Muslims and terrorism has been a staple of far-right parties in many European countries, including France's National Front, the Alternative for Germany Party, the Freedom Party of Austria, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and numerous others.

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What If Both Rahm Emanuel and Bernie Sanders Are Right About What Ails the Democrats?

Chicago mayor and Democratic political veteran Rahm Emanuel joined his party’s public soul-searching with a Monday speech in which he criticized fellow Dems for being more concerned about purity than about actually winning elections.

“Winning’s everything,” he said in an address at Stanford University’s school of business, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. “If you don’t win, you can’t make the public policy. I say that because it is hard for people in our party to accept that principle. Sometimes, you’ve just got to win, OK? Our party likes to be right, even if they lose.”

Long a bête noire of leftists and progressives, Emanuel defended his tenure leading the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, when he recruited a number of more centrist and hawkish candidates to stand for elections in Republican-leaning states, especially in the South and Midwest.

“I got a lot of crap for recruiting Iraqi war vets, football players, sheriffs, businesspeople. I said, ‘Well, they’re running in Republican districts,’” Emanuel said. “You’ve got to be ruthless enough. We recruited people who matched the districts. If you’re running in a Republican district, you’ve got to get somebody who can win in a Republican district.”

Liberal activists simply don’t understand that their views are not that popular outside a few major areas, the Chicago mayor argued. He noted that under his leadership, Democrats won significant victories in 2006 and 2008.

“I’ve never lost an election,” he argued. “Our party likes to be right, even if they lose. I don’t go to moral victory speeches. I can’t stand them.”

While it might be tempting for Democrats to pursue all-out opposition to President Donald Trump’s agenda in Congress, in hopes of rallying a victory in 2018, Emanuel argued that his party must have realistic expectations of what is possible:

It took us a long time to get this low. It ain’t gonna happen in 2018. Take a chill pill, man. You’ve got to be in this for the long haul. And if you think it’s gonna be a quick turnaround like that, it’s not. . . . You’re gonna have a success here and a success here, and then you’ll build a critical mass. But it’s worth fighting for. And I think this country is worth fighting for.

While tough talk about pragmatism isn’t likely to endear Barack Obama’s famously cold-blooded former chief of staff to progressive activists, at least one thing Emanuel said in his Stanford address struck a similar note to comments made by Bernie Sanders, the 2016 insurgent candidate who came close to defeating Hillary Clinton before Trump did.

Speaking up about why he thinks Clinton lost the election, the veteran Vermont senator and self-described socialist argued that Democrats have become too focused on identity politics and not enough on economic issues.

“It is not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me,’” Sanders said after a November speech he delivered in Boston. “No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.”

In his own way, Emanuel touched on the same idea while defending his selection of more culturally conservative or centrist Democrats. “I wanted to take cultural issues off the table and I wanted to present economic issues,” he said.

Emanuel’s advice for the party also overlaps a bit with the strategy that Sanders and Senate Democrats have pursued since Trump’s election: trying to split the new president from Democratic-leaning voters who switched sides under the assumption that he was different than the typical pro-business Republican. Instead of fighting one another, Emanuel argued, Democrats should be trying to encourage GOP infighting.

“Whenever there’s a disagreement among Republicans, I’m for one of those disagreements. I’m all for it,” he said. “The president wants Russia? I’m with John McCain and Lindsey Graham. I’m for NATO. Why? Wedge. Schisms have to be wedges.”

Unsurprisingly, these pieces of apparent agreement haven’t dissuaded some lefty political commentators from disagreeing strongly with Emanuel’s overall argument.

Responding to his mayor’s speech, Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn argued that Democrats should learn a different lesson from Republicans: That hard-nosed opposition to a president can lead to great results, as in the historic gains the GOP made in state and local elections after Obama took office in 2009.

Did the party faithful “go slow . . . real slow,” in planning its revival, as Emanuel advised Democrats on Monday?

Did they heed Emanuel’s counsel to find moderate challengers “to take cultural issues off the table” and attract middle-of-the-road voters in swing districts?

Did they resign themselves to remaining a hopeful minority through Obama’s entire first term?

No.

They took their pep pills and megadoses of caffeine, and they fought like hell. Up and down the ballot, all across the country, at tea party protests and raucous town halls, Republicans tried to block the Democrats and to make the case for their vision of America.

And just two years later they had their mojo back and quite a bit more.

In all likelihood, the way out of the political wilderness for Democrats will be to figure out a way to combine the best tactics of both Emanuel and Sanders. Despite all the brouhaha that’s developed within the race to head up the Democratic National Committee, the two leading candidates in the race, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and former labor secretary and civil rights attorney Tom Perez may actually be doing that.

As Mother Jones writer Tim Murphy noted at the end of his must-read profile of Ellison, the two men’s views may not be as hugely different as some of their supporters might wish to believe:

“They aren’t far apart politically, and their prescriptions for healing the party aren’t too different either. When it comes to the DNC, their biggest difference may be that Ellison supports a ban on accepting money from lobbyists and Perez doesn’t. (But Ellison says he won’t press the issue if DNC members oppose it.)”

Figuring out how to synthesize the passionate advocacy for the 99 percent that Sanders and his wing evince with the political savvy of Emanuel’s wing is the great task ahead for Democrats.

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