Commentary Magazine


Topic: Al Gore

Good News for Polar Bears. Bad News for Al Gore.

That some of Al Gore’s global warming predictions turned out to be bogus is no longer much of a surprise. As far back as seven years ago, a British court ruled that Gore’s Oscar-winning environmentalist documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, contained several errors and exaggerations that illustrated the alarmist spirit that motivated the filmmaker. But the news about nature contradicting another one of the former vice president’s predictions should not so much encourage skeptics about global warming theories as inspire both sides in this controversy to lower their voices and to be a little less sanguine about computer models, whether they predict warming or cooling.

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That some of Al Gore’s global warming predictions turned out to be bogus is no longer much of a surprise. As far back as seven years ago, a British court ruled that Gore’s Oscar-winning environmentalist documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, contained several errors and exaggerations that illustrated the alarmist spirit that motivated the filmmaker. But the news about nature contradicting another one of the former vice president’s predictions should not so much encourage skeptics about global warming theories as inspire both sides in this controversy to lower their voices and to be a little less sanguine about computer models, whether they predict warming or cooling.

The report in yesterday’s Daily Mail concerns the extent of the ice cap covering the Arctic. Gore had warned in 2007 while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize that within seven years the ice cap would vanish in summer. However, satellite photographs confirm that not only has the ice not vanished, in the last two years it has increased somewhere between 43 and 62 percent since 2012. It turns out that in that time some 1.715 million square kilometers of the Arctic are now covered by ice that were water during the 2012 presidential campaign.

Does this mean that global warning is a myth? Not necessarily. Scientists say 2012 was a year of “freak weather” and that the cooling since then is a regression to the mean rather than a complete reversal of past warming trends that some say remain in place in the long term. But since the evidence shows that the ice cap is larger than at any point since 2006, it’s certainly worth noting.

It may be that the global cooling in terms of overall average temperatures that has been going on since 1997 is a mere blip in the long run that will constitute a pause before a period of severe warming. That’s the assertion of some climate scientists and they might be right when they assert that the climate is being influenced more by man-made activity than in the past.

But let’s also remember that most of the same scientists pooh-poohing cooling trends, whether since 2012 or 1997, didn’t predict the decline in temperatures or the growth of the ice pack. Nor did their computer models, which continue to be used to back up claims of dire environmental damage due to warming in the near and long-term future.

Yet instead of some of the ups and downs of actual climate activity—as opposed to the projected doomsday scenarios that are treated by liberals as being not theory but certain truth—inducing some caution, if not humility on the part of those making alarmist predictions, most seem inclined to double down on their assertions.

What these cooling trends indicate is that the factors influencing climate may be a bit more complex than the simple equation between carbon emissions and rising temperatures that popular culture now treats as revealed truth.

Time will tell who has been telling the truth and who has been hyping predictions of doom in order to advance certain ideological agendas that benefit from hysterical predictions. Given the damaging economic cost of some of the anti-warming measures recommended by the Gore crowd, it is understandable that some people might be prepared to treat the entire theory as a lie. But it could be that in order to get us to believe that the world is warming a bit, we’ve been told that it is melting.

If so, it could be that for all of the honors and wealth that has been showered on Gore as a result of his alarmist shtick, he and others like him may have done more harm than good to the environmentalist cause. That’s especially true at a time when President Obama is seeking to rally support for a new climate change treaty that he doesn’t plan to submit for approval to a skeptical U.S. Senate.

In the meantime, the polar bears—the poster children of global warming whom our impressionable children were endlessly told would soon be swimming for their lives in an Arctic denuded of ice—seem to be doing just fine in their expanded frozen empire. We should all toast their good health and learn from this episode to take further pronouncements from Gore and his ilk or anyone else making climate predictions with a truckload of salt.

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BBC Journalists’ Reeducation

“The BBC issues a call to reason,” proclaims Politico’s Dylan Byers, referencing a Telegraph story published over the holiday weekend. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated. The story is about a new BBC policy of sending its journalists to reeducation seminars to learn how to cut balance out of the Beeb’s broadcasts. It’s notable that the trustees at the BBC found any balance to cut. But more important is how general the policy is.

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“The BBC issues a call to reason,” proclaims Politico’s Dylan Byers, referencing a Telegraph story published over the holiday weekend. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated. The story is about a new BBC policy of sending its journalists to reeducation seminars to learn how to cut balance out of the Beeb’s broadcasts. It’s notable that the trustees at the BBC found any balance to cut. But more important is how general the policy is.

Byers’s headline is “Ignore the climate change deniers,” which is how this story has generally been interpreted: as a call to stop featuring those who depart from the consensus on climate science. Byers isn’t wrong to pick up on that, as global warming does seem to be the driving force behind this new policy. But it isn’t limited to that, and whatever one thinks about that particular issue, are journalists really going to cheer a broad new policy to strike dissenting voices from news broadcasts? Here’s the Telegraph:

The BBC Trust on Thursday published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues.

The report found that there was still an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed.

Some 200 staff have already attended seminars and workshops and more will be invited on courses in the coming months to stop them giving ‘undue attention to marginal opinion.’

“The Trust wishes to emphasise the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences,” wrote the report authors.

The one fair point the BBC report makes is, as quoted by the Telegraph: “Science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given.” But the policy is obviously about more than whether the Earth is round. And it’s easy to see how this can go awry.

First of all, it’s important to embrace the principle that a scientific consensus should still be open to challenge because new information and discoveries are made constantly. As Michael Crichton–no stranger to the science or politics of the issue–said in his famous speech on global warming:

I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.

Crichton was considered sufficiently threatening to the global warming consensus that he earned a denunciation in congressional testimony from climate fraud Al Gore, who, though a former vice president of the United States, was punching well above his weight on this topic. (I also remember being warned against Crichton’s anti-global warming novel State of Fear–by the bookstore employee ringing up my sale. “It’s right-wing propaganda,” said the cashier, whose opinion I didn’t ask and whose job was supposedly to sell the books in his store.)

But again, the point is not just about global warming. The BBC’s reeducation events are aimed at more than this subject, and it’s pretty easy to see where this general policy is going. The BBC report talks about issues that are supposedly, in the phrasing of the Telegraph story, “non-contentious” and views that are “widely dismissed.” The phrase the BBC report itself uses is “marginal opinion.”

The media personalities of the Western left are notoriously susceptible to epistemic closure. Telling reporters already loath to feature dissenting voices that they should ignore “marginal opinion” and that which is often dismissed by others is a recipe for disaster for news reporting. It’s not so much the directive to tone down opposition voices on one story such as global warming–though that in itself is troublesome–but the broader culture of ignorance that can so easily sprout from employees sent to conferences to learn how to dismiss those with whom they are inclined to disagree.

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Scare Tactics Backfire for Environmentalists

President Obama and other leading liberal lights keep telling us that the debate about global warming is over. Though the notion that scientific debates are decided by a vote of scientists or rather than research is decidedly unscientific, this conclusion is echoed throughout the mainstream media and popular culture. Those who are skeptical about the claims that human activity is changing the climate are treated like Holocaust deniers or lunatics. But the problem that those trying to mobilize public support for extreme measures intended to avert the extreme consequences of global warming are having is that most Americans aren’t buying it. Even worse for them, the scare tactics they’ve been employing are actually backfiring.

That’s the conclusion from Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental research organization who co-authored an op-ed in today’s New York Times titled “Global Warming Scare Tactics.” In it, they point out that rather than helping build support for carbon caps or other restrictions on industry or individuals the attempt to give the impression that an environmental apocalypse is around the corner is backfiring. Most specifically, the widespread practice of linking natural disasters such as hurricanes or wildfires is having the opposite effect on the public.

More than a decade’s worth of research suggests that fear-based appeals about climate change inspire denial, fatalism and polarization.

For instance, Al Gore’s 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” popularized the idea that today’s natural disasters are increasing in severity and frequency because of human-caused global warming. It also contributed to public backlash and division. Since 2006, the number of Americans telling Gallup that the media was exaggerating global warming grew to 42 percent today from about 34 percent. Meanwhile, the gap between Democrats and Republicans on whether global warming is caused by humans rose to 42 percent last year from 26 percent in 2006, according to the Pew Research Center.

While Nordhaus and Shellenberger are not global warming skeptics they are dismayed at the way the alarmists have undermined the case for climate change.

Claims linking the latest blizzard, drought or hurricane to global warming simply can’t be supported by the science. Our warming world is, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, increasing heat waves and intense precipitation in some places, and is likely to bring more extreme weather in the future. But the panel also said there is little evidence that this warming is increasing the loss of life or the economic costs of natural disasters.

That makes a lot of sense but don’t expect this to change the tactics being employed by either the White House or most environmental activists. Without the gloom and doom scenarios they’ve been trying to float this past decade, they have little to offer either the public or Congress.

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President Obama and other leading liberal lights keep telling us that the debate about global warming is over. Though the notion that scientific debates are decided by a vote of scientists or rather than research is decidedly unscientific, this conclusion is echoed throughout the mainstream media and popular culture. Those who are skeptical about the claims that human activity is changing the climate are treated like Holocaust deniers or lunatics. But the problem that those trying to mobilize public support for extreme measures intended to avert the extreme consequences of global warming are having is that most Americans aren’t buying it. Even worse for them, the scare tactics they’ve been employing are actually backfiring.

That’s the conclusion from Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental research organization who co-authored an op-ed in today’s New York Times titled “Global Warming Scare Tactics.” In it, they point out that rather than helping build support for carbon caps or other restrictions on industry or individuals the attempt to give the impression that an environmental apocalypse is around the corner is backfiring. Most specifically, the widespread practice of linking natural disasters such as hurricanes or wildfires is having the opposite effect on the public.

More than a decade’s worth of research suggests that fear-based appeals about climate change inspire denial, fatalism and polarization.

For instance, Al Gore’s 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” popularized the idea that today’s natural disasters are increasing in severity and frequency because of human-caused global warming. It also contributed to public backlash and division. Since 2006, the number of Americans telling Gallup that the media was exaggerating global warming grew to 42 percent today from about 34 percent. Meanwhile, the gap between Democrats and Republicans on whether global warming is caused by humans rose to 42 percent last year from 26 percent in 2006, according to the Pew Research Center.

While Nordhaus and Shellenberger are not global warming skeptics they are dismayed at the way the alarmists have undermined the case for climate change.

Claims linking the latest blizzard, drought or hurricane to global warming simply can’t be supported by the science. Our warming world is, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, increasing heat waves and intense precipitation in some places, and is likely to bring more extreme weather in the future. But the panel also said there is little evidence that this warming is increasing the loss of life or the economic costs of natural disasters.

That makes a lot of sense but don’t expect this to change the tactics being employed by either the White House or most environmental activists. Without the gloom and doom scenarios they’ve been trying to float this past decade, they have little to offer either the public or Congress.

 There are a few problems with the scare tactics Gore helped popularized. One is that they aren’t credible. There’s plenty of evidence popping up that shows the increase in temperatures isn’t as advertised as well as that its effects are not as devastating as the global warming alarmists claim. If even the UN is prepared to debunk the notion that every hurricane or fire is the fault of global warming, not to mention the idea that the East and West coasts will be under water within a decade or two, why would anyone imagine that Americans who have good economic reasons to be skeptical about these claims would buy into Obama’s recommendations.

Another is the refusal of the environmental crowd to embrace the most obvious responses to concerns about carbon-based energy: the nuclear option. Nordhaus and Shellenberger say that more Americans respond positively to environmental claims when they are put in a context with viable alternatives rather than calls for draconian cuts in economic activity or personal autonomy that is integral to the use of automobiles and other sources of carbon emissions. But since the same people who are trying to sell us on the notion that the sky is falling about warming are the ones who have already delegitimized nuclear power because of fears that are equally exaggerated or unfounded.

Lastly, the authors have discovered that the extreme scenarios put forward by people like Gore as well as the attempt to convince people that natural disasters are part of the warming scenario don’t increase public support for their ideas. If anything, research shows that hysteria increases skepticism rather than diminishing it. If, as they ask, “climate change is a planetary emergency, why take nuclear and natural gas off the table?”

Nordhaus and Shellenberger have some good advice for environmentalists, especially their effort to convince them to pose their arguments in a context that is more about finding popular solution based in technology rather than pie in the sky scenarios about transforming the planet. But they shouldn’t expect, their warnings to be heeded. The most extreme scare tactics used by global warming alarmists aren’t just a tactic; they are integral to the worldview of these activists. Its not just that they fear that extreme weather will cause damage, if you listen closely to many of them, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that some think humanity has it coming as a natural consequence of capitalism.

Most of all, it’s that sense that we are being sold a bill of goods by the Al Gores that has fueled the backlash against warming advocates. Having tied themselves to claims that are easily debunked, even by those who agree with them on many questions, the environmental movement has painted itself into a corner from which no amount of common sense can extricate them.

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Why Al Gore’s Warming Fibs Matter

Al Gore has done it again. Having been repeatedly lambasted for making exaggerated claims and telling outright lies in order to promote his environmentalist agenda, he’s now committed another gaffe that will further undermine his credibility and that of his cause. As Politico reports, in an interview with the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein while once again claiming that global warming was the cause of an increase in storms and hurricanes, Gore made the following assertion:

In the interview, published Wednesday, Gore said that “the fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over” storms like hurricanes and other extreme weather events.

“The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6,” he said, according to a transcript of the interview.

But, as Politico noted, other experts and the Post’s own environmental reporters were quick to point out that this isn’t true. The National Weather Service itself admitted that no such plan existed.

Though this was the most egregious element of the interview, as the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto pointed out, it wasn’t the only one. Just as dishonest was his claim that the temporary flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy in lower Manhattan justified Gore’s claim in his Oscar-winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth, that the area would soon be permanently underwater. But, as New Yorkers are well aware, the 9/11 memorial is currently dry. Gore’s alarmist predictions are just as daft today as they were when the film first came out.

This is certainly fodder for Gore’s critics and will, in turn, elicit more impassioned defenses of him from his fans. More significantly, it will also generate comments from slightly more sober advocates of the global warming agenda, to the effect that such fibs don’t really matter because their purpose is to raise awareness of a genuine threat to humanity, albeit one not quite so imminent or terrible as the nightmare scenarios spun by the former vice president. But, as Taranto also pointed out, Gore’s mendacity is significant, not just because a lot of people believe him, but because they cast doubt on the entire enterprise he’s seeking to promote. If, as believers in global warming continually tell us, skeptics are undermining faith in facts and science, there is no greater contributor to such cynicism than Al Gore.

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Al Gore has done it again. Having been repeatedly lambasted for making exaggerated claims and telling outright lies in order to promote his environmentalist agenda, he’s now committed another gaffe that will further undermine his credibility and that of his cause. As Politico reports, in an interview with the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein while once again claiming that global warming was the cause of an increase in storms and hurricanes, Gore made the following assertion:

In the interview, published Wednesday, Gore said that “the fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over” storms like hurricanes and other extreme weather events.

“The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6,” he said, according to a transcript of the interview.

But, as Politico noted, other experts and the Post’s own environmental reporters were quick to point out that this isn’t true. The National Weather Service itself admitted that no such plan existed.

Though this was the most egregious element of the interview, as the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto pointed out, it wasn’t the only one. Just as dishonest was his claim that the temporary flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy in lower Manhattan justified Gore’s claim in his Oscar-winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth, that the area would soon be permanently underwater. But, as New Yorkers are well aware, the 9/11 memorial is currently dry. Gore’s alarmist predictions are just as daft today as they were when the film first came out.

This is certainly fodder for Gore’s critics and will, in turn, elicit more impassioned defenses of him from his fans. More significantly, it will also generate comments from slightly more sober advocates of the global warming agenda, to the effect that such fibs don’t really matter because their purpose is to raise awareness of a genuine threat to humanity, albeit one not quite so imminent or terrible as the nightmare scenarios spun by the former vice president. But, as Taranto also pointed out, Gore’s mendacity is significant, not just because a lot of people believe him, but because they cast doubt on the entire enterprise he’s seeking to promote. If, as believers in global warming continually tell us, skeptics are undermining faith in facts and science, there is no greater contributor to such cynicism than Al Gore.

At stake here is not Gore’s reputation. In his post-political existence, he has proven himself impervious to shame or to criticism. Having enriched himself on government-subsidized “green” investments and profiteered from the creation of a failed cable channel that wound up netting him a cool $100 million from its sale to the Qatari owners of Al Jazeera, Gore can thumb his nose at fact-checkers and critics alike and laugh all the way to the bank.

Gore is no stranger to challenges to the credibility of the assertions to his movie. Though there are a number of websites that point to numerous, significant errors in the movie, a British court ruled that it should be viewed as a polemic rather than fact when a critic sued to prevent it from being shown in schools as an authoritative view of the subject of global warming.

We need not rehearse the contentious debate about global warming to understand just how insidious Gore’s willingness to play fast and loose with the facts on global warming is for the maintenance of a civil discussion on the subject. But if those who believe the U.S. must take drastic action to halt global warming continue to insist that the facts lie all on one side of the argument, it is incumbent on them to stick to the facts and not make exaggerated claims.

Gore has never been able to do that. Thus, he has done more to both fuel the most alarmist and unrealistic scenarios about the possible impact of global warming and to inspire skepticism about this belief. Wherever the truth may lie on this subject, and there are strong cases to be made on both sides, surely there should be no tolerance for a man who routinely lies about it.

Yet no matter how often his falsehoods are uncovered, the environmental community rarely if ever takes Gore to task. He has reaped all sorts of applause and honor for his lies from an Oscar to a Nobel Prize. Indeed, the more his assertions are debunked, the less his fans seem to care. But they should. No one has done more to sink the discussion about global warming into the realm of sci-fi fantasy alarmism or to invite more skepticism than Gore. It’s clear that the more his lips move, the less likely it is that we’ll hear the truth. Those who advocate concern about climate change and who want to mobilize Americans to support the measures they believe will save for the planet should be pleading him for him to shut up, lest doubters about the environmental faith in warming be further undermined. 

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Bush’s “Decency” Was Always There, but Where Was the Media’s?

As the 2012 presidential election drew to a close, Mitt Romney made the rounds in the important state of Pennsylvania with a closing message: “The president has run a strong campaign, I believe he is a good man and wish him well, and his family well. He is a good father and has been a good example of a good father, but it is time for a new direction. It is a time for a better tomorrow.” Barack Obama is a good man and a good father–this was central to Romney’s campaign theme. As the liberal Mother Jones noted a month prior to Election Day: “Romney’s schtick has been an almost sorrowful acknowledgment that Obama is a good man, an honorable man, but in over his head.”

Romney delivered that message consistently. There may have been plenty of arrant nonsense about Obama’s eligibility from the fever swamps of the right and shameless self-promoters like Donald Trump, but the man who wanted to be president showed the man who is currently president the respect of the office. That is strikingly different from how the Democratic Party’s grandees treated George W. Bush, of course. John Kerry joked about assassinating Bush. Al Gore screamed wild-eyed that Bush “betrayed this country!” Obama himself traded in all sorts of conspiracy theories about Iraq, including the claim that the Iraq War was launched to distract the country from “a rise in the poverty rate.”

I don’t recount this to use the opening of the Bush library today to re-litigate the left’s Bush derangement syndrome–that’s all in the public record. But amid all the recollections and reconsiderations of the Bush presidency today, one in particular caught my attention. The mainstream press coverage of the Bush presidency was not a sober record of history as it developed but rather a daily expression of the Kerry-Gore-Obama attitude toward the president. Yet it’s possible to think that Kerry, Gore, and Obama were being cynical; perhaps they didn’t really believe all the things they said about Bush. But what if the reporters who covered the Bush presidency believed their own propaganda? In what serves as a stinging self-indictment, two Politico writers–both formerly of the Washington Post and one currently the editor in chief of Politico–today have filed a story titled “What we’ve learned about George W. Bush since he left town.”

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As the 2012 presidential election drew to a close, Mitt Romney made the rounds in the important state of Pennsylvania with a closing message: “The president has run a strong campaign, I believe he is a good man and wish him well, and his family well. He is a good father and has been a good example of a good father, but it is time for a new direction. It is a time for a better tomorrow.” Barack Obama is a good man and a good father–this was central to Romney’s campaign theme. As the liberal Mother Jones noted a month prior to Election Day: “Romney’s schtick has been an almost sorrowful acknowledgment that Obama is a good man, an honorable man, but in over his head.”

Romney delivered that message consistently. There may have been plenty of arrant nonsense about Obama’s eligibility from the fever swamps of the right and shameless self-promoters like Donald Trump, but the man who wanted to be president showed the man who is currently president the respect of the office. That is strikingly different from how the Democratic Party’s grandees treated George W. Bush, of course. John Kerry joked about assassinating Bush. Al Gore screamed wild-eyed that Bush “betrayed this country!” Obama himself traded in all sorts of conspiracy theories about Iraq, including the claim that the Iraq War was launched to distract the country from “a rise in the poverty rate.”

I don’t recount this to use the opening of the Bush library today to re-litigate the left’s Bush derangement syndrome–that’s all in the public record. But amid all the recollections and reconsiderations of the Bush presidency today, one in particular caught my attention. The mainstream press coverage of the Bush presidency was not a sober record of history as it developed but rather a daily expression of the Kerry-Gore-Obama attitude toward the president. Yet it’s possible to think that Kerry, Gore, and Obama were being cynical; perhaps they didn’t really believe all the things they said about Bush. But what if the reporters who covered the Bush presidency believed their own propaganda? In what serves as a stinging self-indictment, two Politico writers–both formerly of the Washington Post and one currently the editor in chief of Politico–today have filed a story titled “What we’ve learned about George W. Bush since he left town.”

Here is the fourth item on the list, and an explanation:

• Bush is a personally decent fellow

When he ran for president in 2000, the notion that Bush was on balance a likable guy — if not uniformly respected for his intelligence or preparation for the presidency — was widely assumed.

By 2009, his divisive policies and defiant political style had been so polarizing for so long that much of Bush’s personality and values had become obscured by a toxic cloud.

Since leaving office, he has avoided partisan politics and taken up painting. Several pieces of his art have ended up online, including a self-portrait of him in the shower.

Yes, two veteran political reporters actually wrote this. They never thought much of the former president while he was in office, but then, a few years later, they saw a painting. And you have to love their explanation for why they didn’t think Bush was a “decent fellow” earlier: “much of Bush’s personality and values had become obscured by a toxic cloud.”

And what was that toxic cloud? That would be the political reporting. So we have our answer: the press believed their own miserable propaganda. “Just remember,” George Costanza tells Jerry Seinfeld, “it’s not a lie if you believe it.” It is of course a lie that Bush wasn’t a thoroughly decent person throughout his presidency, so it was crucial for liberals and the press to believe it.

It’s not as though Bush’s obvious decency wasn’t visible to reporters. Ron Fournier, now with National Journal, had covered the Bush presidency, and a couple of days ago wrote about the decency he saw in Bush. The whole thing is worth reading, but one key takeaway, as Fournier gives example after example, is how Bush’s sense of personal decency was clear as day to anyone who interacted with him.

So yes, there was plenty of absurdity coming from the right and leveled at President Obama, and history will not look kindly on the disrespect and indignity of making the president feel compelled to show his birth certificate. Plenty of the attacks on Bill Clinton were–or should have been–out of bounds too. But ask yourself this: can you picture John McCain screaming at the top of his lungs that Barack Obama is a traitor to the country he leads, or jokingly suggesting he should assassinate Obama? And can you imagine political reporters writing four years after Obama leaves office that they never knew he was a personally decent man?

I hope you cannot imagine those things, but that is the reality that George W. Bush endured and absorbed with grace, good humor, unrequited compassion, and above all, yes, personal decency.

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The Al Jazeera Liberals

The sale of Al Gore’s Current TV to Al Jazeera is apparently more than just a business deal in which the world’s most prominent critic of fossil fuels made a fortune with an oil-rich emirate. According to the New York Times editorial page, the creation of a new Al Jazeera America is a blow struck for diversity in journalism. The Times feels Time Warner Cable is wrong to drop the new channel from its broadcast lineup. The implication is that those who have expressed shock or outrage about the spectacle of a former vice president of the United States becoming not merely a business partner but an advocate for a network that is well known for its anti-American and anti-Israel bias are either narrow-minded or in some way prejudiced against Arabs and Muslims.

The idea that the general disgust about Gore’s $100 million Arab oil windfall is more evidence of American parochialism or prejudice is absurd. No one is trying to censor Al Jazeera. If there are enough American viewers who want to watch news broadcast from the perspective of the channel’s Qatari government owners, then cable providers will give it to them and they are welcome to it. But that doesn’t obligate Time Warner or any other distributor to give it valuable space on a list of available channels if there aren’t enough viewers to justify such a decision. After all, those who want to look at the world from the point of view of those who promote 9/11 truther myths and who sympathize with those who fought the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan can always watch Al Jazeera on the Internet or find other outlier niches to hold their attention.

The real issue here is not a false argument about diversity. It is instead one about what it means to be a liberal in today’s media environment. As Alana noted yesterday, Gore refused to sell his channel to conservative Glenn Beck saying that he didn’t wish to see his vanity project fall into the hands of those who disagreed with his politics. Fair enough. But the fact that Gore sees Al Jazeera as a good match for his brand of American liberalism speaks volumes about the nature of that set of beliefs.

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The sale of Al Gore’s Current TV to Al Jazeera is apparently more than just a business deal in which the world’s most prominent critic of fossil fuels made a fortune with an oil-rich emirate. According to the New York Times editorial page, the creation of a new Al Jazeera America is a blow struck for diversity in journalism. The Times feels Time Warner Cable is wrong to drop the new channel from its broadcast lineup. The implication is that those who have expressed shock or outrage about the spectacle of a former vice president of the United States becoming not merely a business partner but an advocate for a network that is well known for its anti-American and anti-Israel bias are either narrow-minded or in some way prejudiced against Arabs and Muslims.

The idea that the general disgust about Gore’s $100 million Arab oil windfall is more evidence of American parochialism or prejudice is absurd. No one is trying to censor Al Jazeera. If there are enough American viewers who want to watch news broadcast from the perspective of the channel’s Qatari government owners, then cable providers will give it to them and they are welcome to it. But that doesn’t obligate Time Warner or any other distributor to give it valuable space on a list of available channels if there aren’t enough viewers to justify such a decision. After all, those who want to look at the world from the point of view of those who promote 9/11 truther myths and who sympathize with those who fought the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan can always watch Al Jazeera on the Internet or find other outlier niches to hold their attention.

The real issue here is not a false argument about diversity. It is instead one about what it means to be a liberal in today’s media environment. As Alana noted yesterday, Gore refused to sell his channel to conservative Glenn Beck saying that he didn’t wish to see his vanity project fall into the hands of those who disagreed with his politics. Fair enough. But the fact that Gore sees Al Jazeera as a good match for his brand of American liberalism speaks volumes about the nature of that set of beliefs.

Most Americans still think of Al Jazeera as the network that was Osama bin Laden’s outlet to the world in the years after 9/11. Since then, it has earned a reputation in some quarters as the best source of news about the Arab and Muslim world, especially during the Arab Spring protests. But its perspective remains one in which the United States and Israel are routinely pilloried and where terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are depicted as freedom fighters.

I don’t worry about Al Jazeera being able to persuade most Americans to buy into this skewed view of the world. What is worrisome is that Gore and other liberals such as the editorial writers at the Times seem to think there is a connection between this perspective and contemporary American liberalism.

Though the overwhelming majority of Americans reject this point of view and are strong supporters of Israel, polls have consistently shown us that liberals and Democrats are less likely to back the Jewish state than conservatives and Republicans. At the beginning of his career Gore was seen as the leader of the next generation of Scoop Jackson Democrats. That Al Gore would never have gotten into bed with Al Jazeera. But in his current incarnation as hypocritical environmental huckster and profiteer he seems to reflect the way the left has abandoned the principles that once united Democrats and Republicans on foreign policy. While conservatives and liberals have plenty to argue about, one would have hoped that they would be united in their revulsion against the kind of bias that Al Jazeera exemplifies. If indeed there is a connection between Al Jazeera’s views and contemporary liberalism, there is a sickness on the left that ought to trouble all Americans.

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A Perfect Match: Al Gore and Al Jazeera

The Al Jazeera television network has become a dominant force in Middle East communications as well as an expanding influence elsewhere, but up until now it has had trouble breaking through in the United States with a little watched English channel that is not widely available. No longer. With the sale of Al Gore’s Current TV cable network to Al Jazeera, the Qatar-government financed news giant will have a chance to reach an estimated 40 million American homes. Current TV has been a colossal flop in terms of viewership and quality, but its sale will make yet another fortune for the former vice president who has become wealthy through investments in so-called “green” companies.

In yet another example of the hypocrisy of wealthy left-wingers, Gore, who will receive an estimated $100 million of the reported half-billion-dollar sale price, made sure the transaction took place by the end of 2012 so as to avoid the higher taxes that went into effect as part of President Obama’s soak-the-rich fiscal cliff ultimatum. But there’s more to this story than the way the former Democratic Party standard-bearer parlayed a vanity project into a financial windfall. Rather, it is the way he will assist the plan of Al Jazeera, which has long been rightly dismissed by the American public as a platform for Islamist and anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda, to elbow its way into the U.S. media market and compete with cable news giants like CNN and MSNBC, if not the more popular Fox News. Though, as the New York Times noted, there is little evidence that there is any real demand among mainstream viewers for an English language version of the favorite network of Al Qaeda and other Islamists, the acquisition of Current and the creation of a new Al Jazeera English channel will mean the network’s biased outlook on the Middle East and the United States will be far more widely available here than ever before.

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The Al Jazeera television network has become a dominant force in Middle East communications as well as an expanding influence elsewhere, but up until now it has had trouble breaking through in the United States with a little watched English channel that is not widely available. No longer. With the sale of Al Gore’s Current TV cable network to Al Jazeera, the Qatar-government financed news giant will have a chance to reach an estimated 40 million American homes. Current TV has been a colossal flop in terms of viewership and quality, but its sale will make yet another fortune for the former vice president who has become wealthy through investments in so-called “green” companies.

In yet another example of the hypocrisy of wealthy left-wingers, Gore, who will receive an estimated $100 million of the reported half-billion-dollar sale price, made sure the transaction took place by the end of 2012 so as to avoid the higher taxes that went into effect as part of President Obama’s soak-the-rich fiscal cliff ultimatum. But there’s more to this story than the way the former Democratic Party standard-bearer parlayed a vanity project into a financial windfall. Rather, it is the way he will assist the plan of Al Jazeera, which has long been rightly dismissed by the American public as a platform for Islamist and anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda, to elbow its way into the U.S. media market and compete with cable news giants like CNN and MSNBC, if not the more popular Fox News. Though, as the New York Times noted, there is little evidence that there is any real demand among mainstream viewers for an English language version of the favorite network of Al Qaeda and other Islamists, the acquisition of Current and the creation of a new Al Jazeera English channel will mean the network’s biased outlook on the Middle East and the United States will be far more widely available here than ever before.

Though it is hard to imagine that the new Al Jazeera will ever be anything more than a niche network with little influence on the American political discussion, the key to the success of this very ambitious scheme will be in the marketing of its new incarnation. Gore, who will stay on as part of the board of what is tentatively called Al Jazeera America, will be part of an effort to mainstream the network:

In recent weeks, Mr. Gore personally lobbied the distributors that carry Current on the importance of Al Jazeera, according to people briefed on the talks who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Distributors can sometimes wiggle out of their carriage deals when channels change hands. Most consented to the sale, but Time Warner Cable did not.

Distribution is the key, since while few people watched Gore’s station, its availability via Comcast cable and Direct TV, outlets that had refused to carry Al Jazeera English since it was founded in 2006, made it valuable. That will mean that Al Jazeera America’s broadcasts emanating from New York studios as well as its headquarters in Doha, Qatar will have the chance to be watched by a vast American audience.

Al Jazeera won praise for its extensive coverage of the Arab Spring, but as it has become clear that Islamist hegemony rather than democracy will be the legacy of those protests, its hard to make the argument that the network has much to offer Americans. Though, as the Times notes, it will provide a “less parochial” outlook on the world than Americans are used to, its frame of reference about the U.S., Israel and Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas will keep it an outlier in American debates.

It’s not clear that the oil-rich magnates of Qatar will make their money back on this deal. Nor is it likely that Al Jazeera’s news with an Islamist and anti-American and anti-Israel slant will transform the discussion of the Middle East. But it may provide a bully pulpit to voices that have heretofore been confined to the fever swamps of U.S. politics and become another beachhead into the U.S. for those seeking to heighten international isolation of the Jewish state.

As for Gore, his role as a well-paid enabler of Al Jazeera will mean that his descent from a respected Scoop Jackson Democrat to a profiteering leftist huckster will be complete.

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Where’s Al Gore? Where He Belongs

Tonight is Bill Clinton’s much-anticipated speech to the Democratic National Convention, but as Politico noted this morning, a very high-profile member of Clinton’s administration will be missing his first convention since he left office: Al Gore.

Politico offers the reason–the country’s complete lack of interest in the global warming crusade–but gets the progression of Gore’s fading from the spotlight backwards. Politico writes:

Gore’s evolution over the past four years — from a central figure in the Democratic Party to a no-show at its biggest event — matches what has happened to the issue of climate change itself, which moved to the sidelines alongside its chief crusader, environmentalists and some Democrats say.

It’s not like Gore hasn’t noticed — and his frustration with Obama has been on display. He’s leveled criticism at Obama for abandoning the push for a climate change bill. He accused him of failing to use the bully pulpit to spread the word about the dangers of rising global temperatures. And he faulted Obama for putting off tough new smog regulations.

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Tonight is Bill Clinton’s much-anticipated speech to the Democratic National Convention, but as Politico noted this morning, a very high-profile member of Clinton’s administration will be missing his first convention since he left office: Al Gore.

Politico offers the reason–the country’s complete lack of interest in the global warming crusade–but gets the progression of Gore’s fading from the spotlight backwards. Politico writes:

Gore’s evolution over the past four years — from a central figure in the Democratic Party to a no-show at its biggest event — matches what has happened to the issue of climate change itself, which moved to the sidelines alongside its chief crusader, environmentalists and some Democrats say.

It’s not like Gore hasn’t noticed — and his frustration with Obama has been on display. He’s leveled criticism at Obama for abandoning the push for a climate change bill. He accused him of failing to use the bully pulpit to spread the word about the dangers of rising global temperatures. And he faulted Obama for putting off tough new smog regulations.

It’s true that as Gore’s discredited claims and hypocritical lifestyle were shoved aside by concerns about the economy, Gore’s presence in the media went with them. But Gore marginalized global warming as much as global warming marginalized him. And more specifically, had Gore been a well-rounded politician with a general grasp on a range of subjects who retained the admiration of his peers—as a vice president and almost-president should—he would never have disappeared from view.

Instead, Gore went from stolid but respected vice president to sidelined enviro-zealot building an invisible cable television station around Keith Olbermann (who has also since disappeared completely from view). That’s not a sad commentary on a supposedly indifferent public whistling past the polar bear graveyard; rather, it’s an indication that Gore gave up on serious public policy and has appropriately and expectedly lost the attention of the public because of it.

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Not a “Buddy Movie” for Obama and Biden

Vice President Biden’s recent remarks about gay marriage have prompted a wave of stories about his role in both the Obama administration and its re-election campaign. But whether or not, as Alana noted, you believe there was some method to Biden’s madness when he got out in front of the president on that issue, there’s little question that the incumbent veep is cut from a different mold than Dick Cheney or even Al Gore, both of whom seemed to have more clout in the government than Biden does.

Indeed, as this profile in today’s New York Times seems to be saying, Biden is something of a throwback to a different kind of politics and even a different sort of vice presidency than the one in which the veep is treated with a bit more deference and given more responsibility. Biden’s chronic case of hoof-in-mouth disease has limited his utility to the president to being the contrarian in the room as well as designated attack dog and defender of the Democratic leader. The key question for Biden-watchers during the next six months is not so much how often the veep goes off the Obama reservation but how much his various utterances will betray a desire to go into business for himself in 2016?

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Vice President Biden’s recent remarks about gay marriage have prompted a wave of stories about his role in both the Obama administration and its re-election campaign. But whether or not, as Alana noted, you believe there was some method to Biden’s madness when he got out in front of the president on that issue, there’s little question that the incumbent veep is cut from a different mold than Dick Cheney or even Al Gore, both of whom seemed to have more clout in the government than Biden does.

Indeed, as this profile in today’s New York Times seems to be saying, Biden is something of a throwback to a different kind of politics and even a different sort of vice presidency than the one in which the veep is treated with a bit more deference and given more responsibility. Biden’s chronic case of hoof-in-mouth disease has limited his utility to the president to being the contrarian in the room as well as designated attack dog and defender of the Democratic leader. The key question for Biden-watchers during the next six months is not so much how often the veep goes off the Obama reservation but how much his various utterances will betray a desire to go into business for himself in 2016?

We are told the often testy relationship between the two in their early days in office together has now changed to a genuine friendship But the idea of the vice president as a “utility player” whose value is as “the guy who does a bunch of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” as Obama has been quoted as saying, is just a nice way of saying the president hasn’t trusted Biden in the way Bush trusted Cheney or Bill Clinton trusted Gore. Though he can always be counted on to “help stir the pot,” that’s a contrast to the greater responsibility that was placed on his immediate predecessors. If as Ronald Klain, who worked for both Gore and Biden, puts it, the president and vice president “haven’t tried to turn this into some sort of buddy movie,” neither is it the ideal working relationship.

Which is to say that though Biden isn’t the lost soul who many vice presidents resembled while presiding over the Senate and doing little else, he has also become a punch line. If he was added to the ticket in 2008 in the hope that his foreign policy experience — an odd notion as there is hardly an international issue on which Biden has not been consistently wrong — he remains there more out of inertia than anything else.

That’s why the incessant talk of Biden actively thinking about 2016 — talk that most suspect originates in the office of the vice president and nowhere else — makes it likely that the president’s patience for the veep’s gaffes will decrease during the course of the campaign and a potential second term. Though Biden’s grasp of political reality has never been that firm, one wonders whether he fancies being the first sitting vice president to be rejected by his own party for the top spot since John Nance Garner failed to oust his erstwhile boss Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940.

In the meantime, Obama can continue to count on Biden to swing away on his weak spots, including his record on Israel. Biden again vouched for the president’s bona fides on Israel today in a speech to the Rabbinical Assembly. But, as with many of his utterances on a wide range of topics, the vice president’s grasp of facts remains sketchy. Two weeks ago, I commented that in a previous speech, Biden had mistakenly compared Obama to Harry Truman’s efforts on behalf of Israel’s security. Today he doubled down on that by saying again, “No president since Harry Truman has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama.”

In fact, no president other than the quite hostile Dwight Eisenhower did less for Israel’s security than Truman. Every president subsequent to Ike made a serious contribution to enhancing the security of the Jewish state that surpassed Truman’s, and that includes Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and the elder George Bush, as well as genuine friends such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and the younger Bush. But as President Obama has learned, when Joe Biden talks, it’s customary to take whatever he says with a shovelful of salt.

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Robot Romney for President

Today, BuzzFeed released “25 Photos of Mitt Romney Looking Normal,” and — to my surprise — he actually looks normal! Along with the photo series, one of BuzzFeed’s political reporters wrote a column highlighting the Romney family’s social media prowess, wondering why the candidate can’t connect as well as his family members seem to (without ever seeming to reach a conclusion). BuzzFeed reports:

Mary Romney’s blog, Kendrick said, is a “very typical” example of the genre. Titled “Me & My Boys,” it has apparently been open to public view for years, drawing occasional interest from the political class. The blog was made private shortly after BuzzFeed asked the campaign about it, and about the Romney family’s social media presence in general.

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Today, BuzzFeed released “25 Photos of Mitt Romney Looking Normal,” and — to my surprise — he actually looks normal! Along with the photo series, one of BuzzFeed’s political reporters wrote a column highlighting the Romney family’s social media prowess, wondering why the candidate can’t connect as well as his family members seem to (without ever seeming to reach a conclusion). BuzzFeed reports:

Mary Romney’s blog, Kendrick said, is a “very typical” example of the genre. Titled “Me & My Boys,” it has apparently been open to public view for years, drawing occasional interest from the political class. The blog was made private shortly after BuzzFeed asked the campaign about it, and about the Romney family’s social media presence in general.

This strikes me as perhaps the worst public relations idea the campaign has had in… days. The photos taken for the “Romney looking normal” series were taken from his daughter-in-law’s blog, which were then mined by the BuzzFeed staff. BuzzFeed, without a political agenda, wanted to highlight something foreign to its visitors – Mitt Romney looking non-robotic, unengineered. Finding photos of Romney looking this different, this average, was newsworthy enough on an otherwise slow news day. After these photos were gathered (by a staff not paid by the Romney campaign), the campaign’s response was to shut down the only public source of authentic Romney coverage, his daughter-in-law’s Mommy blog. This shut down will help perpetuate the same public image that has haunted Romney this entire campaign: a rich guy trying desperately to fit in with the Average Joe, but coming off inauthentic and slightly creepy in the process.

The Santorum campaign has been a success of late because of, not in spite of, the sweater vests – he is the anti-Romney. Santorum has spent a fraction of what his competitors have, instead making the rounds at venues large and small, connecting with voters one-on-one. In meetings, town halls and rallies across the country, voters see Santorum as a  genuine family-oriented conservative, the grandson of a coal miner and a devoted father.

What could the Romney campaign learn from Santorum? For starters: stop being afraid to be real, let down the walls around the campaign. Stop posting posed pictures of yourself doing laundry on your son’s Twitter account. Stop contacting Mormon Mommy bloggers, asking them to follow your messaging. Let your daughter-in-law do what she’s been doing: portraying you as a real person (if her blog had embarrassing details, BuzzFeed would have exposed them when the blog was public). Let voters see the real Mitt Romney, whoever he is.

If Romney can’t shake the perception others have of him, this will be a replay of the 2000 Gore campaign. In the summer before the 2000 election, the Washington Post reported that 65 percent of Americans thought Gore’s “stiffness” was a problem for his campaign, and the same amount of voters said the word “inspiring” did not apply to him. Leading up to the 2000 election, “Saturday Night Live‘s” number one caricature of Gore was how Romney will be portrayed if he becomes the nominee: A robot. With a public relations shop as bad as Romney’s, get ready for some reruns.

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The Extremism of E.J. Dionne Jr.

E.J. Dionne Jr. has a column registering his concerns about the “No Labels” group. But he isn’t entirely critical. Dionne makes it clear that there are some things he’s sympathetic to, including this:

The No Labelers are also right to be repulsed by the replacement of real argument with a vicious brand of name-calling. When a president of the United States is attacked simultaneously as an “extreme liberal liar” and a “Nazi,” there is a sick irrationality at work in our discourse.

It’s perhaps worth noting that during the Bush presidency, when George W. Bush was slandered by leading members of the Democratic Party as a “moral coward” (Vice President Al Gore), as a “loser” and a “liar” who had “betrayed his country” (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid), and who “Week after week after week after week … told lie after lie after lie after lie” (Senator Edward Kennedy), Dionne, in an amazing feat of self-control, held his outrage in abeyance. Back then, it was not “sick irrationality at work in our discourse”; it was just the normal, good-spirited back and forth of American politics. And if E.J. has written a column reprimanding the loathsome Representative Alan Grayson for his vicious brand of name-calling, I missed it. (Grayson dubbed his opponent Daniel Webster “Taliban Dan” in a deeply dishonest ad. He has also said, “If you get sick, America, the Republican health-care plan is this: Die quickly.” And for good measure, Grayson has compared Republicans to “knuckle-dragging Neanderthals” and Nazis burning the Reichstag.)

In any event, in his column Dionne goes on to assure us that “I am still devoted to moderation.” Of course he is. But what’s really troubling him are those right-wing extremist Republicans and conservatives. Moderation, you see, is “very much alive on the center-left and among Democrats” — but it is “so dead in the Republican Party and on the right.” The No Labelers can yet be a constructive force, Dionne instructs us, “if they remind us of how extreme the right has become and help broker an alliance between the center and the left, the only coalition that can realistically stop an ever more zealous brand of conservatism.”

E.J. faces a bit of a problem, of course. The GOP he deems to be so radical, so zealous, and so outside the mainstream is barely a month removed from a historically successful midterm election. Republicans picked up more House seats (63) than in any election since 1938 and have not enjoyed this much power in state capitals since the 1920s. In addition, Americans, by a greater than 2-to-1 margin, self-identify as conservative rather than liberal. Public trust in government is at record lows; so is the approval rating for the Democratically controlled Congress. And the signature domestic initiative of the Obama presidency, health-care reform, is quite unpopular and falling short of virtually every promise its advocates made on its behalf. Read More

E.J. Dionne Jr. has a column registering his concerns about the “No Labels” group. But he isn’t entirely critical. Dionne makes it clear that there are some things he’s sympathetic to, including this:

The No Labelers are also right to be repulsed by the replacement of real argument with a vicious brand of name-calling. When a president of the United States is attacked simultaneously as an “extreme liberal liar” and a “Nazi,” there is a sick irrationality at work in our discourse.

It’s perhaps worth noting that during the Bush presidency, when George W. Bush was slandered by leading members of the Democratic Party as a “moral coward” (Vice President Al Gore), as a “loser” and a “liar” who had “betrayed his country” (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid), and who “Week after week after week after week … told lie after lie after lie after lie” (Senator Edward Kennedy), Dionne, in an amazing feat of self-control, held his outrage in abeyance. Back then, it was not “sick irrationality at work in our discourse”; it was just the normal, good-spirited back and forth of American politics. And if E.J. has written a column reprimanding the loathsome Representative Alan Grayson for his vicious brand of name-calling, I missed it. (Grayson dubbed his opponent Daniel Webster “Taliban Dan” in a deeply dishonest ad. He has also said, “If you get sick, America, the Republican health-care plan is this: Die quickly.” And for good measure, Grayson has compared Republicans to “knuckle-dragging Neanderthals” and Nazis burning the Reichstag.)

In any event, in his column Dionne goes on to assure us that “I am still devoted to moderation.” Of course he is. But what’s really troubling him are those right-wing extremist Republicans and conservatives. Moderation, you see, is “very much alive on the center-left and among Democrats” — but it is “so dead in the Republican Party and on the right.” The No Labelers can yet be a constructive force, Dionne instructs us, “if they remind us of how extreme the right has become and help broker an alliance between the center and the left, the only coalition that can realistically stop an ever more zealous brand of conservatism.”

E.J. faces a bit of a problem, of course. The GOP he deems to be so radical, so zealous, and so outside the mainstream is barely a month removed from a historically successful midterm election. Republicans picked up more House seats (63) than in any election since 1938 and have not enjoyed this much power in state capitals since the 1920s. In addition, Americans, by a greater than 2-to-1 margin, self-identify as conservative rather than liberal. Public trust in government is at record lows; so is the approval rating for the Democratically controlled Congress. And the signature domestic initiative of the Obama presidency, health-care reform, is quite unpopular and falling short of virtually every promise its advocates made on its behalf.

If you want to place the Devoted-to-Moderation Dionne on the political spectrum, consider that he’s a great defender of the soon-to-be-ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose own extremism led to her registering an 8 percent favorability rating among independents just prior to the election (61 percent viewed her unfavorably).

The main problem for E.J., though, is that the 2010 midterm election was a massive repudiation of contemporary liberalism, as embodied by people like President Obama and E.J. Dionne. It was among the most nationalized midterm elections in our history. Having lived under liberal governance for two years, the public reacted to it like the human body reacts to food poisoning. This is something that Dionne doesn’t seem able to process; his ideology won’t allow it. And so he continues to bellow, week after week, about how radical the right has become.

It’s true that Dionne’s columns highlight political extremism of a sort. But the extremism is his, not conservatism’s.

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Memo to Congress: Do Nothing!

Gilbert and Sullivan made fun of the British House of Lords in Iolanthe thus:

When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte,

As every child can tell,

The House of Peers, throughout the war,

Did nothing in particular,

And did it very well.

The American Congress — not itself unknown for doing nothing in particular on occasion — has an opportunity in the next couple of weeks to do nothing at all and render the country a considerable service thereby.

What it needs to do nothing about is ethanol, one of the truly epic boondoggles in American history. As the ball falls in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, both the 45-cent-a-gallon tax credit on ethanol (which goes to companies that blend ethanol and gasoline, i.e., Shell, Exxon, et al.) and the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on foreign ethanol will expire, unless Congress acts.

The 45-cent tax credit costs the government $5-6 billion a year and is opposed by such strange bedfellows as the Sierra Club and the National Taxpayers Union. Those in favor are, no surprise, ethanol producers and the farmers who grow the corn it is made from. The 54-cent tariff, which, of course, is paid by American consumers, keeps cheaper foreign (mostly Brazilian) ethanol out of the American market.

Ethanol was supposed to be the road to American energy independence (sticking it to big oil into the bargain), while cutting down on the risk to the environment from traditional oil drilling. But even Al Gore is now against it. “One of the reasons I made that mistake [of supporting subsidies for corn ethanol],” he recently said, “is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

Since federal law now mandates that motor fuel contain 10 percent ethanol, both the tax credit and the tariff favor only the few (corn farmers and ethanol producers) at the expense of the many (taxpayers and drivers).

Once a tax or a credit is in place, it is often very hard to get it repealed, because the special interests benefited fight fiercely to see that it remains on the books, while the general interest does not fight nearly as hard to get senators and congressmen to vote to repeal. Political inertia is the lobbyist’s best friend. But in this case, Congress merely has to do nothing: let the tariff and the credit get lost in the hectic final days of the lame duck session and call it a job well done.

Even members of Congress should be able to that.

Gilbert and Sullivan made fun of the British House of Lords in Iolanthe thus:

When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte,

As every child can tell,

The House of Peers, throughout the war,

Did nothing in particular,

And did it very well.

The American Congress — not itself unknown for doing nothing in particular on occasion — has an opportunity in the next couple of weeks to do nothing at all and render the country a considerable service thereby.

What it needs to do nothing about is ethanol, one of the truly epic boondoggles in American history. As the ball falls in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, both the 45-cent-a-gallon tax credit on ethanol (which goes to companies that blend ethanol and gasoline, i.e., Shell, Exxon, et al.) and the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on foreign ethanol will expire, unless Congress acts.

The 45-cent tax credit costs the government $5-6 billion a year and is opposed by such strange bedfellows as the Sierra Club and the National Taxpayers Union. Those in favor are, no surprise, ethanol producers and the farmers who grow the corn it is made from. The 54-cent tariff, which, of course, is paid by American consumers, keeps cheaper foreign (mostly Brazilian) ethanol out of the American market.

Ethanol was supposed to be the road to American energy independence (sticking it to big oil into the bargain), while cutting down on the risk to the environment from traditional oil drilling. But even Al Gore is now against it. “One of the reasons I made that mistake [of supporting subsidies for corn ethanol],” he recently said, “is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

Since federal law now mandates that motor fuel contain 10 percent ethanol, both the tax credit and the tariff favor only the few (corn farmers and ethanol producers) at the expense of the many (taxpayers and drivers).

Once a tax or a credit is in place, it is often very hard to get it repealed, because the special interests benefited fight fiercely to see that it remains on the books, while the general interest does not fight nearly as hard to get senators and congressmen to vote to repeal. Political inertia is the lobbyist’s best friend. But in this case, Congress merely has to do nothing: let the tariff and the credit get lost in the hectic final days of the lame duck session and call it a job well done.

Even members of Congress should be able to that.

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A Shot Across Their Bow

On Friday, Democrats (other than Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer, who are vying to lead their party in the Senate) got some bad news that, for a change, was not economic: “The National Rifle Association declines to endorse Senator Harry Reid, citing his votes for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, which is a blow, since the group backed him in the past.”

This is significant for several reasons. First, the NRA’s endorsement is critical in a large number of states. No less a political guru than Bill Clinton acknowledged that the NRA “made Gingrich the House speaker” in 1994 and  toppled Al Gore in  2000. Granted, ardor on the Second Amendment may have cooled as Democrats have sought to downplay the issue and since the Supreme Court affirmed it is both a personal right and binding on the states. However, the NRA continues to be a powerful interest group that can provide troops on the ground and critical advertising for its preferred candidates.

The announcement is also important because it signals that the group thinks Reid is a dead duck. Otherwise, why risk annoying the Senate Majority Leader? Its political calculation may influence donors and other special-interest groups to dump Reid and place their bets and money elsewhere.

And finally, this is a fitting and unmistakable warning about Supreme Court nominees. For years, Democrats and some Republicans felt their votes were “free” — they could, with impunity and without regard to their constituents’ views, vote to confirm nominees whose records reflected outright hostility to the Second Amendment. The NRA is making it clear that lawmakers are going to be held responsible for their votes. So Lindsey Graham, who voted yes on both the Kagan and Sotomayor nominations, is on notice: don’t expect the NRA’s support.

On Friday, Democrats (other than Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer, who are vying to lead their party in the Senate) got some bad news that, for a change, was not economic: “The National Rifle Association declines to endorse Senator Harry Reid, citing his votes for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, which is a blow, since the group backed him in the past.”

This is significant for several reasons. First, the NRA’s endorsement is critical in a large number of states. No less a political guru than Bill Clinton acknowledged that the NRA “made Gingrich the House speaker” in 1994 and  toppled Al Gore in  2000. Granted, ardor on the Second Amendment may have cooled as Democrats have sought to downplay the issue and since the Supreme Court affirmed it is both a personal right and binding on the states. However, the NRA continues to be a powerful interest group that can provide troops on the ground and critical advertising for its preferred candidates.

The announcement is also important because it signals that the group thinks Reid is a dead duck. Otherwise, why risk annoying the Senate Majority Leader? Its political calculation may influence donors and other special-interest groups to dump Reid and place their bets and money elsewhere.

And finally, this is a fitting and unmistakable warning about Supreme Court nominees. For years, Democrats and some Republicans felt their votes were “free” — they could, with impunity and without regard to their constituents’ views, vote to confirm nominees whose records reflected outright hostility to the Second Amendment. The NRA is making it clear that lawmakers are going to be held responsible for their votes. So Lindsey Graham, who voted yes on both the Kagan and Sotomayor nominations, is on notice: don’t expect the NRA’s support.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The local Pennsylvania media find Joe Sestak’s answers on earmarks to be all wet (“a vague, disingenuous attempt to polish his own credentials”): “The Democratic congressman and Senate candidate should work a little harder to reconcile taking campaign contributions from those benefiting from federal ‘earmarks’ (which direct money to be spent on specific projects) while claiming ‘a personal policy’ against doing so.”

As hopes for direct peace talks slip away, Hillary frantically “burns up the phone lines” to the players in the Middle East.

Obama’s approval ratings in Gallup continue to nosedive (45% approval, 49% disapproval).

A federal-court judge torpedoes the Arizona immigration law (a ruling certain to be appealed): “Judge [Susan] Bolton took aim at the parts of the law that have generated the most controversy, issuing a preliminary injunction against sections that called for police officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times. Judge [Susan] Bolton put those sections on hold while she continued to hear the larger issues in the challenges to the law. ‘Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced,’ she said. ‘There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens.’”

Democrats are awaiting the November wave – so what’s the message for avoiding a wipeout? The other guys are wackos. This is the argument: “The Republicans want to be mayors of crazy-town. They’ve embraced a fringe and proto-racist isolationist and ignorant conservative populism that has no solutions for fixing anything and the collective intelligence of a wine flask.” How can the voters resist?

Al Gore is in hot water: “Before all the unpleasantness, the former vice president was mainly known as the planet’s premiere environmentalist and anti-global-warming crusader. He has been a bestselling author, Oscar-winning filmmaker, successful businessman and, lest we forget, the man millions still believe should have been sworn in as president in January 2001. But now the 62-year-old Gore is tabloid fodder—notorious as a ‘crazed sex poodle.’”

Obama’s plea that he really isn’t anti-business is being drowned out: “Republicans and business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have driven home the message that the Obama administration is curtailing private-sector growth. They point to tax increases proposed by the White House as well as an uncertain regulatory environment brought about by massive reforms to the healthcare sector and Wall Street. Businesses are said to be sitting on $2 trillion in income but are not hiring, partly because of the administration’s policies, according to Republicans.”

The local Pennsylvania media find Joe Sestak’s answers on earmarks to be all wet (“a vague, disingenuous attempt to polish his own credentials”): “The Democratic congressman and Senate candidate should work a little harder to reconcile taking campaign contributions from those benefiting from federal ‘earmarks’ (which direct money to be spent on specific projects) while claiming ‘a personal policy’ against doing so.”

As hopes for direct peace talks slip away, Hillary frantically “burns up the phone lines” to the players in the Middle East.

Obama’s approval ratings in Gallup continue to nosedive (45% approval, 49% disapproval).

A federal-court judge torpedoes the Arizona immigration law (a ruling certain to be appealed): “Judge [Susan] Bolton took aim at the parts of the law that have generated the most controversy, issuing a preliminary injunction against sections that called for police officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times. Judge [Susan] Bolton put those sections on hold while she continued to hear the larger issues in the challenges to the law. ‘Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced,’ she said. ‘There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens.’”

Democrats are awaiting the November wave – so what’s the message for avoiding a wipeout? The other guys are wackos. This is the argument: “The Republicans want to be mayors of crazy-town. They’ve embraced a fringe and proto-racist isolationist and ignorant conservative populism that has no solutions for fixing anything and the collective intelligence of a wine flask.” How can the voters resist?

Al Gore is in hot water: “Before all the unpleasantness, the former vice president was mainly known as the planet’s premiere environmentalist and anti-global-warming crusader. He has been a bestselling author, Oscar-winning filmmaker, successful businessman and, lest we forget, the man millions still believe should have been sworn in as president in January 2001. But now the 62-year-old Gore is tabloid fodder—notorious as a ‘crazed sex poodle.’”

Obama’s plea that he really isn’t anti-business is being drowned out: “Republicans and business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have driven home the message that the Obama administration is curtailing private-sector growth. They point to tax increases proposed by the White House as well as an uncertain regulatory environment brought about by massive reforms to the healthcare sector and Wall Street. Businesses are said to be sitting on $2 trillion in income but are not hiring, partly because of the administration’s policies, according to Republicans.”

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Massachusetts Dems Still Trying to Reverse Bush v. Gore

It’s a little late to help Al Gore, but the loyal Democrats of Massachusetts are still trying to reverse the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. The Bay State’s legislature ratified a bill today mandating that, in the future, all of their votes in the electoral college will go to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote — no matter whom the citizens of Massachusetts preferred. The catch to this scheme is that it will not go into effect until the total of electoral votes from states that have passed similar laws reaches 270 — the number of votes needed to win the presidency.

While the Electoral College has always had its critics, grousing over the arcane system devised by the Founders was never loud enough to reach the point where an alternative might be seriously considered — at least not until the hanging chads of Florida in 2000. The razor-thin outcome of that state’s voting embittered Democrats, many of whom cling to the fiction that the 2000 election was “stolen.” It wasn’t — but the anomalous result, whereby the winner of the most electoral votes did not also win the popular vote, was seen, not unreasonably, as somehow unfair. Though resistance from small states would make a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College virtually impossible, a scenario whereby enough states embrace the plan that Massachusetts has just passed — which would abolish the College for all intents and purposes — is a realistic option. At this moment, five generally Democratic states — Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington — in addition to Massachusetts have ratified such laws. That gives advocates of the idea 73 electoral votes. That’s a long way from 270 but it is not a stretch to imagine that the addition of a few large Blue States to that total would put the Electoral College on the verge of extinction.

It is understandable that most contemporary Americans view with dismay the Founders’ desire to put the selection of the president in the hands of notables rather than those of the people. But the virtues of the College are not limited to the pull of tradition, though that should not be underestimated. Critics of the current system point out that the realities of Electoral College mathematics push presidential candidates to concentrate their energies on states whose votes are up for grabs while they ignore those that are safely in the pockets of either party. But its abolition will more or less render all small states and non-urban areas no-go zones for the candidates. An election in which only the national popular vote counts might limit the campaigns to the two coasts and a few big cities in between them, with most of the country being truly relegated to the status of “flyover” territory. Will that be an improvement?

Even more to the point, we should remember that the real reason this “reform” is being championed by some legislators is the fact that the Democrats were the losers in 2000. Had the outcome been the reverse — and prior to the last weekend before the voting that year, when revelations about Bush’s DUI came out, an outcome in which Bush won the popular vote and Gore the Electoral College was widely seen as the more likely result — would Democrats be so eager to junk the system? And will Boston Democrats really be happy if their electoral votes wind up going to a Republican that was swamped in Massachusetts but won elsewhere?

Imperfect though it is, the Electoral College is an embodiment of the Founders’ belief in both federalism and the idea that the country ought not to be dominated by the largest states. The partisan rancor that has divided this country in the 10 years since Bush v. Gore is a poor reason to scrap a venerable institution.

It’s a little late to help Al Gore, but the loyal Democrats of Massachusetts are still trying to reverse the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. The Bay State’s legislature ratified a bill today mandating that, in the future, all of their votes in the electoral college will go to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote — no matter whom the citizens of Massachusetts preferred. The catch to this scheme is that it will not go into effect until the total of electoral votes from states that have passed similar laws reaches 270 — the number of votes needed to win the presidency.

While the Electoral College has always had its critics, grousing over the arcane system devised by the Founders was never loud enough to reach the point where an alternative might be seriously considered — at least not until the hanging chads of Florida in 2000. The razor-thin outcome of that state’s voting embittered Democrats, many of whom cling to the fiction that the 2000 election was “stolen.” It wasn’t — but the anomalous result, whereby the winner of the most electoral votes did not also win the popular vote, was seen, not unreasonably, as somehow unfair. Though resistance from small states would make a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College virtually impossible, a scenario whereby enough states embrace the plan that Massachusetts has just passed — which would abolish the College for all intents and purposes — is a realistic option. At this moment, five generally Democratic states — Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington — in addition to Massachusetts have ratified such laws. That gives advocates of the idea 73 electoral votes. That’s a long way from 270 but it is not a stretch to imagine that the addition of a few large Blue States to that total would put the Electoral College on the verge of extinction.

It is understandable that most contemporary Americans view with dismay the Founders’ desire to put the selection of the president in the hands of notables rather than those of the people. But the virtues of the College are not limited to the pull of tradition, though that should not be underestimated. Critics of the current system point out that the realities of Electoral College mathematics push presidential candidates to concentrate their energies on states whose votes are up for grabs while they ignore those that are safely in the pockets of either party. But its abolition will more or less render all small states and non-urban areas no-go zones for the candidates. An election in which only the national popular vote counts might limit the campaigns to the two coasts and a few big cities in between them, with most of the country being truly relegated to the status of “flyover” territory. Will that be an improvement?

Even more to the point, we should remember that the real reason this “reform” is being championed by some legislators is the fact that the Democrats were the losers in 2000. Had the outcome been the reverse — and prior to the last weekend before the voting that year, when revelations about Bush’s DUI came out, an outcome in which Bush won the popular vote and Gore the Electoral College was widely seen as the more likely result — would Democrats be so eager to junk the system? And will Boston Democrats really be happy if their electoral votes wind up going to a Republican that was swamped in Massachusetts but won elsewhere?

Imperfect though it is, the Electoral College is an embodiment of the Founders’ belief in both federalism and the idea that the country ought not to be dominated by the largest states. The partisan rancor that has divided this country in the 10 years since Bush v. Gore is a poor reason to scrap a venerable institution.

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Global Warming Isn’t Proved by Summer Heat or Disproved by Winter Snow

Last winter, when the Northeast was buried under record snowfalls, some political activists had a little fun at the expense of global-warming alarmists by quipping that it was going to keep snowing until Al Gore said “uncle.” Those who peddle environmental hysteria denounced this argument, which was obviously tongue-in-cheek, as the sort of know-nothing idiocy that you can expect from all those who refuse to accept the true religion of global warming. Flash forward to what is proving a hot summer in the Northeast and, amazingly, we find the New York Times’s economic columnist Dave Leonhardt using the same sort of logic as that of the pranksters who built an igloo on Capitol Hill last February and dubbed it Al Gore’s new home. The only difference is that the Grey Lady’s economic wise man is putting forward his case without irony or apology.

The lede of Leonhardt’s column on Tuesday used the current heat wave as the opener for his complaint against members of Congress who refuse to pass President Obama’s energy bill, which would inaugurate a system of massive tax increases on business under the guise of a “cap-and-trade” system that would supposedly decrease carbon usage. Increasing numbers of Americans are skeptical about the theories that assume human responsibility for any climate change, in part because the Climategate scandal showed the lack of integrity on the part of the scientists who have hyped alarmist scenarios rather than sober science. But Leonhardt repeats, again without irony, the talk about the Himalayan Glaciers melting, without noting that his own newspaper reported that the much-ballyhooed assertion that the glaciers would melt by 2030 was a fraud based on bogus science.

Obama’s cap-and-trade scheme won’t pass, despite the laments of both Leonhardt and his fellow Times-man Tom Friedman, largely because most Americans are appalled at the idea of such a massive power grab by the government and know that imposing these sort of punitive taxes at a time of deep recession is a prescription for an economic disaster.

But the point here is that Leonhardt’s effort to whip up support for global-warming legislation because of a heat wave in the middle of summer is as silly as anyone who claimed that the fact that it snowed in the winter meant the opposite about global warming. The problem with global-warming science is the manipulation of data to prove a preordained conclusion, such as the now discredited “hockey stick” diagram, which “proved” global warming. Leonhardt’s arguments in favor of his statist solutions to the possibility of climate change are weak. But his attempt, based on the current temperature spikes, to shame members of Congress who wisely want no part of this fiscal catastrophe in the making shows a lack of intellectual integrity that strips his advocacy of any credibility.

Last winter, when the Northeast was buried under record snowfalls, some political activists had a little fun at the expense of global-warming alarmists by quipping that it was going to keep snowing until Al Gore said “uncle.” Those who peddle environmental hysteria denounced this argument, which was obviously tongue-in-cheek, as the sort of know-nothing idiocy that you can expect from all those who refuse to accept the true religion of global warming. Flash forward to what is proving a hot summer in the Northeast and, amazingly, we find the New York Times’s economic columnist Dave Leonhardt using the same sort of logic as that of the pranksters who built an igloo on Capitol Hill last February and dubbed it Al Gore’s new home. The only difference is that the Grey Lady’s economic wise man is putting forward his case without irony or apology.

The lede of Leonhardt’s column on Tuesday used the current heat wave as the opener for his complaint against members of Congress who refuse to pass President Obama’s energy bill, which would inaugurate a system of massive tax increases on business under the guise of a “cap-and-trade” system that would supposedly decrease carbon usage. Increasing numbers of Americans are skeptical about the theories that assume human responsibility for any climate change, in part because the Climategate scandal showed the lack of integrity on the part of the scientists who have hyped alarmist scenarios rather than sober science. But Leonhardt repeats, again without irony, the talk about the Himalayan Glaciers melting, without noting that his own newspaper reported that the much-ballyhooed assertion that the glaciers would melt by 2030 was a fraud based on bogus science.

Obama’s cap-and-trade scheme won’t pass, despite the laments of both Leonhardt and his fellow Times-man Tom Friedman, largely because most Americans are appalled at the idea of such a massive power grab by the government and know that imposing these sort of punitive taxes at a time of deep recession is a prescription for an economic disaster.

But the point here is that Leonhardt’s effort to whip up support for global-warming legislation because of a heat wave in the middle of summer is as silly as anyone who claimed that the fact that it snowed in the winter meant the opposite about global warming. The problem with global-warming science is the manipulation of data to prove a preordained conclusion, such as the now discredited “hockey stick” diagram, which “proved” global warming. Leonhardt’s arguments in favor of his statist solutions to the possibility of climate change are weak. But his attempt, based on the current temperature spikes, to shame members of Congress who wisely want no part of this fiscal catastrophe in the making shows a lack of intellectual integrity that strips his advocacy of any credibility.

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The Military vs. Obama

The news of the day is certainly Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s interview with Rolling Stone magazine and the potential fallout. Fox News reports:

The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops. “I found that time painful,” McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. “I was selling an unsellable position.” It quoted an adviser to McChrystal dismissing the early meeting with Obama as a “10-minute photo op.” “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. The boss was pretty disappointed,” the adviser told the magazine.

The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war “by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”

Asked by the Rolling Stone reporter about what he now feels of the war strategy advocated by Biden last fall – fewer troops, more drone attacks – McChrystal and his aides reportedly attempted to come up with a good one-liner to dismiss the question. “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal reportedly joked. “Who’s that?”

Biden initially opposed McChrystal’s proposal for additional forces last year. He favored a narrower focus on hunting terrorists.

“Biden?” one aide was quoted as saying. “Did you say: Bite me?”

Another aide reportedly called White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones, a retired four star general, a “clown” who was “stuck in 1985.”

Some of the strongest criticism, however, was reserved for Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The boss says he’s like a wounded animal,” one of the general’s aides was quoted as saying. “Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous.”

If [Karl] Eikenberry had doubts about the troop buildup, McChrystal said he never expressed them until a leaked internal document threw a wild card into the debate over whether to add more troops last November. In the document, Eikenberry said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was not a reliable partner for the counterinsurgency strategy McChrystal was hired to execute.

McChrystal said he felt “betrayed” and accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.

“Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books,” McChrystal told the magazine. “Now, if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so.”‘

Yeah, wow. There are two issues here — McChrystal’s behavior and the president’s management of the war.

As to the first, Dana Perino wisely advises, “Unless you’re Al Gore or Robert F. Kennedy Jr., if Rolling Stone calls, it’s not because they want to do a positive profile about you.” It was, as McChrystal concedes, a lapse in judgment and a very bad idea to spill his guts to any reporter. He’s been called to Washington to “explain” himself to Obama. Should he be fired? If he is doing his job and is essential to the war effort, then no. But Obama could well decide otherwise. The president is a notoriously thin-skinned man and may also see this as a strategic opportunity to show how tough he is. (Yes, he has the annoying habit of demonstrating how tough he is to someone/some country other than an enemy — Israel, not Iran, for example.)

The substance of what McChrystal is saying is obscured somewhat by the personalized tone (no doubt encouraged by the Rolling Stone reporter to whom the general should not have spoken). But the gravamen of what he is saying is serious and deeply troubling. He is giving voice to what many have been fretting about and what critics outside the administration have been harping on for some time: the White House and the civilian leadership are hampering our war effort. This is not a question of “civilian control”; the president has already declared, albeit with caveats and reservations, that he considers it vital to prevail in Afghanistan. The issue is whether the White House is competent enough and its advisers grown-up enough to support and not hinder the military.

At the very least, this demonstrates Obama’s complete failure to manage the war and to gain the confidence of the military. When this occurs, you can blame the general (again, he’s not disobeying operational orders but merely speaking out of school), but the fault lies with the commander in chief. McChrystal may resign or be fired, but his successor will have the same problems unless the White House gets it act together.

The news of the day is certainly Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s interview with Rolling Stone magazine and the potential fallout. Fox News reports:

The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops. “I found that time painful,” McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. “I was selling an unsellable position.” It quoted an adviser to McChrystal dismissing the early meeting with Obama as a “10-minute photo op.” “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. The boss was pretty disappointed,” the adviser told the magazine.

The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war “by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”

Asked by the Rolling Stone reporter about what he now feels of the war strategy advocated by Biden last fall – fewer troops, more drone attacks – McChrystal and his aides reportedly attempted to come up with a good one-liner to dismiss the question. “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal reportedly joked. “Who’s that?”

Biden initially opposed McChrystal’s proposal for additional forces last year. He favored a narrower focus on hunting terrorists.

“Biden?” one aide was quoted as saying. “Did you say: Bite me?”

Another aide reportedly called White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones, a retired four star general, a “clown” who was “stuck in 1985.”

Some of the strongest criticism, however, was reserved for Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The boss says he’s like a wounded animal,” one of the general’s aides was quoted as saying. “Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous.”

If [Karl] Eikenberry had doubts about the troop buildup, McChrystal said he never expressed them until a leaked internal document threw a wild card into the debate over whether to add more troops last November. In the document, Eikenberry said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was not a reliable partner for the counterinsurgency strategy McChrystal was hired to execute.

McChrystal said he felt “betrayed” and accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.

“Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books,” McChrystal told the magazine. “Now, if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so.”‘

Yeah, wow. There are two issues here — McChrystal’s behavior and the president’s management of the war.

As to the first, Dana Perino wisely advises, “Unless you’re Al Gore or Robert F. Kennedy Jr., if Rolling Stone calls, it’s not because they want to do a positive profile about you.” It was, as McChrystal concedes, a lapse in judgment and a very bad idea to spill his guts to any reporter. He’s been called to Washington to “explain” himself to Obama. Should he be fired? If he is doing his job and is essential to the war effort, then no. But Obama could well decide otherwise. The president is a notoriously thin-skinned man and may also see this as a strategic opportunity to show how tough he is. (Yes, he has the annoying habit of demonstrating how tough he is to someone/some country other than an enemy — Israel, not Iran, for example.)

The substance of what McChrystal is saying is obscured somewhat by the personalized tone (no doubt encouraged by the Rolling Stone reporter to whom the general should not have spoken). But the gravamen of what he is saying is serious and deeply troubling. He is giving voice to what many have been fretting about and what critics outside the administration have been harping on for some time: the White House and the civilian leadership are hampering our war effort. This is not a question of “civilian control”; the president has already declared, albeit with caveats and reservations, that he considers it vital to prevail in Afghanistan. The issue is whether the White House is competent enough and its advisers grown-up enough to support and not hinder the military.

At the very least, this demonstrates Obama’s complete failure to manage the war and to gain the confidence of the military. When this occurs, you can blame the general (again, he’s not disobeying operational orders but merely speaking out of school), but the fault lies with the commander in chief. McChrystal may resign or be fired, but his successor will have the same problems unless the White House gets it act together.

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Two Articles Worth Reading

The indispensable Walter Russell Mead over at the American Interest has a perceptive essay on the changing politics of climate change.

I’d suggest pairing it with an article in the Telegraph about a new report by the International Monetary Fund called “Navigating the Fiscal Challenges Ahead” (h/t Powerline). If you’re marooned on a desert island this weekend with time on your hands, here’s the complete report.

Both the ordinary people and the markets have woken up to the fact that many of the world’s biggest economies have, courtesy of their politicians, dug themselves into a deep hole and the next few years will have to be spent on climbing out of it or face fiscal disaster. That means no money for saving the planet from a global-warming catastrophe that fewer and fewer people believe in anyway. Al Gore will just have to cry his eyes out in his new 10,000-square-foot house (with nine bathrooms) overlooking the Pacific.

As Edmund Conway, the economics editor of the Telegraph, explains,

the idea behind the [IMF] document is to set out how much different countries around the world need to cut their deficits by in the next few years, and the bottom line is it’s going to be big and hard (ie 8.7pc of GDP in deficit cuts around the world, which works out at, gulp, about $4 trillion).

But the really interesting stuff is the detail, and what leaps out again and again is how much of a hill the U.S. has to climb. Exhibit A is the fact that under the Obama administration’s current fiscal plans, the national debt in the U.S. (on a gross basis) will climb to above 100 percent of GDP by 2015 — a far steeper increase than almost any other country.

Not the least of the problems for the United States is that the average maturity of federal securities is only 4.4 years. In Britain it’s 12.8 years and in Greece, 7.4 years. That means that half of all federal securities will need to be rolled over by mid-2014. If the market begins to lose faith in the U.S., the interest rates demanded by the market will soar and debt service will begin to crowd out other federal expenses. The IMF calculates that the United States will have to cut its structural debt by 12 percent of GDP over the next ten years to get back on track. That’s higher than any other country (Greece: 9 percent) except Japan.

No wonder the voters are in an unforgiving mood.

The indispensable Walter Russell Mead over at the American Interest has a perceptive essay on the changing politics of climate change.

I’d suggest pairing it with an article in the Telegraph about a new report by the International Monetary Fund called “Navigating the Fiscal Challenges Ahead” (h/t Powerline). If you’re marooned on a desert island this weekend with time on your hands, here’s the complete report.

Both the ordinary people and the markets have woken up to the fact that many of the world’s biggest economies have, courtesy of their politicians, dug themselves into a deep hole and the next few years will have to be spent on climbing out of it or face fiscal disaster. That means no money for saving the planet from a global-warming catastrophe that fewer and fewer people believe in anyway. Al Gore will just have to cry his eyes out in his new 10,000-square-foot house (with nine bathrooms) overlooking the Pacific.

As Edmund Conway, the economics editor of the Telegraph, explains,

the idea behind the [IMF] document is to set out how much different countries around the world need to cut their deficits by in the next few years, and the bottom line is it’s going to be big and hard (ie 8.7pc of GDP in deficit cuts around the world, which works out at, gulp, about $4 trillion).

But the really interesting stuff is the detail, and what leaps out again and again is how much of a hill the U.S. has to climb. Exhibit A is the fact that under the Obama administration’s current fiscal plans, the national debt in the U.S. (on a gross basis) will climb to above 100 percent of GDP by 2015 — a far steeper increase than almost any other country.

Not the least of the problems for the United States is that the average maturity of federal securities is only 4.4 years. In Britain it’s 12.8 years and in Greece, 7.4 years. That means that half of all federal securities will need to be rolled over by mid-2014. If the market begins to lose faith in the U.S., the interest rates demanded by the market will soar and debt service will begin to crowd out other federal expenses. The IMF calculates that the United States will have to cut its structural debt by 12 percent of GDP over the next ten years to get back on track. That’s higher than any other country (Greece: 9 percent) except Japan.

No wonder the voters are in an unforgiving mood.

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The Gray Lady Is Stunned: Black Republicans!

The New York Times is caught by surprise. “Unanticipated,” (by whom? liberal reporters?) the Gray Lady calls the discovery that “at least 32 African-Americans are running for Congress this year as Republicans, the biggest surge since Reconstruction, according to party officials.” The Times hastens to assure us that this is Obama’s doing — inspiring and trailblazing for Republicans — but hastens to cast gloom and doom on their prospects:

But Democrats and other political experts express skepticism about black Republicans’ chances in November. “In 1994 and 2000, there were 24 black G.O.P. nominees,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic political strategist who ran Al Gore’s presidential campaign and who is black. “And you didn’t see many of them win their elections.”

Tavis Smiley, a prominent black talk show host who has repeatedly criticized Republicans for not doing more to court black voters, said, “It’s worth remembering that the last time it was declared the ‘Year of the Black Republican,’ it fizzled out.”

Well,  far down in the report, the Times lets on that these candidates actually like the Tea Parties and are getting support from supposedly racist, know-nothings (oh, oops, now the media meme tells us they are upscale, over-educated and mainstream Republicans):

The black candidates interviewed overwhelmingly called the racist narrative a news media fiction. “I have been to these rallies, and there are hot dogs and banjos,” said Mr. West, the candidate in Florida, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army. “There is no violence or racism there.”

And what’s more, African Americans, the Times discovers, are attracted to conservative social positions. (“There is also some evidence that black voters rally around specific conservative causes. A case in point was a 2008 ballot initiative in California outlawing same-sex marriage that passed in large part because of support from black voters in Southern California.”)

If a batch of these candidates wins — with support from the Tea Parties, no less — what will the liberal chattering class do then? (Cognitive dissonance alert!) You can anticipate the spin. These are not “authentic” African-American leaders, they will say. Harry Reid may point out that they don’t sound Black. And the Congressional Black Caucus will be properly recast as the Liberal Congressional Black Caucus (unless the newcomers want to join, which will bring howls of protest from the liberals, who wouldn’t want their leftism to be diluted). But the “Republicans don’t like Blacks” meme (propounded by none other than the hapless Michael Steele) will take a bruising. After all, they can’t all be “inauthentic,” can they?

The New York Times is caught by surprise. “Unanticipated,” (by whom? liberal reporters?) the Gray Lady calls the discovery that “at least 32 African-Americans are running for Congress this year as Republicans, the biggest surge since Reconstruction, according to party officials.” The Times hastens to assure us that this is Obama’s doing — inspiring and trailblazing for Republicans — but hastens to cast gloom and doom on their prospects:

But Democrats and other political experts express skepticism about black Republicans’ chances in November. “In 1994 and 2000, there were 24 black G.O.P. nominees,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic political strategist who ran Al Gore’s presidential campaign and who is black. “And you didn’t see many of them win their elections.”

Tavis Smiley, a prominent black talk show host who has repeatedly criticized Republicans for not doing more to court black voters, said, “It’s worth remembering that the last time it was declared the ‘Year of the Black Republican,’ it fizzled out.”

Well,  far down in the report, the Times lets on that these candidates actually like the Tea Parties and are getting support from supposedly racist, know-nothings (oh, oops, now the media meme tells us they are upscale, over-educated and mainstream Republicans):

The black candidates interviewed overwhelmingly called the racist narrative a news media fiction. “I have been to these rallies, and there are hot dogs and banjos,” said Mr. West, the candidate in Florida, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army. “There is no violence or racism there.”

And what’s more, African Americans, the Times discovers, are attracted to conservative social positions. (“There is also some evidence that black voters rally around specific conservative causes. A case in point was a 2008 ballot initiative in California outlawing same-sex marriage that passed in large part because of support from black voters in Southern California.”)

If a batch of these candidates wins — with support from the Tea Parties, no less — what will the liberal chattering class do then? (Cognitive dissonance alert!) You can anticipate the spin. These are not “authentic” African-American leaders, they will say. Harry Reid may point out that they don’t sound Black. And the Congressional Black Caucus will be properly recast as the Liberal Congressional Black Caucus (unless the newcomers want to join, which will bring howls of protest from the liberals, who wouldn’t want their leftism to be diluted). But the “Republicans don’t like Blacks” meme (propounded by none other than the hapless Michael Steele) will take a bruising. After all, they can’t all be “inauthentic,” can they?

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Bill Clinton’s Double Standard on Rhetoric

The Big Dog has slipped his leash again.

Bill Clinton began a concerted attack on the Tea Party movement in the New York Times late last week:

With the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing approaching, former President Bill Clinton… drew parallels between the antigovernment tone that preceded that devastating attack and the political tumult of today, saying government critics must be mindful that angry words can stir violent actions…  “There can be real consequences when what you say animates people who do things you would never do,” Mr. Clinton said in an interview, saying that Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing, and those who assisted him, “were profoundly alienated, disconnected people who bought into this militant antigovernment line.”

“Because of the Internet, there is this vast echo chamber and our advocacy reaches into corners that never would have been possible before,” said Mr. Clinton, who said political messages are now able to reach those who are both “serious and seriously disturbed.”… Mr. Clinton said his intent was not to stifle debate or muzzle critics of the government but to encourage them to consider what repercussions could follow. He acknowledged that drawing the line between acceptable discourse and that which goes too far is difficult but that lawmakers and other officials should try.

“Have at it,” he said. “You can attack the politics. Criticize their policies. Don’t demonize them, and don’t say things that will encourage violent opposition.”

Then, at an event for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, he said this:

What we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or that we should reduce our passion for the positions we hold — but that the words we use really do matter, because there’s this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike.

As you would expect from Mr. Clinton, his words are both sophisticated and slick. There is even some truth to them. Words have meaning, and context matters. Public officials in particular should be careful not to exploit passions that can become harmful. There’s no rulebook that tells us which slang phrases and locutions are clever and which are inflammatory. Things that may be fine in one context might not be so in another. We have to rely on common sense and good judgment.

The problem for Mr. Clinton is that his concern about the dangers of incendiary rhetoric seems to have taken flight during the two terms of the Bush presidency, as well as during his own. Regarding the former, there was, for starters, the 2006 film, The Death of a President, on the assassination of President Bush. Mr. Clinton did not, to my knowledge, condemn the movie in a front-page story in the New York Times or in a major speech.

Moreover, George W. Bush was, during his two terms in office, routinely called a war criminal, an international terrorist, and compared to Hitler [see a photo gallery here and here]. Signs with bullet holes in Bush’s forehead, with blood running down his face, were all part of the fun and games. The president was accused of moral cowardice by Al Gore, of being a liar and the anti-Christ, and of being a totalitarian and dictatorial leader. Members of Congress such as Keith Ellison compared the attacks on September 11 to the Reichstag fire.

This was all pretty common fare during the Bush presidency. Yet Bush’s predecessor, Bill Clinton, remained silent, apparently unconcerned that such words would fall on the serious and the delirious, the connected and the unhinged, at the same time. And many of Mr. Clinton’s fellow Democrats, including his vice president, said words that encouraged the worst elements and instincts of the haters and the loons.

The Tea Party protests, in terms of the level of hate speech and the placards and signs used, don’t hold a candle to the anti-war protests we witnessed during the Bush years. Yet for some inexplicable reason — inexplicable because we all know the press and the political class are fantastically free of bias — the hate directed against Bush didn’t receive anything like the scrutiny the Tea Party is receiving.

It’s also worth recalling that the Clinton administration organized, coordinated, and participated in some of the ugliest rhetoric we have seen in recent American politics. I have in mind, for example, the campaign against Judge Ken Starr, who was the independent counsel during the Clinton-Lewinsky investigation. The Clinton team said Starr was a “spineless, gutless weasel” and “engaged in anti-constitutional destructiveness.” He was a “thug” and a “Grand Inquisitor for life.” His tactics were “frightening,” “vicious,” and “lawless.” His investigation was an “inquisition,” “smacks of Gestapo,” and “outstrips McCarthyism.” He was acting “irresponsibility, illegally.” Starr was “undermining the very integrity of the criminal-justice system.” The office of independent counsel was filled with “a crew of prosecutorial pirates” and Starr was using “instruments of intimidation and smear without restraint.”

And now Mr. Clinton is preaching to us about not demonizing our opponents and about the importance of not crossing rhetorical lines. Can a Clinton sermon on the importance of fidelity and the gift of celibacy be far behind?

The level of concern and consternation that is being directed at the Tea Party movement is hard to take seriously given the blinding double standard at play. When Bush was president and greater hate was directed at him than is today directed at Obama, the narrative was that this was a sign of Bush’s divisiveness. In those days dissent was the highest form of patriotism. Today, with Obama as president, everything is reversed. Obama is the victim, not the divider; dissent is viewed as sedition.

I have no problem at all condemning the Tea Party movement if it crosses lines of civility and reason. But the hypocrisy at play here is discrediting.

In a deeper sense, the impulse on display here is, despite what Clinton says, illiberal. The end game for many Tea Party critics isn’t to silence a few nuts in a movement comprising millions of people; it is to discredit the movement itself. It is to silence the overwhelming number of decent people who comprise the Tea Party movement by attaching them to the hip with haters and kooks.

This tactic will, I think, backfire. We are seeing a huge, lawful, civic uprising against the Obama agenda — and to slander people as clones of Timothy McVeigh will only add kindling wood and kerosene to this bonfire.

Liberals and the Democratic Party are losing virtually every substantive debate on the issues. It is blowing their circuits. And so they are left to resort to libel, to portray Tea Party participants as Timothy McVeighs in waiting. There will be a high price to pay for this ugly and petty tactic, beginning with the first Tuesday in November.

The Big Dog has slipped his leash again.

Bill Clinton began a concerted attack on the Tea Party movement in the New York Times late last week:

With the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing approaching, former President Bill Clinton… drew parallels between the antigovernment tone that preceded that devastating attack and the political tumult of today, saying government critics must be mindful that angry words can stir violent actions…  “There can be real consequences when what you say animates people who do things you would never do,” Mr. Clinton said in an interview, saying that Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing, and those who assisted him, “were profoundly alienated, disconnected people who bought into this militant antigovernment line.”

“Because of the Internet, there is this vast echo chamber and our advocacy reaches into corners that never would have been possible before,” said Mr. Clinton, who said political messages are now able to reach those who are both “serious and seriously disturbed.”… Mr. Clinton said his intent was not to stifle debate or muzzle critics of the government but to encourage them to consider what repercussions could follow. He acknowledged that drawing the line between acceptable discourse and that which goes too far is difficult but that lawmakers and other officials should try.

“Have at it,” he said. “You can attack the politics. Criticize their policies. Don’t demonize them, and don’t say things that will encourage violent opposition.”

Then, at an event for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, he said this:

What we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or that we should reduce our passion for the positions we hold — but that the words we use really do matter, because there’s this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike.

As you would expect from Mr. Clinton, his words are both sophisticated and slick. There is even some truth to them. Words have meaning, and context matters. Public officials in particular should be careful not to exploit passions that can become harmful. There’s no rulebook that tells us which slang phrases and locutions are clever and which are inflammatory. Things that may be fine in one context might not be so in another. We have to rely on common sense and good judgment.

The problem for Mr. Clinton is that his concern about the dangers of incendiary rhetoric seems to have taken flight during the two terms of the Bush presidency, as well as during his own. Regarding the former, there was, for starters, the 2006 film, The Death of a President, on the assassination of President Bush. Mr. Clinton did not, to my knowledge, condemn the movie in a front-page story in the New York Times or in a major speech.

Moreover, George W. Bush was, during his two terms in office, routinely called a war criminal, an international terrorist, and compared to Hitler [see a photo gallery here and here]. Signs with bullet holes in Bush’s forehead, with blood running down his face, were all part of the fun and games. The president was accused of moral cowardice by Al Gore, of being a liar and the anti-Christ, and of being a totalitarian and dictatorial leader. Members of Congress such as Keith Ellison compared the attacks on September 11 to the Reichstag fire.

This was all pretty common fare during the Bush presidency. Yet Bush’s predecessor, Bill Clinton, remained silent, apparently unconcerned that such words would fall on the serious and the delirious, the connected and the unhinged, at the same time. And many of Mr. Clinton’s fellow Democrats, including his vice president, said words that encouraged the worst elements and instincts of the haters and the loons.

The Tea Party protests, in terms of the level of hate speech and the placards and signs used, don’t hold a candle to the anti-war protests we witnessed during the Bush years. Yet for some inexplicable reason — inexplicable because we all know the press and the political class are fantastically free of bias — the hate directed against Bush didn’t receive anything like the scrutiny the Tea Party is receiving.

It’s also worth recalling that the Clinton administration organized, coordinated, and participated in some of the ugliest rhetoric we have seen in recent American politics. I have in mind, for example, the campaign against Judge Ken Starr, who was the independent counsel during the Clinton-Lewinsky investigation. The Clinton team said Starr was a “spineless, gutless weasel” and “engaged in anti-constitutional destructiveness.” He was a “thug” and a “Grand Inquisitor for life.” His tactics were “frightening,” “vicious,” and “lawless.” His investigation was an “inquisition,” “smacks of Gestapo,” and “outstrips McCarthyism.” He was acting “irresponsibility, illegally.” Starr was “undermining the very integrity of the criminal-justice system.” The office of independent counsel was filled with “a crew of prosecutorial pirates” and Starr was using “instruments of intimidation and smear without restraint.”

And now Mr. Clinton is preaching to us about not demonizing our opponents and about the importance of not crossing rhetorical lines. Can a Clinton sermon on the importance of fidelity and the gift of celibacy be far behind?

The level of concern and consternation that is being directed at the Tea Party movement is hard to take seriously given the blinding double standard at play. When Bush was president and greater hate was directed at him than is today directed at Obama, the narrative was that this was a sign of Bush’s divisiveness. In those days dissent was the highest form of patriotism. Today, with Obama as president, everything is reversed. Obama is the victim, not the divider; dissent is viewed as sedition.

I have no problem at all condemning the Tea Party movement if it crosses lines of civility and reason. But the hypocrisy at play here is discrediting.

In a deeper sense, the impulse on display here is, despite what Clinton says, illiberal. The end game for many Tea Party critics isn’t to silence a few nuts in a movement comprising millions of people; it is to discredit the movement itself. It is to silence the overwhelming number of decent people who comprise the Tea Party movement by attaching them to the hip with haters and kooks.

This tactic will, I think, backfire. We are seeing a huge, lawful, civic uprising against the Obama agenda — and to slander people as clones of Timothy McVeigh will only add kindling wood and kerosene to this bonfire.

Liberals and the Democratic Party are losing virtually every substantive debate on the issues. It is blowing their circuits. And so they are left to resort to libel, to portray Tea Party participants as Timothy McVeighs in waiting. There will be a high price to pay for this ugly and petty tactic, beginning with the first Tuesday in November.

Read Less




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