Political Animal

The Biggest Barrier Facing Women Running for President

As any Democrat knows, black women are the backbone of the party. It’s a ubiquitous fact in virtually all coverage of the 2020 presidential election.

Yet as of this writing, there are six candidates who qualify for December’s Democratic debate, and every single one of them is white. That’s because Senator Kamala Harris, once a top-tier candidate who would have qualified, dropped out Tuesday after it became clear that maintaining her campaign was no longer financially viable. Meanwhile, Senator Cory Booker, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang have yet to meet the next debate’s qualifications.

How is it that what was once the most diverse field of presidential candidates in American history has now become so racially monochrome? If nothing changes by December 19, when the candidates will take the stage in Los Angeles, Democrats will broadcast a message that they surely wouldn’t want to endorse—that they, like Republicans, remain a predominantly white party.

For starters, there continue to be several drivers behind this phenomenon during the 2020 election cycle, and none bode well for the party’s base. Money, racism, misogyny, sexism, and an elongated primary and debate season all play a role. But the biggest culprit is the white male-dominated media’s outsize influence on how the candidates are presented.

Television and print media play a tremendous role in how the public understands presidential hopefuls. It is the media, after all, that decides which candidates are worthy of coverage—and how much of it. That makes perfect sense, but once you peel back the onion, you recognize the greater problem: who exactly makes those decisions at the most powerful news organizations in the country.

Cable news channels like MSNBC and CNN have drastically upped their diversity efforts, and it shows. They should be lauded for those efforts—especially because most Americans, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center study, get their news through television. But the evening lineups largely consist of shows with male anchors. On MSNBC, the most-watched primetime slot belongs to Rachel Maddow. But look at the lineup for all the other hours: Chuck Todd, Ari Melber, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Brian Williams. Nicole Wallace has an afternoon slot. In other words, the bulk of MSNBC’s viewers in the evening hours get their news from a male perspective.

Similarly, CNN provides only one hour of female-led news with Erin Burnett, from 7 p.m. EST to 8 p.m. EST, while every hour is led by Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo, and Don Lemon.

Print media also holds a greater share of male influence. What do the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, the New Yorker, Politico, the Los Angeles Times, and, yes, even the Washington Monthly all have in common? They all have male editors-in-chief. USA Today is the only national newspaper that boasts a woman at the top of the masthead.

To be sure, MSNBC, CNN, and most print and digital media outlets do not solely cover politics and the election. And male views on political candidates are certainly critical to informing voters about those candidates’ policies, weaknesses, and assets. By no means must they be discarded. But the numbers don’t lie: men—and predominantly white men—hold the largest and loudest megaphones in political journalism.

This glaring disparity affects the political playing field, even if the most open-minded, inclusive men are in these roles. It means that most voters are told what a president should look like, sound like, prioritize, and value through the prism of a white male lens.

That’s not to say that white men in media don’t want, or even prefer, a female president or candidate of color. In fact, most men who practice opinion journalism favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, and Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. But it does mean that women or people of color running in a primary have to convince the white male media gatekeepers to let them through so that they can then reach voters.

As long as a white male-dominated media gets to decide who receives positive attention or criticism, or whom they will ignore, women and candidates of color will continue to pay a price. And that price, as we saw this week, is the steady erosion of campaign funding that comes with negative or dismissive media coverage. And when a candidate can’t raise money, she can’t pay for staff salaries or headquarters space, she can’t afford to travel around the country to make her case, she can’t pay pollsters and consultants, or buy TV or digital ads. Then, she drops out.

This problem is not insurmountable. We don’t need all female editors-in-chief to level the playing field. We don’t even need the majority of evening cable news shows to be hosted by women or people of color. But we do need more diverse and female voices on television and in print writing about and reporting on the candidates, unpacking them through the knowledge and insight they carry through their experience of being women and people of color in America.

Take, for example, Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post. She covers the 2020 candidates prolifically, with a critical eye for their strengths while thoughtfully discussing their weaknesses. She helps readers make sophisticated assessments about the field, rather than solely report on a campaign’s palace intrigue to generate clicks. Consequently, she is providing a service to all voters, whether male or female. Jonathan Capehart, a gay, African American opinion writer for the Post has a similar approach to the 2020 field.

As Democrats consider who is best to defeat Donald Trump, they should not limit their choices to candidate who is white enough and moderate enough to make only the male voters happy. And as they weigh their options, they need a more diverse array of journalists weighing in.

Black women are the backbone of the Democratic party—and women make up more than half of total voters, period. With all the power women have at the polls, it’s time to give them a louder megaphone.

The Attorney General Threatened Our Constitutional Rights

William Barr has already demonstrated that he is an attorney general who:

  1. Is more interested in protecting the president than acting as the chief law enforcement officer of the country,
  2. Believes that only religious people (i.e., Christians) are capable of self-government, and
  3. Doesn’t know the difference between justice and revenge.

But in a speech to police officers and prosecutors on Tuesday, he demonstrated that he also doesn’t respect our constitutional rights.

“Today, the American people have to focus on something else, which is the sacrifice and the service that is given by our law enforcement officers. And they have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves,” Barr said in pointed remarks delivered at a Justice Department ceremony to honor police officers.

Barr added that “if communities don’t give that support and respect, they might find themselves without the police protection they need.”…

[H]e suggested, Americans should stop protesting police officers “fighting an unrelenting, never-ending fight against criminal predators in our society.”

While Barr didn’t specify how communities will “find themselves without the police protection they need” if they don’t show an adequate amount of support and respect for law enforcement, his words were designed to be an obvious threat to those who protest against police misconduct, particularly in communities of color.

To get an idea of just how aberrant Barr’s comments are, it is helpful to take a look at how a previous attorney general talked about protests against law enforcement. When Eric Holder visited Ferguson in the midst of protests against the killing of Michael Brown, he said this.

This is something that has a history to it and the history simmers beneath the surface in more communities than just Ferguson…

I just had the opportunity to sit down with some wonderful young people and to hear them talk about the mistrust they have at a young age. These are young people and already they are concerned about potential interactions they might have with the police.

I understand that mistrust. I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man. I can remember being stopped on the New Jersey turnpike on two occasions and accused of speeding. Pulled over …. ‘Let me search your car’ … Go through the trunk of my car, look under the seats and all this kind of stuff. I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me.

In other words, at that point we had an attorney general who listened to and identified with the community that was protesting. But he didn’t stop there, Holder worked with law enforcement to provide guidance on how to do their job of protecting the community while respecting our constitutional right to protest.

Holder upheld not just the constitutional right to protest, but lauded its value.

Peaceful protest has been a hallmark, and a legacy, of past movements for change, from patriotic women who demanded access to the franchise, to the civil rights pioneers who marched for equal rights and equal justice.

That, my friends, is how things are supposed to work in a pluralistic democracy, while Barr’s threats are the pathway to authoritarianism.

We don’t vote directly on who gets the job of attorney general. But I can think of no better example of the phrase “elections matter” than to contrast the ones chosen by Obama and Trump. Our democracy requires both a president and an attorney general who respect and defend our constitutional rights.

Trump Is Humiliated in Europe Again

Given that Donald Trump has long boasted about his skills at tax avoidance, I suspect that there are things in his tax returns that would be politically problematic for him. People might even wonder why the Internal Revenue Service hasn’t done more to address his failure to pay his fair share. But I truly believe that the audience he’s really concerned about consists of other wealthy people who would laugh at the disparity between the riches he has always claimed to have and the reality that he’s nowhere close to being an actual billionaire.

I’ve been watching Trump since I was teenager growing up in the New York media market. It has been obvious to me that he’s driven by insecurities and resentment toward the Manhattan financial elite who have always viewed him as a mannerless fraud from the outer boroughs. He really wants their acceptance and I think he thought he’d finally get it when he won the presidency. It hasn’t worked out that way, and the only thing that has changed is that people see him now as a threat.

It’s hard to imagine anything that would strike Trump to his core more than being ridiculed by his would-be peers, and that’s why it was predictable as the rain that he’d throw a fit when he realized that he was the butt of jokes at the Queen Elizabeth’s Buckingham Palace reception on Tuesday night.

As dignitaries and world leaders milled around Buckingham Palace on Tuesday at a NATO summit reception, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron chatted in a loose circle.

Snippets of their conversation rose above the din and were captured in a short video that went viral after viewers surmised that the group appeared to be joking about President Trump’s performance earlier in the day.

Trump was particularly angry with Justin Trudeau who was captured on an audio feed sympathizing with Macron for being unexpectedly roped into a tense 40 minute press conference that was supposed to be a brief photo opportunity. Doing his best “Mean Girls” impression, Trump called Trudeau “two-faced” and suggested he was just angry about criticism that Canada doesn’t contribute enough money to NATO.

Then he did this:

President Donald Trump on Wednesday abruptly canceled a press conference that was scheduled to cap a contentious trip to London for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 70th anniversary meeting.

The presser was scheduled to come after a series of bilateral meetings with NATO members, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

“When today’s meetings are over, I will be heading back to Washington,” Trump said in a series of tweets.

“We won’t be doing a press conference at the close of NATO because we did so many over the past two days. Safe travels to all!” Trump said.

The president is obviously wounded. His feelings are hurt. And now he will seek ways to exact revenge. This is such a well established pattern with him by now that I have no trouble predicting that he will repeat it.

This behavior has never won him respect in the past and it will not work in the future.  At this point, I’m surprised that he continues to make foreign trips to Europe since they always end in humiliation.

The House Intelligence Committee Identifies Trump’s Accomplices

The House Intelligence Committee released its report on the impeachment hearings and there is going to be a lot of information to digest from its 300 pages. But the first thing that grabbed my attention was that the authors didn’t hesitate to identify Trump’s accomplices. Here is part of the opening statement from Representative Adam Schiff (emphasis mine).

The impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, uncovered a months-long effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.  As described in this executive summary and the report that follows, President Trump’s scheme subverted U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favor of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential reelection campaign.  The President demanded that the newly-elected Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, publicly announce investigations into a political rival that he apparently feared the most, former Vice President Joe Biden, and into a discredited theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 presidential election.  To compel the Ukrainian President to do his political bidding, President Trump conditioned two official acts on the public announcement of the investigations:  a coveted White House visit and critical U.S. military assistance Ukraine needed to fight its Russian adversary…

Although President Trump’s scheme intentionally bypassed many career personnel, it was undertaken with the knowledge and approval of senior Administration officials, including the President’s Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

In the preface, another person was added to the list.

Our investigation determined that this telephone call was neither the start nor the end of President Trump’s efforts to bend U.S. foreign policy for his personal gain.  Rather, it was a dramatic crescendo within a months-long campaign driven by President Trump in which senior U.S. officials, including the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Acting Chief of Staff, the Secretary of Energy, and others were either knowledgeable of or active participants in an effort to extract from a foreign nation the personal political benefits sought by the President.

Implicated in the president’s impeachable offenses are Pence, Pompeo, Mulvaney, and Perry. All of them were “either knowledgeable or active participants” in the extortion of a foreign government for Trump’s political gain.

When it comes to the behind-the-scenes work of Giuliani, I had previously identified the cast of characters he assembled.

Connectors: Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman
Reporter: John Solomon
Lawyers: Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova

According to the Intelligence Committee’s report, their complicity was even deeper than we knew and included one other player: Representative Devin Nunes.

CNN had previously reported that Lev Parnas was willing to testify that Nunes met with former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin in Vienna last December. But telephone records obtained by the committee show the web of people involved in Giuliani’s racket talking to each other (as well as the White House) on a regular basis. Included were several calls during significant events between Giuliani and Nunes, as well as between Parnas and Nunes.

Earlier this year I speculated that Representative Nunes was Trump’s mole inside the “gang of eight” involved with intelligence briefings on the Trump-Russia investigation. Apparently he continued in a similar capacity for the Ukraine affair. This time, however, Nunes appears to be complicit in the activities undertaken by Giuliani on behalf of Trump.

We already knew that the legal team of Toensing and diGenova represented both John Solomon and Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch with ties to the Kremlin. But the House Intelligence Committee documents that they had three other Ukrainian clients.

Beginning in mid-April, Ms. Toensing signed retainer agreements between diGenova & Toensing LLP and Mr. Lutsenko, Mr. Kulyk, and Mr. Shokin—all of whom feature in Mr. Solomon’s opinion pieces. In these retainer agreements, the firm agreed to represent Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Kulyk in meetings with U.S. officials regarding alleged “evidence” of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, and to represent Mr. Shokin “for the purpose of collecting evidence regarding his March 2016 firing as Prosecutor General of Ukraine and the role of Vice President Biden in such firing, and presenting such evidence to U.S. and foreign authorities.” On July 25, President Trump would personally press President Zelensky to investigate these very same matters.

Just to be clear, all three of those clients are former corrupt Ukrainian prosecutors, with Kostiantyn Kulyk being the most recent to be fired as a result of President Zelensky’s anti-corruption efforts.

Zelensky’s new prosecutor general, Ruslan Ryaboshapka — “100 percent my person,” Zelensky told Trump in July — last week gave a dismissal notice to Kulyk, a key player in the effort to provide Giuliani with political ammunition of dubious accuracy. Kulyk denies meeting Giuliani, but former associates say he prepared a seven-page dossier that his boss later passed along to the former New York mayor.

Demonstrating what Josh Kovensky described as a “mad scramble in Trumpworld” after it became clear that Zelenksy would win the election in April and the deal Giuliani had bartered with former Ukrainian President Poroshenko would go down the tubes, Toensing and diGenova signed on as legal counsel for the three corrupt prosecutors in mid-April in order to get dirt on Trump’s political opponents. It was all part of the plan to put pressure on the incoming president of Ukraine.

The report from the House Intelligence Committee thoroughly documents Trump’s impeachable offenses. But he didn’t act alone. They also document the actions of the president’s accomplices, both inside and outside the administration.