LOSE THE MORNING

The Politico team will be no more after the 2016 Hunger Games as founders Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen are evacuating the smoking remains of the Village by helicopter.

In what can be described only as a cataclysm in Beltway media, CEO Jim VandeHei is leaving Politico, the eight-year-old politics website that shook up Washington journalism, according to sources and reports by Huffington Postand CNNMoney.

And in what can be described only as a mega-cataclysm, Politico Chief White House correspondent Mike Allen is joining VandeHei in rushing toward the exits of Politico’s Rosslyn headquarters. Allen writes the daily franchise newsletter “Politico Playbook.” A bearer of occasional scoops, Allen is the driver of very frequent revenue. Weekly sponsorships for “Playbook” run in the $50,000 to $60,000 range this year, depending on the news cycle. And that’s not even rolling in the big money that comes from “Politico Playbook” conferences/interviews anchored by Allen. His work alone — complete with ethical issues — subsidized a platoon of Politico reporters.

It doesn’t end there: Kim Kingsley, the Chief Operating Officer is leaving as well. Kingsley has provided the glue that bridged Politico’s newsroom and its business side as the site sprinted to revenues approaching $20 million just years after launching. She headed the colonization of radio and cable-news airwaves that helped establish Politico as a preferred Washington source both for readers and advertisers. The company’s successful events business was also an obsession of Kingsley’s. Other departures are Danielle Jones and Chief Revenue Officer Roy Schwartz.

VandeHei, Allen and Schwartz will stay through the 2016 election; the others will leave on earlier timetables. Editor-in-Chief John Harris will say on board and take on the additional title of publisher.

Politico as we’ve come to know it is no longer.

The disintegration appears to be over money issues, as most business problems seem to be, and surely most of these folks will land on their feet.  But Politico’s particularly toxic brand of Beltway both-siderism has surely taken a beating in the era of LOL PMURT NOTHING MATTERS ANYMORE, and I’m thinking since the rules of Beltway “journalism” have been thoroughly napalmed over the last six months, Jim and Mike are getting off the playground where they’ve realized that they’re no longer the guys in charge of giving out all the kickballs.

I can think of a couple hundred Villagers who need to follow those two out the door, too.



Sow The Trump, Reap The Whirltrump

The Trump campaign, not racist or anything, just number one with white supremacists as Team WIN THE MORNING accidentally commits journalism to tell us.

The Ku Klux Klan is using Donald Trump as a talking point in its outreach efforts. Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers in part to cope with a Trump traffic spike. And former Louisiana Rep. David Duke reports that the businessman has given more Americans cover to speak out loud about white nationalism than at any time since his own political campaigns in the 1990s.

As hate group monitors at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League warn that Trump’s rhetoric is conducive to anti-Muslim violence, white nationalist leaders are capitalizing on his candidacy to invigorate and expand their movement.

“Demoralization has been the biggest enemy and Trump is changing all that,” said Stormfront founder Don Black, who reports additional listeners and call volume to his phone-in radio show, in addition to the site’s traffic bump. Black predicts that the white nationalist forces set in motion by Trump will be a legacy that outlives the businessman’s political career. “He’s certainly creating a movement that will continue independently of him even if he does fold at some point.”

Yes, that movement is called “The Republican Party” as Bloomberg News reminds us.

Almost two-thirds of likely 2016 Republican primary voters favor Donald Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S., while more than a third say it makes them more likely to vote for him.

Those are some of the findings from a Bloomberg Politics/Purple Strategies PulsePoll, an online survey conducted Tuesday, that shows support at 37 percent among all likely general-election voters for the controversial proposal put forward by the Republican front-runner.

“We believe these numbers are made up of some people who are truly expressing religious bigotry and others who are fearful about terrorism and are willing to do anything they think might make us safer,” Doug Usher, who runs polling for Washington-based Purple Strategies, said in his analysis of the findings. “This indicates that, despite some conventional wisdom expressed in the last 48 hours, this is unlikely to hurt Trump at least in the primary campaign.”

Why would it, when the entire party is currently running a dozen nativist assholes for President and has been as loudly and as boldly racist as possible for a long time and virulently so since Barack Obama came on the national scene?  Why would it when a bunch of Republican governors are trying to kick brown people out of their states? Why would it when you have a racist asshole base that finds Trump’s nuclear-powered foghorn hate speech towards anyone darker than a paper bag a refreshing reason to vote for the guy?

Trump is not the cause, he is the inevitable result of today’s GOP, and much like herpes the body politic breaks out in overt racism and produces pustules like The Donald time and time again in American history, it’s just a matter of how big they get and how sick we get before they are lanced.  The names are different, the disease remains the same, and America has been infected with it since the start, kids.

The fact is if he was the GOP nominee, he’d get 45% of the popular vote minimum. Maybe he’d lose 55-45 to Clinton or Sanders, but maybe not. And if anything, Trump is heavy cover for the kinder, gentler racist fascism of Cruz, Rubio, Carson, and the rest of the GOP. The country club section of the party on their fainting couches saying that Trump doesn’t represent them were very happy to support calls to limit Middle Eastern immigration to Christians.

Trump is just the latest face on this evil Mr. Potato Head of nativist hatred, the problem is with all the Republicans who like the cut of his jib…and oh yeah, the Democrats looking the other way and/or still playing the “not a dime’s worth of difference” game.

We’re just going to have to weed out the garden again, and that’s going to take work.  It’s what we do, but damn it would be nice if we just got a backhoe and dug up the whole place one of these decades, huh.



Open Thread: The Wingnut Wurlitzer Falls Into the Pit It Has Dug

Any time during the last forty years, a New York reporter looking for a few quick column inches could check whatever atrocity property developer and short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump had most recently become involved with. Any time in the last twenty years, a national entertainment reporter could always examine Trump’s latest “reality show”, studded with wanna-be celebrities and sociopaths, for going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket filler. Mocking rich jerks with ambitions of seriousness has been a trope since long before the classical Greeks codified the “look at this putz, he thinks he can buy respect” playbook.

Then generally inoffensive reporter McKay Coppins wrote up a Buzzfeed interview mocking Trump’s presidential “ambitions”, it took off on The Nets, and the intersection of wounded plutocracy and the well-honed rightwing media machine produced… a monster. Per Mr. Coppins, at the Washington Post:

… Trump’s dominance in this year’s presidential primary race has often been described as a mysterious natural phenomenon: the Donald riding a wild, unpredictable tsunami of conservative populist anger that just now happens to be crashing down on the Republican establishment. But in fact, Trump spent years methodically building and buying support for himself in a vast, right-wing counter-establishment — one that exists entirely outside the old party infrastructure and is quickly becoming just as powerful.

These forces have asserted themselves repeatedly in the fight over the future of the Republican Party. But Trump came to understand their power earlier than most. When no one was watching, he was assuming command of this Fringe Establishment, building an army of activists and avatars that he would eventually deploy in his scorched-earth assault on the GOP’s old guard, on his rivals in the primary field — and, as an early test case in the winter of 2014, on me…

… An entire right-wing media ecosystem has sprung up, where journalist-warriors flood social media with rumors of sharia law coming to suburbia and hype a fast-approaching “race war” in America targeting whites. The Republican establishment — a loose coalition of party committees, moderate donors and business interests — once hoped to harness this tremendous new energy to recapture the White House.

Instead, the Fringe Establishment is the one doing the harnessing… Read more



Spies (Really Do) Like Us, Or The Man From K.O.C.H.

Team WIN THE MORNING commits acts of investigative journalism for once, and guess which major right-wing political donors are so wealthy and powerful that they have their own 25-person strong in-house intelligence gathering agency to spy on liberals with?

The competitive intelligence effort, reported here for the first time, also hints at the audaciousness of the Koch network’s mission. While the Republican Party focuses on winning elections, the Kochs want to realign American politics, government and society around free enterprise philosophies that they hope to spread more broadly.

A key to accomplishing the mission, from the Kochs’ perspective, is countering super PACs and other big-money groups funded by rich liberals, as well as allied public sector unions and academic and media elites. The Kochs’ allies feel that those forces have worked together for decades with Democratic politicians and government bureaucrats to institutionalize the philosophy that heavy regulation and taxation of business is the only way to ensure an equitable society.

The Kochs concluded that defeating this well-funded left-wing infrastructure requires tracking the professional left in real time ― a capability they realized they lacked after the 2012 election. In the run-up to that election, the Koch network spent $400-million-plus attacking Democratic politicians and policies, only to see President Barack Obama win re-election and his party maintain control of the Senate. A forensic audit of the network’s efforts concluded the Kochs had been out-maneuvered by the left on the airwaves, in the data war and on the ground. Vowing not to let that happen again, the network began investing in the competitive intelligence team and other efforts to keep tabs on the left.

To be sure, the Kochs’ operation isn’t the only one focused on pulling back the curtain on its opponents. In fact, liberal activists and groups have frequently worked to expose the activities of the Koch brothers and their network. But the competitive intelligence team, like so many other Koch-backed programs, appears to be unique in its scale and its thoroughly methodological approach.

The outfit is run by a former CIA operative named Mike Roman, and from all indications it’s a very professional deal. Keep in mind that if it was a left-wing business group that had its own intelligence group tracking conservatives in real-time, there would be congressional hearings, subpoenas , endless breaking news stories, and conservatives screaming that American take up armed resistance to overthrow “tyrant” Obama’s network of spies.  Hell, those attacks on the “Dems” private Stasi” would be coming from the right and the civil libertarian left.

But it’s the Koch Brothers, so it’s okay. And of course, the paranoid style runs deep.

In addition to delving into the left, the competitive intelligence team also monitors potential Koch network threats, according to sources familiar with it. It tracks people deemed suspicious outside the offices of Koch network groups, circulating be-on-the-lookout photos to internal network email lists, while keeping an eye on the network’s own ranks for possible leakers or disloyal employees.

One former network executive remembers an email containing a photo of a man identified as an operative with the environmental group Greenpeace who allegedly had been spotted taking his own photos outside the network’s cluster of offices in the Courthouse neighborhood of Arlington.

Connor Gibson, a Greenpeace researcher who focuses on the Koch network, said he visits its component groups’ offices once a year to pick up their tax filings, and he speculated he could have been the operative photographed by the competitive intelligence unit. While he said he’s never sought to conceal his identity during such visits, he added “If the Kochs consider me an opponent, I’m flattered.”

In another instance, sources say, Roman’s team set out to identify an IT contractor who was working for one of the network’s groups and was posting anonymous messages to Reddit, proclaiming that he worked for the Koch brothers but despised their stances. Within 48 hours, the team had sleuthed out the offender and his contract was terminated.

“They were scared to death of moles,” said the former executive.

A separate source ― an organizer who’s worked with the unit ― described it as “a full opposition research operation, only at about 10-times the level of any political campaign.” The organizer added “my guess is that most people inside the network don’t even know about it.”

Understand that this is the logical endpoint of believing your political opponents as an enemy that needs to be ferreted out and destroyed, to spy on them, track them, identify them, and to conduct counter-espionage against, all in the name of controlling the country’s politics.  And they have access to billions in resources in order to do it.

The Kochs see liberals — fellow Americans, mind you — as people who must be tracked in real-time.

This is who controls American politics.



NFL Open Thread

Once again, we have a 9:30 AM ET game in London today, so I’m posting my picks early:

My big upset pick for this week is Colts over Panthers in the MNF game tomorrow. I keep sticking with the Colts despite all evidence that they suck. No good reason for that; I’m not a particular fan of the Colts other than being an admirerer of Andrew Luck, and the Panthers are undefeated and clearly the superior team. It’s just a feeling.

Anyone got any game-related (or NFL-free) BBQ plans today? I’m thinking about it. We had some guests over yesterday to watch the big college game, and for once, we decided NOT to do a cookout but rather to order pizzas so we could focus on the gridiron rather than the grill. We might make up for it today. Haven’t decided yet.

Open thread!



Everything’s Obama’s Fault

Jeff Greenfield over at WIN THE MORNING decides that this whole “President Obama kicking ass for the last year or so” thing is getting boring, and giving a black President a positive can’t possibly be right, so we’re back to everything is Obama’s fault as to how he has destroyed the Democratic party.

Under Obama, the party started strong. “When Obama was elected in 2008, Democrats were at a high water mark,” says David Axelrod, who served as one of Obama’s top strategists. “Driven by antipathy to George W. Bush and then the Obama wave, Democrats had enjoyed two banner elections in ’06 and ’08. We won dozens of improbable congressional elections in states and districts that normally would tack Republican, and that effect trickled down to other offices. You add to that the fact that we would take office in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, and it was apparent, from Day One, that we had nowhere to go but down.”

The first signs of the slowly unfolding debacle that has meant the decimation of the Democratic Party nationally began early—with the special election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s empty Senate seat in Massachusetts. That early loss, even though the seat was won back eventually by Elizabeth Warren, presaged the 2010 midterms, which saw the loss of 63 House and six Senate seats. It was disaster that came as no surprise to the White House, but also proved a signal of what was to come.

The party’s record over the past six years has made clear that when Barack Obama leaves office in January 2017 the Democratic Party will have ceded vast sections of the country to Republicans, and will be left with a weak bench of high-level elected officials. It is, in fact, so bleak a record that even if the Democrats hold the White House and retake the Senate in 2016, the party’s wounds will remain deep and enduring, threatening the enactment of anything like a “progressive” agenda across much of the nation and eliminating nearly a decade’s worth of rising stars who might help strengthen the party in elections ahead.

The really weird part is that nowhere in the entire piece do I see the words “Debbie Wasserman Schultz” who, as chair of the DNC, would ostensibly be the person in charge of the election strategies and GOTV tactics that Greenfield is complaining about, but I guess Greenfield has never met her or something.

Also, there is the small matter of the impressive number of Democrats who lost by running as far away from Barack Obama as possible in 2010, 2012, and 2014 but no, the problem is of course Obama.

That’s the Beltway wisdom, and it will be for a very, very long time.

 



A Claire And Present Victory

Why yes, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill wanted to make sure that Rep. Todd Akin won the 2012 Missouri GOP primary so that she could kick his ass in the general, and at this point she’s bragging to WIN THE MORNING about how she helped make that happen.

Akin’s track record made him my ideal opponent. Many of his votes in Congress contradicted his claim of being a fiscal conservative. While he opposed President Barack Obama’s authority to raise the debt limit, during the Bush administration, in 2004, he had voted to raise the limit by $800 billion. A vocal opponent of the Obama administration’s stimulus efforts, in 2001 Akin had voted in favor of a $25 billion stimulus package that mostly benefited large corporations and the wealthy. And he was a big earmarker: in one fiscal year he sponsored or cosponsored $14 million worth of pork and once sought $3.3 million in a special appropriation for a highway near nine acres he owned and was planning to develop. While opposing spending money for child nutrition programs, veterans’ health benefits, and disaster relief, he repeatedly voted to raise his own salary.

His extreme positions on social issues and ridiculous public statements made him anathema to many independent voters. He sponsored an amendment that would define life as beginning at conception, thereby outlawing common forms of birth control. He voted against repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation. When the Affordable Care Act was being debated, he stood on the House floor and asked for God’s help in keeping the nation from “socialized medicine.” In 2008, he claimed in a House floor speech that it was “common practice” for doctors to conduct abortions on women “who were not actually pregnant.” He had made speeches calling for America to pull out of the United Nations and claiming the government had “a bunch of socialists in the Senate” and a “commie” in the White House.

So how could we maneuver Akin into the GOP driver’s seat?

Using the guidance of my campaign staff and consultants, we came up with the idea for a “dog whistle” ad, a message that was pitched in such a way that it would be heard only by a certain group of people. I told my team we needed to put Akin’s uber-conservative bona fides in an ad—and then, using reverse psychology, tell voters not to vote for him. And we needed to run the hell out of that ad.

My consultants put together a $1.7 million plan. Four weeks out we would begin with a television ad boosting Akin, which my campaign consultant Mike Muir dubbed “A Cup of Tea.” The production costs were pretty low, about $20,000, because we didn’t have to film anything. We just used pictures and voice-overs. We would spend $750,000 at first and run it for eight or nine days. Then we’d go back into the field and test to see if it was working. If it was, we’d dump in more “McCaskill for Senate” money, and we’d add radio and more TV in St. Louis and Kansas City. The second TV buy would approach $900,000. We hoped that some of our friends watching the TV ads would catch on and some of the outside groups would augment the last week with mail and radio. Sure enough, a radio ad calling Akin “too conservative” that went on the air in the closing days of the primary was paid for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. We would later find out that their rural radio buy was $250,000.

As it turned out, we spent more money for Todd Akin in the last two weeks of the primary than he spent on his whole primary campaign.

Not sure how I feel about this.  On one hand, buying a general election opponent just to clean their clock is something a good politician shouldn’t have to do.

On the other hand, it worked and most importantly, McCaskill is in the Senate and Todd Akin is most certainly not, and I’m frankly more than okay with that.

Given the fact that a similar situation is shaping up here in Kentucky for governor this November, if Republican primary voters want to put the craziest mofo up to run against a Democrat in a red state, well I’m not going to stop them.  And if ad buys by the Democrat help make that happen, well it wouldn’t be the first time.

We’ll see if Jack Conway can pull off the win against Matt Bevin here in Kentucky the same way Claire McCaskill beat Todd Akin.