Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 11, 2012

RE: The Striking Bias of the Washington Post

Just to add a few observations to Pete’s right-on post regarding the Washington Post’s hit-job on Romney, it should be noted, as reported by Brietbart, that the Post misquoted one of the main sources for the story. The paper reported that a fellow student had been bothered by the incident for years, but it turns out that he only heard about it this year. The Post, hiding its journalistic misfeasance, made a silent correction to its website regarding this.

The subject of the incident, John Lauber, died in 2004, but his sisters have issued a statement objecting to the story: “The family of John Lauber is releasing a statement saying the portrayal of John is factually incorrect and we are aggrieved that he would be used to further a political agenda. There will be no more comments from the family.” Said another sister, “If he were alive today, he would be furious [about the story].”

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Just to add a few observations to Pete’s right-on post regarding the Washington Post’s hit-job on Romney, it should be noted, as reported by Brietbart, that the Post misquoted one of the main sources for the story. The paper reported that a fellow student had been bothered by the incident for years, but it turns out that he only heard about it this year. The Post, hiding its journalistic misfeasance, made a silent correction to its website regarding this.

The subject of the incident, John Lauber, died in 2004, but his sisters have issued a statement objecting to the story: “The family of John Lauber is releasing a statement saying the portrayal of John is factually incorrect and we are aggrieved that he would be used to further a political agenda. There will be no more comments from the family.” Said another sister, “If he were alive today, he would be furious [about the story].”

Mitt Romney also says that he does not recall the incident.

Well, having spent four (wonderful) years at a school not unlike Cranbrook at that time, I can tell that something is seriously amiss here. Boys boarding schools, at least in this country (English schools are quite different), are inward looking island universes, in effect maximum security prisons for the over privileged. The faculty constantly patrols the dorms, school buildings, and athletic facilities. Nothing of significance happens that isn’t known to everyone, including the faculty, within hours if not minutes.

To be sure, there is much roughhousing, and unpopular boys can have a hard time of it. Surely even the editors of the Washington Post know that boys will be boys. But any incident in which a boy was seriously assaulted, as described in the article, would have resulted in big trouble for all concerned and, undoubtedly, life-long memories. Trust me, being hauled before the headmaster to explain yourself is as close as a 16-year-old prep-school student ever wants to come to Judgment Day. He’d remember it.

So I suspect this was a minor incident or practical joke that the Washington Post tried to turn into a major one for reasons having nothing to do with reporting the news.

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Warren’s Indian Tales Help Turn Mass. Race Into Town vs. Gown

Contentions has already explored the contradictions at the heart of Elizabeth Warren’s use of her slim ties to a Native American ancestor to portray herself as a member of a minority group at Harvard University Law School. The Democratic candidate has become something of a poster child for the excesses of the world of affirmative action, but the story got a bit more damaging today when the Boston Herald reported that in addition to using her status as a 1/32 Cherokee Indian, she also went native during her time at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Herald discovered that Penn (where she worked from 1987 to 1994), listed her as a minority in a “Minority Equity Report.” Warren’s office is probably right to say that her reputation was good enough in the world of liberal jurisprudence to have earned her a job at prestigious universities. But the revelation that she was touted as a minority hire at yet another school makes her claim that she was unaware of her status as an affirmative action case that much less credible. When added to the fact that she admits listing herself as a minority in the Association of American Law Schools directory for a decade (supposedly in order to meet “other Native Americans”), this new information gives the story new life.

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Contentions has already explored the contradictions at the heart of Elizabeth Warren’s use of her slim ties to a Native American ancestor to portray herself as a member of a minority group at Harvard University Law School. The Democratic candidate has become something of a poster child for the excesses of the world of affirmative action, but the story got a bit more damaging today when the Boston Herald reported that in addition to using her status as a 1/32 Cherokee Indian, she also went native during her time at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Herald discovered that Penn (where she worked from 1987 to 1994), listed her as a minority in a “Minority Equity Report.” Warren’s office is probably right to say that her reputation was good enough in the world of liberal jurisprudence to have earned her a job at prestigious universities. But the revelation that she was touted as a minority hire at yet another school makes her claim that she was unaware of her status as an affirmative action case that much less credible. When added to the fact that she admits listing herself as a minority in the Association of American Law Schools directory for a decade (supposedly in order to meet “other Native Americans”), this new information gives the story new life.

Far from a distraction from more important issues, the WASPy Warren’s use of “family lore” to get a leg up as a faux minority at some of the country’s most prestigious institutions speaks volumes about the cynical way liberals think about affirmation action and their thinly-veiled contempt for real minorities.

The bad news for Warren is not just that she has been taken off message for weeks dealing with a campaign hiccup that no one could have foreseen. It is that she has been effectively branded as a fake when it was her authenticity as a tough-talking advocate of liberalism which launched her political career.

Even worse, the affirmative action fraud reminds Massachusetts voters of everything they hate about Harvard elites. Though the Bay State is reliably liberal and Democratic, it is a mistake to think most of its citizens worship at the altar of Harvard. Warren needed her race against incumbent Scott Brown to be one of liberal versus conservative. Instead, the Cherokee story will help him frame it as one of town versus gown. And that is a contest that gown will lose every time.

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Defense of Declining “Forward” Not Doing Newspaper Any Favors

The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo went public yesterday about an increasingly pitched family feud in the Jewish world. In 1,100 words, Kredo cataloged the decline of the once-proud and now largely irrelevant Forward newspaper, which has gone from being one of America’s top Jewish outlets to publishing left-wing wishful thinking and agitprop. The responses from the Forward’s defenders have begun pouring in, including this frankly shrill outburst from Tablet’s Dan Klein.

Before getting to the substance of the debate: no one expects the anti-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community to make good arguments. They’re cooking with bad ingredients. But is it too much to ask that they limit themselves to mumbling through pro-forma talking points rather than launching sneering attacks? The choice should be between terrible arguments or smug self-satisfaction. Not both.

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The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo went public yesterday about an increasingly pitched family feud in the Jewish world. In 1,100 words, Kredo cataloged the decline of the once-proud and now largely irrelevant Forward newspaper, which has gone from being one of America’s top Jewish outlets to publishing left-wing wishful thinking and agitprop. The responses from the Forward’s defenders have begun pouring in, including this frankly shrill outburst from Tablet’s Dan Klein.

Before getting to the substance of the debate: no one expects the anti-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community to make good arguments. They’re cooking with bad ingredients. But is it too much to ask that they limit themselves to mumbling through pro-forma talking points rather than launching sneering attacks? The choice should be between terrible arguments or smug self-satisfaction. Not both.

Kredo traced the Forward’s free fall to the tenure of editor Jane Eisner. Eisner has not been bashful about turning her paper into an oleaginous politicized echo chamber. To take a small example, last year she sneered at Contentions for once calling a Forward cartoon by Eli Valley–whom she was at the time installing as the paper’s artist in residence –”ferociously repugnant.” She didn’t link to our 2008 post, which she said Valley could consider a “compliment,” so that her readers could judge the controversy for themselves. It’s here.

You almost get the sense that at some point Kredo just had to stop listing scandals out of exhaustion. He talked about the Forward’s distressingly uncritical showcasing of “Israel apartheid” accusations, but not about its work on behalf of Peter Beinart’s colossal flop of a BDS campaign. He outlined many of the paper’s attacks on conservative funders and activists, but didn’t get to its pro-Obama water-carrying during the ADL/AJC’s “don’t criticize Obama” dustup, which Contentions by turns criticized and mocked. He noted the Forward’s glowing profile of Hamas supporter and one-stater Ali Abunimah, but not the paper’s equally execrable defense of M.J. Rosenberg’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israel ravings (Rosenberg and his Media Matters then-employers eventually parted ways, marking the left-wing think tank as more sensitive to anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incitement than the ostensibly pro-Jewish and pro-Israel Forward).

Klein’s Tablet defense of the Forward began with a bombastic headline announcing that yesterday was the “wrong day to attack the ‘Forward.’” Apparently just that morning a Forward writer had taken a victory lap after tracking down George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport and arranging to have it publicly displayed. To be clear and explicit: Klein dismissed how the Forward has transformed itself into a platform for “Israel apartheid” propaganda, anti-Semitic rhetoric, and terrorist apologism — because the paper helped find a late 18th-century letter by George Washington. Mordant analysis, that.

Klein even wrote that he was “not going to defend” the damning Forward articles exposed by the WFB. He might at least have tried. If the Jewish far left is going to circle its wagons on the basis of transparent bluster, they ought to do so with a little less smugness. George Washington’s letter. Come on.

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The End of “No Drama Obama”

Remember the phrase “No Drama Obama”? Perhaps it should be retired after this week.

After all, we learned that Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, apologized to the president for forcing him to accelerate the timetable when it came to announcing Obama’s support of same-sex marriage. The West Wing is reportedly enraged at Biden. Here’s how Politico put it:

Biden’s remarks on “Meet the Press” deeply annoyed Obama’s team, people close to the situation tell Politico, because it aggrandized his role at the expense of Obama’s yeoman efforts on behalf of the community and pushed up the timing of a sensitive announcement they had hoped to break — at a time and place of their own choosing — in the weeks leading up to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this fall.

Nor did it tickle anyone, from Obama on down, that Biden — who backed the Defense of Marriage Act while serving in the Senate in the 1990s — seemed to be getting more credit in the LGBT community than a president who has actually taken steps to repeal the Clinton-era law that defined marriage as something that could only take place between a man and a woman.

And it chafed Obama’s team that Biden had, at times, privately argued for the president to hold off on his support of marriage equality to avoid a backlash among Catholic voters in battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to two officials familiar with those discussions.

It’s not a good situation for any vice president to steal the applause and credit from the president; that must be triply the case when it comes to a man with Obama’s self-regard and tendency toward narcissism.

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Remember the phrase “No Drama Obama”? Perhaps it should be retired after this week.

After all, we learned that Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, apologized to the president for forcing him to accelerate the timetable when it came to announcing Obama’s support of same-sex marriage. The West Wing is reportedly enraged at Biden. Here’s how Politico put it:

Biden’s remarks on “Meet the Press” deeply annoyed Obama’s team, people close to the situation tell Politico, because it aggrandized his role at the expense of Obama’s yeoman efforts on behalf of the community and pushed up the timing of a sensitive announcement they had hoped to break — at a time and place of their own choosing — in the weeks leading up to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this fall.

Nor did it tickle anyone, from Obama on down, that Biden — who backed the Defense of Marriage Act while serving in the Senate in the 1990s — seemed to be getting more credit in the LGBT community than a president who has actually taken steps to repeal the Clinton-era law that defined marriage as something that could only take place between a man and a woman.

And it chafed Obama’s team that Biden had, at times, privately argued for the president to hold off on his support of marriage equality to avoid a backlash among Catholic voters in battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to two officials familiar with those discussions.

It’s not a good situation for any vice president to steal the applause and credit from the president; that must be triply the case when it comes to a man with Obama’s self-regard and tendency toward narcissism.

Then there’s the New York Post’s coverage of a new book by Edward Klein, The Amateur, in which it’s reported that Bill Clinton thought so little of President Obama — mocking him as an “amateur” — that he pressed Mrs. Clinton last summer to quit her job as secretary of state and challenge him in the primaries. “The economy’s a mess, it’s dead flat. America has lost its Triple-A rating . . . You know better than Obama does,” Bill reportedly told Hillary.

In addition, Bill Clinton insisted he had “no relationship” with Obama and had been consulted more frequently by his presidential successor, George W. Bush.

Obama, Bill Clinton said, “doesn’t know how to be president” and is “incompetent.”

When a presidential campaign is less than six months away from an election, trailing the challenger in several polls, the president has to publicly reprimand his vice president for getting “out a little bit over his skis” and “jump[ing] the gun,” and his administration has to respond to reports that the husband of the secretary of tate (and himself an ex-president) encouraged her to challenge the president in a primary, the West Wing is edging toward becoming a hostile working environment.

It looks as if “No Drama Obama” has exited stage left.

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Obama Evolves on Coal Too

After making every possible effort to undercut the coal industry, President Obama seemed oddly surprised that he ran such a close primary against a federal inmate in West Virginia. But this is a week for evolving, and the Obama campaign has quietly decided to add “clean coal” to its list of energy priorities, Chris Moody reports:

President Obama’s campaign website added “clean coal” to a list of energy priorities late this week, days after Republican lawmakers noted the omission and a federal inmate received about 40 percent of the vote against Obama in the Democratic primary in coal-heavy West Virginia.

Previously, the campaign’s website highlighted “fuel efficiency” on a list of seven energy priorities, but it has been replaced by “clean coal” and the site now touts Obama’s “10-year goal to develop and deploy cost-effective clean coal technology.”

The Obama campaign denies it’s a flip-flop, and claims he’s always supported coal production. And that may be true rhetorically, just like he’s always been a supporter of Israel and human rights and domestic oil production and reducing the deficit. Of course his policies and actions have often suggested otherwise.

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After making every possible effort to undercut the coal industry, President Obama seemed oddly surprised that he ran such a close primary against a federal inmate in West Virginia. But this is a week for evolving, and the Obama campaign has quietly decided to add “clean coal” to its list of energy priorities, Chris Moody reports:

President Obama’s campaign website added “clean coal” to a list of energy priorities late this week, days after Republican lawmakers noted the omission and a federal inmate received about 40 percent of the vote against Obama in the Democratic primary in coal-heavy West Virginia.

Previously, the campaign’s website highlighted “fuel efficiency” on a list of seven energy priorities, but it has been replaced by “clean coal” and the site now touts Obama’s “10-year goal to develop and deploy cost-effective clean coal technology.”

The Obama campaign denies it’s a flip-flop, and claims he’s always supported coal production. And that may be true rhetorically, just like he’s always been a supporter of Israel and human rights and domestic oil production and reducing the deficit. Of course his policies and actions have often suggested otherwise.

But the president has already evolved on one issue that his base appreciates this week, so he may as well toss a goodwill gesture at the bitterly clinging West Virginia types. Not that he’s actually going to do anything, like reconsider the new EPA regulations that have been crushing the coal industry. But at least the next time unemployed West Virginians demand to know what Obama’s done for coal lately, he can direct them to the new bullet-point on his energy priorities website.

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Media Smears Will Impact Romney

Many conservatives are confidently dismissing the impact of the Washington Post’s assault on Mitt Romney’s character in the form of its story on his high school pranks. They believe most Americans can see through the bias of the piece as well as the timing of its publication online yesterday so as to coincide with President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage. They hope that along with the nasty attacks on Romney’s religion and the effort to portray him as an aloof rich guy who doesn’t understand Americans, this latest outrageous illustration of the liberal media’s tilt against Republicans will backfire.

They may be right, as it is doubtful that too many voters worried about the country’s sinking economy will regard an investigative piece about what Romney did at school nearly 50 years ago as a reason to re-elect President Obama. Yet Republicans should not underestimate the impact of what is probably only one of the opening salvos in a campaign to delegitimize the GOP standard bearer by Obama’s cheerleaders in the press. The plain fact is that although Mitt Romney has been in the public eye for many years, including a presidential run in 2008, most Americans have probably yet to really understand who he is and what kind of man he is. With the liberal media starting to pile on Romney in the wake of the Post attack, it’s becoming clear that one of the critical aspects of the 2012 election will be whether it will be Romney or his detractors who will have the last word on his image.

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Many conservatives are confidently dismissing the impact of the Washington Post’s assault on Mitt Romney’s character in the form of its story on his high school pranks. They believe most Americans can see through the bias of the piece as well as the timing of its publication online yesterday so as to coincide with President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage. They hope that along with the nasty attacks on Romney’s religion and the effort to portray him as an aloof rich guy who doesn’t understand Americans, this latest outrageous illustration of the liberal media’s tilt against Republicans will backfire.

They may be right, as it is doubtful that too many voters worried about the country’s sinking economy will regard an investigative piece about what Romney did at school nearly 50 years ago as a reason to re-elect President Obama. Yet Republicans should not underestimate the impact of what is probably only one of the opening salvos in a campaign to delegitimize the GOP standard bearer by Obama’s cheerleaders in the press. The plain fact is that although Mitt Romney has been in the public eye for many years, including a presidential run in 2008, most Americans have probably yet to really understand who he is and what kind of man he is. With the liberal media starting to pile on Romney in the wake of the Post attack, it’s becoming clear that one of the critical aspects of the 2012 election will be whether it will be Romney or his detractors who will have the last word on his image.

That’s why Romney’s camp should take seriously critiques such as those of Howard Fineman, who wrote today in the Huffington Post to pile on Romney in the wake of the Post attack. Fineman’s attempt to make an issue of Romney’s hazy memory of schoolboy antics is both nasty and weak stuff. But he’s right when he warns that this is exactly the sort of smear that can stick to the candidate because the narrative of his life is not already set in the minds of most Americans.

Along with many others, in my reaction to the Post article, I pointed out the hypocrisy of a newspaper that didn’t put much effort into vetting Barack Obama four years ago subjecting Romney to this kind of scrutiny. In 2008, Republicans spent much of the year being frustrated by the media’s lack of interest in Obama’s unsavory connections in both his political and personal life. But the problem was more than just media bias. Much of the public didn’t seem to care either. That was because Obama’s image as the overachieving, eloquent African-American who was bound to make history had been set in stone early on in the campaign. Once established as a seminal and even historic figure — albeit one who had not done anything of note yet — Obama became virtually untouchable. Nor has his status as being above the normal adversarial scrutiny of the press changed during his years in the White House.

But Romney has no such advantage. The situation is quite to the contrary. If the fact that the next few months will be a virtual open season on the Republican candidate on the part of the national media hasn’t been made clear to the GOP yet, it should be now.

Romney’s personal story is actually quite impressive in that he brings to the table success in the real life world of business rather than being a political lifer. His personal life is also exemplary, something that has forced the left to talk endlessly about his dog Seamus’s ride on the roof of a car and high school pranks.

For much of the primary campaign, Romney’s team concentrated on trying to define his opponents negatively. That worked, but it devoted relatively little time to talking about their man’s strong case for the presidency. That has got to change and change quick if the GOP is to avoid having its standard bearer carpet bombed even before nominating conventions.

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Obama’s Political Distractions May Backfire

As I’ve been writing this, the link to today’s Rasmussen poll showing Mitt Romney with a growing lead on Obama has gone dead and then come back up (possibly because it’s headlining Drudge), but here’s the relevant part of the findings from HotAir’s Ed Morrissey:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows Mitt Romney earning 50% of the vote and President Obama attracting 43% support. Four percent (4%) would vote for a third party candidate, while another three percent (3%) are undecided.

This is the first time Romney has reached the 50% level of support and is his largest lead ever over the president. It comes a week after a disappointing jobs report that raised new questions about the state of the economy.

This is a daily tracking poll, and keep in mind that those tend to be more prone to static. But this is still Romney’s biggest lead on Obama yet, and it does follow a trend. Yesterday’s Rasmussen daily tracker had Romney leading Obama by 4 percent. The two days before that, Romney was up by 5 percent. He was leading by 2 percent on May 7th, one percent on May 6th, and trailed Obama by one point on May 5th. So clearly there has been consistent upward movement for Romney.

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As I’ve been writing this, the link to today’s Rasmussen poll showing Mitt Romney with a growing lead on Obama has gone dead and then come back up (possibly because it’s headlining Drudge), but here’s the relevant part of the findings from HotAir’s Ed Morrissey:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows Mitt Romney earning 50% of the vote and President Obama attracting 43% support. Four percent (4%) would vote for a third party candidate, while another three percent (3%) are undecided.

This is the first time Romney has reached the 50% level of support and is his largest lead ever over the president. It comes a week after a disappointing jobs report that raised new questions about the state of the economy.

This is a daily tracking poll, and keep in mind that those tend to be more prone to static. But this is still Romney’s biggest lead on Obama yet, and it does follow a trend. Yesterday’s Rasmussen daily tracker had Romney leading Obama by 4 percent. The two days before that, Romney was up by 5 percent. He was leading by 2 percent on May 7th, one percent on May 6th, and trailed Obama by one point on May 5th. So clearly there has been consistent upward movement for Romney.

But what does it mean? It may be too early to tie it to the gay marriage debate, and the WaPo hit on Romney’s high school pranks probably hasn’t had enough time to seep into the public consciousness yet. So it’s too soon to say that attack has been a failure.

Based on Rasmussen’s report, it could be tied to economic factors. Likely voters are giving Romney much higher marks on the economy than Obama:

Thirty-seven percent (37%) give the president good or excellent marks for his handling of the economy.  Forty-eight percent (48%) say he’s doing a poor job. Consumer confidence has slipped four points since last week’s government report on job creation and unemployment. The number who believe their personal finances are getting better slipped from 30% a week ago to 28% today. The number who fear their finances are getting worse increased from 43% before the jobs report to 47% today.

This fits with Gallup’s poll numbers today, which also show Romney with an edge over Obama on economic issues, despite the fact that this subject hasn’t really dominated the political news cycle later. Could it be that the Obama campaign’s attempt to divert the race from economic news to social and cultural issues is actually hurting him with voters? The Obama campaign has spent the past few weeks talking about everything from Romney’s dog to Osama bin Laden to gay marriage, while Romney has remained fairly focused on the economy. Maybe voters view distractions as a lack of seriousness on Obama’s part.

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Wahhabi Intolerance in the 21st Century

In early 2011, along with a handful of other American journalists, I interviewed Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in Jerusalem. Ayalon pressed the need for recognition of Israel on the part of the Palestinian leadership–but not in English or Hebrew. “Say it in Arabic, to your own children and to your own people,” Ayalon had said. The habit of Arab leaders to say one thing in English and another in Arabic has been a hallmark of Palestinian politics perfected by Yasir Arafat, and it’s long been a sticking point in Israel’s objection to Palestinian media manipulation.

“Say it in Arabic” encompasses more than just the Palestinian Authority. American intelligence agencies have been unusually public about their need for Arabic speakers. The language barrier gives Arab leaders unrestrained leeway to say whatever they want, and tracking what these leaders say in Arabic to their home audiences has been an essential part of attempting to hold these leaders accountable. So it’s encouraging to see a new report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies spearheaded by FDD’s vice president for research (and COMMENTARY contributor) Jonathan Schanzer.

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In early 2011, along with a handful of other American journalists, I interviewed Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in Jerusalem. Ayalon pressed the need for recognition of Israel on the part of the Palestinian leadership–but not in English or Hebrew. “Say it in Arabic, to your own children and to your own people,” Ayalon had said. The habit of Arab leaders to say one thing in English and another in Arabic has been a hallmark of Palestinian politics perfected by Yasir Arafat, and it’s long been a sticking point in Israel’s objection to Palestinian media manipulation.

“Say it in Arabic” encompasses more than just the Palestinian Authority. American intelligence agencies have been unusually public about their need for Arabic speakers. The language barrier gives Arab leaders unrestrained leeway to say whatever they want, and tracking what these leaders say in Arabic to their home audiences has been an essential part of attempting to hold these leaders accountable. So it’s encouraging to see a new report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies spearheaded by FDD’s vice president for research (and COMMENTARY contributor) Jonathan Schanzer.

With the understanding that in the age of social media it’s no longer sufficient just to analyze Arab leaders’ public speeches and sermons in mind, FDD contracted with the Washington-based technology firm ConStrat to analyze six months worth of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media messages from Saudi clerics in English and Arabic. The result is contained in the in-depth report, written by Schanzer and FDD research associate Steven Miller, “Facebook Fatwa: Saudi Clerics, Wahhabi Islam and Social Media.” The whole report is worth reading, as is this interview the Jerusalem Post conducted with Schanzer, but the report makes clear there have been both promising and troubling trends:

The tone and tenor of the conversations ConStrat coded was mixed, but was generally marked by an absence of overt militancy. This does not, however, indicate an absence of intolerant or xenophobic positions. According to the data scored with ConStrat’s proprietary VX software, views that were hostile to America, the West, and non-Muslim or secular cultures represented nearly 52 percent of the English data, while in Arabic they represented 75 percent….

Saudi Arabia’s success in reducing militant online content is a positive sign that the Saudi government can, when sufficiently motivated, temper the radicalism that percolates in the kingdom. This is also a sign that when the U.S. properly applies pressure, it can have a noticeable impact.

However, the kingdom’s recent attempts to convince the West that it is promoting “religious tolerance” and embracing change do not resonate with the content mined during this study.

As Schanzer told the Post, that’s not a lot of violence, but it’s an overwhelming amount of intolerance and misogyny. And it explains why Ayalon’s appeal to “say it in Arabic” remains good advice for proponents of true peace and reform in the Arab world.

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Tip for WaPo: Look Into Young Joe Biden

Now that the childhood hijinks of our national candidates are fair game, the Washington Post might want to devote some investigative resources toward the background of Vice President Joseph Biden. That’s right, “Sheriff Joe” was reportedly involved in a spate of anti-social activities as a child and adolescent, including but not limited to elaborate neighborhood pranks, street brawls, and even an assault on a lowly dorm employee in college.

From the book What It Takes: The Way to the White House, a story of the 1988 presidential election by reporter Richard Ben Cramer, a troubling snapshot of young Biden emerges:

Once Joey [Biden] set his mind, it was like he didn’t think at all—he just did. That’s why you didn’t want to fight him. Most guys who got into a fight, they’d square off, there’d be a minute or so of circling around, while they jockeyed for position. Joey didn’t do that. He decided to fight … BANGO—he’d punch the guy in the face. Joe was kind of skinny, and he stuttered, and the kids called him Bye-Bye, for the way he sounded when he tried to say his name. But Joey would never back down, and he knew how to box, when no one else did. …

Even after he left, after Mr. Biden got the job selling cars in Wilmington and moved the family away, Charlie Roth would still (in moments of duress) tell guys that his friend Joey Biden would come back and beat them up, if they didn’t watch out. (When Joe did come back, Charlie always had a list.)

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Now that the childhood hijinks of our national candidates are fair game, the Washington Post might want to devote some investigative resources toward the background of Vice President Joseph Biden. That’s right, “Sheriff Joe” was reportedly involved in a spate of anti-social activities as a child and adolescent, including but not limited to elaborate neighborhood pranks, street brawls, and even an assault on a lowly dorm employee in college.

From the book What It Takes: The Way to the White House, a story of the 1988 presidential election by reporter Richard Ben Cramer, a troubling snapshot of young Biden emerges:

Once Joey [Biden] set his mind, it was like he didn’t think at all—he just did. That’s why you didn’t want to fight him. Most guys who got into a fight, they’d square off, there’d be a minute or so of circling around, while they jockeyed for position. Joey didn’t do that. He decided to fight … BANGO—he’d punch the guy in the face. Joe was kind of skinny, and he stuttered, and the kids called him Bye-Bye, for the way he sounded when he tried to say his name. But Joey would never back down, and he knew how to box, when no one else did. …

Even after he left, after Mr. Biden got the job selling cars in Wilmington and moved the family away, Charlie Roth would still (in moments of duress) tell guys that his friend Joey Biden would come back and beat them up, if they didn’t watch out. (When Joe did come back, Charlie always had a list.)

A list of children to beat up! That means there are documents, assuming they haven’t already been destroyed. WaPo could find this list and potentially interview the victims. Surely there are some stories there that could give us crucial insight into these vaguely sociopathic flare-ups.

But there’s more. According to What It Takes, Biden apparently also led neighborhood boys in carrying out what he would call “pranks” – and what current law might call “willful and malicious destruction of property” – against an innocent elderly neighbor:

Joe always had an idea. … If their notion of a summer evening’s prank was to put a bag of dogshit on old man Schutz’s doorstep, Joey would say, “No, here’s what we’ll do. You know behind my house, where they got all those little trees? Get a shovel …” And they did: they went out with shovels and planted a forest of saplings on Mr. Schutz’s lawn. It was so much more elaborate—all thought out, the way Joey had it figured.

And later, the book recounts a story about how Biden was put on student probation in college for apparently assaulting a resident adviser with fire extinguisher fluid. Tampering with fire safety equipment? Now we’re moving into federal offense territory:

And before that, University of Delaware, where he only screwed around, trying to be Joe College—got probation for dousing the dorm director with a fire extinguisher. … Then there were hijinks from high school, streaking the parking lot. … They were getting back to childhood sins, stuff where the priest says, “Two Hail Marys” … but Joe was still talking.

Okay, so maybe these incidents all sound innocent enough. But that’s probably just because we haven’t heard from victims or aggrieved outside witnesses with axes to grind. What did that hapless RA do to deserve getting sprayed down with a fire extinguisher, anyway? What about “old man Schutz” – how could he possibly remove all those trees from his lawn on his own? Yes, it will be tough to track down information on these cases considering they took place more than 50 years ago. But if WaPo’s investigative team has shown us anything, it’s that the paper has what it takes to get to the bottom of pressing national issues like these.

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The Striking Bias of the Washington Post

I wanted to add to what Alana and Jonathan wrote about the nearly endless front page story in today’s Washington Post.

The title of the story is “Romney’s pranks could go too far.” Indeed they could. As Ed Morrissey wrote, what Mitt Romney, then in prep school, did — clip the bleached-blond hair of a high school student while he was pinned to the ground and crying for help – is pretty cruel. “It’s one reason not to vote for a teenager for president,” according to Morrissey.

As for other things that could go too far, in addition to Barack Obama’s admitted drug use, we could add to the list Jeremiah Wright’s sermons, Bill Ayers’s domestic terrorism, and Obama’s support as a state senator for infanticide, to name just three. But did the Washington Post devote 5,000 words to each of those stories? Did it devote 5,000 words to all of those stories combined? I doubt it.

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I wanted to add to what Alana and Jonathan wrote about the nearly endless front page story in today’s Washington Post.

The title of the story is “Romney’s pranks could go too far.” Indeed they could. As Ed Morrissey wrote, what Mitt Romney, then in prep school, did — clip the bleached-blond hair of a high school student while he was pinned to the ground and crying for help – is pretty cruel. “It’s one reason not to vote for a teenager for president,” according to Morrissey.

As for other things that could go too far, in addition to Barack Obama’s admitted drug use, we could add to the list Jeremiah Wright’s sermons, Bill Ayers’s domestic terrorism, and Obama’s support as a state senator for infanticide, to name just three. But did the Washington Post devote 5,000 words to each of those stories? Did it devote 5,000 words to all of those stories combined? I doubt it.

What the three of us are saying is that the Post was noticeably more indifferent to things from Obama’s past – at least those things that might not reflect well on him — than they appear to be when it comes to Romney’s past. Consider this story a preview of coming attractions.

The Washington Post is home to some outstanding reporters and columnists. But it is also a newspaper with a decidedly liberal bent (which is why Obama says he respects it and the New York Times so much). And today’s breathless front page essay (posted online yesterday) on Romney the Mean-Spirited Prankster simply confirms that most of the press, which was embarrassingly one-sided in Obama’s favor in 2008, hasn’t evolved much since then.

None of this is surprising. But that doesn’t make it any less striking.

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GOP is Right to Oppose Bipartisanship

Richard Lugar’s defeat in the Indiana Republican Senate primary has engendered new interest in a popular theme in the mainstream liberal press about how the current crop of conservative Republicans are the cause of political gridlock. Lugar’s graceless concession speech in which he blasted winner Richard Mourdock’s unwillingness to pay homage at the altar of bipartisanship was straight out of the liberal playbook in which only one side of the ideological divide is to be blamed for the mess in Washington. Lugar’s speech was catnip to liberal pundits like the New York Times’ Andrew Rosenthal, who had been looking for a news hook to echo an op-ed published last month in the Washington Post by two prominent D.C. think tank establishment figures sounding the same theme. In their April 27 essay, Thomas E. Mann and Norman Ornstein gave a non-partisan gloss to a the highly partisan theme that “Republicans are the problem.”

Though Mann and Ornstein claim this is in part because the new generation of conservative Republicans is less civil than most Democrats, even they don’t really believe that. For every Allen West on the right there is an Alan Grayson or Steve Cohen on the left. And even liberal editors and columnists may have noticed the incivility of some Tea Partiers doesn’t hold a candle to the violence and the attempts to stifle the free speech of others that is the hallmark of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Rather, it is Mann and Ornstein’s thesis that by seeking fundamental reforms of taxes, spending and entitlements, conservatives are breaking the unwritten contract between members of the governing class. By refusing to play ball like the docile Republicans of the past whose guiding philosophy was to offer the public the Democratic platform minus ten percent, today’s conservatives threaten a spirit of bipartisanship that existed largely to support a governing philosophy they disagree with. And that is something for which they cannot be forgiven.

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Richard Lugar’s defeat in the Indiana Republican Senate primary has engendered new interest in a popular theme in the mainstream liberal press about how the current crop of conservative Republicans are the cause of political gridlock. Lugar’s graceless concession speech in which he blasted winner Richard Mourdock’s unwillingness to pay homage at the altar of bipartisanship was straight out of the liberal playbook in which only one side of the ideological divide is to be blamed for the mess in Washington. Lugar’s speech was catnip to liberal pundits like the New York Times’ Andrew Rosenthal, who had been looking for a news hook to echo an op-ed published last month in the Washington Post by two prominent D.C. think tank establishment figures sounding the same theme. In their April 27 essay, Thomas E. Mann and Norman Ornstein gave a non-partisan gloss to a the highly partisan theme that “Republicans are the problem.”

Though Mann and Ornstein claim this is in part because the new generation of conservative Republicans is less civil than most Democrats, even they don’t really believe that. For every Allen West on the right there is an Alan Grayson or Steve Cohen on the left. And even liberal editors and columnists may have noticed the incivility of some Tea Partiers doesn’t hold a candle to the violence and the attempts to stifle the free speech of others that is the hallmark of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Rather, it is Mann and Ornstein’s thesis that by seeking fundamental reforms of taxes, spending and entitlements, conservatives are breaking the unwritten contract between members of the governing class. By refusing to play ball like the docile Republicans of the past whose guiding philosophy was to offer the public the Democratic platform minus ten percent, today’s conservatives threaten a spirit of bipartisanship that existed largely to support a governing philosophy they disagree with. And that is something for which they cannot be forgiven.

The impasse between the two parties in Washington stems from the fact that the president and the Democratic majority in the Senate were elected in the liberal waves of 2006 and 2008 while the Republican majority in the House came in as a result of the GOP landslide in 2010. These were two different sets of elections driven by completely different ideological trends. If President Obama is re-elected along with a Democratic Congress this year, there will be no need for them to accommodate conservatives. Nor should they if they get the confidence of the electorate. Conversely, if Mitt Romney wins the White House along with fresh Republican majorities in Congress, then the GOP will have the opportunity to govern as it sees fit.

But the Washington establishment seems to determined to cast this conflict as one that is not between two ideological camps vying for the public’s approval but one in which conservatives are inherently wrong because what they desire is genuine change in the system. To liberals, that is radicalism that must be opposed not just because it is wrong but because it is different from the way things are done. And to those who live off that system and support it, that is an unforgivable sin.

The establishment is also uncomfortable with a political alignment in which the two parties are not both amorphous coalitions without any guiding philosophy. Some may regret the way Republicans have become more conservative and Democrats more liberal, but again, there seems to be a double standard at work. It is only when Republicans express disgust with members of their congressional caucuses who seem more interested in making nice with their opponents than in defending conservative principles that words like “purge” are thrown around. As it happens, the GOP is no more radical than the Democrats. They are about to nominate the most moderate of their presidential contenders.

As for working with the other party, the Democrats are in no position to cry foul. They spent the eight years of the George W. Bush administration doing their best to demonize him with respected members of Congress using invective about him and members of the Cabinet that were just as bad as anything the Tea Party says about President Obama.

Let’s also understand there is nothing inherently noble about compromises which merely allow the federal leviathan to go lumbering along sucking the life out of the economy and bringing the nation closer to insolvency. Though sometimes deals must be struck to keep the government open in the case of a hopeless deadlock as was the case last summer with the debt ceiling, it is dishonest of liberals to pretend their insistence on defending the system doesn’t make them as much a part of the problem as their opponents. The only difference between the two sides is that the left assumes it is the right’s job to give in. That is why they are shedding crocodile tears about the exit of weak Republicans like Dick Lugar.

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To Save Aid, Cut Aides

Max Boot last month argued that the State Department and USAID should largely be spared budget cuts. That may be true of the State Department, although (like the Pentagon), the Department has layers of bureaucratic fat and unnecessary positions. Various undersecretaries, for example, have their own press advisers, a wholly unnecessary position that not only might come with a six-figure salary, but also can run up hundreds of thousands of dollars each in flight, hotel, and benefit cost. Simply put, if a Foreign Service officer or a political appointee is smart enough to become an undersecretary, then they should be smart enough to handle their own press. And if they are not up to the task, there are dozens of ambitious diplomats or politicos who probably are. This might, indeed, make for more skilled diplomats because it would benefit those who have a broader array of experiences than simply passing a “trivial pursuit”-like written exam and then a contrived oral exam upon leaving college and entering the State Department’s bubble. It would enable those who have backgrounds in business or law, for example, to apply a skill set to their careers which would benefit everybody.

To be fair, the same is true for the Pentagon. Last month, I attended a conference in Europe in which a senior U.S. general spoke. The general was worth his stars, but came to Europe from Washington with a delegation of aides and assistants whose sole mission was to ensure that the general hewed close to a script which they developed. “We don’t want him to make any comment which the press might pick up on,” one explained. Now, these aides duplicated the work of the defense attaché and American embassy which was also working overtime to babysit the three-star. Surely, there are better uses for taxpayer money than hiring press aides and minders whose sole job is to obfuscate and do damage control. If a general is able to navigate the politics of the Pentagon, then he can understand the minefield of the fourth estate without spending millions of dollars to ensure that he says nothing.

Max Boot last month argued that the State Department and USAID should largely be spared budget cuts. That may be true of the State Department, although (like the Pentagon), the Department has layers of bureaucratic fat and unnecessary positions. Various undersecretaries, for example, have their own press advisers, a wholly unnecessary position that not only might come with a six-figure salary, but also can run up hundreds of thousands of dollars each in flight, hotel, and benefit cost. Simply put, if a Foreign Service officer or a political appointee is smart enough to become an undersecretary, then they should be smart enough to handle their own press. And if they are not up to the task, there are dozens of ambitious diplomats or politicos who probably are. This might, indeed, make for more skilled diplomats because it would benefit those who have a broader array of experiences than simply passing a “trivial pursuit”-like written exam and then a contrived oral exam upon leaving college and entering the State Department’s bubble. It would enable those who have backgrounds in business or law, for example, to apply a skill set to their careers which would benefit everybody.

To be fair, the same is true for the Pentagon. Last month, I attended a conference in Europe in which a senior U.S. general spoke. The general was worth his stars, but came to Europe from Washington with a delegation of aides and assistants whose sole mission was to ensure that the general hewed close to a script which they developed. “We don’t want him to make any comment which the press might pick up on,” one explained. Now, these aides duplicated the work of the defense attaché and American embassy which was also working overtime to babysit the three-star. Surely, there are better uses for taxpayer money than hiring press aides and minders whose sole job is to obfuscate and do damage control. If a general is able to navigate the politics of the Pentagon, then he can understand the minefield of the fourth estate without spending millions of dollars to ensure that he says nothing.

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When a Flip-Flop Becomes an “Evolution”

Question: When does a flip flop become an evolution? Answer: When the flip-flop leads to a liberal outcome.

I have in mind the omnipresent use by the media of President Obama’s “evolution” on gay marriage. In fact, this evolution was a rather jagged one.

As it’s been pointed out on this web site before, in 1996, Obama said he supported gay marriage. Then, in 2004, he said he opposed gay marriage. He reiterated that stand in 2008. Then, after Obama was elected president, he was neutral on the subject. And now that he’s (re)-embraced his position from more than 15 years ago, the press – using precisely the word Obama does to describe his shifting stance – says the president has “evolved.” As in “became more enlightened.”

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Question: When does a flip flop become an evolution? Answer: When the flip-flop leads to a liberal outcome.

I have in mind the omnipresent use by the media of President Obama’s “evolution” on gay marriage. In fact, this evolution was a rather jagged one.

As it’s been pointed out on this web site before, in 1996, Obama said he supported gay marriage. Then, in 2004, he said he opposed gay marriage. He reiterated that stand in 2008. Then, after Obama was elected president, he was neutral on the subject. And now that he’s (re)-embraced his position from more than 15 years ago, the press – using precisely the word Obama does to describe his shifting stance – says the president has “evolved.” As in “became more enlightened.”

To take the important point made by Jonathan on Mitt Romney and abortion in a slightly different direction, here’s a thought experiment. Assume that a decade-and-a-half ago Romney opposed same sex marriage. Then, running for office in Massachusetts, he embraced same-sex marriage. But now, running for president, he announced he once again opposes gay marriage. Do you think the press would describe his position as having “evolved”? Or would the word “benighted” more accurately reflect the tone and spirit of the media’s coverage of Romney?

Just wondering.

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Where’s the “Made in America” at USAID?

The State Department laid out an ambitious budget for the forthcoming year and, on Wednesday, Rep. Steve Chabot, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, held a hearing to discuss U.S. assistance. Among those testifying was Mara Rudman, the assistant administrator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Middle East bureau. While Rudman might brag about the supposed achievements of USAID, few aid organizations are so inefficient and self-defeating.

Take branding: Throughout the Middle East, especially in areas where anti-American sentiment is especially strong, the USAID refuses to put the USAID logo on its projects. To do so might lead insurgents to target USAID-funded schools, wells, or medical clinics. The problem is that skipping branding reduces to almost zero the benefit of the project. The goal of U.S. aid should not altruistic, but rather to bolster U.S. interests and influence. Diplomats talk about the need to win hearts and minds, but the multibillion dollar organization at the forefront of the battle too often surrenders before the fight. Nothing is more frustrating than to drive around Iraq and Afghanistan, seeing signs crediting Japan, Kuwait, the Badr Corps’ Shahid al-Mihrab Foundation or the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee for visible projects—gardens in traffic circles; housing projects; clinics; and electrical substations—but see no branding for USAID.

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The State Department laid out an ambitious budget for the forthcoming year and, on Wednesday, Rep. Steve Chabot, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, held a hearing to discuss U.S. assistance. Among those testifying was Mara Rudman, the assistant administrator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Middle East bureau. While Rudman might brag about the supposed achievements of USAID, few aid organizations are so inefficient and self-defeating.

Take branding: Throughout the Middle East, especially in areas where anti-American sentiment is especially strong, the USAID refuses to put the USAID logo on its projects. To do so might lead insurgents to target USAID-funded schools, wells, or medical clinics. The problem is that skipping branding reduces to almost zero the benefit of the project. The goal of U.S. aid should not altruistic, but rather to bolster U.S. interests and influence. Diplomats talk about the need to win hearts and minds, but the multibillion dollar organization at the forefront of the battle too often surrenders before the fight. Nothing is more frustrating than to drive around Iraq and Afghanistan, seeing signs crediting Japan, Kuwait, the Badr Corps’ Shahid al-Mihrab Foundation or the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee for visible projects—gardens in traffic circles; housing projects; clinics; and electrical substations—but see no branding for USAID.

Compounding the problem is the fiscal irresponsibility of USAID. In Afghanistan, USAID would hire three times the local staff—drivers, cooks, and cleaners—instead of NGOs or contractors performing the same functions, and would spend more money on furniture, televisions, and equipment for offices. Rather than abide by the local market, USAID often would try to outbid contractors by offering landlords 300 percent more rent—a waste of taxpayer money that compounded itself as other U.S.-funded projects would have to keep up. Then, again, when the metric is money spent rather than results achieved, it’s easy to throw money around.

It’s time for USAID to do some real soul-searching about whether the organization does anything that smaller, leaner NGOs can’t do cheaper and better; whether they get bang for the taxpayer buck; and whether a failure to seek credit where credit is due undercuts their utility to U.S. foreign policy. If there’s one organization that’s in serious need of reform, USAID is it.

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More Evidence of the Damage of Leaks

Yesterday, I wrote about the damage that leaks can do to sensitive intelligence operations. Now, ABC News has reported: “The long running operation with the deep cover operative was one that intelligence agencies planned to keep running. It was pulled up short in the past week when leaks developed and put the infiltrator in jeopardy. Sources involved in the intelligence operation said the plan was to keep the operation running until a more complete picture of the still developing plots and plans of the Yemen based group and its sinister, creative bombmaker, were learned.”

This provides further evidence of the damage of spilling secrets. The question is who leaked and why? It does not necessarily have to have been an American leak although the fact that the story was broken by Kimberly Dozier of the Associated Press, an American reporter based in Washington working for an American news organization, suggests that it was. Heads should roll–if the administration can figure out who was responsible. Even if this operation were blown by a senator or representative based on classified briefings, the culprit should at least be named and shamed. If it was an executive branch official, he or she should be not only fired but prosecuted as well.

Yesterday, I wrote about the damage that leaks can do to sensitive intelligence operations. Now, ABC News has reported: “The long running operation with the deep cover operative was one that intelligence agencies planned to keep running. It was pulled up short in the past week when leaks developed and put the infiltrator in jeopardy. Sources involved in the intelligence operation said the plan was to keep the operation running until a more complete picture of the still developing plots and plans of the Yemen based group and its sinister, creative bombmaker, were learned.”

This provides further evidence of the damage of spilling secrets. The question is who leaked and why? It does not necessarily have to have been an American leak although the fact that the story was broken by Kimberly Dozier of the Associated Press, an American reporter based in Washington working for an American news organization, suggests that it was. Heads should roll–if the administration can figure out who was responsible. Even if this operation were blown by a senator or representative based on classified briefings, the culprit should at least be named and shamed. If it was an executive branch official, he or she should be not only fired but prosecuted as well.

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Put an End to the War Metaphor

Several decades ago, Lyndon Johnson declared the “war on poverty.” Since then, the war metaphor has been turned on its head, with those involved in political debates insisting that their opponents are waging war on the subject de jure. In the last few weeks, for example, liberals have said that Republicans are declaring a “war on women.” Conservatives, on the other hand, have said the president and Democrats are now declaring a “war on marriage.”

The martial metaphor is inappropriate as a general matter — but particularly when real wars are being fought around the world and real servicemen and servicewomen are being killed in combat.

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Several decades ago, Lyndon Johnson declared the “war on poverty.” Since then, the war metaphor has been turned on its head, with those involved in political debates insisting that their opponents are waging war on the subject de jure. In the last few weeks, for example, liberals have said that Republicans are declaring a “war on women.” Conservatives, on the other hand, have said the president and Democrats are now declaring a “war on marriage.”

The martial metaphor is inappropriate as a general matter — but particularly when real wars are being fought around the world and real servicemen and servicewomen are being killed in combat.

So perhaps both sides will put on the shelf the war metaphor, right next to the comparisons to Hitler and Nazi Germany. These are examples of (at best) lazy thinking, and at worse they’re meant to libel opponents.

It’s a tired rhetorical trick and, I suspect, an ineffective one. Let’s hope it comes to an end.

 

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