Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Republicans Can't Lay a Glove on Biden...So They Lie

Some Republicans are acknowledging that they're having a hard time laying a glove on President Biden, as Jordain Carney reports.

Republicans are struggling to land attacks against President Biden as they grapple with how to win back power in Washington next year.

Biden is proving to be an elusive cipher for Republicans to successfully message against nearly 100 days into his administration, keeping a relatively low profile and refusing to engage in the day-to-day verbal sparring that has consumed Washington in recent years.

It presents a challenge that, GOP senators acknowledge, they aren’t hitting the mark on.

As Carney explains, the president is keeping a pretty low profile, but it is also true that his policies are relatively popular with voters. Then there's also the fact that Biden has been involved in politics for a long time now. People know him, which makes it more difficult for Republicans to define him as some kind of threat. 

But all of that assumes that Republicans are somehow constrained by the truth—which they obviously are not. So they simply make shit up. We've seen a raft of those attempts over the last couple of days. For example:

Over the weekend, Republicans accused Joe Biden of trying to ban meat.

The claim, which you’ve heard from the likes of Donald Trump Jr. and Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, is that Biden’s climate plan will prohibit Americans from chowing down on burgers in an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions associated with industrial agriculture.

On Fox News this Friday, former Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned of a Fourth of July where “you can throw back a plant-based beer with your grilled Brussels sprouts” (Kudlow doesn’t seem to be aware of what beer is made from). Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) dubbed Biden “The Hamburglar.”

Of course, Biden’s climate change plan does not limit meat-eating in any way. A Washington Post fact-check traced the burger-banning Biden myth back to a misleading article in the Daily Mail, a UK tabloid known for sensationalist coverage and right-wing politics. Biden’s actual climate policies so far have focused on reducing emissions from cars and power plants, with no effort to block meat production or consumption.

Then came this one:

What happened, according to The Washington Post’s fact-checking team, was this: After the city of Long Beach, Calif. asked residents for donations of books and toys as it established a temporary shelter for migrant children at its convention center, someone donated a copy of a children’s book written several years ago by Vice President Harris. The book was placed on a cot alongside toiletry items and a backpack. A photographer for Reuters, visiting the shelter, took a photo of the book and its surroundings.

What happened next was that the New York Post somehow decided that this meant the book was a standard part of “welcome kits” given to migrant children...Fox News picked up the story and ran with it, claiming that “photographs” showed its inclusion, though only one such photo existed. What happened after that was that Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked the president’s press secretary Jen Psaki about it.

She was, predictably, baffled.
The New York Post has apparently taken that story down, but not before it was retweeted by a whole host of Republican politicians. 

Both of those lies provide fodder for the right wing culture wars. But another one is being spread in an attempt to undermine Biden's foreign policy - particularly the administration's work to reinstate the Iran nuclear agreement. Here's how it all started:
The New York Times and Iran International, a Persian-language TV channel based in the United Kingdom, reported on a leaked audio of an unpublished interview Zarif conducted in March with an Iranian journalist, in which he discussed his frustrations with the country’s military steering foreign policy.

During the conversation, Zarif said that the military commanders had kept him in the dark on a number of crucial events. “It was former US Foreign Secretary John Kerry who told me Israel had launched more than 200 attacks on Iranian forces in Syria,” Zarif said, instead of learning this from his own government — a claim that Iran International characterized as “not very credible.”

On right wing media, that story morphed into one about Kerry sharing classified information from one of our most important allies (Israel) with a major adversary (Iran). A quick Google search of John Kerry, Iran, Fox News turns up 14 stories about this from just that one network over the last two days.  

Of course, a variety of Republican voices immediately jumped on the bandwagon, including Trump's secretary of state and UN ambassador. 

Former Trump administration secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the audio tape proves "what I’ve said for years: That [Zarif] continued to engage with former secretary of state Kerry on policy matters after Kerry’s public service and, according to Zarif, Kerry informed the Iranians of Israeli operations."

"Before we cut a deal with Iran that reduces Americans’ security," Pompeo said, "it would be good to know what the arrangement, if any, may have been between these two leaders." 

But perhaps the most duplicitous response came from Ari Fleischer, Bush's press secretary. 

That's a perfect example of "heads I win, tails you loose." If the smear campaign is true, he called on Kerry to resign. If it's not true, the Iranians are liars and we shouldn't be attempting to deal with them. 

Of course, Kerry denied it all. But a simple google search would tell these folks that this might be the worst-kept "secret" in history. 

News sources outside Iran such as The New York Times, Reuters, and Al Jazeera had reported on Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in 2013. Such reports continued in 2018Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even publicly acknowledged the strikes — and also to this very day. This isn’t some closely guarded international secret.

There are those within the Republican ranks who have been itching for war with Iran since the days when John McCain sang "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran." Most notable among them are Christian zionists like Mike Pompeo who view it as a prelude to the apocalypse. But regardless of whether their ambitions are religious or steeped in the old neocon tradition of regime change, these lies about Kerry are a dangerous attempt to disrupt the Biden administration's work to reinstate the Iran nuclear agreement. 

The good news in all of this is that, whether we're talking about culture wars or the desire for an actual war with Iran, right wingers have had to resort to making up lies because there are no rational arguments left to make. Anyone with an ounce of integrity would be embarrassed as these lies—which are total nonsense—are debunked almost immediately. But then, no one has ever accused these folks of having any integrity.

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