That’s the way Mr. Colbert acted on his show Wednesday night in any case, and we have to say it was so convincing there seemed to be truth peeking out from behind his blustering on-screen persona.
“Tonight I am angry, and for once that doesn’t make me happy,” he said. “My sister lost. How could this happen? I was so sure Lulu had won, because CNN called it for Sanford.”
As a result, Colbert said he was renouncing his South Carolina-hood, and becoming a North Carolina Tar Heel, “whatever the [bleep] that means.”
Then he renounced the renunciation after tasting North Carolina barbeque, which he described as a “sauce-less, vinegar-based meat product.”
Yes, Mr. Sanford is a Republican and his sister is a Democrat, and the first district is heavily GOP. But if you remember, Sanford got into trouble with an Argentinian mistress when he was governor. A story about his ex-wife accusing him of trespassing in their former family home broke late in the campaign cycle. The national GOP pulled its cash out of the race.
Colbert said he just did not get where his sister went wrong. Did she not raise enough money? Did she not campaign hard enough?
“Did she hold too few debates against a cardboard Nancy Pelosi?” said Colbert, lampooning a Sanford debate tactic.
The “Colbert Report” host then said the whole thing had shaken him to his core, because it was the first time he’d seen a campaign where he knew one of the candidates before they entered politics.
“I saw firsthand how her opponents smeared her with outrageous accusations I knew to be untrue,” said Colbert. “And that makes me wonder if other campaigns have done this as well.”
OK, let’s stop right there. Sanford would probably disagree as to whether he smeared his opponent. But that brings up a question: is Colbert going to seek revenge?
Perhaps Sanford should be on guard here. He’s just beaten the sister of a man who on Wednesday’s show said he makes a living “attacking people without thought.” Colbert has an audience of around two million people a night.
If you’re Sanford, what could go wrong?
Later on, Colbert got into an interesting bit in which he talked about partisanship, and how voters’ political opinions are as much based on what team they perceive themselves as on whether they actually approve of a policy or not.
This involved breathing helium from balloons and speaking in a squeaky voice. Trust us, it made narrative sense since it involved a congressional vote on national helium reserves. We’re not going to explain it beyond that.
But at one point, Colbert stopped, took a deep breath of helium, turned to the camera, and in his best high-pitch squeak said, “[Bleep] Sanford.” The audience roared.
Look, Colbert is not like other comedians – he’s more dangerous. We’ve written about this before. It’s like he’s a performance artist with a degree in political science.
He’s got no problem going past boundaries at which other funny folk stop. Thus when he was asked to address the White House Correspondents Association dinner in 2006, he roasted both the media and George W. Bush to the point where the audience was visibly uncomfortable.
So we bet the name “Mark Sanford” comes up again on the show, and not in a positive way, even though the Colbert persona on screen is a conservative.
“Folks, I’ve always believed in partisanship, but now that it’s cost my sister a seat in Congress I have my doubts,” said Colbert.
Is Rush Limbaugh’s harsh rhetoric to blame for declining ad revenue at WABC and other big radio stations that carry his show? That’s what the CEO of the firm that owns those stations believes. In particular, Lew Dickey of Cumulus Media has said that Mr. Limbaugh’s 2012 “slut” comment about Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke cost the firm millions in lost spots last year.
In an investor conference call in March, Mr. Dickey alluded to the controversy again. The firm’s talk radio revenues have “been challenged ... due to some of the issues that happened a year ago," Dickey said, according to an account in Politico.
Limbaugh disputes this, and the whole thing may be as much about the upcoming expiration of his contract with Cumulus as it is about El Rushbo’s past behavior. But first, let’s take a trip down talk radio memory lane, shall we?
Sandra Fluke burst on the political scene as a young woman who spoke about her belief that insurance firms needed to cover contraception during a period when Washington was debating whether government should mandate that very thing. Republicans declined to allow her to testify at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing. She later spoke publicly to Democratic panel members.
Limbaugh talked about her on his show for three days running. Among other things, he said Fluke “essentially says that she must be paid to have sex – what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute?”
Then he urged her to make public videos of her intimate acts.
“If we are going to have to pay for this, then we want something in return Ms. Fluke,” Limbaugh said late last February. “And that would be the videos of all this sex posted online so we can see what we’re getting for our money.”
Many Democrats got angry. Some Republicans, such as Carly Fiorina, then a National Republican Senatorial Committee official, groaned that Rush’s words were incendiary and unhelpful to the GOP in an electoral sense.
The left-leaning watchdog group, Media Matters, started a boycott campaign. Within days, it claimed that 46 advertisers had quit Limbaugh’s show, including big national firms such as Sears.
OK, flash forward to today. Media Matters claims the boycott is still effective and is hurting the Cumulus Media stations that carry Limbaugh’s show. Advertisers are still fleeing Limbaugh, the group claims. Some stations are dropping him altogether.
“In some ways, the adaptation is taking place on branding and marketing grounds. When Philadelphia’s WPHT replaced Rush Limbaugh with Michael Smerconish, promotional material for Smerconish that was sent to advertisers declared that the era of ‘angry is over,’ ” wrote Angelo Carusone of Media Matters in an update on the situation this March.
But Rush Limbaugh remains the top-rated talk radio host in America. And he may be getting tired of being blamed for Cumulus Media’s problems.
That’s his side’s take on the controversy, anyway. A source close to Limbaugh told Politico that the host is considering ending his affiliation with the firm at the end of the year.
“Dickey’s talk stations underperform talk stations owned by other operators in generating revenue by a substantial margin,” the source told Politico’s Dylan Byers.
It’s possible the dispute is really about which flagship station will carry Limbaugh in New York City.
Right now, he’s on Cumulus Media’s WABC. But that contract expires at the end of 2013. And the biggest radio ownership group in the country, Clear Channel, recently bought a rival station, cross-town WOR.
“Some industry watchers expect [Limbaugh’s] program will move to WOR in 2014,” wrote the trade publication Talkers on Monday.
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly ripped into radio talker Laura Ingraham on “The O’Reilly Factor” last night, and Ms. Ingraham responded in kind. The subject was gay marriage – specifically, whether it’s offensive for Mr. O’Reilly to say that those on the right who simply “thump the Bible” in opposing same will lose.
It was great TV but it was also an actual interesting debate on an important aspect of a hot national issue. That’s something you don’t always get on cable news shout shows.
We’ll start with the background because it’s kind of convoluted. It begins with O’Reilly in a late March show saying that gay marriage proponents have successfully defined it as a civil rights issue, which he called a “compelling” argument that social conservatives have yet to counter.
“The other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible,” he said.
O’Reilly had “marginalized” many religious Fox News viewers with his statement, said Mr. Limbaugh.
Got that? So the stage is now set for last night.
O’Reilly began his Tuesday show with a segment downplaying any feud between him and Limbaugh. He said the left was trying to create an argument where none existed. Then he repeated his “thump” assertion.
“Zealots picked up on my statement that opponents must do more than thump the Bible if they want to win the civil debate. That’s absolutely true,” he said.
Then he turned to guest Ingraham, who sometimes sits in for him and with whom he seems to have a good relationship. He appeared to think she would agree with him on Bible thumping. She didn’t.
“I don’t think you really needed to say that,” she said.
Things went downhill quickly from there. O’Reilly quickly shouted her down and had his say, then let her have two minutes to respond, then jumped in and overwhelmed her with volume while she sat back and looked disgusted.
Her basic point was that opponents of gay marriage have been surprised by the quick turnaround in the national debate and haven’t had time to really articulate their beliefs. But to dismiss the beliefs of social conservatives as somehow irrelevant is insulting, she implied.
“A lot of them do have a very deeply held religious belief about what traditional marriage is,” said Ingraham.
O’Reilly countered that he was not insulting people’s religious belief.
“Why did you use the word ‘thump?’ ” asked Ingraham.
“Because that’s the way you get it across,” said O’Reilly.
By the end, they were pretty much just shouting past each other, though no furniture got thrown. Ingraham insisted that social conservatives would rally and come up with better arguments, and O’Reilly said he was just explaining the political facts of life.
“You and Rush should do a tour,” sighed Ingraham at the end.
Wow! If that happens, perhaps the furniture will need to be bolted down.
Bill O'Reilly is a ratings engine for Fox TV.
He knows how to stir the pot - whether the subject is guns, gays, or budget cuts. He's not strictly conservative in all the positions he advocates, and that makes for engaging – and sometimes bombastic – exchanges on his own show 'The O'Reilly Factor" as well as providing fodder for other programs on the Fox TV network to chew on.
On Tuesday, O'Reilly came really close to endorsing gay marriage.
“The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals ... 'We’re Americans, we just want to be treated like everybody else. That’s a compelling argument, and to deny that you’ve got to have a very strong argument on the other side. And the other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible,' said O'Reilly in an exchange with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.
O'Reilly closed by saying that “I support civil unions, I always have." The he added: “The gay marriage thing, I don’t feel that strongly about it one way or the other. I think the states should do it.”
So, O'Reilly is pro civil unions, which is not news. He's said that before. And saying that gay marriage is a states' issue – not a federal one – echoes the comments made by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy made during the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) hearing today: "The question is whether or not the federal government, under our federalism scheme, has the authority to regulate marriage."
But O'Reilly didn't exactly endorse gay marriage. He essentially called the argument against gay marriage weak, and described the argument for gay marriage as "compelling."
This is a fence that many Republicans are also trying to perch on. Of late, a few have made rather high profile shifts to the gay marriage side. The biggest was Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. The Christian Science Monitor's Mark Guarino wrote that "His reversal on the issue [earlier this month] is significant considering he is one of the original backers of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the 1990s and a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman in 2004."
Still, most GOP politicians who have come out in favor of gay marriage are either no longer in office or have family members who are gay. As The Christian Science Monitor's Linda Feldman writes, the key indicator of a sea change within the Republican Party will be "when a major Republican currently holding elective office in a red state – and who does not have a gay child or another close relative – announces that he or she now supports a right to same-sex marriage."
Many Republicans say it’s just a matter of time. In fact, some Republicans say it’s entirely possible that the GOP’s next presidential nominee will support same-sex marriage. “At the rate this issue is changing within the party, I think it’s not out of the question,” Margaret Hoover, a former George W. Bush White House aide, told Time magazine.
Is Bill O'Reilly getting ready to move into the Sen. Rob Portman's gay marriage camp? According to The Atlantic Wire, he implied that he was during the gay marriage exchange with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly: "I hate to say this, and next week I've got something that Kelly's really not going to like."
Whatever he announces, O'Reilly will be certain to entertain.
Veteran Fox News host Bill O’Reilly had a real shout-down with regular guest Alan Colmes on the “O’Reilly Factor” earlier this week. The pair were discussing President Obama’s fiscal proposals – specifically, whether the White House has proposed budget cuts to any specific programs. Mr. Colmes opined that he had. Then Mr. O’Reilly went ballistic like a North Korean missile test, jabbing his finger and turning up the volume while the smile on Colmes’s face suddenly went fixed.
“You are lying! You are lying!” yelled O’Reilly.
This exchange has had some resonance in Washington for substantive reasons we’ll get to a moment. But our initial reaction to the whole thing was whether O’Reilly preplanned the exchange.
This does not mean we’re charging journalistic impropriety. O’Reilly is a seasoned pro whose show is the engine that drives Fox ratings. He’s apologized for the personal attack, saying he wished he hadn’t used the word “liar.”
But we’re wondering whether he and his producers had planned an amped-up discussion of the fiscal subject and things just went a little too far.
After all, it’s not like the “O’Reilly Factor” is free-flowing. The genial and generally liberal Colmes is a regular guest who often plays the role of the Washington Generals to O’Reilly’s Harlem Globetrotters. In other words, he’s supposed to provide some opposition and then lose. The only question is the score, not the outcome. Why get angry when it’s your show and you’re going to win?
Second, the tantrum has brought lots of attention to the main point O’Reilly wanted to make. He’s a moralist about the US debt, decrying the trillions-piled-on-trillions as a burden that he says will debase the currency and crush the US economy.
“This spending issue is vital for all of us, and that’s why I’m raising my voice,” said O’Reilly on an apology segment broadcast Wednesday.
Last, the controversy has been great for his network. O’Reilly has been defended on most Fox programs but also skewered by Fox’s Kirsten Powers, who told O’Reilly to his face that he’s “100 percent wrong,” and Mr. Obama has offered specific Medicare cuts.
Maybe O’Reilly doesn’t believe Obama would really make those reductions, or maybe he doesn’t think they’re enough. But it’s wrong to deny their existence, she said.
As far as Fox News chief Roger Ailes is concerned it doesn’t matter which of his employees is right there. It only matters that the dust-up has provided buzzy content for an array of programs. As Joe Concha writes on Mediaite, this is why Fox dominates cable news ratings.
“The audience revels in being able to witness a family fight on an almost-daily basis,” he writes.
As to substance, folks are continuing to argue about this in D.C. because it appears to confirm a deep fear on both sides.
Liberals believe that many Republicans exist in a closed news loop that only feeds their beliefs. Thus the GOP does not realize that Obama has in fact proposed cutting Social Security benefits by changing the way inflation is calculated and reducing Medicare costs by increased means testing of benefits. Ezra Klein at Wonkblog wrote perhaps the definitive post about this earlier this month.
Conservatives meanwhile believe Democrats don’t understand the economy and don’t take debt seriously. They think Obama’s main aim is to recapture the House in 2014 and destroy the Republican Party. In fact, that’s what Colmes and O’Reilly were talking about just before they moved on to fiscal stuff and the resultant explosion.
Hmm ... so maybe O’Reilly was actually boiling after all?
Because the leadership of both political parties and the media are trying to sell the US on an over-the-top, untrue story about the allegedly dire effects of the coming “sequester,” that’s why. At least we think that’s Mr. Limbaugh’s story.
“Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my country. To be watching all of this, to be treated like this, to have our common sense and intelligence insulted the way it’s being insulted? It just makes me ashamed,” said Limbaugh, according to a segment transcript posted on his website.
True, in recent days, the media have been full of stories from administration officials warning of the effects from the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, which is set to take effect March 1.
President Obama has talked about everything from effects on military readiness to delays at airports and closed sections of national parks. And GOP leaders have walked the thin line of insisting that big cuts in government spending remain necessary but sequestration would still be a bad thing.
“There is nothing wrong with cutting spending that much – we should be cutting even more – but the sequester is an ugly and dangerous way to do it,” wrote House Speaker John Boehner in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this week.
Thus Limbaugh’s line: Watch out! The professional big-government class and its defenders are just scaring you so that Washington can keep spending more and more.
“Here they come, sucking us in, roping us in. Panic here, fear there: Crisis, destruction, no meat inspection, no cops, no teachers, no firefighters, no air-traffic control. I’m sorry, my days of getting roped into all this are over,” Rush said Thursday.
OK, notice anything in that quote? Such as “no cops”? Yes, Limbaugh has set up an exaggerated straw man to build an outrage, and he can thump it with a rhetorical bat until it breaks apart in bits. Or something like that.
That doesn’t mean he’s without points here. Notice the reference earlier to $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts. That’s how much the cuts would amount to if they’re allowed to continue for a decade. Cuts the first year would be about $85 billion, according to Representative Boehner.
But Limbaugh also said this: “Do you really think 800,000 people are gonna lose their jobs in the Pentagon because we cut $22 billion? Do you really think air-traffic control’s gonna shut down? Do you really think there aren’t gonna be any meat inspectors? Do you really think that all of these horror stories are going to happen? I don’t.”
He’s right the horror stories won’t happen, because nobody has said 800,000 Pentagon workers will lose their jobs. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said he’ll have to furlough that many Defense Department civilians if sequestration occurs, meaning that they will only be paid for working four days a week instead of five. So they’ll get a 20 percent reduction in pay, which isn’t fun. But it’s better than getting laid off.
Air-traffic control won’t shut. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has warned that travelers may face 90-minute delays at airports because of air-traffic restrictions. Meat inspectors will stay on the job, and so forth.
Yes, we know Limbaugh talks this way all the time, for calculated effect. He’s using it as a tool to try to make a larger point. Like many conservatives, he considers the federal government per se a huge, unproductive drag on the economy. But you’d be surprised how many people believe pretty much every word he says.
On Wednesday night’s “Colbert Report,” a proud, and dare we say, jealous, Colbert announced that his sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, is running for Congress.
“Holy cow! My sister is running for Congress!” Colbert said.
And then two days later he told a group of House Democrats that Americans liked colonoscopies more than Congress. “But [it's] just edging out meth labs and gonorrhea,” he added.
Ms. Colbert Busch, also known as “Lulu,” is running for the South Carolina congressional seat vacated by Rep. Tim Scott (R), who was appointed to fill Sen. Jim DeMint’s Senate seat, when Senator DeMint (R) resigned in December.
Colbert Busch, a business-development director at a Clemson University institute, is one of 19 candidates seeking the Charleston-area 1st District seat, and besides former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (yep, he’s running, too), has the most name recognition, not to mention a famous little brother.
Not that it helps.
Ever just, Colbert promised no special treatment for his sister.
“No free airtime, Lulu!” Colbert said Wednesday. “As a broadcast journalist I am obligated to maintain pure objectivity. It doesn't matter that my sister is intelligent, hardworking, compassionate, and dedicated to the people of South Carolina. I will not be mentioning any of that on my show.”
There’s just one problem. Colbert Busch is running as a Democrat.
“A., I take that as a personal affront,” Colbert said, “and two, there are so many great choices on the Republican side.”
Some 16 candidates have filed in the GOP primary. “Republicans are all over this election like white on Republicans,” Colbert said.
He went on to plug some of the GOP candidates including Ric “The Stick” Bryant, “The Electrifying” Keith Blandford, Elizabeth “Killing Them Softly” Moffly, and Chip “This is My Actual Name” Limehouse.
But it’s former Governor Sanford, who gained national attention when he said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail but was actually cavorting with his mistress in Argentina, that Colbert said he favors.
“At this point I'm leaning toward actual candidate and former governor of the Appalachian Trail – Mark Sanford. You see, I'm a family values conservative, and Mark, he just seems so steady.”
(Nonetheless, we heard Colbert will be raising campaign funds for his sister at a Feb. 22 benefit, according to a campaign invite.)
Colbert left his sister’s rivals, who no doubt watch his show, with this advice, honed, we're sure, over years of merciless sibling ribbing.
"Right after she makes a good point, repeat it back to her in a dumb voice,'' he said. "Trust me, it works.''
The future of the republic does not hinge on this development, but the divergence in the conservative commentators’ fates is nevertheless telling. Both, after all, had issued spectacularly wrong predictions on who would win last November’s presidential race. (Mitt Romney in a landslide!) Both were adamant, night after night, that their data were rock solid.
On election night, Mr. Rove went so far as to challenge Fox News’ decision to call Ohio for President Obama, which effectively called the election. In the most entertaining bit of TV all night, Fox’s cameras followed while anchor Megyn Kelly led Rove back into the bowels of the network’s political operations to talk to the number-crunchers about their decision.
But while being entertaining (and therefore profitable) certainly matters at Fox – as with all the cable news channels – it doesn’t explain why Fox gave Rove a new, multiyear contract and dropped Mr. Morris, as reported Tuesday night by Politico. The reason is more about relevance and how the network is positioning itself, say analysts of political media.
“Karl Rove is still a major player in Republican Party politics,” says Jeffrey Jones, a professor of media and politics at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. “He still runs his 'super PAC,' and he has shown himself to be important and influential. Dick Morris doesn’t get you anything. He’s not really a player.”
Indeed, in the last election, Rove’s two outside groups – American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS – spent upwards of $125 million on TV ads opposing Mr. Obama and supporting GOP presidential nominee Romney, not to mention the other Republican candidates the groups supported (albeit with limited success).
Rove originally made his name as the architect of George W. Bush’s two successful presidential campaigns. Morris gained fame as an adviser to President Clinton, most notably schooling him on the art of political “triangulation” after the Democrats lost control of Congress in 1994. But Morris hasn’t had a big second act like Rove’s.
Mr. Jones also sees in Fox’s personnel decisions – including, too, the decision to drop Sarah Palin – an effort by the network to update its brand.
“It’s time for fresh faces,” Jones says, noting a decline in Fox’s ratings among a key demographic.
One figure who has moved to Fox (from CNN) is Erick Erickson, a 30-something conservative blogger at RedState.com. And adding a jolt of ideological diversity to Fox is left-wing former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) of Ohio.
Fox is still the king of cable news – nine of the top 10 programs in January were on Fox – but, as rival network MSNBC points out, Fox hit a 12-year low with the 25-to-54 age group in prime time last month.
Another aspect of Fox’s recent moves may be ideological. In keeping Rove but parting company with Morris and former Governor Palin, Fox seems to be leaning toward the Republican establishment and away from the tea party. Rove recently started a new super political action committee called the Conservative Victory Project, which aims to help electable candidates win Republican primaries. In the last two cycles, tea party-backed candidates have cost the Republicans several Senate seats.
Rove also appears to have a close connection to Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. In a recent article on Palin’s departure from Fox, Gabriel Sherman of New York Magazine writes that the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee was a “polarizing presence” and presented Mr. Ailes with a management challenge.
“Her tea party message attracted the ire of establishment poobahs like Karl Rove,” writes Mr. Sherman. “Before the 2010 midterms, Rove complained to Ailes that Palin was damaging the GOP brand and getting too much airtime.”
And what about Morris’s future? Perhaps he will share that information on CNN Wednesday, when he appears on “Piers Morgan Tonight.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) gave a bravura performance on David Letterman’s “Late Show” on Monday night, in case you haven’t heard. He was the main guest and talked at length about his state, its struggle to recovery from hurricane Sandy, and even his presidential prospects.
He also ate a doughnut. This occurred right at the start, after Mr. Letterman had noted that viewers might never have expected the Garden State governor to show up on the “Late Show” couch due to all the Christie weight jokes they’ve told on the program.
Letterman was going on about how he was sorry if he’d given offense, and how Governor Christie was a regular guy for showing up, when the latter reached into his pocket and pulled out the pastry. It was a real doughnut, too – sugar-coated and jelly-filled. No carrot muffins for him.
“I didn’t know this was going to take so long,” said Christie, munching away as the audience roared.
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Christie then went on to explain that he only cared if Letterman was funny, and that he found, oh, about 40 percent of the Christie weight cracks to be comedic.
He read two of his favorites.
“Celebrity birthday today. Chris Christie turned 50. He blew out the candles on his cake – and wished for another cake,” said the governor, giggling along.
Then he added, “A billion dollars will be spent on potato chips on Super Bowl Sunday. And that’s just at Governor Christie’s house.”
So why the magnanimity? After all, Letterman has been pretty brutal on Christie over the years. And Christie’s got a temper – look at the way he blasted his own Republican Party when House Speaker John Boehner held up a vote on aid for hurricane Sandy victims in January.
We’d say Christie accomplished a number of things with his appearance. First, he defused the weight issue, to some extent. He’s going to continue to be asked about that as his political career goes forward, and joking about it in front of a national audience can only help his image.
Look – we know it’s irrelevant to his performance. It’s going to continue to be an issue though. That’s just the way politics is.
Second, he’s won over Letterman. As the Obama campaign showed, political appearances on late night talk shows can be potent. The questions are easy, and the audience is huge. (Remember Obama “slow jamming” the news with Jimmy Fallon?)
This doesn’t mean “Late Night” won’t still poke fun at Christie’s size. But you can bet it will be in a genial context. Letterman all but endorsed Christie in his 2013 reelection bid last night.
“I love you being governor of New Jersey,” said Letterman.
Third, and most immediately, he’s got a burst of good publicity for his gubernatorial campaign, while spreading the word that New Jersey still has problems in its recovery from hurricane Sandy and needs continued aid and effort from folks outside the state.
“We still have 42,000 families tonight who are homeless,” said New Jersey’s chief executive.
Will he run for president in 2016? Letterman asked, and Christie, as he always does, made clear that he might, depending on what US politics looks like in a few years. Given his performance on the show, he certainly continues to look like a viable candidate.
But the last point we’ll make is that the Letterman appearance also highlights the biggest obstacle standing in the way of a Christie White House bid. That’s the national Republican Party. Christie’s a Northeastern moderate, and he doesn’t hide the fact that he’s got conflicts with those in the GOP who held up Sandy aid, in part because some in the party are leery of federal disaster spending.
“When it happens in their backyard, it needs to be taken care of, but if it's somewhere else it isn’t as important,” he told Letterman.
And he took a parting shot at Speaker Boehner, by name, for delaying the aid vote. “I made my views known to him, and I was less gentle privately than I was publicly,” said Christie.
Christie appears to have made up with Letterman. If he wants to run for president, he’ll have to do the same thing with the current speaker of the House and GOP fiscal conservatives.
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Is the White House quietly pleased about the wild feud between Piers Morgan and Alex Jones over gun control? We would not be surprised if that were the case. CNN nighttime host Morgan is using his bully pulpit, such as it is, to push new gun restrictions just as VP Joe Biden is holding White House meetings on the issue. Meanwhile, Mr. Jones – a Texas radio host and conspiracy theorist – was a volcano of pro-gun something-or-other during his Monday appearance on Mr. Morgan’s show. Many gun rights supporters are not happy about that.
After all, Jones called Morgan a “hatchet man of the New World Order” and offered to wrestle him wearing red-white-and-blue trunks, then blamed 9/11 on a rogue element within the US government
“Conservatives and gun owners have lamented a perception that Alex Jones will become the face of gun owners," writes Erick Erickson, editor of the right-leaning RedState website, Thursday in a lengthy post on the roots of gun violence.
On Thursday the White House kept the whole thing going by issuing an official response to Jones’s petition to have British citizen Morgan deported for his antigun views. (In case you’re unaware, the administration has a “We the People” website where you can petition the government on anything you care about. Officials promise to respond to any petition that garners 25,000 signatures within 30 days.)
“The Constitution not only guarantees an individual right to bear arms, but also enshrines the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press – fundamental principles that are essential to our democracy,” wrote Mr. Carney.
We’ll note the response was not cursory. Within it, the White House embedded a video of President Obama responding to gun petitions in general. In this, Mr. Obama asked petitioners who had written in demanding new gun restrictions in the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook school shootings to keep up their activism.
“You started something and now I’m asking you to keep it up,” says Obama in the two-minute clip.
See how the White House public outreach effort and the Morgan controversy kind of fit neatly together, in a publicity sense?
Safe from being forcibly escorted back to Jolly Old England, Morgan himself has kept at it, hosting a series of gun-control-related conversations on his own show while dropping in on other chat hosts to push his views.
On Thursday's “CBS This Morning,” Morgan said that his goal is to keep gun control at the forefront of the US national conversation, even as the memory of the Sandy Hook tragedy fades.
Gun advocate Jones “exposes the reality of how a section of Americans feels about this debate ... trying to frame anybody who wants more gun control as attacking the Constitution ... that’s not what this is about,” said Morgan on Thursday.