Tag Archives: influence

America’s TASS

Remember TASS? It was the media arm of the Soviet Government–the Russian News Agency, owned and operated by the government. 

Fox News–or as those of us resistant to its messaging like to call it, “Faux News”–isn’t technically owned by the GOP. But it might just as well be; it is the not-so-unofficial arm of the radical lunatics who are now fully in control of a once-reputable political party. This assertion doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone outside the cult, but recent revelations are, if anything, more troubling.

Not just troubling, actually–horrifying.

As The Washington Post and other media outlets have reported, the wacko pundits of Fox had arguably more influence over Trump than members of his official cabinet (not that those cabinet members had been plucked from the gardens of competence…). New revelations from books written by former staffers are eye-opening.

Stephanie Grisham, former press secretary to President Donald Trump, remembers the challenges that came from so many Fox News hosts having the direct number to reach Trump in the White House residence.
“There were times the president would come down the next morning and say, ‘Well, Sean thinks we should do this,’ or, ‘Judge Jeanine thinks we should do this,’ ” said Grisham, referring to Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro, both of whom host prime-time Fox News shows.

Grisham — who resigned from the White House amid the Jan. 6 attacks and has since written a book critical of Trump — said West Wing staffers would simply roll their eyes in frustration as they scrambled to respond to the influence of the network’s hosts, who weighed in on everything from personnel to messaging strategy.
Trump’s staff, allies and even adversaries were long accustomed to playing to an “Audience of One” — a commander in chief with a twitchy TiVo finger and obsessed with cable news.

Investigations into the insurrection have uncovered text messages that illustrate just how closely these unelected, unhinged ideologues were connected to the White House during Trump’s Presidency.

As the violence in the Capitol was occurring, several Fox News hosts sent texts to former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, texts that, as the Post reports, “crystallize with new specificity just how tightly Fox News and the White House were entwined during the Trump years, with many of the network’s top hosts serving as a cable cabinet of unofficial advisers.”

A former senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid details of private discussions, said Trump would also sometimes dial Hannity and Lou Dobbs — whose Fox Business show was canceled in February — into Oval Office staff meetings.

A report from The Week also reported the extent to which Trump relied on Fox pundits for policy decisions.

Alyssa Farah, a Trump White House communications director, said the goal of Trump’s staff was to “try to get ahead of what advice you thought he was going to be given by these people,” because their unofficial counsel “could completely change his mind on something.” 

Farah said Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Pirro, and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs had the most influence on Trump. Michael Pillsbury, an informal Trump adviser, told the Posthe saw the biggest impact from Dobbs, whose show was canceled last February. Trump began embracing lawyer Sidney Powell and other election fabulists after watching them on Dobbs’ show, and he was inclined to believe their patently false claims in part because he was seeing on TV, he added. 

“It taught me the power of the young producers at Fox, and Fox Business especially,” Pillsbury told the Post. “These young producers who are in their mid-20s. They come out of the conservative movement, they’ve never been in the government. They are presented with these reckless, fantastical accounts. And they believe them and put them on for ratings.”

During the four years of the Trump Administration, sane Americans frequently felt we were living in “never-never land”–that what we were witnessing was just too bizarre to be real. (According to multiple reports, our allies shared that level of disbelief.)

I guess when you inhabit a culture that puts a premium on click-bait, a culture that equates celebrity with merit, wealth with competence (remember that wonderful line from “If I Were A Rich Man”? “When you’re rich, they think you really know…”) and dismisses expertise and knowledge as “elitist,” you lose your anchor to reality.

To the best of my knowledge, even TASS never sank to the level of a Lou Dobbs or Tucker Carlson.



Pay For Play

Note: For anyone who is interested, I’ll be conducting a blogging workshop next Thursday at the Indiana Writers’ Center. Here’s the information.


I’m hesitant to attribute it to candor–it’s more likely a belief that they are untouchable–but members of the Trump Administration have evidently given up trying to hide their unethical behaviors. A recent example: Mick Mulvaney, the current director of OMB (whose second job is overseeing/dismantling Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) publicly admitted that the only people he willingly met with as a member of Congress were constituents and donors.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mulvaney said, according to a New York Times report this week. At the top of the hierarchy were his constituents, he explained, adding, “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.

According to the Daily Beast, Mulvaney no longer has constituents, so now he’s just taking meetings with lobbyists and companies who financed his past political campaigns.

Pay-for-play Mulvaney is right at home in today’s shameless GOP.

Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson is a millionaire. He recently told a group of high school students that healthcare and food are a privilege, not a right according to MSNBC, and quoted Rand Paul to the effect that if health care were a right, then doctors and other health providers would be “forced” to provide people with that right. (Sort of like slavery…)

And if you’ve wondered why so many Congressional Republicans have been downplaying Russia’s obvious influence on Trump, there’s this:

A close look at public campaign finance reports reveals a network of Russian oligarchs increasingly contributing to top Republican leadership in recent years, according to the Dallas News. And thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United in 2010, the donations are perfectly legal.

I’m sure you’ll be shocked to know that McConnell is identified as one of those benefitting from Russian largesse.

Needless to say, these paragons of public service don’t take kindly to admonitions about their obligations to the “least of us.” Despite their near-constant insistence that they are pious Christians, and despite their efforts to impose their particular brand of Christianity on the rest of us, they sure get prickly when a genuine Christian engages in even the mildest biblical truth-telling.

Case in point: Ostentatiously Catholic Paul Ryan abruptly dismissed the Catholic House Chaplain–a job that James Madison didn’t think should exist–after the chaplain offered a prayer that offended Ryan during the tax “reform” debate.

The sudden resignation of the chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, shocked members of both parties. He had served in the role since he was nominated in 2011 by Speaker John A. Boehner, a fellow Catholic. In an interview, Father Conroy was categorical: His departure was not voluntary.

“I was asked to resign, that is clear,” Father Conroy said. As for why, he added, “that is unclear.”…Father Conroy said he received the news from Mr. Ryan’s chief of staff. “The speaker would like your resignation,” Father Conroy recalled being told. He complied.

Father Conroy’s prayer had included a line asking that legislators be mindful of the ways their actions might affect the poor–a despicable display of compassion that evidently incurred the wrath of Ayn Rand’s most devoted disciple.

Commenters to this blog frequently remind others to “follow the money.” It’s good advice when the question at hand requires determining why such-and-such happened, or why so-and-so is taking a particular position.

Today’s GOP makes it unnecessary to follow the money. It isn’t just Trump. These plutocrats and would-be plutocrats are utterly transparent about the role money plays in their deliberations, their policies and their behaviors.

It’s what they really worship.