Tim Pawlenty Starts His Engines for the 2012 Presidential Campaign

It’s two years away, but speculation surrounding the 2012 presidential race is alive and kicking, if only for the increasingly irrefutable fact that anyone who intends to run without immediate access to a cable news soapbox is starting the 2012 campaign at a severe disadvantage. It is the uphill battle facing possible Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, who, from the Minnesota Governor’s mansion must be watching potential challengers like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich milk their cable news contracts for all they’re worth.

Mitt Romney managed to somewhat dubiously get himself into the news cycle this week too, and even Dick Cheney, who despite denying any interest in the presidency is topping Republican presidential contender polls along with Palin et al, is keeping his face in the public eye.

Pawlenty is taking an unorthodox approach compared to his would-be opponents: making media appearances to debate substantive issues. He has willingly stepped into the ring to debate health care with President Obama, taking advantage of the President’s call for a bipartisan health care summit on February 25th to publicly list off his ideas on the topic. On Sunday, the Washington Post published an opinion piece by the governor entitled “Five Ways to Reform Health Care,” and last night Pawlenty appeared on Fox News to explain his ideas to Greta Van Susteren on air. It’s a comprehensive conservative approach that highlights the token set of problems Republicans have been pointing out with the current reform – interstate insurance availability, tort reform, a more meritocratic approach to awarding insurance companies. It goes beyond a simple grocery list of possible changes in the way the American health care industry works: it’s a sizable chunk of a campaign platform.

Pawlenty’s approach, if he decides to run for office, is as thoughtful as it is risky. Anger and populist outrage sell in the age of the Tea Party, and Pawlenty is marketing himself as a near-technocratic, mild-mannered critic with ideas that don’t betray an urgency to save the nation from the socialist threat of the Obama administration. On the air, he is still working on mastering his calm, capable “presidential” demeanor without coming off so anemic – it’s clear why the other potential candidates get so much air time on Fox and he doesn’t. On the other hand, by defying mainstream demand he may be tapping into a niche market of voters that are searching for someone less animated and more studious on the problems facing the country.

Here is Pawlenty’s appearance on On the Record to expand upon his opinion piece in the Post:

Bush “Miss Me Yet?” Billboard Mystery Solved: It’s All the Internet’s Fault

One of the previously anonymous small businessmen who purchased a billboard displaying a goofy-looking George W. Bush asking “Miss Me Yet?” over a Minnesota highway has revealed his identity. And as much as Gretchen Carlson tried to goad some anti-Obama sentiments out of Mike Rivard on Fox and Friends in an exclusive interview this morning, he remained faithful to his ambiguous agenda of pointing out something hilarious and then brushing aside any political repercussions.

When asked why he and his colleagues put the sign up, Rivard gave a worthy albeit apolitical answer: “We were looking to pass on something that we thought was extremely funny, something that came across the Internet.”

Yes, the billboard that launched a thousand inquisitive blog posts was only intended to propagate an internet meme (one that some quick research shows was mostly likely born last September on the humor site MotiFake.com). “We thought it would be a good way to share it with the community,” Rivard said.

Interestingly, Rivard went out of his way to separate his political beliefs from the fact that he contributed to putting up this poster. Challenging his light-hearted tone, Carlson reminded him that he “[wasn't] laughing recently about being a small business owner,” to which he responded:

I don’t think it’s fair or right that a lot of people wanted to pass on the blame to President Bush, nor is it fair that we need to expect President Obama to have a magic bullet or a solution to this. I think it’s going to take time and a lot of hard work and we really need to look to small businesses to try to help us solve these problems.

Having his ambivalence attacked directly by Carlson’s assertion that the poster was a “direct shot” at President Obama, he only admitted that “the humor side of it maybe is, but I think there’s a lot more to be said there. I think we need to lighten up a bit.”

Watch Rivard’s interview on Fox and Friends below:

Fox News Lands Exclusive Interview With Founding Father Alexander Hamilton

Fox News is great at getting exclusive interviews – I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a guest on the highest rated cable news network?

Today, however, they really outdid themselves. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton was a guest on Cavuto (with FBN’s Eric Bolling filling in), and guess what – Hamilton’s not really a fan of this administration.

Alexander Hamilton interpreter Bill Chrystal (not Bill Kristol) was introduced by Bolling, who promised to only interview him in character. “I’m going to talk to you like you’re Alexander Hamilton, so what do you think is going on with our Constitution right now?” he asked.

“I said years ago…” began Hamilton, who later had this to say when asked about China:

I helped General Washington write his farewell address and in his farewell address General Washington warned us against foreign entanglements.

There’s been some recent dress-up on Fox News when it comes to tea partying, but it’s been a while since they fired up the actual theatre troupe. At least the pimps are gone.

Here’s the “Alexander Hamilton” interview:

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Daily Kos Endorses Sarah Palin, Rages Against the Use of ‘Socialism’

“Hyper-partisan, painfully ignorant, pathologically dishonest, chronically unethical, intellectually unconscious, and jaw-droppingly stupid.” Yes, once in a while these words apply uncannily to the radical liberals over at Daily Kos, but today, they’re proof of why the blog commands so much influence in the political sphere despite their occasional flubs.

Blogger “Angry Mouse” has given Palin what reads as one of the most ringing, brutally honest endorsements for her 2012 presidential campaign to come out so far. And yes, that first sentence is the way (s)he begins the endorsement. It only gets better from there:

If this is the war the party of stupid wants, let them have it. Let us see what their rightwing insanity has sown. Let us watch Sarah debate President Obama, crib notes and all. Because even though the entire Republican Congress was outmatched in a battle of wits only a few weeks ago, Sarah, being Sarah, will strut into any debate thinking she has the upper hand. And America needs to watch that, the arrogance of someone so hopelessly out of her league that she doesn’t even realize she’s out of her league, daring to take on President Obama, daring to claim that she could do his job better as she spouts meaningless platitudes about budget tax cuts and energy and lifting American spirit. It doesn’t matter that she knows nothing. It doesn’t matter that she’s an embarrassment to herself every time she speaks. We need to have our options so obviously spelled out for us that there can be no mistake. We need to have that fight -– the fight of thoughtfulness and reason versus also too also.

It’s biting, it’s vicious, it’s backhanded, and, most of all, it’s fair. “Mouse” goes issue-by-issue, with links and quotes, before concluding that it is necessary for Americans to see Palin compete with Obama on every level required of a presidential candidate. Incendiary rhetoric aside, the partisan divide the country is facing might require that competition to occur. And hearing someone on Kos actually welcome spirited debate and competition is precisely what its detractors are constantly demanding of it. There is no wish to keep Palin hushed, no pleading to close the case on the Tea Parties. Rather, they are so certain that their politicial beliefs are superior that they want to see them debated publicly. And that’s a good thing.

But while the Daily Kos’ endorsement of Palin is as good as good behavior is going to get on the site, the post immediately following it sinks them right back down to the ridiculous. Predictably, the Fox News poll showing that most (81% at last login) Fox News site visitors considered the Tea Party movement to be rooted in a “fruitless mix of racism, conspiracy theories” caught their attention. Also predictably, they completely missed the point, peeved by the fact that the world “socialism” appears in a poll on the Tea Party movement. How can a piece on the Tea Partiers not have the world “socialism” in it somewhere? It is petty to slam Fox News for this when they are publicly showing that most Americans, according to their study, consider a movement they are accused of supporting to be ridiculous. And it’s missing the big picture: even Fox News fans– 81% of them!– have no respect for the Tea Parties. Of course, pointing that out would mean acknowledging that the radical minority that represents the Tea Partiers is not commonly accepted by the mainstream, and that level of maturity is apparently too much to ask from the Kos crew, commendable as their piece on Palin may be.

Rachel Maddow And Fox News: It’s Complicated

“Let the record show that I also had a really pleasant conversation with Roger Ailes at a Christmas party once, that I shook Bill O’Reilly’s hand at Terry McAuliffe’s book party, and that I’m 99 percent sure Glenn Beck passed me in a green Bentley once on the Merritt Parkway.”

Rachel Maddow discusses her ‘relationship’ with FOX News with Politico.

See if you can keep up. This morning Howie Kurtz published an interview with Rachel Maddow in which she criticized Fox News saying: “For me it’s a question of whether you’re doing advocacy journalism or not. It’s not activism — you see a lot of that at Fox, using news coverage to inspire political participation.”

To which Fox responded: “These feelings that she experienced about Fox News didn’t stop her from applying for a job here.”

To which Maddow responded (to Politico): “I never personally applied for a job at Fox…I have an agent who I assume talks to everyone on my behalf, so I have no reason to believe that Fox’s claim that they were approached on my behalf is false, even if I never knew anything about it at the time.” Followed by the quote above (next time let’s hope one of them snaps a picture).

To which an FNC spokesperson tells Mediaite: “We find it entertaining that Rachel would implicate herself further on this matter and validate our original comment to Howie Kurtz.”

To which I (non-sequiturally) say: Someone should really give Maddow the anchor spot at Meet the Press.

Fox News Panel Bashes Fellow Fox News Employee Sarah Palin

Here’s one that could have fallen under the radar amid “Retardgate” and that too-close-for-comfort Glenn Beck interview. Fox News’ weekend Wall Street Journal partner program, the Journal Editorial Report, ran a segment Saturday analyzing Sarah Palin’s chances at a successful presidential run in 2012 in light of a recent poll finding that 71% of Americans think she is not qualified for the job.  Stuart Varney, in for Paul Gigot, lead the round table in a discussion on Palin’s chances in 2012. The commentators turned on Palin, with the ones trying to find the sunny side of the former Alaska governor slamming her even harder than her detractors.

Joseph Rago and Bret Stephens took the direct line of attack, with Rago answering a question about Palin being the brightest, most exciting Republican politician of her time: “Sure, but what does that say about the Republican Party?” Stephens’ response to the same question? “The freshest, maybe. The brightest, I’m not so sure.” He continued by claiming that he got from Palin “the distinct sense that if you ask her a follow-up question she would have no idea how to answer it,” which Varney called “mockery.” Answering to her likability, he posited that “It’s easy to like Palin because the people who hate her are themselves so dislikable.”

Collin Levy sprung to her defense, and in doing so possibly did the most damage of all: “They like her because she seems like a minor-leaguer,” she noted, referring to the hand-note incident at CPAC the Tea Party convention last week. And, concluding the discussion with a comment on Palin’s potential leadership: “She doesn’t need to be a leader. She just has to be something of a party mascot.”

There is something surreal about a Fox News segment dedicated to disparaging a Fox News employee. How different is it to call a pundit-in-arms a “party mascot” (even as a compliment) than to call them “sad and pathetic,” for which Joe Scarborough got a slap on the wrist at MSNBC? Palin is no longer a potential presidential candidate acting independently of the company that employs them, but a coworker. She would not be such a ratings draw if the threat of her returning to public service were minimal, nor would she be on the network if it did not provide her such a powerful platform to not-campaign– it’s a win-win situation. Another question is whether Fox News would be rooting for Palin the politician or against her. Keeping her on the airwaves and out of the White House would certainly be more lucrative, but in the long term having a former employee be the most powerful person in the world would be fantastic for scooping fellow news outlets. The former being more attractive to them would at least explain this article that ran alongside the video, legitimizing the Scott Brown for president movement by noting that a run in 2012 “wouldn’t look much different from Obama’s in 2008.”

Watch the Journal Editorial Report clip below:

Power Of Platform: Potential Political Candidates Turn To TV

Not a single one of the more than 20 2008 presidential primary candidates had ever served as a TV news analyst – but that’s likely to change for 2012.

The New York TimesBrian Stelter writes about the TV analysts – from MSNBC and Harold Ford to Fox News and Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee – and the potential political candidates they employ.

With Ford, a former Tennessee congressman, considering a run for New York Senate, his contract as analyst with MSNBC was suspended a couple weeks ago (Ford previously served as an FNC analyst). “If you’re seriously examining a run for office,” said MSNBC President Phil Griffin, “you can’t host a show or be a general analyst.”

But using the same logic, maybe Palin, Huckabee and Newt Gingrich aren’t yet “seriously” examining a run for office – they are all still collecting Fox News paychecks.

Eyebrows were raised in Washington when “Fox News Sunday” promoted what the host Chris Wallace called an “exclusive interview” with Ms. Palin on Feb. 7. Ms. Palin is, after all, paid by Fox. (Mr. Wallace acknowledged her analyst job during the interview.)

“Some like to joke that every time Fox puts them on TV, they are making a de facto in-kind contribution to their future campaigns,” said another television news executive who requested anonymity because he was not authorized by his network to comment on Fox.

It’s hard to argue that Huckabee and Palin couldn’t potentially be helped by appearing regularly on a network that allows them to talk to an audience of millions – and an audience that consists of a lot of independents. But it could also go the other way. Some would argue Palin’s appearances on Fox News since she’s joined the network have not helped her beyond exciting the base she already had.

Instead of some “in-kind contribution to their future campaigns,” there seems to be something else at work – ratings, and with ratings, money. Mike Huckabee regularly has the most viewers on Fox News during the weekends, and Palin appearances on various FNC programs help to boost viewership as well. FNC wins with these big political stars, and if they decide to throw their hat back in the political ring later? Well, that’s secondary.

CNN’s Washington Bureau Chief David Bohrman said “networks that employ the analysts ‘probably ought to realize that they’re being taken advantage of a little bit,’” and that may be true. But it’s mutual.

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