Sunday, May 08, 2011

Newsmax: 'Heartland' conservatism
It’s not yet clear whether Donald Trump’s moment as a Republican presidential candidate has come and gone, but it is clear which media outlet had the most to do with Trump’s sudden rise — and thereby solidified its role as a major conservative voice.

It was Newsmax, the website that Media Matters dubbed the “No. 1 Promoter of Trump 2012,” but which founder Christopher Ruddy describes as a voice of a Heartland populism that more established conservative publications do not understand.

Ruddy, who is best known for the conspiracy theories about the Clinton administration he pushed in the 1990’s, has imbued Newsmax with a distinctive and sometimes contradictory voice — “a little less aggressive” than Fox, as he describes it — that seems to channel the concerns of the talk radio listeners he considers his core audience.

“The Beltway has thought of conservative media as the National Review,” Ruddy said. “But when someone in Tucson or San Francisco thinks of conservative media — someone that follows Fox or Rush — they think of Newsmax.”

Although Newsmax had a major role in legitimizing Trump’s candidacy among conservatives, Ruddy said he has no plans to endorse a GOP candidate. In fact, every Republican who has even been whispered about as running in 2012 has made the pilgrimage to the Newsmax headquarters in West Palm Beach for an interview. (Mike Huckabee, the sole exception, did his interview by phone.)

But besides demonstrating its influence on the right, Newsmax has pulled off something even more impressive under Ruddy: It has managed to make money and grow as the rest of print media was laying off staff and scaling back.

Newsmax magazine’s paid circulation was 228,337 by the end of last year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, nearly double what it was the year earlier. (By comparison, National Review’s paid circulation is 188,856, as of December.) Its website had 3.9 million unique visitors in March, according to Nielsen Online, nearly one million more unique visitors than reported for the Drudge Report.

It’s done that by targeting a specific and hardly popular demographic — people older than 50, for whom politics is important but not everything. “We do offer that. But that’s really one component in the growth of Newsmax. We are really focused, as a business model, on the demographic. I can tell you that there’s not a lot of money in conservative politics.”

In March, 42.5 percent of the web traffic, by far the largest chunk, came from readers who were 65 or older, according to Nielsen.

The magazine itself is a mix of news reporting, columns and lifestyle featuresinterspersed with many ads for gold, silver and pills that claim to reverse aging. Its corresponding website is free, but an array of subscription newsletters and websites, such as, and The Blaylock Wellness Report. Today, subscriptions make up the lion’s share of Newsmax’s revenue — more than $30 million of the $52 million in revenue the company reportedlast year.

In a sense, what Ruddy has been able to do is attract the same audience for talk radio to print, and it’s no surprise that talkers like Rush Limbaugh have been important amplifiers of the company’s brand of journalism.

“Newsmax talks to the same core that conservative talk radio does, and they are very good at talking the language,” said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, adding that Newsmax was “a little bit more populist than some of the more politically oriented media out there.”
The magazine devoted its December issue to the tea party, declaring on the cover, “The Revolution Begins” and featuring more than a dozen photos from Sarah Palin’s visit to the company’s offices. “In an exciting afternoon at Newsmax, the electrifying former governor meets our staff,” begins the subhead on the article.

But Ruddy, who doesn’t personally support the kind of large-scale spending cuts that many tea party members favor, says Newsmax is too independent to be a tea party vehicle.

“I think we have a huge following of tea party people, but we don’t allow the tea party to drive Newsmax,” he said.

Rather, the magazine is filled with a sense of speaking for “flyover country,” as one writer put it. “I think publications like Newsmax reach out to the Heartland,” Ruddy said.

Ruddy’s background makes him an unlikely spokesman for the Heartland. The son of a cop, Ruddy grew up in Long Island and gravitated to journalism after college and the London School of Economics.

He first got the attention of the broader journalism world in 1993, when, as editor-in-chief of the New York Guardian, an conservative publication that would be bought the next year by Human Events, he debunked parts of a PBS documentary about an all-black Army battalion liberating German concentration camps in World War II.

“People at News Corp. and Murdoch’s empire heard about it, and I was hired at the New York Post,” he said.

At the Post, he began focusing on the death of Vincent Foster, a lawyer in the Clinton White House, continuing to report on Foster when he moved to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the conservative daily owned by Richard Mellon Scaife, the wealthy funder of right-wing causes.

Ruddy became perhaps the best-known purveyor of the theory that Foster had not committed suicide, but had been murdered, making the case in his book, “The Strange Death of Vincent Foster.” Joe Conason, co-author of “The Hunting of the President: The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton,” has characterized Ruddy and Scaife as the starring members in the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that sought to bring down the Clinton presidency.

These days, Ruddy and Scaife are business partners (60%/40%) in Newsmax, and Ruddy no longer sees himself as a bomb thrower. In fact, he and Bill Clinton have formed one of the more unlikely political friendships, with Clinton joining the ranks of those stopping by Ruddy’s offices in Florida.

“We don’t agree on everything, but I had a reevaluation of him,” Ruddy said. “I think Bush was not a great president, and was not true to what I would see as Reagan conservative principles on how to govern and foreign policy. So many Republicans drank the Kool-Aid with him, but when I look back at Clinton, Clinton followed in Reagan’s footsteps in so many ways. I had differences with him in the ’90s, but his foundation does incredible work.”

That more conciliatory tone extends somewhat to President Barack Obama as well, though Ruddy is critical of many of his policies. “I think some of the Fox hosts have been very aggressive with Obama, calling him socialist and the like,” Ruddy said. “We would never go that far at Newsmax.”

Of course, Newsmax’s critics at ConWebWatch highlight some very tough talk on Obama that has appeared in the magazine, with Morris saying in a 2009 Newsmax promotion that “I think that Obama definitely is leading America into socialism.”
But Newsmax has not traditionally been seen as a platform for birtherism, with Ruddy telling interviewers — and recently even his friend Trump, to whose Mar-A-Lago club in Palm Beach he belongs — that he believes the president was born in Hawaii. But that disagreement did not stop Newsmax’s enthusiastic coverage of the New York billionaire, nor did Obama’s pointed criticism of “carnival barkers” at a press conference last week announcing he was releasing his long-form birth certificate.

Newsmax had actually floated the idea of a Trump presidential candidacy as early as 2006, in a column by Ron Kessler, its chief Washington correspondent, claiming that Trump “has plenty of thoughts about what he would do if he were president.”And it was Kessler who got the scoop that Trump planned to make an announcement about his candidacy following the finale of “The Celebrity Apprentice” later this month and wrote a column, entitled “Don’t Underestimate Donald Trump for President.”

Newsmax’s first journalistic coup with the current batch of Republican possible presidential hopefuls was its decision to put a photo of Palin on the cover of the issue that was on newsstands the day John McCain picked her as his running mate in 2008. When other interviewers followed Katie Couric’s infamous interview with questions for Palin about what she is reading, she usually started off by mentioning Newsmax.

“I spoke to her, and she said, ‘Oh, I’ve been getting your emails forever,’ ” said Ruddy. “She’s an email subscriber. That’s why she resonates. She speaks the language of conservatives out in the Heartland,” Ruddy said.

Some Newsmax stories have made it to the mainstream news cycle. Last year, Kessler broke the news that a third person had crashed the Obama’s first state dinner at the White House. And in January, Newsmax won a Gold “Eddie” from Folio magazine for its story about Obama’s war with Fox News.

But not all conservatives see Newsmax as a major national voice.

“I feel that it’s sort of like the Washington Times paper, where it will always exist, and it has its credibility and it serves certain Republicans, and it had probably grown a little bit as the tea party has grown, but after that, there is a certain cap on that,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist.

But Kessler said the magazine’s profile is improving in the capital, and not just among conservatives.“The rest of Washington is also more aware of Newsmax and the clout that it has,” he said.

Meanwhile, Newsmax has had some hire profile hires. Its editor, Ken Chandler, held the same job at the New York Post, and it recently signed on two more big mainstream media names: Judith Miller, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter, and Steve Coz, former editorial director of American Media, the supermarket tabloid group that owns the National Enquirer and Star.

Miller said Ruddy made her “a very good offer,” but she said she decided to sign on because of Ruddy’s vision of what he wanted the magazine to become.

“The emphasis right now,” she said, “more than on ideology, is on quality — improving the quality and improving the strength of the stories.”
© 2011 Capitol News POLITICO


CNN – Donilon: Bin Laden intelligence haul is size of“a small college library”
FOX – Cheney: Enhanced interrogation “was not torture”
NBC – Hayden: "Let’s see what happens to this network now"
CBS – Rumsfeld: Obama made “the right decision”
ABC – Pakistani ambassador to the U.S.: “Heads will roll”
CSPAN – American Petroleum Institute chief: Stop “penalizing” us


Donilon: Bin Laden intelligence haul is size of “a small college library”

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon discussed the raid that resulted in the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. “It turns out that this is the largest cache of information gotten from a senior terrorist – gotten from any terrorist in one operation,”Donilon said of the information Navy SEALS were able to gather. “It’s about the size of a small college library, and we'll – we have put together a multi agency task force to go through it.” Asked about the change in the government’s message regarding the role bin Laden played in al Qaeda Donilon said, “What we now know, again taking a look initially here, is that he had obviously a operational and strategic role, and a propaganda role for al Qaeda. Which again makes the operation last Sunday I think more significant in terms of its affect on – affect on al Qaeda.”

Asked to describe the terrorist leader’s final moments, Donilon said, “At no point in the course of this operation did Osama bin Laden indicate that he was prepared to surrender. This is an organization known obviously for suicide bombing, IEDs, booby trapping buildings. And I think our forces, with no signal from him that he was prepared to surrender, acted completely appropriately. And I don't think anybody is going to second guess their judgment.” Asked if he worried if the initial reporting undercut the moment, Donilon said he did not. “The messages that have come back to us from around the world – and I study this very closely-- is that this was a just action.”

Donilon said he had not seen any evidence to suggest that political, military or intelligence agencies in Pakistan were complicit in sheltering bin Laden.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was asked if he thought the United States would withhold aid to Pakistan. “I don’t see that at all. ... As a matter of fact Pakistan is a critical factor in the war against terror,” Lugar said.

The conversation turned to the status of the U.S. troop draw-down in the overall war on terror. Asked what size of a draw-down he would find acceptable, Lugar said, “Perhaps 10,000-to-25,0000 troops would satisfy our ability to fight terror — that is, with intelligence backing.”

“In the front room, we discuss money every day,” Lugar said in defense of his call for such a significant troop draw-down, “But in the back room we talk about foreign policy” as if the two are not related. “So we’re going to have to think very carefully about our objectives.”

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen discussed the ongoing fight between Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and rebel forces. “The game is up for Gaddafi,” Rasmussen said. Asked if NATO member nations were supplying arms to the Libyan rebels, Rasmussen would not deny it outright saying, “It’s not part of the NATO mandate.”


Cheney: Enhanced interrogation “was not torture”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney (R) gave tepid praise to President Obama for his decision to send in a Navy Seal team to kill Osama bin Laden, saying Obama deserves "a lot of credit." Cheney used Bin Laden's killing to defend the use of water boarding and other methods that the former administration called “enhanced interrogation,” and pilloried Obama for banning their use. "It’s not clear to me today that we have an interrogation program that we could put somebody through should we capture a high-value detainee that had crucial information," Cheney said. "It was a good program. It was a legal program. It was not torture."

Cheney said that his administration's interrogation methods played a role in the intelligence that led to locating Bin Laden, citing conversations he's had with the former top human intelligence officer at the CIA, Jose Rodriguez, and former attorney general Michael Mukasey, as well as remarks by current CIA director Leon Panetta. "All have said one way or the other that the enhanced integration program played a role," Cheney said.

Cheney also attacked Obama’s policy in Libya and smirked when host Chris Wallace described Obama's philosophy as "lead from behind." "I’ve been confused by it," Cheney said, adding that the mission was too important to turn over to NATO. "Frankly, NATO only functions effectively when the United States is involved to lead NATO."

Cheney said he gives Obama "high marks" for his use of drones to kill terrorists in Pakistan, but that he worries the raid on bin Laden’s compound could be used as a reason to leave Afghanistan before the country is stable enough to keep terrorist cells from operating there. Asked about his recent health problems, Cheney said his condition has greatly improved this year from the point when he entered the hospital with "end-stage heart failure." He plans to go fishing later this month, but added that he's "not supposed to fall in."


Hayden: "Let’s see what happens to this network now"

Tom Donilon said that President Obama's briefing by Navy Seals on Friday was "a very moving moment."

"He was not briefed by the leaders but by the operators," Donilon said.

Michael Chertoff, former director of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, said that the killing of bin Laden could open the door to different types of attacks from al-Qaeda. Bin Laden preferred larger, more intricately planned attacks and his death could cause the group to adopt tactics similar to those used in Mumbai, where small bands of armed fighters took over buildings in the city. "We have to be more careful than ever to look at what tactical changes they may make moving forward," he said.

Those comments were echoed by former CIA director Michael Hayden. "Let’s see what happens to this network now," Hayden said. "If bin Laden did have such a controlling hand, you’re going to have a lot more independent actors.”
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani praised the raid as a major turning point, saying "this is like removing a Hitler or a Stalin in the middle of those conflicts." He said his lunch with Obama and New York City firefighters last week was "a very emotional and satisfying experience."

"There’s no mistaking the fact that there’s a burden that’s been lifted from" the firefighters, Giuliani said.


Rumsfeld: Obama made “the right decision”

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). described the divergent goals of the United States and Pakistan, among them Pakistan’s focus primarily on India as a potential terrorist threat, “The Pakistanis have had a different set of interests about India, a different set of interests about what kind of Afghanistan they want to see.

“Everybody has to understand that even in the getting of Osama bin Laden, the Pakistanis were helpful,” Kerry said. “We have people on the ground in Pakistan, because they allow us to have them.”

“If out of this Osama bin Laden event, Pakistan now decides to really engage in a very different strategic relationship,”Kerry said, “that could significantly -- and I do mean significantly-- change the dynamic with the Taliban, the possibilities of reconciliation, the possibilities of negotiation, and ultimately the numbers of troops that are in Afghanistan.”

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also gave his reaction to the killing of bin Laden, offering some praise for the president. “The decision by the president was, in my view, the right decision,” he said.

But the compliment was quickly followed by criticism of the administration’s handling of the details about the raid. “I would have preferred a lot less discussion out of the White House about intelligence personally,” said Rumsfeld. “My guess is that people in the Pentagon feel that way.”

Asked about the Pakistani government’s claim that it did not known bin Laden was so close to Islamabad, compared the bin Laden compound to the gated, luxury homes along the Potomac river, “We don't know what's going on there. And it is possible that someone like that with a support system like al Qaeda, in my view very likely could hide in plain sight.”

Rumsfeld, like Cheney, also defended the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. “I think it’s clear that those techniques used by the CIA worked,” Rumsfeld said.


Pakistani ambassador to the U.S.: “Heads will roll”

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon trumpeted the raid that killed Osama bin Laden as a major victory for the United States. "He was engaged not just in being a symbolic leader of al Qaeda, but he was involved in the strategic and operational leadership," Donilon said. "This is a really serious blow to them. It's a milestone on our way to strategic defeat.”

Donilon said the CIA has characterized the trove of intelligence collected in the raid "as the size of a small college library." Donilon demanded answers from Pakistan on how bin Laden could have lived for so long in a safe house less than a mile from an army training academy. “We need to know how this happened and they need to know how this happened"

Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani said that the head of the country's army is conducting an investigation into how the terrorist leader could have gone undetected. "Heads will roll, once the investigation has been completed," Haqqani said. "Pakistan wants to put to rest any misgivings the world has about our role.?.?.We have been victims of terrorism."

Pakistan is interrogating bin Laden's wives and children, Haqqani said, declining to share specific information they have given authorities. He also said that the country's leaders were rightly concerned about the raid. "What we are offended by is the violation of our sovereignty," Haqqani said. "America has a selling job to do in Pakistan too. Convince more Pakistanis that you are more of our ally."


American Petroleum Institute chief: Stop “penalizing” us

Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute was asked about the rising — and now falling — price of gasoline. “As the price of crude comes down, you will see the price of gasoline fall,” Gerard said. He outlined a number of factors as contributing the price of oil and gasoline, including supply and demand, unrest in the Middle East and unemployment among other things.

Gerard went on to describe calls for the elimination of oil and gas industry subsidies as “penalizing” one of American business’s most successful sectors. “We are clearly not only paying our fair share, we’re paying more than our share.”

“It really comes down to the question of how big does the government need to be,” Gerard said.
By T.W. Farnam and Emi Kolawole