Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 3, 2011

Will the Mormon Church’s Attempts to Stay “Apolitical” Send the Opposite Message?

Last month, a Gallup poll indicated some trouble for Mormon presidential candidates: 22 percent of respondents said they would not vote for a Mormon. And this time, the main problem was not among conservative evangelicals–as was once thought–but among self-identified Democrats, where the anti-Mormon bigotry was most pronounced.

Today, the Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article laying out the Mormon Church’s strategy for the current campaign, in which two candidates–Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney–are members of the LDS Church:

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Last month, a Gallup poll indicated some trouble for Mormon presidential candidates: 22 percent of respondents said they would not vote for a Mormon. And this time, the main problem was not among conservative evangelicals–as was once thought–but among self-identified Democrats, where the anti-Mormon bigotry was most pronounced.

Today, the Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article laying out the Mormon Church’s strategy for the current campaign, in which two candidates–Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney–are members of the LDS Church:

“We not only don’t want to cross the line” between religion and politics, Michael Purdy, director of the church’s media relations office, said in an interview at church headquarters here. “We don’t want to go anywhere near the line.”

And that means being actively apolitical. In contrast to its relatively quiescent approach in 2008 when Romney ran for president, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is going on the offensive, aiming to swiftly counter anti-Mormon political arguments and push back against what it considers unfair portrayals of the faith.

The article also notes the Church will bar permanent employees and their wives from participating in the campaign, which will to some degree undermine the fundraising of the Mormon candidates. But this line the Church plans to walk–not supporting Mormon candidates but pushing back against anti-Mormon bias that emerges during the campaign–is bound to get blurred. When a presidential candidate is not Protestant, he is often taken as a representative of his faith. This is less of an obstacle for Catholics and Jews, who are familiar enough to the greater population they don’t usually need to worry about being the only Catholic or Jew voters will be acquainted with.

But that is not necessarily the case with Mormons, which is perhaps one reason Gallup found that 7 percent of respondents wouldn’t vote for a Catholic and 9 percent wouldn’t vote for a Jewish candidate–numbers significantly lower than those who say they won’t vote for a Mormon.

But more problematically, what happens in a general election if Romney is the Republican nominee? President Obama was, as a candidate, shockingly negative. (It is still difficult to imagine Obama was shameless enough to make an ad like this, which would have made Nixon or Kennedy blush and which inspired a defense of McCain from a vice president of La Raza.) When the inevitable attempts to summon this far-too-prevalent anti-Mormon prejudice provoke a response from the Church, won’t they be seen as defending Romney, first and foremost?

It may not be fair, but the Church is going to have a difficult time separating its own public relations work from that of the Romney campaign–at least as voters see it.

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Obama Must Take Strong Stand on Syria

It is chilling to read details of Bashar al-Assad regime’s assault on the city of Hama. Tanks are rolling through the streets, snipers are indiscriminately shooting civilians. At least 130 Syrians have died since Sunday’s assault began, bringing the total number of fatalities to more than 2,000 during the course of Assad’s bloody war on his own people. One somehow doubts Assad and his Alawite clique will be deterred by a toothless resolution of condemnation passed today by the UN Security Council.

There are many more steps Washington could take on its own—steps far short of using military force—that might begin to alter the political equation in Syria in ways inimical to its current rulers. My colleague Elliott Abrams offered many sensible suggestions yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. He recommends trying to peel Alawite leaders away from Assad, putting more pressure on the Syrian business community and pressing for statements from the opposition committing them to respecting the rights of all groups in a new Syria. These are all smart steps, but what we need above all is clarity from the administration.

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It is chilling to read details of Bashar al-Assad regime’s assault on the city of Hama. Tanks are rolling through the streets, snipers are indiscriminately shooting civilians. At least 130 Syrians have died since Sunday’s assault began, bringing the total number of fatalities to more than 2,000 during the course of Assad’s bloody war on his own people. One somehow doubts Assad and his Alawite clique will be deterred by a toothless resolution of condemnation passed today by the UN Security Council.

There are many more steps Washington could take on its own—steps far short of using military force—that might begin to alter the political equation in Syria in ways inimical to its current rulers. My colleague Elliott Abrams offered many sensible suggestions yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. He recommends trying to peel Alawite leaders away from Assad, putting more pressure on the Syrian business community and pressing for statements from the opposition committing them to respecting the rights of all groups in a new Syria. These are all smart steps, but what we need above all is clarity from the administration.

President Obama is willing to condemn Assad but not call for his removal. He is willing to impose some sanctions but not others. Above all, he is not willing to break diplomatic relations or bring home Ambassador Robert Ford. Ford, a superb diplomat, has actually done a good job of siding with the people against  their dictator; for example, he journeyed to Hama to highlight the oppression of the Assad regime. And he has gotten some backing from Hillary Clinton—but not, it seems, from Obama.

Considering Obama has pledged to support the Arab Spring, his failure to do more in Syria is shameful and puzzling. If Assad is overthrown, the entire power equation in the region changes in ways favorable to the West and unfavorable to the mullahs in Iran. Short of an invasion—which no one advocates—we cannot decisively alter the course of events in Syria. But we do have the ability to bring considerable influence to bear, if we take a strong stand along with  regional allies such as Turkey. So far that hasn’t happened, and the people of Syria continue to pay a price for this president’s characteristic ambivalence.

 

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Civility in Public Discourse

In the last few days, it seems every third liberal columnist and commentator has taken to libeling the Tea Party Movement, referring to it as (take your pick) terrorists, suicide bombers, hostage takers, the Hezbollah faction of the GOP, traitors, nihilists, anarchists and people suffering from halitosis. (The last reference is made up; the rest of the descriptions are real.) Even a few politicians are getting into the act.

“We have negotiated with terrorists,” Representative Mike Doyle said in a recent meeting between Democrats in Congress and Vice President Biden. “This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.” And according to several sources in the room, Biden added his two cents, saying, “They have acted like terrorists.” (Biden denied using the “terrorism word” to CBS’s Scott Pelley. His role was to act as group psychiatrist. “I just let them vent,” Biden claims.)

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In the last few days, it seems every third liberal columnist and commentator has taken to libeling the Tea Party Movement, referring to it as (take your pick) terrorists, suicide bombers, hostage takers, the Hezbollah faction of the GOP, traitors, nihilists, anarchists and people suffering from halitosis. (The last reference is made up; the rest of the descriptions are real.) Even a few politicians are getting into the act.

“We have negotiated with terrorists,” Representative Mike Doyle said in a recent meeting between Democrats in Congress and Vice President Biden. “This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.” And according to several sources in the room, Biden added his two cents, saying, “They have acted like terrorists.” (Biden denied using the “terrorism word” to CBS’s Scott Pelley. His role was to act as group psychiatrist. “I just let them vent,” Biden claims.)

All of this is terribly confusing to me. After all, during President Obama’s Tucson speech-qua-sermon, he told us that in the aftermath of the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords it was important that “we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.” We need to “sharpen our instincts for empathy.” And then there was this: “We can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country.”

I don’t know about you, but it’s not quite clear to me how accusing one’s (law-abiding) fellow citizens of being terrorists and part of the “Hezbollah faction of the GOP” helps us to heal and sharpens our instincts for empathy. In fact, I’d go so far as to say those words are meant to wound. You might even conclude from what liberals are saying the Tea Party Movement is comprised of people who aren’t simply wrong but who don’t love their country.

But saying that would be wrong. Why on earth would liberals do something like that? After all, they care– deeply care – about civility in public discourse. I know because they tell me that all the time. But perhaps I should amend that last statement. Liberals –not all of them but more than a few of them – tell us of their concern about civility in public discourse, but only when it works to their political advantage. So they hyper-focus on rhetorical decorum when it’s part of an effort to implicitly blame conservatives for an awful shooting spree that killed six people and badly wounded 13 others, including a member of Congress, even though there was not a scintilla of evidence the person who pulled the trigger was a conservative or was acting out of conservative principles.

Some people might call this slander.

But no matter; it was a political opportunity to seize, and Lord knows political opportunities shouldn’t be lost.

At some point, though, the cynical game being played by the left might become so transparent, so obvious and so self-indicting it not only doesn’t work; it ends up damaging those who use it. It makes them look two-faced, duplicitous and even a bit fraudulent. And that could be especially dangerous for a movement whose leader promised to “turn the page” on the old brand of politics, who promised us “hope and change,” and who declared, “If you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.”

When Obama said those things in 2008, he was running against Republicans. Now it appears as if he was running against his party and his future self.

 

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Americans Unhappy With Debt Ceiling Deal

While liberals and conservatives have their own separate complaints about the debt ceiling deal signed into law yesterday, a Gallup poll out today shows it’s not particularly popular with the general public either. Forty-six percent of Americans disapprove of the agreement, compared to 39 percent who approve.

Democrats are the most likely to support the deal at 58 percent. But independent voters disapprove of it 50 percent to 33 percent, and Republicans disapprove of it 64 to 26 percent. Republicans and independents are also more likely to see the deal as a step backward for addressing the federal debt problem.

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While liberals and conservatives have their own separate complaints about the debt ceiling deal signed into law yesterday, a Gallup poll out today shows it’s not particularly popular with the general public either. Forty-six percent of Americans disapprove of the agreement, compared to 39 percent who approve.

Democrats are the most likely to support the deal at 58 percent. But independent voters disapprove of it 50 percent to 33 percent, and Republicans disapprove of it 64 to 26 percent. Republicans and independents are also more likely to see the deal as a step backward for addressing the federal debt problem.

Gallup didn’t delve into the reasons Americans are unhappy with the agreement, but it could be because it didn’t include enough spending cuts, if the polling group’s previous surveys are any indication.

In July, Gallup found the majority of Americans were concerned the deal wouldn’t include enough spending cuts. In comparison, just 35 percent were worried Congress would fail to raise the debt ceiling and spark an economic crisis.

From the results of the latest poll, it’s pretty clear getting this deal done before the deadline isn’t going to boost the approval ratings of lawmakers from either party, including the president.

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The President’s Fall From Grace

If you want to gauge how upset President Obama’s liberal base is with him right now, consider the words of Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, who said this as the final debt ceiling deal was coming together: “I am just sorely upset that Obama doesn’t seize the moment. That’s what great presidents do in times of crisis. They exert executive leadership. He went wobbly in the knees.”

This isn’t simply stating a policy difference with the president; it’s a barely concealed assault on his character and fortitude.

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If you want to gauge how upset President Obama’s liberal base is with him right now, consider the words of Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, who said this as the final debt ceiling deal was coming together: “I am just sorely upset that Obama doesn’t seize the moment. That’s what great presidents do in times of crisis. They exert executive leadership. He went wobbly in the knees.”

This isn’t simply stating a policy difference with the president; it’s a barely concealed assault on his character and fortitude.

It highlights not simply the unhappiness prominent Democrats have with Obama, but their borderline contempt for him.

I don’t think people fully realize just how weak and incapacitated the debt ceiling debate has left the president. But fairly soon, it’ll become clear enough.

His presidency is coming apart, and he doesn’t have a clue how to repair it. Obama’s fall from grace has been quite remarkable, and I suspect it’s nowhere near finished.

 

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Signs of Fundraising Problems for Obama?

The Associated Press reports the Obama campaign is lowering fundraising expectations ahead of the late-September disclosure date, a sign that his contributions may be lagging:

President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign expects to raise tens of millions of dollars less this summer than it did in the spring because negotiations over the nation’s debt limit forced Obama to cancel several fundraisers.

Obama’s campaign said Wednesday it canceled or postponed 10 fundraisers involving the president, Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley in the past month because of the debt talks, scrubbing events in California, New York and elsewhere.

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The Associated Press reports the Obama campaign is lowering fundraising expectations ahead of the late-September disclosure date, a sign that his contributions may be lagging:

President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign expects to raise tens of millions of dollars less this summer than it did in the spring because negotiations over the nation’s debt limit forced Obama to cancel several fundraisers.

Obama’s campaign said Wednesday it canceled or postponed 10 fundraisers involving the president, Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley in the past month because of the debt talks, scrubbing events in California, New York and elsewhere.

Ten fundraising events probably aren’t going to make or break the quarter for Obama, especially because it sounds like some of them have been rescheduled. But Obama’s challenge will be to hold on to his liberal support base, especially now that many of them see his debt ceiling deal as a betrayal.

At the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza sees possible long-term implications:

Liberal anger and disappointment with the president is real. But will it have real political consequences heading into 2012?

The answer is “sort of.”

The most obvious impact will come in fundraising, where virtually no one in the Democratic donor base — affluent (and liberal) individuals, trial lawyers, organized labor — is happy with the deal.

There have been some signs Obama has been losing wealthy donors because of the way he’s handled the economy. While his ultra-liberal donors don’t have any alternative candidates to support, some of them – especially the small-money grassroots supporters – could be angry enough about the debt ceiling deal that they won’t donate at all. Whether or not this anger is short-lived remains to be seen, but Obama has certainly done long-term damage to his image with his left-wing base.

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In Light of Progressives’ Defeat, Attempts at Stoking Class Warfare Accelerate

Throughout the debt ceiling debates, President Obama appeared on national television numerous times attempting to shift blame for the country’s pending economic doom on Republican fat cats and corporate jet owners. As the debt crisis went on, the president’s approval numbers hit record lows, despite numerous attempts to make himself clear. The financial crisis wasn’t because the country was spending more than it was taking in, it was because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (read: it’s still Bush’s fault). Our record deficit isn’t because entitlement spending is over 10 percent of our GDP and growing rapidly; it’s because the rich aren’t paying their fair share.

In the Wall Street Journal  last week, Senator Bernie Sanders started off an opinion piece by saying, “The rich are getting richer.” Despite the fact the top 25 percent of income earners pay 85 percent of the federal income bill, the president and his progressive allies wanted more.

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Throughout the debt ceiling debates, President Obama appeared on national television numerous times attempting to shift blame for the country’s pending economic doom on Republican fat cats and corporate jet owners. As the debt crisis went on, the president’s approval numbers hit record lows, despite numerous attempts to make himself clear. The financial crisis wasn’t because the country was spending more than it was taking in, it was because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (read: it’s still Bush’s fault). Our record deficit isn’t because entitlement spending is over 10 percent of our GDP and growing rapidly; it’s because the rich aren’t paying their fair share.

In the Wall Street Journal  last week, Senator Bernie Sanders started off an opinion piece by saying, “The rich are getting richer.” Despite the fact the top 25 percent of income earners pay 85 percent of the federal income bill, the president and his progressive allies wanted more.

The media and celebrity culture offered a helping hand to the narrative. Numerous celebrities stated their willingness to be taxed at a higher rate themselves. (The Treasury Department is still waiting for their donations.) Despite these continued efforts to demonize the rich to avert attention from the debt crisis by the liberal-dominated media and Hollywood crowd, Americans weren’t buying it. Before the debt deal was signed, Gallup released a poll indicating 50 percent of Americans wanted a solution with only or mostly spending cuts, while only 11 percent favored a solution with only or mostly tax increases.

Shortly after signing the debt deal yesterday, the president again called for the “wealthiest Americans and richest corporations” to pay more. In the wake of the progressives’ disappointment about the agreement, the Obama administration is struggling to reinvigorate the left-wing base as fundraising numbers continue to fall short of expectations. Expect more instances of base-riling class warfare language (and coverage in a sympathetic media) in an attempt to regain the buzz from the 2008 campaign–with “Blame the Rich” replacing “Blame Bush” as a key campaign angle.

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What a “Super Committee” Does to the Economy

As we await the creation and deliberation of the “super committee” to determine the future of national defense, it’s worth taking a look at how this instability impacts the economy.

The prospect of massive – and unpredictable – future defense cuts isn’t just a concern for national security officials. It’s also reportedly spooking defense contractors, who are hesitant to hire new employees in such a volatile atmosphere.

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As we await the creation and deliberation of the “super committee” to determine the future of national defense, it’s worth taking a look at how this instability impacts the economy.

The prospect of massive – and unpredictable – future defense cuts isn’t just a concern for national security officials. It’s also reportedly spooking defense contractors, who are hesitant to hire new employees in such a volatile atmosphere.

From reading local news reports, we learn communities across the country are already bracing for the prospect of additional economic turbulence:

San Diego:

The impreciseness of the deal and the uncertainty about where budget cuts will come from does little to help the fragile economic recovery in San Diego and could potentially have a huge impact on the region’s job growth in the coming years, experts said.

The deal imposed $1 trillion in budget reductions over the next decade but did not outline where cuts would be made, virtually ensuring continued hesitance among consumers and businesses that will keep them from spending. That doubt is expected to guarantee the unemployment rate in the county will remain about 10 percent through the rest of the year with very little job growth, experts said.

Washington, D.C.:

The hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to military spending proposed in the federal debt-reduction deal would hit the Washington region’s defense industry hard, forcing layoffs and undermining the local economy for several years, analysts said.

Defense firms around Washington have already been shrinking, but the proposed cuts would slice even further into an industry that is a pillar of the region’s economy, according to economists.

Scranton, PA:

“We have to be concerned about cuts in the defense budget,” said Austin Burke, president of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce. “The defense industry is a major employer in our regional economy. They provide high-quality jobs, manufacturing and high-tech jobs and well-paying, family-sustaining income.”

Fort Wayne, IN:

“One of the areas that might really likely affect the Fort Wayne economy is defense cuts, which are certainly going to be a large part of this whether they’re triggered or whether they are considered by this committee,” said Wolf.

Jobs losses follow any federal spending cuts. But it’s the looming uncertainty of these defense reductions that’s especially pernicious.

“The long-elusive debt ceiling pact President Obama signed into law Tuesday leaves federal contractors with many questions about their ability to perform long-term planning, according to industry representatives,” Government Executive reported today.

Add these stories to the news today that planned layoffs in July hit a 16-month-high – partially due to shedding defense jobs from corporations like Lockheed Martin – and the forecast doesn’t look bright for the defense industry. It’s a little-noted consequence of such an ambiguous and drawn-out debt ceiling deal, but one that could ultimately end up hindering Obama’s attempts to restart the economic recovery.

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Green Movement–Saving the Planet by Destroying our Wildlife

More evidence has emerged that the environmentalist movement–and not the oil industry–is the premier energy-related threat to the survival of America’s wildlife. The obsession with green energy has led to the growth of the wind power industry, which has been killing birds and bats since its inception–and usually with impunity.

But that may come to an end, according to today’s L.A. Times. The paper reports the federal government is investigating the killing of six golden eagles at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Pine Tree Wind Project:

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More evidence has emerged that the environmentalist movement–and not the oil industry–is the premier energy-related threat to the survival of America’s wildlife. The obsession with green energy has led to the growth of the wind power industry, which has been killing birds and bats since its inception–and usually with impunity.

But that may come to an end, according to today’s L.A. Times. The paper reports the federal government is investigating the killing of six golden eagles at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Pine Tree Wind Project:

So far, no wind-energy company has been prosecuted by federal wildlife authorities in connection with the death of birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. A prosecution in the Pine Tree case could cause some rethinking and redesigning of this booming alternative energy source. Facilities elsewhere also have been under scrutiny, according to a federal official familiar with the investigations.

“Wind farms have been killing birds for decades and law enforcement has done nothing about it, so this investigation is long overdue,” said Shawn Smallwood, an expert on raptor ecology and wind farms. “It’s going to ruffle wind industry feathers across the country.”

Get it? Ruffle their feathers. But seriously, the green movement isn’t just killing federally protected animals; they may also be sending some animals on their way to the list of endangered species. Take the bat, for example. In addition to fighting off white-nose syndrome, bats are falling victim to the wind turbines too:

Wind turbines are apparently killing migratory bats as well—by 2020, an estimated 33,000 to 111,000 bats are predicted to be killed by turbines in the mid-Atlantic Highlands alone. The authors in the Science paper worry that as wind power ramps up in the U.S., more bats will end up pureed by the blades.

This is bad for the economy, since bats eat an astounding number of insects and save farmers billions on pesticides. It’s terrible for the environment too, since those pesticides will have to replace the bats. And nobody wins when our food supply is eroded in the meantime by the pests that survive thanks to the wind turbines.

So the green movement is destroying wildlife, the environment and our nation’s food supply. But don’t worry: at least we’re not drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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Killing a Conservative Political Action Conference

The Conservative Political Action Conference’s decision to bar the controversial gay conservative group GoProud from participating in its event next year has received a lot of criticism from activists on the right who see this as unfair and discriminatory. But there’s also a potential long-term ramification here. If CPAC caves to outside controversy and blocks one contentious group from participating, then it sets a precedent that could lead to other organizations getting blackballed in the future.

There’s a classic episode of “South Park” in which Cartman sets out on a mission to get a “Family Guy” episode pulled, ostensibly because it’s offensive to Muslims. But Cartman has an ulterior motive: if he succeeds at censoring just one controversial “Family Guy” show, that will lead to the censorship of future episodes that might be offensive to other groups. Here’s Cartman’s explanation:

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The Conservative Political Action Conference’s decision to bar the controversial gay conservative group GoProud from participating in its event next year has received a lot of criticism from activists on the right who see this as unfair and discriminatory. But there’s also a potential long-term ramification here. If CPAC caves to outside controversy and blocks one contentious group from participating, then it sets a precedent that could lead to other organizations getting blackballed in the future.

There’s a classic episode of “South Park” in which Cartman sets out on a mission to get a “Family Guy” episode pulled, ostensibly because it’s offensive to Muslims. But Cartman has an ulterior motive: if he succeeds at censoring just one controversial “Family Guy” show, that will lead to the censorship of future episodes that might be offensive to other groups. Here’s Cartman’s explanation:

“It’s simple television economics, Kyle. All it takes to kill a show forever is to get one episode pulled. If we convince the network to pull this episode for the sake of Muslims, then the Catholics can demand a show that they don’t like get pulled. And then people with disabilities can demand another show get pulled, and so on and so on, until ‘Family Guy’ is no more. It’s exactly what happened to ‘Laverne and Shirley.’”

The conservative movement is notoriously ideologically diverse, striking a delicate balance between factions that’s often compared to a three-legged stool. There are even intense disagreements within the broad categories of social conservatism, fiscal conservatism and foreign policy conservatism.

By yielding to the protests of one of these blocs, CPAC is declaring open season on all of its co-sponsors. The libertarians can demand the Keep America Safe be cut, the value voters can protest the Campaign for Liberty, and so on.

This is already beginning to happen to some extent. In addition to its decision on GoProud, CPAC also considered banning anti-sharia crusader David Horowitz from co-sponsoring the event, after other activists complained about him. In the end, CPAC decided to allow him to participate. But what if Horowitz’s critics come back with an even stronger campaign against him next year? Would CPAC cave to that, too?

Obviously, there has to be some regulation to ensure groups working against the conservative cause aren’t officially participating in the conference. But letting petty, intra-movement disputes govern the event isn’t the way to do it.

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NY Times Accidentally Proves the Immense Influence of the Tea Party

I imagine Jon Huntsman looked at today’s New York Times and said, “With friends like these….” The paper carries a story titled “Republicans Seeking Election Remain Unsure About Embracing Tea Party,” and tantalizingly promises that evidence of this “is everywhere.”

But the article so comically underdelivers on this as to have the opposite effect: it makes clear just how influential the Tea Party is. The reporter provides exactly three examples in the entire article of Republicans running for election who are wary of the conservative Tea Party voters: Huntsman and Senators Orrin Hatch and Richard Lugar. The story, meanwhile, is framed by the only source quoted in the first half of the story: Whit Ayres, who is Huntsman’s pollster but whose association with the Huntsman campaign is only disclosed much later in the article, when he refers to Huntsman as a “real leader.”

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I imagine Jon Huntsman looked at today’s New York Times and said, “With friends like these….” The paper carries a story titled “Republicans Seeking Election Remain Unsure About Embracing Tea Party,” and tantalizingly promises that evidence of this “is everywhere.”

But the article so comically underdelivers on this as to have the opposite effect: it makes clear just how influential the Tea Party is. The reporter provides exactly three examples in the entire article of Republicans running for election who are wary of the conservative Tea Party voters: Huntsman and Senators Orrin Hatch and Richard Lugar. The story, meanwhile, is framed by the only source quoted in the first half of the story: Whit Ayres, who is Huntsman’s pollster but whose association with the Huntsman campaign is only disclosed much later in the article, when he refers to Huntsman as a “real leader.”

The case of Hatch severely undermines the premise as well, because Hatch (as the article acknowledges), facing a primary challenge from his right, voted no on the debt ceiling deal in order to bring him more into line with the Tea Party’s stance on the issue.

The example of Lugar is just plain puzzling. He voted in favor of the debt ceiling bill, calling it a “victory for conservative fiscal responsibility.” According to the Times, Lugar “is betting — or maybe, hoping — that the Tea Party will agree.”

Will agree? After the Tea Party stood firm against each compromise until one emerged that seemed to favor the GOP–and even then remained mostly opposed to raising the debt limit–are we still attempting to discern how they feel about the bill? The Tea Party has been almost universally recognized as the victor here, having completely changed the debate about spending in Washington and driving the legislation despite only making up a fraction of the Republicans in Congress and despite the GOP controlling only the House.

Lugar and Huntsman are both dreaming. Lugar’s yes vote will not win the Tea Party over, however he chooses to spin it. And Huntsman’s campaign continues to think its candidate can win the Republican nomination with its only noticeable support coming from the nation’s liberal newspapers. Good luck with that.

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Second-Hand Reporting is Troubling

Yesterday, I was critical of those involved in the raid to kill Osama bin Laden–Operation Neptune’s Spear–for talking about operational details with Nicholas Schmidle, a freelance writer whose article on the raid appears in the current New Yorker. I noted this would make it harder to preserve secrecy on future missions.

Now it turns out the 23 SEALs on the mission didn’t actually talk to Schmidle. Or so reports the Washington Post. I am not sure if this makes the situation better or worse.

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Yesterday, I was critical of those involved in the raid to kill Osama bin Laden–Operation Neptune’s Spear–for talking about operational details with Nicholas Schmidle, a freelance writer whose article on the raid appears in the current New Yorker. I noted this would make it harder to preserve secrecy on future missions.

Now it turns out the 23 SEALs on the mission didn’t actually talk to Schmidle. Or so reports the Washington Post. I am not sure if this makes the situation better or worse.

Clearly, officers from the Joint Special Operations Command, the higher headquarters for the SEALs, did talk to Schmidle as did administration officials in Washington. All of my prior concerns about preserving secrecy remain. The only difference is that the actual operators–the guys at the pointy end of the spear–have been absolved of the leaks.

But this revelation raises a new issue: Whether Schmidle is guilty of journalistic dishonesty. As the Post account notes, a reader of his piece (which says nothing about its sourcing) would have no idea he didn’t talk to any of the men on the mission: “Schmidle, in fact, piles up so many details about some of the men, such as their thoughts at various times, that the article leaves a strong impression that he spoke with them directly.” For example:

The SEALs, he writes of the raid’s climactic moment, “instantly sensed that it was Crankshaft,” the mission’s name for bin Laden, implying the SEALs themselves had conveyed this impression to him.

He also writes the raiders “were further jostled by the awareness that they were possibly minutes away from ending the costliest manhunt in American history; as a result, some of their recollections — on which this account is based — may be imprecise and, thus, subject to dispute.”

Except, the account was based not on their recollections but on the recollections of people who spoke to the SEALs.

I suppose there is nothing so shocking about this disclosure which comes decades after the birth of “new journalism” in which writers such as Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, et al., took to applying the conventions of novels to non-fiction writing. Still, I am old-fashioned enough to find it troubling that a supposedly reputable magazine such as the New Yorker is passing along second-hand (at best) reports as if they had come straight from the horse’s mouth. I suppose that’s a step up from publishing Seymour Hersh’s imaginative fiction.

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