Former ThinkProgress Blogger: I Quit Over White House Censorship

A former blogger for ThinkProgress, the online mouthpiece for the far-left Center for American Progress policy outfit, revealed last week he quit in frustration after being repeatedly stonewalled by supervisors on how to approach topics the White House deemed sensitive.

Zaid Jilani joined ThinkProgress in 2009 to blog about national security issues, but it didn’t take long for him to realize that he faced insurmountable obstacles from within the CAP who wished to sell President Barack Obama’s narrative on the escalating U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

Reacting to two separate incidents last week in which reporters for Russia Today faced consequences (or quit) after criticizing Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, Jilani posted a Tumblr blog entitled “How Working In Washington Taught Me We’re All A Little Like RT America.”

I’m writing this post to explain how working in Washington taught me we’re all a little bit like the good folks who work at RT America — struggling against editorial censors, doing our best to follow our conscience despite sometimes suffocating pressures from our publishers and sponsors.

When I started working at ThinkProgress at the Center for American Progress Action Fund in 2009, I did so because it was an awesome platform to do good journalism. I knew that I disagreed with CAP on a number of issues, and that I wouldn’t be allowed to write things too harshly critical of President Obama — which half of senior CAP staff had worked for or wanted to work for — or the Democratic Party, or CAP’s corporate sponsors in the “Business Alliance.”

One of the controversial topics that was very constrained in our writing at ThinkProgress in 2009 was Afghanistan. CAP had decided not to protest Obama’s surge, so most our writing on the topic was simply neutral — we weren’t supposed to take a strong stand. Given that I had just moved up from Georgia, and the American South has a much higher proportion of its population in the Armed Forces, I felt particularly strong that we should oppose the continuation of the war. The people who ran CAP didn’t really agree.

Flash forward a couple years, and the Democratic Party’s lawmakers in Congress were in open revolt over the Afghanistan policy. Our writing at ThinkProgress had opened up a lot on the issue, and I was writing really critical stuff. I worked with our art and design team at CAP to put together a chart showing that Obama’s supposed “withdrawal” plan from Afghanistan would leave more troops in the country than when he began his presidency.

The post was one of the most successful things I had ever written to that point. It was featured by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell and the Congressional Progressive Caucus used it in their briefings to criticize Obama’s plan. I felt great — like I was actually doing the right thing about Afghanistan for once at an institution that had remained quiet or supportive of Obama’s policy there, which in my view was accomplishing little but more bloodshed.

But then phone calls from the White House started pouring in, berating my bosses for being critical of Obama on this policy. Obama’s advisor Ben Rhodes — speaking of a staffer who follows policy set by others for his career path — even made a post on the White House blog more or less attacking my chart by fudging the numbers and including both the Iraq and Afghan troop levels in a single chart to make it seem as if the surge never happened (the marvels of things you can do in Excel!).

Soon afterwards all of us ThinkProgress national security bloggers were called into a meeting with CAP senior staff and basically berated for opposing the Afghan war and creating daylight between us and Obama.

It got worse. Jilani eventually left his ThinkProgress gig, in part, he wrote, “for reasons of other censorship dealing with both corporate sponsors and that institution’s fealty to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).” He concludes by noting that every news outlet with which he’s since been affiliated has suffered under some degree of unspoken subjective slant or conflict of interest.

“[D]on’t judge those who work there [at RT], claiming they are just Kremlin Robots out to rebuild the Soviet Empire,” said Jilani. “They’re not that anymore than I was an Obamabot arguing for a long, pointless war in Afghanistan.”

Sunday News Show Roundup

U.S. foreign policy ruled Sunday’s TV talk.

Although they didn’t quite see eye to eye, two standout Republican Senators with possible 2016 Presidential ambitions kept yesterday’s roster of television punditry squarely on the topic of America’s role in policing the rest of the world.

Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), fresh off an invigorating CPAC welcome that saw them finish first and second, respectively, in the conservative conference’s annual Presidential straw poll, each sat for interviews on major networks Sunday to talk about whether, and how, the U.S. should weigh in on Russia’s continued intervention in the tumultuous political affairs of another former Soviet state.

Both men invoked former President Ronald Reagan’s tough-but-approachable brand of diplomacy as they criticized President Barack Obama’s weak-sauce rhetoric toward Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, Paul and Cruz interpreted the reach of Reagan’s language a little differently.

“[Reagan] said to [Mikhail Gorbachev] our potential adversary, ‘Don’t mistake our reluctance for war for a lack of resolve.’ People knew that with Ronald Reagan,” Paul told “Fox News Sunday.”

“They still need to know that with the United States. And part of the problem is, I think, this President [Obama] hasn’t projected enough strength, and hasn’t shown a priority to the national defense. That is something that, were I in charge, I would.”

Sounds like Paul is thinking about life in the White House.

Cruz was a bit more definitive in his Reagan-channeling Sunday, insinuating to ABC’s “This Week” that the United States has a proper moral justification to act, at pivotal historic moments, as a global police force.

“… I think there’s a vital role [for U.S. intervention], just as Ronald Reagan did,” said Cruz, invoking the GOP’s favorite President on his own terms. “When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire,’ when he stood in front the Brandenburg gate and said, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,’ those words changed the course of history.”

Like Paul, Cruz used his post-CPAC TV junket to play upon the idea that, were he the current occupant of the White House, America would be handling international crises differently. He described the Obama White House as a friend to foreign aggression and an enemy of America’s own diplomatic corps.

“You’d better believe that Putin sees that in Benghazi: four Americans murdered, and nothing happens,” said Cruz. “No retribution. You’d better believe that Putin sees that in Syria: Obama draws a ‘red line,’ and ignores it.”

On the whole, Cruz sounded a lot more hawkish than Paul — even though each relied on the Reagan diplomatic legacy to make his point.

Elsewhere, the talking heads cast about to give the Obama Administration a pass on yet another week of inaction and mixed signals concerning what, if anything, will spur the U.S. to action in the awkward Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Deputy National Security adviser Tony Blinken appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to describe how Obama is employing his community organizing philosophy to the rest of the world in fomenting a consensus-based opposition to Russia’s Ukrainian encroachment.

“[T]he President [is] mobilizing the international community in support of Ukraine, to isolate Russia for its actions in Ukraine, and to reassure our allies and partners,” Blinken said. “We’ve seen the President put together a major international support package. He’s invited the Ukrainian prime minister, [Arseniy] Yatsenyuk, to come to the White House on Wednesday, to further demonstrate that support, and to consult with him.”

Hoo, boy. Putin, look out.

Gay Conservatism A Non-Issue At CPAC 2014, But Progressives Take Shots Anyway

Whether to cast the canopy of the conservative Big Tent wide enough to welcome homosexuals into the fold has largely been a non-issue at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, thanks in no small part to the controversial dis-invite of another marginal group: conservative atheists.

This year’s spat between the American Atheists and the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, assured homosexual conservatives, perhaps only temporarily, a lower profile in the ongoing battle to define the territorial boundaries of organized conservatism. There’s been little coverage of any GOP-versus-the-gays controversy emanating from CPAC this year.

But that hasn’t stopped the progressive left from taking shots from afar. The Huffington Post released a predictable article today bashing CPAC’s atmosphere of alleged intolerance, carrying the flag for the subversive leftist tactics that label all conservative organizations and gatherings an exclusionary form of so-called “hate speech.”

A tiresomely disproportionate amount of ink (pixels?) gets wasted on the inclusion/exclusion argument when it  comes to homosexuality in the GOP, largely because the percentage of homosexuals – both conservative and otherwise – who make up the American population is far smaller than the abundance of sensational eyeball-seeking headlines would suggest.

But here we are yet again, staring down another progressive rant that seeks to take an important, but marginal, issue and co-opt the argument by painting with the broadest possible brush.

“The few times the issue of gay rights has come up at CPAC were indirect mentions – and they weren’t in the direction of inclusion,” the HuffPo story states. “On Thursday, for example, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) referenced his support for the star of the reality TV show ‘Duck Dynasty,’ who faced a backlash after making anti-gay remarks.”

Nice try, noted Breitbart’s Joel B. Pollak.

Having just published a column in which I called the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference “the gayest CPAC ever,” I was surprised to read a piece by Amanda Terkel at the Huffington Post claiming that gay rights were “missing” at CPAC. Terkel claims that gay issues weren’t mentioned at all at the conference.

…Terkel appears to have filed her story from the conference (the dateline is “NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.”) at 1:15 p.m. EST. Perhaps she should have waited about 25 minutes, because the topic of gay rights came up on a panel discussion about the relationship between libertarians and social conservatives.

One of those on the panel was conservative talk show host Michael Medved, who earned applause from the audience for defending the right of gay couples to adopt children.

But why let the facts ruin a good story attack, right? So file early, and file often.

Of course, the left comes at the gay rights issue primarily with a strategy of defending gay marriage. That’s a red herring for many libertarians, who wish for a government that bows out of the marriage “recognition” game for all Americans who want their personal business, including the rituals they embrace without any need for government recognition or sanction, to remain personal.

Is Arizona Finally Turning On John McCain?

Should Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) seek another Senate term in 2016, all that matters, perhaps, is that he’s popular in his State. But according to a new poll from the Public Policy Polling Institute, that’s about the only place he can still lay claim to broad-based voter support — and that’s on the strength of an election turnout that’s now nearly four years stale.

In fact, the Institute declared McCain the least popular Senator in the country Thursday, based on the results of a three-day phone survey carried out in late February and early March.

The Institute finds McCain is universally reviled across the party spectrum — and being a Republican doesn’t give him any real standing with most Americans who identify politically as Republicans. Only 35 percent of Arizona Republicans surveyed said they approve of the job he’s doing, compared with 55 percent who said they don’t. That barely exceeds his abysmal approval rating among Democrats and independents.

From the summary: 

Only 30% of Arizonans approve of the job McCain is doing to 54% who disapprove. There isn’t much variability in his numbers by party — he’s at 35/55 with Republicans, 29/53 with Democrats, and 25/55 with independents.

“The low opinion both Republicans and Democrats have of John McCain now means he could be vulnerable in both the primary and the general election next time around,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “George McGovern lost his Senate seat 8 years after losing his Presidential bid and McCain could suffer a similar fate.”

Is Arizona finally turning the corner on McCain? The Institute indicates Arizona voters might send him home if an election were held today. In hypothetical pairings against Richard Carmona and Gabrielle Giffords (yes, Gabrielle Giffords), McCain trails by 6 and 7 percentage points, respectively. He’s still slightly more popular than former Arizona Governor and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, leading his hypothetical race against her by 8 percentage points.

McCain has remained coy about his intentions after his current term ends, but has hinted that he’s already considering another run. If these poll numbers hold, though, we could be reading stories next year announcing his retirement from an illustrious Senate career.

Out with the old.

Obamacare Sign-Up Rate For The Uninsured: One In Ten

Two new surveys reveal something President Barack Obama and his Congressional yes-men (and women) should have known – indeed, according to some single-payer prognosticators, have known – all along: uninsured Americans, the people intended to benefit the most from Obamacare, are all but refusing to sign up for it.

As The Washington Post reported today, the two surveys – one from The Urban Institute; the other from consultants McKinsey & Co., indicate that as few as one in every ten uninsured Americans has volunteered their information, and their money, to enroll in an Obamacare plan through Federal or State-operated insurance exchanges.

“One of the surveys, by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., shows that among people who are uninsured and do not intend to get a health plan through one of the exchanges, the biggest factor is that they believe they cannot afford it,” observes the Post.

And therein lies the rub. The law requires that these people – people who aren’t eligible for Obama’s swollen new Medicaid – sign up and pay their own money for insurance they couldn’t afford, even back when it was cheaper than it’s become under Obamacare.

What in the world is going to force them to pay more now that Obamacare is the law of the land?

Of course, recruiting paying customers from the ranks of previously-uninsured Americans is the crux of Obamacare’s success. Without them, Obamacare simply becomes a gigantic unfunded mandate that individuals nullify by preferring a tax penalty to the high cost of insurance.

And it looks like de facto nullification is just fine for nine out of every ten uninsured Americans.

McConnell’s CPAC Gun Stunt A Cheap Shot At Conservatives

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), already an odd fellow amid the heady mix of conservatives and libertarians at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, knew his only reason for appearing at the event would be to pander to the few stragglers in the GOP’s anti-establishment movement gullible enough to believe whatever he had to say.

So he made a silent overture to the Constitutional crowd by tottering onstage holding a rifle. Things got awkward fast:

McConnell presented the rifle to retiring Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who has chosen not to seek re-election because of ongoing cancer-related health issues. Classy, huh?

Maybe. But Coburn and everyone else in the room knew that McConnell, one of the few CPAC invitees with conservative targets on their backs, was waving that gun around as a spirit stick to assure skeptical conservative voters he’s truly one of them.

This is the same guy who called Tea Partiers “bullies” whose upstart political clout merits a punch “in the nose” from the GOP establishment.

Thankfully, the intelligence-insulting motive for McConnell’s empty gesture wasn’t lost on the Internet. Here’s the most biting example we saw:

Want Ben Carson For President? There’s A PAC For That

When we ran a poll Tuesday that offered a limited number of choices of GOP Presidential contenders for 2016, a lot of readers, especially on Facebook, rejected our offerings and “wrote in” the names of potential candidates we didn’t mention.

Yesterday’s poll was necessarily limited by the topic of the story it accompanied. But that didn’t stop people from coming forward with their own choices — and one of the names our Facebook commenters most frequently mentioned was that of Dr. Ben Carson.

If you’re among the many who’ve been hoping Carson’s name might gain significant political and popular traction as we inch closer to the 2016 primary season, you might be pleased to know you’re not stranded on an island. In fact, there’s a PAC for that.

The pro-Carson PAC, the “National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee,” formed in August of 2013. In the six months of fundraising since its beginnings, the PAC has amassed close to $3 million in what, so far, has been a very grass-roots effort.

In a release Tuesday, the PAC announced it had raised $2,837,401 on the strength of nearly 47,000 individual contributions, with an average donation amount of $45. That’s about as grass-roots as you can get, but the committee is optimistic about the relatively strong reaction Carson’s name has elicited — considering the group’s fundraising method is intentionally a small-scale inversion of the efforts employed by large PACs on behalf of establishment candidates.

Much of the fundraising has come in the form of individual donations via RunBenRun.org, the PAC’s campaign website. Building a tiny war chest, one voter at a time, is a method of incremental fundraising the committee’s not ashamed of, despite its relatively modest take through six months of Internet campaigning.

“The Committee’s fundraising efforts are outpacing similar efforts designed to draft other high-profile candidates into the 2016 presidential race,” the PAC boasted in its release. “A political action committee encouraging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to enter the race for the Democratic nomination raised approximately $1.3 million in its first six months of operation, and roughly $2.75 million in its second six-month span.”

That certainly gives some perspective to the Carson movement, but the biggest stumbling block to a Carson candidacy may be Carson himself. Although he has demonstrated a fearless will to speak with conviction without regard for whom he might offend — he famously blasted Obamacare at last year’s National Prayer Breakfast, with President Barack Obama sitting right under his nose — Carson has explicitly distanced himself from the fundraising efforts that aim to put him in the 2016 primary field.

“I have not endorsed any of these organizations and have neither any professional nor personal relationships and am not in communication with any of them,” the former Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon said late last year. “I have not authorized any solicitation of funds in my name or likeness.”

But Carson has also revealed a grudging openness to the idea of a Presidential run, should larger circumstances obligate him.

“If the Lord grabbed me by the collar and made me do it, I would. It’s not my intention,” he told FOX News a year ago.

“Dr. Carson has said he will consider running for president if the American people are clamoring, and the tremendous outpouring of donations shows that the people are indeed clamoring,” said pro-Carson PAC campaign director Vernon Robinson in Tuesday’s press release. “Hundreds of thousands have signed the petition asking him to run, donated to the grassroots effort and volunteered their time to represent the Committee at events around the country…Grassroots conservatives are drawn to Dr. Carson because they know he is the only candidate capable of healing our land and uniting our country to overcome the crises created by recent administrations.”

Nuclear Option Fails Obama; Hillary Supporters Caught Off Guard; Secrets Put Bad Blood Between Congress, CIA; Curbing Big Pharma’s Conflicts Of Interest; Who’s Behind The Violence In Kiev? — Personal Liberty Digest™ P.M. Edition 3-5-2014

Brush up on the day’s headlines with Personal Liberty’s P.M. Edition.

Nuclear Option Backfires: Senate Rejects Obama’s Choice For DOJ Civil Rights Division; Obama Calls It A ‘Travesty’

Not even the nuclear option could clear a path for President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division today. Crossover votes from Senate Democrats helped the Republican minority carry the day on a 47-52 vote against Obama’s nominee, Debo P. Adegbile. Harry Reid wasn’t happy, and neither was Obama. Read More…

 

Watch Hillary Supporters Cast About To Name Any Of Her Accomplishments

She married Bill, moved to New York, become a Senator, lost out to Obama in 2008, and then teamed up with him to lead the State Department down a shameful path before dropping out of the White House over health issues. Are those the makings of a Presidential campaign? Watch these Hillary supporters stammer. Uhm…

 

CIA Inspector General Seeks Probe Of Agency Conduct Over Senate Report

The CIA Inspector General’s office asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the agency’s conduct in an unreleased Senate study of secret detention programs. That request marks a huge disintegration in relations between the CIA and its Congressional overseers amid a non-public battle over a report on the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists held in covert prisons overseas. Read More…

 

As Full Disclosure Nears, Doctors’ Pay For Drug Talks Plummets

Some of the Nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies have slashed payments to health professionals for promotional speeches amid heightened public scrutiny of such spending, a new ProPublica analysis shows. Read More…

 

Kiev Violence A False Flag

A leaked telephone conversation reveals that the snipers who shot at protesters and police in Kiev leading to charges of criminality against the deposed Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych were hired by U.S.-backed opposition leaders. Read More…

Nuclear Option Backfires: Senate Rejects Obama’s Choice For DOJ Civil Rights Division; Obama Calls It A ‘Travesty’

Not even a Democrat-led rule change last November, one requiring only a simple majority confirmation vote for executive nominees, was sufficient to clear President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division today.

Crossover votes from Senate Democrats helped the Republican minority carry the day, despite last year’s “nuclear option” rule changes that were supposed to make this sort of thing a cakewalk for the Democratic majority. The Senate voted 47-52 against confirming Obama’s nominee, Debo P. Adegbile, to step into the role left vacant by Thomas Perez’s confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Labor.

Obama was none too happy, calling the down vote “a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant” and said that Adegbile, who was once a child actor on “Sesame Street,” had become a victim of “Washington politics.”

Much has been made over Adegbile’s defense of convicted murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is serving a life sentence for killing Philadelphia cop Daniel Faulkner in 1981, as the basis for Senate Republicans’ strong opposition to his confirmation. Rhetorically speaking, Adegbile’s role in providing Abu-Jamal’s criminal defense was low-hanging fruit for sanctimonious opposition to his nomination — and the threat of populist political repercussion in this election year may, in fact, have helped sway some Democrats to cross over on the confirmation vote.

But the deeper reason for the GOP’s resistance may lie with Adegbile’s record as a defender of the Voting Rights Act, a portion of which the Supreme Court struck down last year. Adegbile has been affiliated with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from more than 10 years, and keeping some States’ district-drawing sovereignty under the thumb of the Federal government has been a particularly dear passion of his over much of that time.

In all, eight Democrats voted against Adegbile’s confirmation — none more hypocritically (you can’t make this stuff up) than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who saw the writing on the wall and cast the “no” vote so that he might retain the prerogative, under Senate rules, to reconsider the vote. Why he thinks the outcome will be different, after such an embarrassing misfire of his beloved nuclear option, is anybody’s guess.

Watch Hillary Supporters Cast About To Name Any Of Her Accomplishments

Well, she married Bill, she moved to New York (by way of Arkansas and Washington, D.C.) to become a Senator, she lost out to Barack Obama in 2008, and she teamed up with Barack Obama to lead the State Department down a shameful path before dropping out of the White House over health issues.

Are those the makings of a Presidential campaign?

Hillary Clinton’s most ardent supporters aren’t sure. Most of the ones in this video can’t even think of as many of her achievements as we just listed.

The Media Research Center, Brent Bozell’s conservative organization that seeks to expose mainstream media liberal biases, trolled the winter meeting of the Democratic Party on Feb. 28, asking members of the Democratic National Committee to say some nice things about Hillary Clinton’s political résumé.

They thought of things like this:

“OK, ahm — her abortion stand.”

“I think she’s spent eight years in the White House.”

“All her foreign affairs experience being Secretary of State [Hello -- Benghazi qualifies as experience?!] …and being next to the President for eight years.”

And just wait ’til Dan Joseph of Media Research Center TV asks these people what Hillary’s greatest accomplishment as Secretary of State was. … Crickets.

One guy said she “didn’t create a problem” during her time under Obama. Way to toe the party line!