Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 21, 2011

RE: Obama Rivals Carter

To add a bit to Alana’s post: Gallup’s Daily Tracking Poll this week showed President Obama with a 38 percent approval rating. As a reference point, Jimmy Carter’s Gallup approval rating in February 1980 was 41 percent; in April 1980 it was 40 percent; and as late as August 1980 it was 37 percent. (Carter also dipped into the low 30s on several occasions in 1980.) All of which means that Barack Obama has pitched his tent squarely in the upper quadrant of Carter Country when it comes to his approval ratings.

Jimmy Carter, by the way, won six states against Ronald Reagan.

To add a bit to Alana’s post: Gallup’s Daily Tracking Poll this week showed President Obama with a 38 percent approval rating. As a reference point, Jimmy Carter’s Gallup approval rating in February 1980 was 41 percent; in April 1980 it was 40 percent; and as late as August 1980 it was 37 percent. (Carter also dipped into the low 30s on several occasions in 1980.) All of which means that Barack Obama has pitched his tent squarely in the upper quadrant of Carter Country when it comes to his approval ratings.

Jimmy Carter, by the way, won six states against Ronald Reagan.

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The Embarrassing Jon Huntsman

Apparently GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who boycotted this week’s debate in Las Vegas and is now pulling in roughly one percent of the vote among Republicans, was “totally embarrassed–completely embarrassed by the lack of seriousness” he witnessed on Tuesday night. Which I suppose evens things up, since almost every Republican I know is embarrassed by Jon Huntsman. The highlight of the debate, at least for me, was not having to listen to Hunstman for nearly two hours. My hope is that he’s so embarrassed by the GOP field that he boycotts the rest of the debates before dropping out and becoming a political analyst for MSNBC.

Apparently GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who boycotted this week’s debate in Las Vegas and is now pulling in roughly one percent of the vote among Republicans, was “totally embarrassed–completely embarrassed by the lack of seriousness” he witnessed on Tuesday night. Which I suppose evens things up, since almost every Republican I know is embarrassed by Jon Huntsman. The highlight of the debate, at least for me, was not having to listen to Hunstman for nearly two hours. My hope is that he’s so embarrassed by the GOP field that he boycotts the rest of the debates before dropping out and becoming a political analyst for MSNBC.

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Herman Cain’s Shallow and Contradictory Claims

In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan (which Alana wrote on earlier this week), GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain spoke out on two contentious social issues–homosexuality and abortion. Let’s deal with each in turn.

On homosexuality, Cain claimed that it is a “choice.” If there are any other factors that go into determining one’s sexual orientation, Cain didn’t name them.

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In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan (which Alana wrote on earlier this week), GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain spoke out on two contentious social issues–homosexuality and abortion. Let’s deal with each in turn.

On homosexuality, Cain claimed that it is a “choice.” If there are any other factors that go into determining one’s sexual orientation, Cain didn’t name them.

From my understanding of things, there is no single, simple causation when it comes to sexual orientation. For example, there is no “gay gene” that we know of. (The much-hyped 1993 study by the National Institutes of Health didn’t withstand scrutiny. A later study published in Science reported that the “data do not support the presence of a gene of large effect influencing sexual orientation.”) But this doesn’t necessarily mean homosexuality isn’t genetic at all; it could be a trait that arises from the interaction of genes.

How one’s sexual orientation is determined remains uncertain and still clouded in mystery–but it is probably a combination of nature and nurture, the result of a complex interplay of factors (which may include hormones, including those that develop during gestation; genetics; brain structure and hardwiring; and environmental influences).

Mr. Cain’s position–what he calls his “gut instinct”–is rather less nuanced. His view seems to be that, as Morgan himself pointed out, a person–often in his teens–simply decides one day that he will be gay. And that decision, apparently, is enough to completely alter a person’s desire for one sex, replacing it with the desire for the other sex. But that seems rather simplistic and improbable. After all, gays have been the objects of ridicule and hate for much of human history (thankfully that’s beginning to change). Given all that, why would anyone choose to be gay like the rest of us choose which shirt we’ll wear in the morning or which flavor of ice cream we’ll eat at night?

Then there was Cain’s answer on abortion.

According to Cain, he believes life begins at conception. When it comes to abortions there should be no rape or incest exceptions. But–and it’s a mighty big but–“it comes down to it’s not the government’s role or anybody else’s role to make that decision.” Cain then went on to say this: “So what I’m saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make. Not me as president, not some politician, not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family. And whatever they decide, they decide. I shouldn’t have to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive issue.”

To add to the confusion, Cain then put out a statement saying, “I am 100 percent pro-life. End of story.”

Not quite.

Over at the indispensible web site HotAir.com, Tina Korbe documents the different, sometimes contradictory, statements Cain has made on abortion over the years. If you can discern a coherent position, then give yourself a gold star.

Abortion is not the only issue in which Mr. Cain has had to walk back from his previous claims; he’s done the same thing on his (unconstitutional) statement that if he were president he would never appoint a person of the Muslim faith to his cabinet or the federal bench, as well as on freeing terrorists for hostages (he was both for it and against it within a 12 hour period).

What we’re seeing from Mr. Cain is how he reasons in public on complex moral and political issues. And it’s not reassuring. That doesn’t mean that Cain isn’t a likeable fellow; he is. And it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have good instincts on public policy matters; he might. But he’s also a man who doesn’t seem to have thought through in any depth many of the issues he speaks out on. On top of all that, he has shown himself to be alarmingly ignorant on foreign policy issues.

For most people, these things aren’t problematic. We all have different lives to lead and different interests to pursue. But when you declare your candidacy for president, people have a right to expect a certain level of preparedness, a de minimus understanding of the issues, and the ability to offer coherent arguments in order to explain and defend one’s position. Herman Cain falls short on each of these counts. And it’s one of the reasons he won’t win the GOP nomination.

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Obama Rivals Carter for Worst Approval Ratings

Obama is getting down to the wire. There is a strong historical correlation between where a president’s approval ratings are around this point in his presidency, and whether he goes on to win a second term. And yet there’s no indication that Obama’s approval ratings are improving. In fact, Gallup finds that his 11th quarter numbers are the worst of Obama’s presidency–as well as the worst of any recent president except Jimmy Carter:

Only one elected president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, had a lower 11th quarter average than Obama. Carter averaged 31% during his 11th quarter, which was marked by a poor economy and high energy prices. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were the only other post-World War II presidents whose job approval averages were below 50% in their 11th quarter in office.

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Obama is getting down to the wire. There is a strong historical correlation between where a president’s approval ratings are around this point in his presidency, and whether he goes on to win a second term. And yet there’s no indication that Obama’s approval ratings are improving. In fact, Gallup finds that his 11th quarter numbers are the worst of Obama’s presidency–as well as the worst of any recent president except Jimmy Carter:

Only one elected president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, had a lower 11th quarter average than Obama. Carter averaged 31% during his 11th quarter, which was marked by a poor economy and high energy prices. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were the only other post-World War II presidents whose job approval averages were below 50% in their 11th quarter in office.

According to Gallup’s analysis, “an incumbent president’s 12th- and 13th-quarter averages give a strong indication of whether he will win a second term.” So the crucial test is whether Obama can perk up his approval ratings between now and January.

Ed Morrissey comments that Obama’s class-warfare strategy probably won’t help him in this regard. At least not if the 11th quarter is any indication:

This includes at least six weeks of polling after Obama’s decision to strike a much more populist, class-warfare tone in Washington, a strategy that undoubtedly at least inspired the Occupy movement, if not explicitly coordinated with that effort.  There is no particular reason for such a sharp dropoff in approval otherwise — no big economic setback, no significantly bad outcome militarily or diplomatically, either.

It will be interesting to see if these numbers prompt the Obama campaign to rethink its current tactics, or whether it will continue the anti-rich rhetoric full steam ahead. Either way carries a risk. Democrats opened a Pandora’s box by encouraging the Occupy Wall Street movement, and if Obama turns on them now he could find himself the target of his very energized–and organized–base. On the other hand, there is a sense that time is running out for Obama to boost his approval ratings to a safe level for reelection.

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The Iraq Withdrawal Is Nothing to Brag About

If there is one constant of American military history it is that the longer our troops stay in a country the better the prospects of a successful outcome. Think of Germany, Italy, Japan or South Korea. Conversely when U.S. troops rush for the exits hard-won wartime gains can quickly evaporate. Think of the post-Civil War South, post-World War I Germany, post-1933 (and post-1995) Haiti, post-1972 Vietnam, or, more recently, post-1983 Lebanon and post-1993 Somalia.

Keep that history in mind as you listen to President Obama boast: “As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”

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If there is one constant of American military history it is that the longer our troops stay in a country the better the prospects of a successful outcome. Think of Germany, Italy, Japan or South Korea. Conversely when U.S. troops rush for the exits hard-won wartime gains can quickly evaporate. Think of the post-Civil War South, post-World War I Germany, post-1933 (and post-1995) Haiti, post-1972 Vietnam, or, more recently, post-1983 Lebanon and post-1993 Somalia.

Keep that history in mind as you listen to President Obama boast: “As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”

Far from being cause for celebration, Obama’s announcement that we will keep only 150 U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of the year–down from nearly 50,000 today–represents a shameful failure of American foreign policy that risks undoing all the gains that so many Americans, Iraqis, and other allies have sacrificed so much to achieve. The risks of a catastrophic failure in Iraq now rise appreciably. The Iranian Quds Force must be licking its chops because we are now leaving Iraq essentially defenseless against its machinations. Conversely the broad majority of Iraqis who fear Iranian influence and who want their country to become a democracy will come to rue this day, however big a victory it might appear in the short term for the cause of Iraqi nationalism.

Ostensibly this pull-out was dictated by the unwillingness of Iraqi lawmakers to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution. But Iraqi leaders of all parties, save the Sadrists, also clearly signaled their desire to have a sizable American troop contingent post-2011. The issue of immunity could have been finessed if administration lawyers from the Departments of State and Defense had not insisted that Iraq’s parliament would have to vote to grant our troops protections from Iraqi laws. Surely some face-saving formula that would not have needed parliamentary approval could have been negotiated that would have assuaged Iraqi sovereignty concerns while making it unlikely in the extreme that any U.S. soldier would ever go before an Iraqi court for actions taken in the line of duty.

But for that to have happened, President Obama must have been committed to reaching a deal. He was not. Indeed the White House had already leaked word that no more than 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops would remain–well below the figure of 20,000 or so recommended by U.S. military commanders on the ground. This effectively undercut American negotiators and signaled to the Iraqis that we were not serious about making a long-term commitment to their future. Under those circumstances, why would Iraqi politicos stick their necks out on an issue like immunity, and run the risk that Obama would spurn them in any case?

The failure to reach a deal now does not, however, mean that no deal can ever be reached. Once U.S. forces pull out by December 31, negotiations could and should be reopened to bring back a sizable contingent–I would argue for a bare minimum of 10,000 troops–to conduct counter-terrorist operations, support the Iraqi Security Forces, and act as a peacekeeping force along the ill-defined border between Iraq proper and the Kurdish Regional Government.  By showing our willingness to pull out our troops, the U.S. can show the Iraqis that we are serious about respecting their sovereignty and not bent on a long-term occupation of their country. But of course pulling out all U.S. troops and then bringing some back would be costlier than simply keeping them there.

And any such agreement would run into the same obstacle that has already scuttled the current U.S.-Iraq talks: President Obama appears more determined to gain credit for “ending the war” than for ensuring Iraq’s long-term future as a democratic American ally. Like Obama’s decision to downsize prematurely in Afghanistan, this is short-term thinking that could come back to haunt the United States–and its commander-in-chief, who is now taking upon himself the burden of blame should Iraq go off the rails.

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In Praise of Obama

I for one am delighted that Muammar Qaddafi, an unusually malevolent head of state, is dead. He brutalized the Libyan people for more than four decades, and he met the end he deserved.

There is plenty of credit to go around for this achievement, including to British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and President Obama. This doesn’t mean, of course, that the intervention in Libya (which I supported) will turn out to have been a wise one. Like Iraq after Saddam and Egypt after Mubarak, what eventually emerges in the aftermath of the Qaddafi regime will determine that. Still, those of us who have been critical of President Obama’s approach to foreign policy also need to be honest (to say nothing of gracious) in the face of reality. The Obama approach worked. His patience paid off. And as David Ignatius points out, Obama’s “cautious, back-seat approach to Libya … denied Qaddafi the final, apocalyptic confrontation with the United States that he craved.”

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I for one am delighted that Muammar Qaddafi, an unusually malevolent head of state, is dead. He brutalized the Libyan people for more than four decades, and he met the end he deserved.

There is plenty of credit to go around for this achievement, including to British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and President Obama. This doesn’t mean, of course, that the intervention in Libya (which I supported) will turn out to have been a wise one. Like Iraq after Saddam and Egypt after Mubarak, what eventually emerges in the aftermath of the Qaddafi regime will determine that. Still, those of us who have been critical of President Obama’s approach to foreign policy also need to be honest (to say nothing of gracious) in the face of reality. The Obama approach worked. His patience paid off. And as David Ignatius points out, Obama’s “cautious, back-seat approach to Libya … denied Qaddafi the final, apocalyptic confrontation with the United States that he craved.”

As a person who holds views very different from the president, I understand the impulse to deny him any credit at all—or to offer it only grudgingly when forced to. But this merely underscores a danger we all face, which is refusing to adjust our judgments in the face of facts and unfolding events. The temptation, for liberals as well as conservatives, is to make just about everything conform to our pre-existing worldview—and to deny inconvenient facts or twist them in a way that vindicates our assumptions and suppositions. But this denies a basic truth, which is that wisdom in life is based, at least in part, on adjusting our views along the way, in the face of new facts and new realities. Only an ideologue, a dogmatist, holds to a position when the evidence calls that position into doubt. (Liberals did this to Ronald Reagan during his presidency. They were so convinced he would fail that they could never acknowledge his successes; and the successes he did accrue had to be for reasons other than his policies.)

This matter is a lot more complicated than I can possibly deal with in a single post, and includes the fact that an approach that may work in one instance may not work in another. And it’s fine for people to entertain counterfactuals (would Qaddafi have been overthrown earlier if the United States had acted sooner and did America’s decision to keep a low profile during the war undermine NATO’s efforts?). It’s also fair to point out that if Qaddafi had not relinquished his WMDs in 2003, as a result of America’s invasion of Iraq, he would probably still be in power. (Six days after Saddam’s capture, Qaddafi publicly confessed that he had been developing chemical and nuclear weapons and pledged to dismantle his WMD program, along with related missiles, under a system of strict international verification; and he did.) But what matters are outcomes–and at this point, the outcome is one that America should be pleased with. Conservatives should not be reluctant to say so–or reluctant to give President Obama the praise that is due him.

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Who Blocked Obama’s Jobs Bill?

Memo to Obama and the media: the Senate is controlled by Democrats. Which is why it’s curious that headlines like “Senate Republicans Block Obama’s Jobs Bill” continue to pop up all over the place.

This phrase first started appearing after the Senate voted against moving forward on Obama’s original jobs plan earlier this month. And it continued to spread today, after the Senate blocked the bill for teacher funding in Obama’s new piecemeal strategy.

Even if every Senate Republican votes against a bill–which they did last night–they still can’t kill it without sufficient bipartisan support. And that’s what they got from several Democrats. But Obama has to be loving the media coverage. The narrative that congressional Republicans are controlling the whole game lends itself perfectly to his campaign strategy. Here was the president’s response to the failed bill:

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Memo to Obama and the media: the Senate is controlled by Democrats. Which is why it’s curious that headlines like “Senate Republicans Block Obama’s Jobs Bill” continue to pop up all over the place.

This phrase first started appearing after the Senate voted against moving forward on Obama’s original jobs plan earlier this month. And it continued to spread today, after the Senate blocked the bill for teacher funding in Obama’s new piecemeal strategy.

Even if every Senate Republican votes against a bill–which they did last night–they still can’t kill it without sufficient bipartisan support. And that’s what they got from several Democrats. But Obama has to be loving the media coverage. The narrative that congressional Republicans are controlling the whole game lends itself perfectly to his campaign strategy. Here was the president’s response to the failed bill:

For the second time in two weeks, every single Republican in the United States Senate has chosen to obstruct a bill that would create jobs and get our economy going again. That’s unacceptable. We must do what’s right for the country and pass the common-sense proposals in the American Jobs Act. Every Senate Republican voted to block a bill that would help middle-class families and keep hundreds of thousands of firefighters on the job, police officers on the streets, and teachers in the classroom when our kids need them most.

Obama’s political posturing–and many of the media reports–deliberately ignores a key fact. There was no bipartisan support for his bill. But there was bipartisan opposition. If Obama’s goal was to get his legislation passed, he would concentrate on persuading the Democratic holdouts to join his side. But instead he’s focusing on attacking the minority GOP in the Senate, which should tell you all you need to know about his intentions.

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Sorry, Libya Doesn’t Discredit Iraq

First, the preliminaries: It’s great that Muammar Qaddafi is gone and Barack Obama was right to eventually say yes when implored by France, Britain, and the Arab League to intervene on behalf of the Libyan rebels. I’ll accept my reasonable-conservative pat on the head and proceed.

There is a white-hot meme doing damage in all corners of the media right now. MSNBC’s Chuck Todd summed it up Thursday on The Daily Rundown: “It was a trillion dollars and thousands of U.S. lives to topple a dictator in Iraq. It’s a billion dollars and no U.S. lives to topple a dictator in Libya. That’s a pretty stark contrast.”

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First, the preliminaries: It’s great that Muammar Qaddafi is gone and Barack Obama was right to eventually say yes when implored by France, Britain, and the Arab League to intervene on behalf of the Libyan rebels. I’ll accept my reasonable-conservative pat on the head and proceed.

There is a white-hot meme doing damage in all corners of the media right now. MSNBC’s Chuck Todd summed it up Thursday on The Daily Rundown: “It was a trillion dollars and thousands of U.S. lives to topple a dictator in Iraq. It’s a billion dollars and no U.S. lives to topple a dictator in Libya. That’s a pretty stark contrast.”

And a pretty superficial one. If foreign policy comes down to the dollar-to-dictator ratio, why stop with Bush and Saddam? FDR spent 5 trillion in today’s dollars and lost hundreds of thousands of American lives to “topple a dictator” in Germany. Boy, World War II sure was no Libya campaign.

And Todd ignores the logical extension of his reductive analysis. For the billions spent keeping Saddam in his supposed box prior to 2003, and the thousands of American lives lost to terrorists who cited that box as justification for their attacks, the U.S. got…zero dictators toppled. It would seem Bush’s effort counts as something of a mathematical improvement, no?

And speaking of Bush’s effort, without it Qaddafi—yes, Qaddafi, not just Saddam—would not only still be in power, but would also still possess his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Qaddafi gave up his WMD in the spring of 2003, after he saw what post-9/11 America thought about tyrants who played around with such things. And if you don’t think there’s a direct line between toppling Saddam and the current uprisings against Middle East dictators, you should talk to the Libyans themselves. What did they say in the streets of Tripoli when their moment of liberation was about to be quashed by Qaddafi’s air force?  “Bring Bush! Make a no fly zone, bomb the planes.”  They’d seen what happened to the Iranians who asked for Obama’s help against Ali Khameini in 2009 and determined not to be fooled twice. Instead of Bush the Libyans got Nicolas Sarkozy, who rose to his finest moment on the world stage.

For the blood and treasure spent on Iraq we got a lot more than the killing of a single bad guy. We eliminated the most destabilizing force in the region, broke al Qaeda’s back, placed freedom at the heart of the political debate in the Muslim world, and helped to establish a functioning, if flawed, democracy in Iraq.

War on the cheap isn’t innovative. It’s just cheap. In a Contentions post yesterday, Max Boot beautifully described “the problem with push-button wars” like the one in Libya: “you can damage an enemy or even topple his regime, but you cannot truly dictate the outcome.” I hope I’m wrong but I fear that if Chuck Todd is looking for “stark contrasts” he’ll see few starker than the one between post-Saddam Iraq and post-Qaddafi Libya. Democracy is pricey because it’s precious and rare. Todd and others are praising a billion-dollar hit job, which, when you think about it, seems like a sucker’s deal.

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Why Publish the Marco Rubio Story?

The Washington Post released on its website yesterday afternoon an article by Manuel Roig-Franzia that has to rank as one of the more disgraceful pieces of personal hit journalism in memory—alleging that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio “embellished” the facts surrounding the departure of his parents from Cuba. You can judge for yourself by the piece itself and the devastating takedown of it by the Miami Herald‘s Marc Caputo. I just want to offer a few thoughts, based on years working in newsrooms, of how a piece like Roig-Franzia’s comes to be and why it is usually published even when it fails to make its own case.

The Post article is, in one respect, the result of classic reportorial cynicism. A politician gets popular and tells a self-made story and seems unimpeachable as a result and somebody is just desperate to bring him down a peg. That can be the reporter who does it, or the source who feeds him the idea. Given that Rubio is a conservative Republican Hispanic, the fact that he has dodged the bullet of being given the traitor-to-his-own-people-by-being-right-wing treatment through the modality of a journalistic assault until now is actually remarkable.

But what happens when, as in this case, the story doesn’t quite pan out? Clearly the intention behind the story was to explode the myth that Rubio was the son of people who actively fled Castro’s tyranny. But Rubio never propagated that myth, as the Miami Herald item makes clear, and the best Roig-Franzia can do is to imply that Rubio wanted people to think his parents were refugees.

But he fails to make that case either, given that the only evidence he supplies is that Rubio once said his parents came in 1959 when, in fact, they came in 1956. Given that Castro didn’t actually take Havana until New Year’s Eve 1959, hours before the year 1960 began, no one but an eager anti-Rubio partisan would find what he said deliberately deceptive.

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The Washington Post released on its website yesterday afternoon an article by Manuel Roig-Franzia that has to rank as one of the more disgraceful pieces of personal hit journalism in memory—alleging that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio “embellished” the facts surrounding the departure of his parents from Cuba. You can judge for yourself by the piece itself and the devastating takedown of it by the Miami Herald‘s Marc Caputo. I just want to offer a few thoughts, based on years working in newsrooms, of how a piece like Roig-Franzia’s comes to be and why it is usually published even when it fails to make its own case.

The Post article is, in one respect, the result of classic reportorial cynicism. A politician gets popular and tells a self-made story and seems unimpeachable as a result and somebody is just desperate to bring him down a peg. That can be the reporter who does it, or the source who feeds him the idea. Given that Rubio is a conservative Republican Hispanic, the fact that he has dodged the bullet of being given the traitor-to-his-own-people-by-being-right-wing treatment through the modality of a journalistic assault until now is actually remarkable.

But what happens when, as in this case, the story doesn’t quite pan out? Clearly the intention behind the story was to explode the myth that Rubio was the son of people who actively fled Castro’s tyranny. But Rubio never propagated that myth, as the Miami Herald item makes clear, and the best Roig-Franzia can do is to imply that Rubio wanted people to think his parents were refugees.

But he fails to make that case either, given that the only evidence he supplies is that Rubio once said his parents came in 1959 when, in fact, they came in 1956. Given that Castro didn’t actually take Havana until New Year’s Eve 1959, hours before the year 1960 began, no one but an eager anti-Rubio partisan would find what he said deliberately deceptive.

Caputo of the Miami Herald says Rubio is sloppy—but why should he even be blamed for not being able to cite the details? (I know, for example, that my grandmother came over to the United States in 1920, because she spoke of the journey incessantly; but I can’t for the life of me remember what years my two grandfathers came over, even though I spoke to them about it, one of them many times, and have even looked up the records on the Ellis Island manifests. And I have a terrific memory. And even though she wrote an autobiography in which she writes about these matters in detail, I can’t quite summon up the dates of my mother’s peregrinations from Minnesota to New York to Queens to Manhattan in the 15 years before I was born.)

What the story does not even attempt to disprove is that the elder Rubios came to the United States for economic reasons and ended up staying because of the Cuban revolution—indeed, Rubio’s mother went back to Cuba after Castro’s takeover and was able to make it back to the U.S. once she saw what she was in for What Rubio told Roig-Franzia was this: “They were from Cuba. They wanted to live in Cuba again. They tried to live in Cuba again, and the reality of what it was made that impossible.” That quote should have put a spike through the story. Instead, it’s on the Post’s front page and is being turned into assault ads by Florida Democrats.

I think it’s clear Roig-Franzia began the story, and talked his editors into giving him time on the story, because in his preliminary study of the details he thought he had the goods to deflate the Rubio balloon. Maybe this was ideological; maybe it was something else; I don’t know him and his work has made little impression on me before and besides, I don’t really care. The real problem with investigative journalism, and one of the reasons there isn’t as much of it as its partisans so desperately desire, is that it often doesn’t pan out. You get a tip, you spend weeks trying to make sense of it, and it turns out there’s less there than meets the eye. I’ve seen it happen on numerous occasions. I have had to edit such investigations in my time, and through the process, they more often than not crumbled away into a series of inferences, suggestions, and implications.

So weeks of a reporter’s time were lost, and hours of meeting time were wasted, and often expenses in the tens of thousands of dollars were incurred…for nothing.

You can see, then, why it is that a newspaper would basically try to make lemonade out of such lemons by publishing something—especially, it has to be said, when the effort involves taking down a Republican or a conservative. What gets published, and what got published in this case, is irresponsible, unfair to the subject, and a betrayal of the reader who isn’t paying close enough attention to see how weak the story is. But in 2011, good or bad, fair or unfair, a hit job on Marco Rubio sure will generate lots and lots of Tweets. It will also generate more of the cynicism about journalism so many non-journalists feel, and heighten the disgust for liberal bias that animates so much conservative activism.

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“Occupy the Hood” to Prove We’re Not Racist

It’s true that Occupy Wall Street is made up almost exclusively of white, college-aged, middle-class kids. But it’s definitely not racist. And to prove it, OWS activists are reaching out to minorities where they live – in the ‘hood, of course:

The Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread beyond New York’s financial district to cities all over the country and even beyond the U.S. has one glaring shortcoming, according to some activists: It’s too white. According to the Village Voice, New Yorker Malik Rhasaan launched a Facebook page for Occupy The Hood after observing what he sees as a lack of racial diversity among OWS protesters. “I noticed there isn’t a strong black and Latino presence. … People don’t know why Wall Street affects them. It affects us the most when we’re not knowledgeable about it,” he told the newspaper.

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It’s true that Occupy Wall Street is made up almost exclusively of white, college-aged, middle-class kids. But it’s definitely not racist. And to prove it, OWS activists are reaching out to minorities where they live – in the ‘hood, of course:

The Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread beyond New York’s financial district to cities all over the country and even beyond the U.S. has one glaring shortcoming, according to some activists: It’s too white. According to the Village Voice, New Yorker Malik Rhasaan launched a Facebook page for Occupy The Hood after observing what he sees as a lack of racial diversity among OWS protesters. “I noticed there isn’t a strong black and Latino presence. … People don’t know why Wall Street affects them. It affects us the most when we’re not knowledgeable about it,” he told the newspaper.

With all of the ultra-sensitivity on the left, this idea just sounds like it’s going to end up offending a lot of people. Why not just reach out to minority organizations instead? There has to be a way to encourage diversity without delving into hackneyed racial stereotypes.

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RE: Biden Pitches Class Warfare

I wanted to provide a slightly different take to Alana’s post on Vice President Biden proselytizing a fourth-grade class on behalf of his administration’s most recent stimulus package.

A month ago I gave a talk to my son’s eighth-grade class; the topic was the Constitution. I spoke for 20 minutes or so and then we opened it up to question-and-answer, which lasted around an hour-and-a-half. As one might expect, there were lots of question about my years in the Bush White House, including the events surrounding 9/11. I was also asked several political questions, including my opinions of President Obama and some of his policies. I went out of my way to be apolitical, to the point of offering up some counter-arguments to views I happen to hold (most having to do with how we treat captured terrorists), in order to show students that one has to carefully weigh competing arguments before arriving at a conclusion.

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I wanted to provide a slightly different take to Alana’s post on Vice President Biden proselytizing a fourth-grade class on behalf of his administration’s most recent stimulus package.

A month ago I gave a talk to my son’s eighth-grade class; the topic was the Constitution. I spoke for 20 minutes or so and then we opened it up to question-and-answer, which lasted around an hour-and-a-half. As one might expect, there were lots of question about my years in the Bush White House, including the events surrounding 9/11. I was also asked several political questions, including my opinions of President Obama and some of his policies. I went out of my way to be apolitical, to the point of offering up some counter-arguments to views I happen to hold (most having to do with how we treat captured terrorists), in order to show students that one has to carefully weigh competing arguments before arriving at a conclusion.

Now I’m sure on a day-to-day basis I don’t do this as well as I should–but my purpose, in meeting with these young students, was to lay out how, in a more perfect world, we would hope to approach things. I also feel an instinctive aversion when it comes to using my position, as limited as it is, to influence the political views of eighth graders–in part out of respect for parents whose political views are different from my own.

My guess is that most people, put in the same position as I was, would approach things in basically the same way. There are unwritten protocols by which we should abide. And the fact that the vice president, whose office carries tremendous authority and influence, would make a rank, partisan appeal to elementary school students is troublesome. It’s not by any means the worst or most offensive thing this administration has done. But it does offer a small window into their hearts and minds–and how they seem unable to restrain themselves when it comes to separating different spheres of our lives.

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