Watchdogs

Trump did this. Rice did that. Our media is starting to sound like siblings caught up in fight, waiting for mom to make the final decision. Over this last week Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security advisor, has come under fire for unmasking the names from the electronic surveillance that contained President Trump’s name.

Fox News’ articles by Adam Housley and another one by Cody Derespina both stated that Rice, “requested to unmask the names of Trump transition officials caught up in surveillance.” Stressing the fact that, “The identities of U.S. citizens collected during surveillance on foreign targets are supposed to be shielded unless they are unmasked by a top official, ostensibly for national security reasons.”

Whereas CNN’s Chris Cillizza is highlighting Trump’s claims that he believes Rice broke the law by unmasking the names of Americans. He also reports in the article, “A top national security official asking for the unmasking of a American citizen caught up in the incidental collection of surveillance data is not a crime. In fact, according to most national security experts, it’s a routine measure.”

This seems to be a situation of, who has the real facts. Clearly, one media outlet has not been completely truthful. The, “Media acts as watchdog to protect public interest against malpractice and create public awareness.” However, how can they be a watchdog for the public if they don’t fact check correctly?

It is one thing to frame the facts in different light it’s a completely different thing for the facts themselves to be different.

The double standard lies in the term “watchdog”. Watchdog implies a level of validity and accuracy but these articles are contradicting, which means one news sources, in this case Fox News or CNN, has been filling their stories with opinion instead of fact.

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Changing Your Frame of View

(Framing Assignment)

Neil Gorsuch’s nomination process for the Supreme Court has covered the pages of newspapers and been one of the top stories on news stations for over a month. I have chosen to analyze two articles that discuss the “nuclear option” by the Republicans and the filibuster by the Democrats that happened on April 6, 2017.

1) The first article is a left leaning article written by Sean Illing of Vox.com on April 6, 2017. In this article, the author implies that by invoking the nuclear option the GOP will only further aggravate the extreme partisanship that already exits. The impact of this action, he believes, is to completely remove the motivation to compromise on anything, noting that while the “nuclear option” is extreme it isn’t completely unprecedented, since the extreme partisanship is the worst it has ever been. He believes that our society needs to stop rewarding extreme partisanship and start rewarding cooperation.

http://www.vox.com/2017/4/6/15190048/neil-gorsuch-senate-supreme-court-congress

My right leaning article is written by Guy Benson of Townhall on April 6, 2017. This article more than suggests that the Democrats have once again caused issues for the Trump administration as a result of their filibuster of his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. He points out that the Democratic Party is acting irrationally, noting Gorsuch’s clean record and their lack of reasons for why he shouldn’t be confirmed. Benson points out that Democrats have been difficult every step of the way causing gridlock which has forced the Republicans to invoke the Reid Rule as the only way to stop this ridiculous behavior.

https://townhall.com/tipsheet/guybenson/2017/04/06/breaking-democrats-filibuster-gorsuch-gop-moving-forward-with-nuclear-rules-change-n2309783

2) Article 1 (left-leaning by Sean Illing)

Generic Frame: This decision by the Republican Senators makes the likelihood of compromise on issues and decisions from this point forward slim to none and, as a result, we are headed to a majority rule environment.

Neither party has any incentive to compromise on anything. There is no reason to think, after this move, that either party will respect this tradition of securing a supermajority before approving legislation.”

The author does not mention the Democratic Party’s similar decision in 2013 to change the filibuster rules for other judicial seats, but instead chooses only to address the Republican’s decision as the final straw and refers to this as an “unusual rule change.” His descriptive choices are further evidence that he is placing blame for the failure to compromise and reach a resolution not only with respect to this issue but perhaps all matters in the future when he notes, “I think consensual politics across partisan lines is in a death spiral.” Illing then closes by saying that Republicans will essentially pay for this decision when elections roll around, very directly blaming them for the failure to compromise, “Perhaps Republicans will realize, come election time, that very little has gotten done, and maybe that will instill some incentive to come to the table.”

Issue of Policy

Issue Frame: This filibuster and ‘nuclear decision’ came from decades of animosity and disagreement, not solely because of the Trump administration.

“It’s also the natural consequence of a decades-long polarization process in Congress”

The author expresses this frame by repetitively discusses the past and what led up to the filibuster and ‘nuclear decision’. Illing tries to use history as an explanatory factor with phrases like what’s quoted above as well as, “The gradual ratcheting up of partisanship has been underway since the 1980s in the Senate.” Thus proving that his way of evaluating the issue isn’t necessarily to look at only the events surrounding it but instead the events leading up to it, even if that means looking back a couple of decades.

Issue of Value

Article 2 (right-leaning by Guy Benson)

Generic Frame: The Democrats were intent on obstructing the nomination of Gorsuch, which forced the nuclear option.

Prior to the Gorsuch announcement, Schumer said it was ‘hard to imagine’ a Republican president selecting any judge Democrats could support, ruling out allowing the confirmation of a conservative judge in the mold of Scalia. He indicated that he would do his best to either force a non-conservative choice, or hold the seat vacant for four years.”

In this article Benson is blaming the filibuster and ‘nuclear decision’ on the left. He suggests that the left’s intent was to obstruct the nominee at all costs, regardless of his qualifications. Framing his article as a way to place all the blame on the Democrats by emphasizing the fact that Benson didn’t think they ever wanted to compromise. Once again he states, “Senate Democrats do not have one single good argument against Gorsuch, nor do they have one single principled rationalization of a filibuster.”

Issue of Policy

Issue Frame: The Republicans didn’t want to enact the Reid Rule, however if they felt that was the only way to force the right decision, it would have to happen.

“Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who hasn’t said how she will vote on the nuclear option, argued that both parties ‘will rue the day’ that led to the likely rule change. ‘If it’s necessary in order to get him confirmed, I may have to vote that way, but I certainly don’t want to,’ Collins told reporters Monday night…Collins said Gorsuch deserves to be on the high court and that she’s ‘committed’ to making sure he gets confirmed.”

Benson’s use of this type of frame helped create the scene, this wasn’t a decision the Republican’s would have made had Gorsuch been given a fair shake. He clearly indicates that the issue was created by the Democrats, “Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, are now invoking the Reid Rule, named after the erstwhile Democratic leader who axed most of the judicial filibuster in 2013. We’ve been through the history of Democrats’ unilateral aggression and stunning hypocrisy on these questions.” Based on Benson’s evaluation, the Republicans were given no choice but to enact the Reid Rule. He puts the responsibility for this action solely on the Democrats.

Issue of Value

3) This story is written from very different angles in these two articles. One puts all the blame squarely on the Democrats and the other acknowledges that the situation has been a long time coming, not directly blaming it on any one particular group but implying that Republicans should have done more to compromise.

This story though could have been told using Illing’s interview structure but without blaming one party or the other, only acknowledging that both parties have contributed to the current level of partisanship. Reporting the facts about why the Reid Rule was created and why the nuclear option would be used then could’ve supported this thought. The article could emphasize that each party’s commitment to work within the existing rules could have preventing this situation. This story would have taken the slant out of the article itself, allowing the reader to make an informed decision based on facts.

The Long Fought Battle of Nepotism

Nepotism. It’s defined as being some one who gets preferential treatment and who receives opportunities, recognition or favoritism that they have not earned, possibly cheating others out of an opportunity. This word has become synonymous with the Trump family, as he has not only hired Jared Kushner as a senior advisor but now his daughter, Ivanka, also has an office in the White House with top security clearances.

However, sorry to disappoint those who thought Trump was violating the anti-nepotism law of 1967, but he isn’t. CNN even quotes the DOJ deputy assistant attorney general, “In choosing his personal staff, the President enjoys an unusual degree of freedom, which Congress found suitable to the demands of his office.” This quote was back in January of this year when Trump announced that he was hiring his son-in-law.

As Eugene Scott of CNN reported,Obama hands over presidency to Trump at 58th Presidential Inauguration
’how is it nepotism?’ Miller, a Trump surrogate, replied.

‘Because she’s the daughter of the President, that’s how it’s nepotism,’ Camerota responded.

‘She’s working for free. She’s volunteering her time and effort for the good of the country,” Miller said.’”

The media and society has to remember this isn’t the first president to not only hire a family member but also challenge the anti-nepotism law. Scott Bomboy of Constitution Daily reported, “A similar debate, ironically, also took place in the 1990s when President Bill Clinton asked Hillary Clinton to lead a health-care task force.” As well as JFK, John Adams, Ulysses S. Grant, and Woodrow Wilson as stated on Maryjane.com, although all their presidencies were prior to 1967.

I don’t understand why the nepotism discussion is still being talked about when the DOJ has already cleared Trump. If they meet the job qualifications and are not being paid then they have the right to be appointed without violating the law.

(Photo courtesy of CreativeCommon.com with open copyright)

Where to Draw the Line

We, as a society, have certain expectations for our government and law enforcement such as keeping us safe from terrorists and making sure past attacks don’t happen again. However with recent attacks, like the Westminster Bridge terror attack and the San Bernardino shooters, our law enforcement seems to be getting push back.

When I say push back I’m talking about the struggle the F.B.I. and U.K. government have had trying to unencrypt the attacker’s encrypted messages.

The Washington Post’s reported that, “Apple vows to resist FBI demand to crack iPhone linked to San Bernardino attacks.” Where as, Facebook, the parent company of WhatsApp, stated, “We are horrified at the attack carried out in London and are cooperating with law enforcement as they continue their investigations,” to Fox News.

Privacy is always important but is it more important than our safety? The line has become not only fuzzy but also a double standard. Our society wants law enforcement to stop terrorists and prevent future attacks but not if it compromises our privacy.

I would rather companies find a way to cooperate with the government to unencrypt messages, sacrificing some, NOT ALL, of my privacy. Where would you draw the line?

Credibility of Anonymous Sources Comes Into Question

Trump hounded the media over their use of anonymous sources, sending them into a frenzy. However, now the media is highlighting the fact that Devin Nunes isn’t revealing his intelligence sources to anyone, including his own committee, in the Russia investigation.

So which is right? Should there be a different standard for the media and government officials regarding anonymous sources?

On Fox News’ show Media Buzz President Trump stated, “They [the media] shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there.” A correspondent on the show responded by saying, “There is a big difference between anonymous sourcing and anonymous quotes. You need to have anonymous sources. His point that journalists are making up anonymous sources is absolutely wrong.”

The New York Post quoted Nunes saying, “We will never reveal those sources and methods.” In response to Nunes’ statement, the Huffington Post published an article with the subtitle, “Nunes is supposed to lead a credible investigation into Trump administration contacts with Russia.”

I think it’s a complete double standard on both sides. Trump wants the media to stop using anonymous source but he’s said nothing about Nunes’ sources. Whereas, the media has refuted Trump’s allegation that anonymous sources are made up and now they are arguing that Nunes’ anonymous sources aren’t “credible.”

Both Trump and the media need to take a step back and look at the inconsistency in their positions. Either accept that anonymous sources are a good way to find information, allowing people to speak without fear of retribution, or reject it across the board on the basis that they are not reliable or credible.

Same Shoe, Different Foot

Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, has been called on by many Democrats to recuse himself from the investigation into whether Trump and constituents were in contact with Russia during the 2016 election. The reasoning behind this stems from the fact that Nunes, “is too close to President Trump to conduct an impartial inquiry,” as stated by Democratic representative Adam Schiff and reported by the New York Times.

Schiff also told CNN, “We’ve reached the point, after the events of this week, where it would be very difficult to maintain the credibility of the investigation if the chairman did not recuse himself from matters involving either the Trump campaign or the Trump transition team of which he was a member.”

nunesAll of Schiff’s comments, however, have created quite a double standard for himself. He has asked Nunes to recuse himself because of the statement above, yet he never recused himself when he was on the Select Committee on Benghazi.

Why does this matter?

Schiff was a part of the committee that investigated Benghazi, which included examining whether or not Hilary Clinton acted appropriately in the events preceding the attacks. At first this might seem unconnected if you don’t know all the details but Schiff was and is known to be a big Hillary Clinton supporter.

The Los Angles Times quoted Schiff saying, “Proud to support such a brilliant and experienced public servant; with all the national security challenges we face, we couldn’t have a more capable Commander-in-Chief than Secretary Clinton.” The New York Times also reported that during the Benghazi hearings, “Mr. Schiff accused Republicans of pursuing a kind of prosecution against Mrs. Clinton in an attempt to damage her presidential campaign.”

In the long run Schiff has no right to tell Nunes to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation since he didn’t recuse himself nor did the Republican members ask him to recuse himself from the panel investigating Clinton. They are/were both in situations investigating people they supported. If Schiff thought he could be impartial when evaluating Clinton’s actions leading up to Benghazi then why can’t Nunes be impartial in the Trump Russia investigation?

As the New York Times reported when Nunes was asked about whether or not he would recuse himself, “Pressed about concerns from Democrats, he added, ‘That sounds like their problem.’”

Get it Together

Over the weekend the new health care act that was supposed to replace Obamacare didn’t even make it to a vote. Some are blaming the hard-right group called the House Freedom Caucus who, unlike most of their fellow Republicans, would not support the bill. AP News’ Hope Yen reported, “The Freedom Caucus is a hard-right group of more than 30 GOP House members who were largely responsible for blocking the bill to undo the Affordable Care Act, or ‘Obamacare.’”

On March 9th the Twitter account for the Freedom Caucus tweeted, “We promised #FullRepeal. The sooner we act, the sooner we can pass a market-based, patient-centered replacement.” They clearly support change, but this weekend proved they may not be willing to compromise. So are they really committed to acting sooner than later?

USA Today’s Eliza Collins reported that some, “Members of the group had previously raised concerns about the House bill, saying it wasn’t conservative enough and threatening to vote against it.”

Health care is one of the most important issues in today’s political limelight in my opinion and it’s going to be difficult to pass a bill that takes it a complete 180 right away Which, is what the Freedom Caucus seems to be suggesting.

As Greg Walden, GOP Rep was quoted saying by on CNN, “Health care is very important to all Americans. We want to get it right and we’ve been taking our time to do that.” In order for that to happen though there needs to be gradual change and compromise. Perhaps this was a wakeup call to the Freedom Caucus. Rep. Mark Meadows R.N.C. Chairman of the Freedom Caucus noted, “…he regretted not spending more time with moderate Republicans and Democrats ‘to find some consensus.’”

Lawmakers Need to Establish a Standard

Lawmakers wanted answers and the Department of Justice wanted more time but which is more important. As discussed in my previous post I talked about Trump and the DOJ being given a deadline to produce evidence of wire-tapping. However the investigation into whether the Trump administration had ties with Russia during the 2016 presidential election seems to be endless.

The question remains, which is more important, producing some information quickly or allowing sufficient time to gather all the evidence they believe is needed to support a conclusion. CNN’s Manu Raju, Tom LoBianco and Ashley Killough spoke to a top Republican on the committee responsible for both of these investigations and asked him about the issue, referencing Trump’s wire-tapping claims. “Grassley said he was frustrated that officials haven’t been as forthcoming as lawmakers would like, and said his committee hasn’t been given the respect it deserves for its oversight of the executive branch.”

President_Trump_2Another statement obtained by CNN expressed direct discontent with the Trump administration and the amount of evidence that they had gathered about the wire-tapping claim. Senator Lindsay Graham was quoted as saying, “He needs to answer the letter and give the nation some information about what’s going on here.”

Yet when asking representatives about whether Trump’s aides spoke with Russian officials during the election CNN reporters were given much broader, less direct answers. “We’re not
privileged to talk about the contents of the investigation but, you know, I think we need to be very precise when we talk about this.”

Although recent news has indicated Trump tower was not wire tapped, the apparent double standard regarding what and how issues are investigated is likely to continue to be an issue for this administration. I believe both ways of looking at the issues can be the right way but there needs to be more unification in how the lawmakers handle these types of matters. Lawmakers should establish a standard. Either, they want information and answers based on such information as soon as possible or they need to give investigators time to be able to thoroughly go through every possible fact, being able to provide what may be a more thorough conclusion. Limited time may mean limited information and possibly incorrect or only partially correct conclusions.

Deadline for Some, Unlimited Time for Others

President Trump and the Justice Department have been given a strict deadline to produce evidence regarding Trump’s claims of wiretapping. However, I have yet to see any mention of a deadline given to the investigators of the Trump-Russian investigation.

Let’s recap. On March 4, 2017 President Trump tweeted out, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory.” The Justice Department was given a deadline, which they followed with a request for an extension. The House Intelligence committee granted the extension giving them until March 20th. FoxNews.com reported all of this early last week on March 13th.

On the other hand, claims that Trump and his associates have had ties with Russia and the investigation of these claims began circling back in January. Spencer Ackerson of The Guardian reported on, “the January assessment that the Russians had interfered in the US presidential election in an attempt to benefit Trump.”

Both of these investigations have sparked hundreds of news stories, creating unease at the thought either could be true. What needs to be discussed is why one investigation has a deadline while the other, which has been going on for months, has none.

Violence: Becoming the Way Society Copes

Rallies and protest marches in the United States seem to be occurring more frequently and becoming commonplace in 2017. It seems as if every other week there is a new protest or rally and people fill the streets chanting phrases in protest or support of one thing or another. Some of these have been small, some large, some peaceful and some violent. Today I’m talking about the Pro-Trump rallies happening around the country.

As Americans we all want our constitutional freedom respected and we have a right in this county to speak out and fight for our freedom of speech, religion, and everything else under the sun. Yet, there are those who react with violence when the opposition speaks out on what they believe.

Now I’m not pointing the finger at everyone, the vast majority want peace and truly do believe in our first amendment right of freedom of speech. However, a week ago today on March 4, 2017 there were hundreds that threw the notion of freedom of speech out the window. March 4 was a day set aside for “March 4 Trump” rallies which were, “planned in about 50 cities nationwide, including New York, Nashville, Tennessee, Austin, Texas, and Denver, Colorado,” as stated by Azadeh Ansari of CNN. Unfortunately as Ansari continued to say, “Most rallies were peaceful, but in some cities, counter-protesters attended the events, leading to confrontations.”

I am completely baffled by the fact that anti-Trump rallies went on relatively uninterrupted. Yet, when pro-Trump rallies took place they were met with a significantly higher level of anti-trump opposition and violence. Yes, both sides were arrested and found with weapons as reported by CNN but that’s not the point. We as a nation need to respect everyone’s freedom of speech and that means not attacking others for their beliefs just because they are not in line with your own. One reporter even went so far as to call them, “Pathetic Pro-Trump Rallies”.

In my opinion this opens the door to a behavior that is frightening, that violence is an acceptable means of exercising our freedom of speech. It isn’t, and the perpetrators should be arrested. These pro-Trump rallies were meant to be an opening for the other side to voice why they think Trump is a good choice and can lead our country. Their voice is just as important as the voice of those who don’t support Trump.