Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 25, 2010

How Not to Be Alone

I haven’t read Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom. Franzen is a talented American writer and his works to date are not wanting for brilliant descriptive gems. But as a sermonizer on the topic of America’s derelict soul, he is as ingenious as a disenchanted ninth grader; he’s also as self-important.

Don’t believe me. Ask him. “I feel as if I’m clearly part of a trend among writers who take themselves seriously,” he offered in response to an interviewer’s question having nothing to do with himself, his seriousness, or anyone else’s. “I confess to taking myself as seriously as the next writer.” Perhaps if the next writer were Jonathan Franzen.

According to reviews, Freedom is an ambitious work intended to tell America something new and vitally important about itself. Yet, despite the torrent of ecstatic press, the book didn’t make it onto the short list for this year’s National Book Award in fiction. But Franzen need not take the snub too, um, seriously. He just gave an America-bashing interview to the Guardian’s Sarfraz Manzoor that’s all but guaranteed his Nobel Prize. This exchange provides the best cross-section view of the liberal mind at work that we’ll ever see. Read More

I haven’t read Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom. Franzen is a talented American writer and his works to date are not wanting for brilliant descriptive gems. But as a sermonizer on the topic of America’s derelict soul, he is as ingenious as a disenchanted ninth grader; he’s also as self-important.

Don’t believe me. Ask him. “I feel as if I’m clearly part of a trend among writers who take themselves seriously,” he offered in response to an interviewer’s question having nothing to do with himself, his seriousness, or anyone else’s. “I confess to taking myself as seriously as the next writer.” Perhaps if the next writer were Jonathan Franzen.

According to reviews, Freedom is an ambitious work intended to tell America something new and vitally important about itself. Yet, despite the torrent of ecstatic press, the book didn’t make it onto the short list for this year’s National Book Award in fiction. But Franzen need not take the snub too, um, seriously. He just gave an America-bashing interview to the Guardian’s Sarfraz Manzoor that’s all but guaranteed his Nobel Prize. This exchange provides the best cross-section view of the liberal mind at work that we’ll ever see.

Franzen: [In] the last decade America has emerged even in its own estimation as a problem state. That is, there were many criticisms one could make as early as treatment of the Indians; it goes way back; and our long relationship with slavery. There have been some problems with the country at many points. In the Cold War, we were certainly culpable. But the degree to which we are almost a rogue state and causing enormous trouble around the world in our attempt to preserve our freedom to drive SUVs and whatever by…

Manzoor: Operation Enduring Freedom.

Franzen: Operation enduring freedom, good. It does make one wonder: What is it in the national character that is making us such a problem state and I think [it is] a kind of mixed-up childish notion of freedom. And perhaps really, truly, who left Europe to go over there [America]? It was all the malcontents; it was all the people who were not getting along with others.

Manzoor: Are you more comfortable in America now than you were when you started writing the book?

Franzen: (sigh) No. It was possible while I was writing the book to look forward to some possibility of significant change. And now people left of the middle feel puzzled and sort of anguished because we don’t have an object for our anger but the right is still as angry as ever. I mean that’s the worrisome thing about our upcoming elections. [The worrisome thing] is that the right is still just as angrily motivated as ever. And the Democrats are in disarray and feeling, well, we have power but the system itself is so screwed up, and we are relatively the adult party so we’re responsible for trying to make an unworkable system work. It’s just, it’s this kind of (groan) discouragement and dull throbbing anxiety.

Forget the book. The pontifications above constitute Franzen’s true unwitting masterpiece. The whole liberal template is unwound and labeled like cracked genetic code. The wonderful thing about liberals is that their dismissal of competing ideologies strips them of the need to cloak or soften their bizarro theories when speaking publicly.

The first order of business is America’s guilt. Franzen can’t imagine that any sane person would disagree with him about the U.S.’s role in the Cold War being on a moral continuum with the institution of American slavery. And of course, who could possibly deny that the Bush years were even more ghastly than either one?

After the dirty hands comes the condescension. The American conception of freedom is “childish” and the Democrats are the “adult party.”

Next up is the left’s penchant for totalitarian lockstep. Franzen wags his finger at the earliest Americans for being nonconformist “malcontents” who bucked the non-democratic European nation-states. Note the creepiness of the speculation on misfit ancestry and problematic national character.

Last, the subterfuge. The Democrats have done nothing wrong. It’s this stubborn broken thing called “the system” that no amount of liberal wisdom can set right. And so what can the enlightened liberal do but groan in the face of the “dull throbbing anxiety” created by the non-liberal world and its perpetually angry conservatives.

Franzen’s failure is ultimately not political but artistic. His realm is the creative, and in parroting those of the most meager imaginations, he has reversed the artist’s aim. Liberalism doesn’t only encroach upon things like opportunity and standard of living. It’s what it does to the self that’s most dangerous and pernicious. It pushes out the individual imagination and replaces it with wooden convictions. Before that wreaks havoc on a polity, it has its way with a mind. For a novelist, this is fatal. And so Franzen, a writer of copious narrative and descriptive gifts, ends up sounding like a 14-year-old who broke up his usual Daily Kos with his first read through Howard Zinn. The Nobel speech can’t possibly measure up.

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Cook: House in the Bag, Senate Up for Grabs

Charlie Cook writes:

It’s easy to look at what appears to be a gigantic Republican 2010 midterm election wave in the House and feel a little slack-jawed, but not so much surprised. There were plenty signs well over a year ago that Democrats were facing grave danger, but even when expecting an onslaught, one can still be shocked at its size and unrelenting force. It would be a surprise if this wave doesn’t match the 52-seat gain on Election Night in 1994, and it could be substantially more.

On the other hand, the Senate picture is incredibly confused. There is no clear narrative in the Senate, just bizarre ups and downs. Republicans could easily find themselves picking up as “few” as seven or as many as 10 seats.

That view matches the take of many conservative analysts and activists. Why is the Senate so much closer? For one thing, the seats that could tip the Senate majority to the Republicans are in Blue States — Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, California, etc. It is remarkable that these are competitive and that they may, in fact, go to the GOP. Second, senators are simply more distinct figures than House members, with the ability to differentiate themselves. Harry Reid can’t, because he is the Senate majority leader and therefore is joined at the hip with the White House. But in places like Colorado and West Virginia, Democrats are making the case that they are not rubber stamps for the Obama administration. And yes, the Republicans blew a seat in Delaware. But, again, that is only one seat.

It is a measure of how far we have come in two years that the “ray of sunshine” for the Dems is that they may lose only eight Senate seats.

Charlie Cook writes:

It’s easy to look at what appears to be a gigantic Republican 2010 midterm election wave in the House and feel a little slack-jawed, but not so much surprised. There were plenty signs well over a year ago that Democrats were facing grave danger, but even when expecting an onslaught, one can still be shocked at its size and unrelenting force. It would be a surprise if this wave doesn’t match the 52-seat gain on Election Night in 1994, and it could be substantially more.

On the other hand, the Senate picture is incredibly confused. There is no clear narrative in the Senate, just bizarre ups and downs. Republicans could easily find themselves picking up as “few” as seven or as many as 10 seats.

That view matches the take of many conservative analysts and activists. Why is the Senate so much closer? For one thing, the seats that could tip the Senate majority to the Republicans are in Blue States — Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, California, etc. It is remarkable that these are competitive and that they may, in fact, go to the GOP. Second, senators are simply more distinct figures than House members, with the ability to differentiate themselves. Harry Reid can’t, because he is the Senate majority leader and therefore is joined at the hip with the White House. But in places like Colorado and West Virginia, Democrats are making the case that they are not rubber stamps for the Obama administration. And yes, the Republicans blew a seat in Delaware. But, again, that is only one seat.

It is a measure of how far we have come in two years that the “ray of sunshine” for the Dems is that they may lose only eight Senate seats.

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The Real Deadline for Exiting Afghanistan

My former boss, Les Gelb, is onto something when he points out in the Daily Beast that the deadline for U.S. troops exiting Afghanistan isn’t the summer of 2011 but more likely the end of 2014. The former date was tossed out by President Obama as the beginning of a transition to Afghan forces, but all indications are that few U.S. troops will be withdrawn at that time. The latter date will emerge from the Lisbon NATO summit in mid-November as the deadline for NATO forces to transition out of Afghanistan.

Where I differ with Les is in the outrage he expresses over the extension of the war effort. Since he thinks the war effort as currently conceived is foolish and unable to achieve its objectives, it stands to reason that he would bemoan four more years of commitment. For my part, I think that the strategy Gen. Petraeus is now implementing gives us our best chance of assuring a decent outcome — but it’s not an outcome that we can bring about in the next year. Even the most successful counterinsurgency strategies take longer than that. The NATO deadline gives some assurance that our troops, and those of our allies, will have the time needed to roll back the Taliban and stand up Afghan security forces capable of protecting their own country in the future. That is not, I stress, an assurance of success; a lot can still go wrong. But it does at least give our troops a fighting chance to succeed, which they wouldn’t have if we were really pulling out next summer. Which we’re not. The challenge now will be communicating to the region that we are not — as our enemies hope and our friends fear — about to head out the exit.

My former boss, Les Gelb, is onto something when he points out in the Daily Beast that the deadline for U.S. troops exiting Afghanistan isn’t the summer of 2011 but more likely the end of 2014. The former date was tossed out by President Obama as the beginning of a transition to Afghan forces, but all indications are that few U.S. troops will be withdrawn at that time. The latter date will emerge from the Lisbon NATO summit in mid-November as the deadline for NATO forces to transition out of Afghanistan.

Where I differ with Les is in the outrage he expresses over the extension of the war effort. Since he thinks the war effort as currently conceived is foolish and unable to achieve its objectives, it stands to reason that he would bemoan four more years of commitment. For my part, I think that the strategy Gen. Petraeus is now implementing gives us our best chance of assuring a decent outcome — but it’s not an outcome that we can bring about in the next year. Even the most successful counterinsurgency strategies take longer than that. The NATO deadline gives some assurance that our troops, and those of our allies, will have the time needed to roll back the Taliban and stand up Afghan security forces capable of protecting their own country in the future. That is not, I stress, an assurance of success; a lot can still go wrong. But it does at least give our troops a fighting chance to succeed, which they wouldn’t have if we were really pulling out next summer. Which we’re not. The challenge now will be communicating to the region that we are not — as our enemies hope and our friends fear — about to head out the exit.

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A Public Radio Shell Game

NPR’s funding has come under attack in the wake of the Juan Williams debacle. NPR claims that only a tiny portion of its funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. A reader e-mails:

A lot has been written about how the network only gets a couple million from taxpayers. This is very misleading … actually wrong. CPB gives scores of millions of dollars to NPR affiliates which, in turn, use that money to purchase NPR programming such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered, etc.

Tax dollars used to go directly to NPR from CPB but this changed in 1987. … Funding was reduced significantly to NPR but substantially increased to local affiliates. At the same time, NPR increased the “dues” levied on these affiliates to maintain its income. That is to say, it’s a bit of a shell game, because the funding simply now travels through a local station to NPR. It’s very disingenuous of NPR to say it doesn’t get a lot of tax money.

When the new Congress convenes in January and reviews funding for CPB, it should look at all the money flowing to NPR, and PBS to boot. All of it.

NPR’s funding has come under attack in the wake of the Juan Williams debacle. NPR claims that only a tiny portion of its funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. A reader e-mails:

A lot has been written about how the network only gets a couple million from taxpayers. This is very misleading … actually wrong. CPB gives scores of millions of dollars to NPR affiliates which, in turn, use that money to purchase NPR programming such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered, etc.

Tax dollars used to go directly to NPR from CPB but this changed in 1987. … Funding was reduced significantly to NPR but substantially increased to local affiliates. At the same time, NPR increased the “dues” levied on these affiliates to maintain its income. That is to say, it’s a bit of a shell game, because the funding simply now travels through a local station to NPR. It’s very disingenuous of NPR to say it doesn’t get a lot of tax money.

When the new Congress convenes in January and reviews funding for CPB, it should look at all the money flowing to NPR, and PBS to boot. All of it.

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Obama Is No FDR

Jen references Michael Gerson’s devastating Washington Post column in which he calls President Obama an intellectual snob. Equally interesting, I think, is a front-page article in today’s New York Times, with its simply astonishing opening sentence: “It took President Obama 18 months to invite the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, to the White House for a one-on-one chat.” Who was it who ran for president as a “post-partisan,” and who was going to bring a new way of doing things to Washington?

The Times notes that, “Mr. Obama came to office vowing to reach across the aisle and change the tone in Washington, a goal he quickly abandoned when Republicans stood in lockstep against his stimulus bill.” The Republicans, of course, “stood in lockstep” against the stimulus bill because they were completely frozen out of any role in shaping it. (By the way, my inner copy editor shudders at the metaphor “stood in lockstep.” “Lockstep” is a mode of marching, not standing, but…) It was needless, counterproductive, and, alas, typical behavior on Obama’s part.

As Gershon points out, Franklin Roosevelt was an aristocrat to his fingertips, complete with Mayflower ancestors, a mansion overlooking the Hudson, a large trust fund, the right schools, the right clubs, and a “Park Avenue Oxford” accent. But he “was able to convince millions of average Americans that he was firmly on their side.” Obama has convinced millions of Americans that he regards them as fools, too scared to think straight.

The constitutional scholar in the White House might want to take a look at the Constitution’s preamble and refresh his memory as to who it was who ordained and established the government he heads. They’re going to be heard a week from tomorrow, and I don’t think President Obama is going to like what they have to say.

Jen references Michael Gerson’s devastating Washington Post column in which he calls President Obama an intellectual snob. Equally interesting, I think, is a front-page article in today’s New York Times, with its simply astonishing opening sentence: “It took President Obama 18 months to invite the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, to the White House for a one-on-one chat.” Who was it who ran for president as a “post-partisan,” and who was going to bring a new way of doing things to Washington?

The Times notes that, “Mr. Obama came to office vowing to reach across the aisle and change the tone in Washington, a goal he quickly abandoned when Republicans stood in lockstep against his stimulus bill.” The Republicans, of course, “stood in lockstep” against the stimulus bill because they were completely frozen out of any role in shaping it. (By the way, my inner copy editor shudders at the metaphor “stood in lockstep.” “Lockstep” is a mode of marching, not standing, but…) It was needless, counterproductive, and, alas, typical behavior on Obama’s part.

As Gershon points out, Franklin Roosevelt was an aristocrat to his fingertips, complete with Mayflower ancestors, a mansion overlooking the Hudson, a large trust fund, the right schools, the right clubs, and a “Park Avenue Oxford” accent. But he “was able to convince millions of average Americans that he was firmly on their side.” Obama has convinced millions of Americans that he regards them as fools, too scared to think straight.

The constitutional scholar in the White House might want to take a look at the Constitution’s preamble and refresh his memory as to who it was who ordained and established the government he heads. They’re going to be heard a week from tomorrow, and I don’t think President Obama is going to like what they have to say.

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It’s the White House That’s Scared, Not the Voters

In examining the White House’s “bunker mentality,” Howard Kurtz talks to the Ragin’ Cajun, James Carville:

James Carville, the Cajun strategist, describes the White House mood bluntly: “They’re frightened.” Obama, he says, is “very insular” and “relies on a small group of people.” Recalling the atmosphere in the Clinton White House before the Republicans took both houses in 1994, Carville says: “You know it’s going to be bad but there’s a piece of you that says it’s not that bad, that there’s a new Newsweek poll out or something. You get beat down.”

Well, good to know that Newsweek is a joke among liberals as well. Now, his point is well taken, but this crew was in the bunker even when their polling was high. From Day 1, they’ve been super-sensitive to the slightest criticism. They’ve felt besieged by talk radio, Fox News, Gallup, and on and on. Combine bare-knuckle politics with a president with a messiah complex and you get a White House that goes for the jugular at the mildest provocation.

And nothing is ever their fault. Not even the media strategy:

Despite Obama’s sky-high profile, White House advisers scoff at suggestions of overexposure, saying that shrinking viewership requires the president to make multiple appearances to reach the same audience that Reagan could with a single network interview. …

It’s equally true that 9.6 percent unemployment isn’t a communications problem. But deflecting the political blame certainly is. Perhaps this is the new normal—a president and White House staff having to work overtime to peddle their wares in a crowded marketplace.

“It’s a chaotic environment,” [Dan] Pfeiffer says. “There are no clean shots anymore. Everything we do is instantly analyzed by people who are our allies and people who are our adversaries.”

Oh, woe is them. No other president — not Lincoln or FDR — has ever had it so hard. No president — not George W. Bush — ever faced so much criticism. Silly? Yes. But it goes a long way toward explaining why the White House continually doubles down on losing strategies. It’s never their fault, you see.

In examining the White House’s “bunker mentality,” Howard Kurtz talks to the Ragin’ Cajun, James Carville:

James Carville, the Cajun strategist, describes the White House mood bluntly: “They’re frightened.” Obama, he says, is “very insular” and “relies on a small group of people.” Recalling the atmosphere in the Clinton White House before the Republicans took both houses in 1994, Carville says: “You know it’s going to be bad but there’s a piece of you that says it’s not that bad, that there’s a new Newsweek poll out or something. You get beat down.”

Well, good to know that Newsweek is a joke among liberals as well. Now, his point is well taken, but this crew was in the bunker even when their polling was high. From Day 1, they’ve been super-sensitive to the slightest criticism. They’ve felt besieged by talk radio, Fox News, Gallup, and on and on. Combine bare-knuckle politics with a president with a messiah complex and you get a White House that goes for the jugular at the mildest provocation.

And nothing is ever their fault. Not even the media strategy:

Despite Obama’s sky-high profile, White House advisers scoff at suggestions of overexposure, saying that shrinking viewership requires the president to make multiple appearances to reach the same audience that Reagan could with a single network interview. …

It’s equally true that 9.6 percent unemployment isn’t a communications problem. But deflecting the political blame certainly is. Perhaps this is the new normal—a president and White House staff having to work overtime to peddle their wares in a crowded marketplace.

“It’s a chaotic environment,” [Dan] Pfeiffer says. “There are no clean shots anymore. Everything we do is instantly analyzed by people who are our allies and people who are our adversaries.”

Oh, woe is them. No other president — not Lincoln or FDR — has ever had it so hard. No president — not George W. Bush — ever faced so much criticism. Silly? Yes. But it goes a long way toward explaining why the White House continually doubles down on losing strategies. It’s never their fault, you see.

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Karzai Takes Iranian Cash, Just in Case

Give Hamid Karzai points for honesty. He has made no attempt to deny a report in the Saturday New York Times that he receives bags of cash from the Iranians. Instead he came right out and admitted it and vowed to continue accepting the cash that he said amounts to about $2 million a year. “They have asked for good relations in return, and for lots of other things in return,” he said of the Iranians. No kidding.

In a way, this should hardly be a shocker. The Iranians have attempted similar dollar diplomacy in Iraq, Lebanon, and lots of other countries. No surprise that they should try the same thing with another neighbor. Nor should anyone be particularly shocked that the Iranians appear to be playing both sides of the street — giving both to Karzai and to the Taliban. In a way, what the Iranians are doing, while undoubtedly cynical, is not that far removed from conventional foreign-aid programs run by the U.S., Britain, and other powers that also seek to curry influence with their donations. Even the Iranian resort to cash — which is more than a bit seedy — is hardly all that different from what the U.S. does. The CIA, in particular, is known for handing out suitcases stuffed full of bills to our allies, including Karzai. I am more concerned about lethal aid that the Iranians provide to insurgents in places like Iraq and Afghanistan that is used to kill American troops — aid that has been highlighted once again by WikiLeaks.

These cash payments hardly mean that Karzai is a dupe of Iran. He gets much more money and support from the U.S. than from the Iranians, and he knows that. He is, like most politicians, primarily looking out for numero uno and that means ensuring that he is not entirely reliant on a single ally that has proved fickle in the past.

This should, however, alert us to the geopolitical stakes in Afghanistan. If we leave prematurely, Afghanistan will once again be the scene of a massive civil war, with neighboring states, and in particular Pakistan and Iran, doing their utmost to exert their influence to the detriment of our long-term interests. That is yet one more reason why it is important to prevail in Afghanistan.

Give Hamid Karzai points for honesty. He has made no attempt to deny a report in the Saturday New York Times that he receives bags of cash from the Iranians. Instead he came right out and admitted it and vowed to continue accepting the cash that he said amounts to about $2 million a year. “They have asked for good relations in return, and for lots of other things in return,” he said of the Iranians. No kidding.

In a way, this should hardly be a shocker. The Iranians have attempted similar dollar diplomacy in Iraq, Lebanon, and lots of other countries. No surprise that they should try the same thing with another neighbor. Nor should anyone be particularly shocked that the Iranians appear to be playing both sides of the street — giving both to Karzai and to the Taliban. In a way, what the Iranians are doing, while undoubtedly cynical, is not that far removed from conventional foreign-aid programs run by the U.S., Britain, and other powers that also seek to curry influence with their donations. Even the Iranian resort to cash — which is more than a bit seedy — is hardly all that different from what the U.S. does. The CIA, in particular, is known for handing out suitcases stuffed full of bills to our allies, including Karzai. I am more concerned about lethal aid that the Iranians provide to insurgents in places like Iraq and Afghanistan that is used to kill American troops — aid that has been highlighted once again by WikiLeaks.

These cash payments hardly mean that Karzai is a dupe of Iran. He gets much more money and support from the U.S. than from the Iranians, and he knows that. He is, like most politicians, primarily looking out for numero uno and that means ensuring that he is not entirely reliant on a single ally that has proved fickle in the past.

This should, however, alert us to the geopolitical stakes in Afghanistan. If we leave prematurely, Afghanistan will once again be the scene of a massive civil war, with neighboring states, and in particular Pakistan and Iran, doing their utmost to exert their influence to the detriment of our long-term interests. That is yet one more reason why it is important to prevail in Afghanistan.

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WikiLeaks and the Gaza War

The New York Times tucked a remarkable statistic into the tail-end of an article on WikiLeaks’s latest document dump, one with ramifications for the ongoing delegitimization campaign against Israel: for most of the last century, the normal civilian-to-combatant wartime fatality ratio has been 10:1.

Civilians have borne the brunt of modern warfare, with 10 civilians dying for every soldier in wars fought since the mid-20th century, compared with 9 soldiers killed for every civilian in World War I, according to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

This elicits an obvious question: if civilians routinely account for 90 percent of all casualties in modern warfare, why is the world up in arms about the civilian casualty rate in last year’s Israel-Hamas war in Gaza — which, by even the most anti-Israel account, was markedly lower?

If one accepts the Israel Defense Forces’ statistics, then noncombatants accounted for only 39 percent of Palestinian fatalities — less than half the standard 90 percent rate noted by the ICRC. Nongovernmental organizations obviously cite a much higher civilian casualty rate. But even they put it below 90 percent.

According to B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Israeli forces killed 1,390 Palestinians in the war, including 759 noncombatants, 349 combatants, 248 Palestinian policemen, two in targeted assassinations (bizarrely, these aren’t classified as either combatants or noncombatants), and 32 whose status it couldn’t determine. The policemen are listed separately because their status is disputed: Israel says the Hamas-run police force served as an auxiliary army unit; Palestinians say the policemen were noncombatants.

Omitting the 34 whom B’Tselem didn’t classify, these figures show civilians comprising 74 percent of total fatalities if the policemen are considered noncombatants, and 56 percent if they’re considered combatants. Either way, the ratio is well below the 90 percent norm.

The most anti-Israel accounting, from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, lists 1,417 Palestinian fatalities, including 236 combatants, 926 civilians, and 255 policemen. But even these figures, if we assume the policemen were noncombatants, put civilians at only 83 percent of total deaths — less than the proportion the Red Cross deemed the norm back in 2001. Treating the policemen as combatants lowers the rate to 65 percent.

Whichever numbers you choose, the civilian casualty rate was high. But as the ICRC data make clear, high civilian casualty rates are normal — indeed, inevitable — in modern warfare, in which combatants often don’t wear uniforms and fight from among the civilian population, making them hard to distinguish from noncombatants. Judged against this global norm, the IDF, far from demonstrating callous disregard for civilian casualties, has actually been unusually successful at minimizing them.

But there’s an even more important lesson to be learned here: if critics truly want to change this norm, they must stop making this modus operandi so profitable for the terrorists. As long as terrorists know that fighting from among civilians will result in opprobrium not for them but — because of the inevitable civilian casualties — for any of their victims who dare to fight back, they will have every incentive to keep doing it.

The New York Times tucked a remarkable statistic into the tail-end of an article on WikiLeaks’s latest document dump, one with ramifications for the ongoing delegitimization campaign against Israel: for most of the last century, the normal civilian-to-combatant wartime fatality ratio has been 10:1.

Civilians have borne the brunt of modern warfare, with 10 civilians dying for every soldier in wars fought since the mid-20th century, compared with 9 soldiers killed for every civilian in World War I, according to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

This elicits an obvious question: if civilians routinely account for 90 percent of all casualties in modern warfare, why is the world up in arms about the civilian casualty rate in last year’s Israel-Hamas war in Gaza — which, by even the most anti-Israel account, was markedly lower?

If one accepts the Israel Defense Forces’ statistics, then noncombatants accounted for only 39 percent of Palestinian fatalities — less than half the standard 90 percent rate noted by the ICRC. Nongovernmental organizations obviously cite a much higher civilian casualty rate. But even they put it below 90 percent.

According to B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Israeli forces killed 1,390 Palestinians in the war, including 759 noncombatants, 349 combatants, 248 Palestinian policemen, two in targeted assassinations (bizarrely, these aren’t classified as either combatants or noncombatants), and 32 whose status it couldn’t determine. The policemen are listed separately because their status is disputed: Israel says the Hamas-run police force served as an auxiliary army unit; Palestinians say the policemen were noncombatants.

Omitting the 34 whom B’Tselem didn’t classify, these figures show civilians comprising 74 percent of total fatalities if the policemen are considered noncombatants, and 56 percent if they’re considered combatants. Either way, the ratio is well below the 90 percent norm.

The most anti-Israel accounting, from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, lists 1,417 Palestinian fatalities, including 236 combatants, 926 civilians, and 255 policemen. But even these figures, if we assume the policemen were noncombatants, put civilians at only 83 percent of total deaths — less than the proportion the Red Cross deemed the norm back in 2001. Treating the policemen as combatants lowers the rate to 65 percent.

Whichever numbers you choose, the civilian casualty rate was high. But as the ICRC data make clear, high civilian casualty rates are normal — indeed, inevitable — in modern warfare, in which combatants often don’t wear uniforms and fight from among the civilian population, making them hard to distinguish from noncombatants. Judged against this global norm, the IDF, far from demonstrating callous disregard for civilian casualties, has actually been unusually successful at minimizing them.

But there’s an even more important lesson to be learned here: if critics truly want to change this norm, they must stop making this modus operandi so profitable for the terrorists. As long as terrorists know that fighting from among civilians will result in opprobrium not for them but — because of the inevitable civilian casualties — for any of their victims who dare to fight back, they will have every incentive to keep doing it.

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NPR Keeps Digging

Vivian Schiller, NPR’s CEO, who will be remembered for her firing of Juan Williams and her slander of him thereafter, has apologized. Sort of. Not to him, mind you. She has sent a letter that reads somewhat like a Dilbert cartoon — evidencing all the ham-handedness and nastiness you would expect, coupled with a little dollop of obsequiousness. She has written a letter to her “program colleagues,” revealing that Juan Williams had been warned (i.e., issued a verbal discipline) in the past — another inappropriate disclosure:

Juan Williams’ comments on Fox News last Monday were the latest in a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years. In each of those instances, he was contacted and the incident was discussed with him. He was explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR’s standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst.

She concedes that others could disagree with the decision. (Like every newsperson in America and about 90 percent of the public.) She then vaguely apologizes for the way in which the firing was handled:

While we stand firmly behind that decision, I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode. … I stand by my decision to end NPR’s relationship with Juan Williams, but deeply regret the way I handled and explained it.

I think she means she’s sorry she didn’t give them talking points, but she’s not ashamed she smeared Williams by suggesting that he talk to his psychiatrist (which he does not have). Not clear whether she also regrets the squirrelly manner of the firing — over the phone (classy, guys). She closes by asking for suggestions.

Here are three. First, fire Schiller, who has brought disgrace (well, more than before) on NPR. She fired a valuable commodity, slandered him, incurred the wrath of the journalistic community, and put her organization’s funding at risk. Forget the morality of it; she’s simply incompetent.

Second, fire all the NPR “analysts” who do precisely what Juan Williams does — offer opinions in public (does that cover cocktail parties, by the way?). If she’s serious about the grave nature of Williams’s offenses, she shouldn’t have singled him out, right? (If a conservative news outlet did this, the NAACP would have picket lines around the building.)

And finally, she promises that “[w]e will also review and re-articulate our written ethics guidelines to make them as clear and relevant as possible for our acquired show partners, our staff, Member stations and the public.” That’s a good idea — because if you have no guidelines or hopelessly vague ones, arbitrarily applied, you get yourself in a lot of hot water.

Vivian Schiller, NPR’s CEO, who will be remembered for her firing of Juan Williams and her slander of him thereafter, has apologized. Sort of. Not to him, mind you. She has sent a letter that reads somewhat like a Dilbert cartoon — evidencing all the ham-handedness and nastiness you would expect, coupled with a little dollop of obsequiousness. She has written a letter to her “program colleagues,” revealing that Juan Williams had been warned (i.e., issued a verbal discipline) in the past — another inappropriate disclosure:

Juan Williams’ comments on Fox News last Monday were the latest in a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years. In each of those instances, he was contacted and the incident was discussed with him. He was explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR’s standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst.

She concedes that others could disagree with the decision. (Like every newsperson in America and about 90 percent of the public.) She then vaguely apologizes for the way in which the firing was handled:

While we stand firmly behind that decision, I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode. … I stand by my decision to end NPR’s relationship with Juan Williams, but deeply regret the way I handled and explained it.

I think she means she’s sorry she didn’t give them talking points, but she’s not ashamed she smeared Williams by suggesting that he talk to his psychiatrist (which he does not have). Not clear whether she also regrets the squirrelly manner of the firing — over the phone (classy, guys). She closes by asking for suggestions.

Here are three. First, fire Schiller, who has brought disgrace (well, more than before) on NPR. She fired a valuable commodity, slandered him, incurred the wrath of the journalistic community, and put her organization’s funding at risk. Forget the morality of it; she’s simply incompetent.

Second, fire all the NPR “analysts” who do precisely what Juan Williams does — offer opinions in public (does that cover cocktail parties, by the way?). If she’s serious about the grave nature of Williams’s offenses, she shouldn’t have singled him out, right? (If a conservative news outlet did this, the NAACP would have picket lines around the building.)

And finally, she promises that “[w]e will also review and re-articulate our written ethics guidelines to make them as clear and relevant as possible for our acquired show partners, our staff, Member stations and the public.” That’s a good idea — because if you have no guidelines or hopelessly vague ones, arbitrarily applied, you get yourself in a lot of hot water.

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Voters Poised to Make a Really Big Change

A week from tomorrow, voters go to the polls to throw out the Democrats. That’s the finding of the latest Battleground 2010 poll. Republicans have a 48 to 42 percent advantage in generic congressional polling. Forty-five percent approve of Obama’s performance; 50 percent do not. The public’s mood about Obama personally has shifted as well. Thirty-nine percent have a strongly unfavorable impression of him, while thirty-three percent have a strongly favorable impression. Perhaps voters don’t like being tagged as scared and irrational. (In a similar vein, 80 percent of the Washington Post‘s readers — which include many liberals — responding to Michael Gerson’s column on the subject agree that Obama is a “snob.”)

In a reversal from the past few years, the GOP’s favorable/unfavorable rating is 50 to 41 percent; for the Democrats, it is 42 to 50 percent. On individual issues, the GOP is ahead or statistically tied with the Democratic Party on its ability to handle every substantive issue listed, including health care. On the deficit, that advantage is 50 to 34 percent; for creating jobs, it is 50 to 39 percent. Fifty-nine percent think the stimulus didn’t work. Fifty-four percent disapprove of ObamaCare, 40 percent strongly so. An astounding 62 percent have less faith in government based on the experience of the last two years.

In sum, Obama and the congressional Democrats have frittered away their advantage on every significant policy issue. The public disapproves of Obama’s performance and likes him a whole lot less than they used to. And next Tuesday, they can and will express those sentiments.

A week from tomorrow, voters go to the polls to throw out the Democrats. That’s the finding of the latest Battleground 2010 poll. Republicans have a 48 to 42 percent advantage in generic congressional polling. Forty-five percent approve of Obama’s performance; 50 percent do not. The public’s mood about Obama personally has shifted as well. Thirty-nine percent have a strongly unfavorable impression of him, while thirty-three percent have a strongly favorable impression. Perhaps voters don’t like being tagged as scared and irrational. (In a similar vein, 80 percent of the Washington Post‘s readers — which include many liberals — responding to Michael Gerson’s column on the subject agree that Obama is a “snob.”)

In a reversal from the past few years, the GOP’s favorable/unfavorable rating is 50 to 41 percent; for the Democrats, it is 42 to 50 percent. On individual issues, the GOP is ahead or statistically tied with the Democratic Party on its ability to handle every substantive issue listed, including health care. On the deficit, that advantage is 50 to 34 percent; for creating jobs, it is 50 to 39 percent. Fifty-nine percent think the stimulus didn’t work. Fifty-four percent disapprove of ObamaCare, 40 percent strongly so. An astounding 62 percent have less faith in government based on the experience of the last two years.

In sum, Obama and the congressional Democrats have frittered away their advantage on every significant policy issue. The public disapproves of Obama’s performance and likes him a whole lot less than they used to. And next Tuesday, they can and will express those sentiments.

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The Unmasking of NPR

On the matter of the firing of Juan Williams by NPR, I wanted to add a few thoughts to what has already been said and written. The first is that this incident will not soon fade from memory; rather, it will be seen, over time, as an important moment that further discredited liberal media institutions. It took well-known but fairly abstract truths — NPR is taxpayer supported and dominated by a liberal political culture — and gave it a name, a context, and a human face. The fact that NPR’s Vivian Schiller turned out to be monumentally inept and mean-spirited may have been known to a few others before NPR cashiered Williams; now that fact is known by millions of others. Consequently, NPR will suffer a serious blow to its reputation and pay a considerable price (hopefully) in terms of funding.

Second, what was unmasked during the last week was the extent to which modern liberalism (at least as embodied by NPR) is antithetical to classical liberalism, which celebrated open-mindedness, a diversity of thought and opinion, and the spirited exchange of ideas. The depth of intolerance at National Public Radio is so deep that even a liberal like Juan Williams was thrown to the curb. His sin is not only that he didn’t parrot the Party Line closely enough; it was also that he didn’t parrot the Party Line at the appropriate Party Outlets.

Which leads to observation number three: the degree to which Fox News not only obsesses liberals but also blows their circuits.

The genius of Roger Ailes wasn’t simply to build the most successful cable news network in history; it’s that in the process, he has caused liberals from President Obama and his top aides to NPR to make stupid errors — errors rooted in their intense hatred for Fox News. They cannot stand the fact that Fox shattered the liberal media monopoly in television journalism. But what truly drives the left around the twist is that Fox News is thriving — and with each attempt to discredit it, the network grows more popular, more powerful, and more dominant.

Out of this most recent controversy, Juan Williams will come out just fine. NPR, on the other hand, has emerged disgraced. All in all, not a bad outcome.

On the matter of the firing of Juan Williams by NPR, I wanted to add a few thoughts to what has already been said and written. The first is that this incident will not soon fade from memory; rather, it will be seen, over time, as an important moment that further discredited liberal media institutions. It took well-known but fairly abstract truths — NPR is taxpayer supported and dominated by a liberal political culture — and gave it a name, a context, and a human face. The fact that NPR’s Vivian Schiller turned out to be monumentally inept and mean-spirited may have been known to a few others before NPR cashiered Williams; now that fact is known by millions of others. Consequently, NPR will suffer a serious blow to its reputation and pay a considerable price (hopefully) in terms of funding.

Second, what was unmasked during the last week was the extent to which modern liberalism (at least as embodied by NPR) is antithetical to classical liberalism, which celebrated open-mindedness, a diversity of thought and opinion, and the spirited exchange of ideas. The depth of intolerance at National Public Radio is so deep that even a liberal like Juan Williams was thrown to the curb. His sin is not only that he didn’t parrot the Party Line closely enough; it was also that he didn’t parrot the Party Line at the appropriate Party Outlets.

Which leads to observation number three: the degree to which Fox News not only obsesses liberals but also blows their circuits.

The genius of Roger Ailes wasn’t simply to build the most successful cable news network in history; it’s that in the process, he has caused liberals from President Obama and his top aides to NPR to make stupid errors — errors rooted in their intense hatred for Fox News. They cannot stand the fact that Fox shattered the liberal media monopoly in television journalism. But what truly drives the left around the twist is that Fox News is thriving — and with each attempt to discredit it, the network grows more popular, more powerful, and more dominant.

Out of this most recent controversy, Juan Williams will come out just fine. NPR, on the other hand, has emerged disgraced. All in all, not a bad outcome.

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Rove Faces Down Schieffer

Karl Rove gave a feisty interview on Face the Nation to Bob Schieffer — who couldn’t really explain why it was somehow dangerous for conservative 501(c)4 groups to give to Republicans but perfectly fine if Big Labor gives to the Democrats:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just do a little shorthand here because if you add up the money raised by the congressional committees and the two national parties, Democrats have raised seven hundred fifty million dollars to the Republicans’ five hundred million dollars. … The two groups that you’re associated with alone expected to raise around sixty-five million dollars. And a lot of that money is coming from anonymous donors. So I — I — I want to just start with this. Why is the public interest served by flooding our politics with money from people who don’t want other people to know they’ve contributed?

KARL ROVE: Well, this has been going on for a long while. In fact, you left out a big player in this. Four unions alone will — will have — according to their own announcements spent two hundred and twenty-two million dollars in — in money on elections this year.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But we know who they are.

KARL ROVE: No, no, no you don’t, Bob. Here’s the disclosure report for the — for — for one who’s going to spend eighty-seven and a half million dollars — the American Federation of State commun — local and Community Employees. … They’re going to take in one hundred ninety million four hundred and seventy-seven do — thousand eight hundred and twenty-nine dollars, and that’s the extent of where you know where it’s coming from. So there’s a lot of money floating around in politics that’s not disclosed. Read More

Karl Rove gave a feisty interview on Face the Nation to Bob Schieffer — who couldn’t really explain why it was somehow dangerous for conservative 501(c)4 groups to give to Republicans but perfectly fine if Big Labor gives to the Democrats:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just do a little shorthand here because if you add up the money raised by the congressional committees and the two national parties, Democrats have raised seven hundred fifty million dollars to the Republicans’ five hundred million dollars. … The two groups that you’re associated with alone expected to raise around sixty-five million dollars. And a lot of that money is coming from anonymous donors. So I — I — I want to just start with this. Why is the public interest served by flooding our politics with money from people who don’t want other people to know they’ve contributed?

KARL ROVE: Well, this has been going on for a long while. In fact, you left out a big player in this. Four unions alone will — will have — according to their own announcements spent two hundred and twenty-two million dollars in — in money on elections this year.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But we know who they are.

KARL ROVE: No, no, no you don’t, Bob. Here’s the disclosure report for the — for — for one who’s going to spend eighty-seven and a half million dollars — the American Federation of State commun — local and Community Employees. … They’re going to take in one hundred ninety million four hundred and seventy-seven do — thousand eight hundred and twenty-nine dollars, and that’s the extent of where you know where it’s coming from. So there’s a lot of money floating around in politics that’s not disclosed.

Moreover, the real difference between all these groups and Big Labor is that the latter takes money from union members involuntarily. Schieffer seemed unmoved by the facts. Rove then zeroed in on the massive hypocrisy game being played by the White House and bolstered by much of the mainstream media:

Bob, I don’t remember you having a program in 2000, when the NAACP spent ten million dollars from one single donor, running ads anonymous leave contributed, attacking George W. Bush. The — suddenly — everybody is gone spun up about it this year when Republicans have started to follow what the Democrats have been doing and create 501(c)4s, which can use less than half their money for express advocacy. But you have the environment America, feminist majority, humane society, legislative front and they were all — vote — Vote Vets, Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife and a bunch of others which are all liberal groups that have been using 501(c)4s with undisclosed money for years. … And it’s never been an issue until the President of the United States on the day when we have a bad economic jobs report, when we lose ninety-five jobs in September, and the unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, the President of the United States goes out and calls conservatives at the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads GPS, and says these are threats to democracy because they don’t disclose their donors. I don’t remember him ever saying that all these liberal groups were threats to democracy when they spent money exactly the same way we are.

Ouch.

And just as quickly as the hue and cry arose in opposition to conservative groups, it will go quiet again as Democrats form their own entities for the 2012 campaign. Then all that outside money will be a sign of the vibrancy of American politics. And so it is — for both sides.

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Weak Leaks

When the first batch of WikiLeaks’s prize field reports was posted in July, I was underwhelmed by the strategic import of the content. This unauthorized disclosure was nothing like the “Pentagon Papers,” which revealed a marked difference between the Johnson administration’s public protestations about our policy in Vietnam and the policy it was actually pursuing. The significance of the Pentagon Papers leak lay in what it revealed — directly and explicitly — about the American executive.

The WikiLeaks document dumps this year have done no such thing. The leaked field reports contain no direct information about policy in Washington. The first batch of reports tended mainly to confirm that the American understanding of what was going on in the field, in Iraq and Afghanistan, was pretty accurate. The second batch of reports, which was provided to selected news outlets last week, appears to be going beyond that to vindicate key claims of the Bush administration and debunk one of the principal talking points of its critics.

The New York Times, given advance access to the new batch of documents, reported on Friday that they are full of references to Iranian involvement in the Shia insurgency in Iraq. As the Times observes, the Bush administration was strongly criticized for charging Iran with this interference, but the field reports indicate that Bush’s allegations comported with what he was hearing from the field. (h/t: Legal Insurrection)

Wired’s Danger Room notes that the reports are also full of references to the discovery and identification in Iraq of chemical weapons, weapons-making laboratories, and chemical-weapons experts among Iraq’s insurgents and terrorists. (h/t: Ed Morrissey at Hot Air) Many of the facts surrounding these discoveries have been public for years, but as several bloggers have pointed out, this documentary validation isn’t propaganda: it comes from field reports that were never intended to reach or persuade the public. Ironically, for a leak made with its particular political motives, this one validates precisely the concern with which George W. Bush went into Iraq — i.e., that the WMD components acquired by terrorism sponsors could fall into the hands of terrorists.

But there’s more irony in those leaked documents. They contain civilian casualty summaries that give the lie to the wild estimates from the 2006 Lancet study of 655,000 “excess deaths” in Iraq because of the war. The casualty total reflected in the documents is 109,032 through 2009. From a humanitarian perspective, any civilian casualties are assuredly “too many.” But the disingenuousness of urging the public to indignation over a particular number is thrown into strong relief when the number is revealed to have been a ridiculous and irresponsible exaggeration. As the Melbourne Herald Sun blogger observes, the Iraqi total from the WikiLeaks documents makes the civilian fatality rate from combat there lower than the murder rate in South Africa.

Glenn Reynolds points out at Instapundit that the timing of this fresh document dump is beneficial mainly to the impending release of George W. Bush’s presidential memoir. That’s probably an unintended consequence, too.

When the first batch of WikiLeaks’s prize field reports was posted in July, I was underwhelmed by the strategic import of the content. This unauthorized disclosure was nothing like the “Pentagon Papers,” which revealed a marked difference between the Johnson administration’s public protestations about our policy in Vietnam and the policy it was actually pursuing. The significance of the Pentagon Papers leak lay in what it revealed — directly and explicitly — about the American executive.

The WikiLeaks document dumps this year have done no such thing. The leaked field reports contain no direct information about policy in Washington. The first batch of reports tended mainly to confirm that the American understanding of what was going on in the field, in Iraq and Afghanistan, was pretty accurate. The second batch of reports, which was provided to selected news outlets last week, appears to be going beyond that to vindicate key claims of the Bush administration and debunk one of the principal talking points of its critics.

The New York Times, given advance access to the new batch of documents, reported on Friday that they are full of references to Iranian involvement in the Shia insurgency in Iraq. As the Times observes, the Bush administration was strongly criticized for charging Iran with this interference, but the field reports indicate that Bush’s allegations comported with what he was hearing from the field. (h/t: Legal Insurrection)

Wired’s Danger Room notes that the reports are also full of references to the discovery and identification in Iraq of chemical weapons, weapons-making laboratories, and chemical-weapons experts among Iraq’s insurgents and terrorists. (h/t: Ed Morrissey at Hot Air) Many of the facts surrounding these discoveries have been public for years, but as several bloggers have pointed out, this documentary validation isn’t propaganda: it comes from field reports that were never intended to reach or persuade the public. Ironically, for a leak made with its particular political motives, this one validates precisely the concern with which George W. Bush went into Iraq — i.e., that the WMD components acquired by terrorism sponsors could fall into the hands of terrorists.

But there’s more irony in those leaked documents. They contain civilian casualty summaries that give the lie to the wild estimates from the 2006 Lancet study of 655,000 “excess deaths” in Iraq because of the war. The casualty total reflected in the documents is 109,032 through 2009. From a humanitarian perspective, any civilian casualties are assuredly “too many.” But the disingenuousness of urging the public to indignation over a particular number is thrown into strong relief when the number is revealed to have been a ridiculous and irresponsible exaggeration. As the Melbourne Herald Sun blogger observes, the Iraqi total from the WikiLeaks documents makes the civilian fatality rate from combat there lower than the murder rate in South Africa.

Glenn Reynolds points out at Instapundit that the timing of this fresh document dump is beneficial mainly to the impending release of George W. Bush’s presidential memoir. That’s probably an unintended consequence, too.

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Another Brilliant Idea of the Left

Call it the Backlash Midterms. Obama pushed through ObamaCare to pump up the base; it pumped up conservatives and angered independents. Obama took to the campaign trail; his peevishness and attacks on his own base further depressed liberals and reminded other voters why they were upset. Jack Conway runs an attack ad on Rand Paul; liberals and conservatives alike are appalled. Even NPR gets in on the backlash act — firing Juan Williams and thereby unleashing a furious attack on their funding and journalistic standards.

Then caustic liberals decide to have a rally on the mall. Bad idea. As this report explains:

Jon Stewart has tried to paint the “million moderate march” he will hold on the Mall this Saturday as a live-action version of his comedy show, a satirical take on political demonstrations. But some liberal groups are doing their best to adopt the rally as their own. … [G]roups ranging from PETA to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws are preparing props and making snarky signs in preparation for the event, and more than 200,000 people have said on Facebook that they will attend.

Many conservatives have watched smugly as liberal activists have become caught up in a gathering that will probably resemble a circus more than it does a serious political event and that is taking place on a prime day for campaign volunteers to help get out the vote.

Really — have these people learned nothing? Stephen Colbert’s performance on Capitol Hill seemed to personify Democrats’  fundamental unseriousness and disregard for the public’s concerns. Now the same comic, with Jon Stewart in tow, is going to mock and sneer at his fellow citizens as “snarky” (read: obnoxious) signs display the views of the liberal “cool” crowd. It is a disaster waiting to happen — and will fill the cable and network news shows on the weekend before the election. Great going, fellas.

Call it the Backlash Midterms. Obama pushed through ObamaCare to pump up the base; it pumped up conservatives and angered independents. Obama took to the campaign trail; his peevishness and attacks on his own base further depressed liberals and reminded other voters why they were upset. Jack Conway runs an attack ad on Rand Paul; liberals and conservatives alike are appalled. Even NPR gets in on the backlash act — firing Juan Williams and thereby unleashing a furious attack on their funding and journalistic standards.

Then caustic liberals decide to have a rally on the mall. Bad idea. As this report explains:

Jon Stewart has tried to paint the “million moderate march” he will hold on the Mall this Saturday as a live-action version of his comedy show, a satirical take on political demonstrations. But some liberal groups are doing their best to adopt the rally as their own. … [G]roups ranging from PETA to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws are preparing props and making snarky signs in preparation for the event, and more than 200,000 people have said on Facebook that they will attend.

Many conservatives have watched smugly as liberal activists have become caught up in a gathering that will probably resemble a circus more than it does a serious political event and that is taking place on a prime day for campaign volunteers to help get out the vote.

Really — have these people learned nothing? Stephen Colbert’s performance on Capitol Hill seemed to personify Democrats’  fundamental unseriousness and disregard for the public’s concerns. Now the same comic, with Jon Stewart in tow, is going to mock and sneer at his fellow citizens as “snarky” (read: obnoxious) signs display the views of the liberal “cool” crowd. It is a disaster waiting to happen — and will fill the cable and network news shows on the weekend before the election. Great going, fellas.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Awkward. Charles Krauthammer vs. Tina Totenberg.

Unsurprising. “The knives are out for Christiane Amanpour at ABC News’ DC bureau.” The only people happy about NPR’s firing of Juan Williams are the ABC execs whose decision to put her in the This Week host chair is now a distant second in the “Top 10 dumbest news-division decisions.” (Parker-Spitzer on CNN is a close third.)

Stark. “POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.”

Unbelievable, even for NPR. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “So much to dislike about NPR, it’s hard to know where to begin. For me, the CEO’s comment, I mean, the arrogance of it. Juan has worked at NPR for — how long? … And she, in a public forum, having had someone call you to fire you, not having had a meeting with you to discuss anything, says he should see a psychiatrist. I mean, that really is unbelievable.” Why isn’t anyone calling for her to be fired?

Pathetic. “The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn’t understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March — an endorsement he has since withdrawn.”

Transparent. The new 2012 presidential contenders’ game is to run down figures like Karl Rove and leap to Christine O’Donnell’s defense to prove your Tea Party bona fides. Puleez. Is shilling for an unelectable candidate really going to convince voters of your own savvy judgment?

What?! Ari Berman of the Nation says a smaller, more leftist Democratic congressional caucus will help the party. This is the Newsweek theory of politics — we’ll have fewer supporters and be more successful!

Awkward. Charles Krauthammer vs. Tina Totenberg.

Unsurprising. “The knives are out for Christiane Amanpour at ABC News’ DC bureau.” The only people happy about NPR’s firing of Juan Williams are the ABC execs whose decision to put her in the This Week host chair is now a distant second in the “Top 10 dumbest news-division decisions.” (Parker-Spitzer on CNN is a close third.)

Stark. “POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.”

Unbelievable, even for NPR. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “So much to dislike about NPR, it’s hard to know where to begin. For me, the CEO’s comment, I mean, the arrogance of it. Juan has worked at NPR for — how long? … And she, in a public forum, having had someone call you to fire you, not having had a meeting with you to discuss anything, says he should see a psychiatrist. I mean, that really is unbelievable.” Why isn’t anyone calling for her to be fired?

Pathetic. “The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn’t understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March — an endorsement he has since withdrawn.”

Transparent. The new 2012 presidential contenders’ game is to run down figures like Karl Rove and leap to Christine O’Donnell’s defense to prove your Tea Party bona fides. Puleez. Is shilling for an unelectable candidate really going to convince voters of your own savvy judgment?

What?! Ari Berman of the Nation says a smaller, more leftist Democratic congressional caucus will help the party. This is the Newsweek theory of politics — we’ll have fewer supporters and be more successful!

Read Less




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