Commentary Magazine


Topic: CBS

Attkisson’s Problem and the Public’s

CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson has a bigger problem than the possibility that someone or some government agency has been tampering with her computer. Last week the investigative journalist acknowledged publicly that her work computers had been compromised. But as Dylan Byers makes clear in his piece about Attkisson in Politico published on Friday, her bigger problem is the fact that a lot of people at CBS think there’s something wrong with a journalist who is willing to report aggressively about the Obama administration’s shortcomings and scandals. That her willingness to push hard to find out the truth about scandals such as Fast and Furious, Solyndra and now Benghazi would be excoriated by left-wing websites such as Media Matters is no surprise since such partisans regard any scrutiny of a Democratic president as unacceptable. But what is truly worrisome is that Attkisson’s work is, we are told, seen by many at CBS as evidence of a “political agenda” and therefore unacceptable.

There are conflicting rumors about whether she’s on her way out at the network, and it may be that she will stay in her mainstream perch for the foreseeable future. But what is so ominous about this article is the way her critics at CBS—none of whom will speak publicly—seem to be echoing the views of the flacks at the White House. As Attkisson said on Laura Ingraham’s radio show in 2011:

“[The White House and Justice Department] will tell you that I’m the only reporter — as they told me — that is not reasonable,” Attkisson told Ingraham. “They say The Washington Post is reasonable, the L.A. Times is reasonable, The New York Times is reasonable, I’m the only one who thinks this is a story, and they think I’m unfair and biased by pursuing it.”

If, as Politico seems to imply, a lot of people working at CBS agree with this point of view and see any aggressive reporting about the president and his policies as evidence of wrong thinking, it appears as if this signals a fundamental shift in the way many in the mainstream media think about their profession. This won’t be a surprise to their conservative critics, who have long thought the major networks and leading dailies are hopelessly mired in liberal groupthink. But it ought to sadden anyone, no matter what their politics might be, who understands the role of a free press in a democracy.

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CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson has a bigger problem than the possibility that someone or some government agency has been tampering with her computer. Last week the investigative journalist acknowledged publicly that her work computers had been compromised. But as Dylan Byers makes clear in his piece about Attkisson in Politico published on Friday, her bigger problem is the fact that a lot of people at CBS think there’s something wrong with a journalist who is willing to report aggressively about the Obama administration’s shortcomings and scandals. That her willingness to push hard to find out the truth about scandals such as Fast and Furious, Solyndra and now Benghazi would be excoriated by left-wing websites such as Media Matters is no surprise since such partisans regard any scrutiny of a Democratic president as unacceptable. But what is truly worrisome is that Attkisson’s work is, we are told, seen by many at CBS as evidence of a “political agenda” and therefore unacceptable.

There are conflicting rumors about whether she’s on her way out at the network, and it may be that she will stay in her mainstream perch for the foreseeable future. But what is so ominous about this article is the way her critics at CBS—none of whom will speak publicly—seem to be echoing the views of the flacks at the White House. As Attkisson said on Laura Ingraham’s radio show in 2011:

“[The White House and Justice Department] will tell you that I’m the only reporter — as they told me — that is not reasonable,” Attkisson told Ingraham. “They say The Washington Post is reasonable, the L.A. Times is reasonable, The New York Times is reasonable, I’m the only one who thinks this is a story, and they think I’m unfair and biased by pursuing it.”

If, as Politico seems to imply, a lot of people working at CBS agree with this point of view and see any aggressive reporting about the president and his policies as evidence of wrong thinking, it appears as if this signals a fundamental shift in the way many in the mainstream media think about their profession. This won’t be a surprise to their conservative critics, who have long thought the major networks and leading dailies are hopelessly mired in liberal groupthink. But it ought to sadden anyone, no matter what their politics might be, who understands the role of a free press in a democracy.

While most journalists have been reliably liberal in their politics for generations, the culture of the profession has always valued an “agin’ the government” mentality in which all institutions are viewed with a fair amount of cynicism. So long as even liberal journalists regard it as their duty to ferret out stories about corruption, mismanagement and failure within the government, we can feel safe that no administration, even one that is favored by the left, will escape the scrutiny necessary to provide accountability.

But if the zeitgeist at CBS, and, no doubt, other such organizations has been altered to believe that President Obama must be treated with kid gloves, then mainstream journalism has been proven bankrupt. Coming after eight years during which these same news institutions hammered the George W. Bush administration (including hard-nosed stores by Attkisson), their cozy relationship with Obama has been highly suspicious. The fact that Obama prefers, as CBS’s Steve Croft memorably put it, to go on the network’s 60 Minutes show because he knows he won’t be made “to look stupid” fits in with the groundswell against his colleague.

That many journalists are starting to rethink their protective attitude toward Obama in the wake of this season of scandals, and in particular because of the shocking treatment of both the Associated Press and Fox News’s James Rosen, is to be commended. The administration’s unhinged war on journalists has opened some eyes to its flaws that were heretofore resolutely closed. But if a lot of people in the press think there is something partisan about giving Obama’s policies the same harsh treatment afforded to those of Bush, then they simply can’t be trusted.

Many in these same institutions decry the fact that many readers and viewers stick only to those outlets that represent their political point of view. But if Sharyl Attkisson’s reporting about Obama’s scandals is seen as out of the mainstream or excessive by her colleagues, then that is a warning to all that CBS and other mainstream institutions are not be trusted to tell the truth. Under those circumstances, why should anyone who wants something other than the latest White House talking points watch or read the mainstream media? In that case the big loser isn’t so much independent journalists like Attkisson but a public that must rely on the free press to play its vital role in ensuring that our democratic system works.

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CBS Controversy over Benghazi Interview Grows

A brief break from election news for an update on the growing controversy over CBS’s unearthed Obama interview about Benghazi. I wrote a longer post on this yesterday, but the basics are that CBS sat on footage from an Obama interview on September 12, when he declined point-blank to call Benghazi a terrorist attack shortly after his Rose Garden speech. CBS didn’t release this footage after the second debate–when it actually mattered–and instead, waited until two days before the election.

Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple rips into the network:

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A brief break from election news for an update on the growing controversy over CBS’s unearthed Obama interview about Benghazi. I wrote a longer post on this yesterday, but the basics are that CBS sat on footage from an Obama interview on September 12, when he declined point-blank to call Benghazi a terrorist attack shortly after his Rose Garden speech. CBS didn’t release this footage after the second debate–when it actually mattered–and instead, waited until two days before the election.

Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple rips into the network:

Had this clip embedded itself in the news cycle after the town-hall debate, the following would have happened:

1) CBS News would have reaped millions of page views;

2) Mitt Romney’s slip-up in the town-hall debate over this issue would no longer look like as a slip-up; it’d look like a quest for accountability;

3) Team Obama would have had to spend days responding to questions about the discrepancy between what he said in the town-hall debate and what he’d told Kroft; and

4.) After that town-hall debate, Romney pretty much dropped Libya as a talking point. In a strategic move much observed by pundits, he declined to pound away on the topic in the final presidential debate, which centered on foreign policy. Had CBS News released what it had on hand, perhaps Romney would have had charged ahead with a Libya message.

As Wemple writes, there is basically no logical reason why CBS wouldn’t release the video, other than bias or unparalleled levels of incompetence. Not only did CBS have a public responsibility to do so, it would have also benefited from the millions of page-views and the acknowledgement that it had a major scoop all the way back on September 12.

It’s not that CBS forgot about the interview, or didn’t realize it was important, either. On October 23, CBS reported on State Department emails that indicated the administration knew the attack was terrorism within hours. Obama’s “60 Minutes” interview was quoted in the article, but it was used to suggest the opposite of what the full interview shows:

The emails are just a few in what are likely a large number traded throughout the night. They are likely to become part of the ongoing political debate over whether the administration attempted to mislead in saying the assault was an outgrowth of a protest, rather than a planned attack by terrorists.

Fourteen hours after the attack, President Obama sat down with Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” for a previously scheduled interview and said he did not believe it was simply due to mob violence.

“You’re right that this is not a situation that was — exactly the same as what happened in Egypt and my suspicion is that there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start,” Mr. Obama said.

Yes, Obama said on September 12 that the Benghazi attack wasn’t “exactly the same” as what happened in Egypt. But he also refused to call it a terrorist attack when asked directly. Wouldn’t the second item have been a lot more relevant to the question at hand?

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Don’t Blame the Networks

Republicans are crying foul because ABC, CBS and NBC won’t be carrying a minute of coverage of the first night of their convention next week. That’s a blow to the GOP since it means one of their best speakers and appealing personalities — Ann Romney — will have a smaller audience watching on television than she might have gotten to kick off the Tampa event. Democrats have their own beef as it’s been announced that the following week when their own gathering convenes in Charlotte, NBC will skip the Wednesday night session in order to avoid any interruptions of the National Football League’s opening game between the Giants and the Cowboys. That means a smaller audience for former President Bill Clinton as he makes the nominating speech for President Obama.

This is seen by some as a cynical move by the networks who are accused of placing money making above their civic duty. A disgruntled Romney advisor told the New York Times, “I don’t think it’s the decision that Bill Paley would have made” — a reference to the head of CBS during its so-called “golden age” of network news with Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. Maybe Paley would have run coverage of Ann Romney’s convention speech instead of a rerun of “Hawaii Five-O” — the show that will be aired on CBS while the candidate’s wife talks. NBC and ABC are also running crime show reruns during this slot. But don’t blame the networks for choosing sleuths over the candidate’s spouse. If they are treating the two national party jamborees very differently from the way Paley and his colleagues did in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, it is because the conventions are different.

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Republicans are crying foul because ABC, CBS and NBC won’t be carrying a minute of coverage of the first night of their convention next week. That’s a blow to the GOP since it means one of their best speakers and appealing personalities — Ann Romney — will have a smaller audience watching on television than she might have gotten to kick off the Tampa event. Democrats have their own beef as it’s been announced that the following week when their own gathering convenes in Charlotte, NBC will skip the Wednesday night session in order to avoid any interruptions of the National Football League’s opening game between the Giants and the Cowboys. That means a smaller audience for former President Bill Clinton as he makes the nominating speech for President Obama.

This is seen by some as a cynical move by the networks who are accused of placing money making above their civic duty. A disgruntled Romney advisor told the New York Times, “I don’t think it’s the decision that Bill Paley would have made” — a reference to the head of CBS during its so-called “golden age” of network news with Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. Maybe Paley would have run coverage of Ann Romney’s convention speech instead of a rerun of “Hawaii Five-O” — the show that will be aired on CBS while the candidate’s wife talks. NBC and ABC are also running crime show reruns during this slot. But don’t blame the networks for choosing sleuths over the candidate’s spouse. If they are treating the two national party jamborees very differently from the way Paley and his colleagues did in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, it is because the conventions are different.

Back then, they were deliberative political bodies where real issues were debated and voted upon while other, often even more important decisions, were decided in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms off the convention floor. The broadcasts of the conventions weren’t a civics lesson so much as they were a highly dramatic and colorful display of the political system at work. Though some parts could be excruciating, they were often dramatic. And like the NFL contest that many Americans will sensibly prefer to Bill Clinton next month, the outcome won’t have already been decided before the game begins.

The last national convention whose outcome was in doubt prior to its opening was in 1976 when incumbent President Gerald Ford narrowly fended off a challenge from Ronald Reagan and his resurgent conservative movement. Through some speculated about the possibility of a brokered Republican convention this year, that mouth-watering possibility for political junkies was no more likely to happen this year than it has any other presidential year for the last generation. The parties have created a nomination process that makes such an outcome unlikely if not impossible. Neither Republicans nor Democrats will ever have any interest in producing a good spectacle that will mean their side will be unable to prepare for the general election until September. Nor do they relish the political bloodletting and internecine warfare that a deliberative convention would bring.

So they give us what makes sense for them: a highly scripted television show in which the candidate picks all the speakers and dictates the contents of their speeches. Each convention is no more than a lengthy infomercial. Their only resemblance to the past when the nation would sit by their radios or televisions listening with bated breath as the roll call of states voting is the setting in an arena.

Under these circumstances, the parties are lucky that the broadcast networks still give them three free hours of coverage for each convention. Those addicted to politics can watch the cable news networks or C-Span.

It’s true that there was something to be said for the past when anyone with a television set was forced to watch gavel-to-gavel convention coverage. But most Americans now have hundreds of channels to choose from and are no longer dependent on three middle-aged liberal white guys to tell them what the news was at 6:30 each evening.

If the parties want more coverage of their conventions, they should give us something more interesting to watch. Since that is antithetical to their political fortunes, they should pipe down and get the staged charades over with as we head to the fall campaign. And anyone who wants to watch an interesting political convention can rent “The Best Man.”

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Dan Rather and His Great White Whale

Dan Rather was once at the top of the journalistic universe, having replaced Walter Cronkite as the anchor of the “CBS Evening News” (when network news broadcasts still meant something). But then came a story meant to smear President George W. Bush, based on forged documents that were almost immediately revealed as such. Then (as this Daily Beast story recounts) came the Rather apology; the revelation that CBS News could no longer vouch for their credibility; the CBS-commissioned investigation faulting Rather and his top producer, Mary Mapes; and finally, the end of Rather’s career at CBS.

Now nearly 80 years old and hawking a new book, Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News, Rather insists the forged documents are accurate. “I believe them to be genuine. I did at the time, I did in the immediate aftermath of it, and yes, I do now.”

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Dan Rather was once at the top of the journalistic universe, having replaced Walter Cronkite as the anchor of the “CBS Evening News” (when network news broadcasts still meant something). But then came a story meant to smear President George W. Bush, based on forged documents that were almost immediately revealed as such. Then (as this Daily Beast story recounts) came the Rather apology; the revelation that CBS News could no longer vouch for their credibility; the CBS-commissioned investigation faulting Rather and his top producer, Mary Mapes; and finally, the end of Rather’s career at CBS.

Now nearly 80 years old and hawking a new book, Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News, Rather insists the forged documents are accurate. “I believe them to be genuine. I did at the time, I did in the immediate aftermath of it, and yes, I do now.”

This claim is silly, as this 224-page Report of the Independent Review Panel makes clear. (While CBS’s independent panel report didn’t specifically take up the question of whether the documents were forgeries, it retained a document expert, Peter Tytell, who concluded that the documents in question were “not produced on a typewriter in the early 1970s and therefore were not authentic.”) Three years after the story, Rather filed a $70 million lawsuit against CBS and its parent company, Viacom, claiming he had been made a “scapegoat.” In 2009, a New York State Appeals Court said Rather’s $70 million complaint should be dismissed in its entirety, and that a lower court erred in denying CBS’s motion to throw out the lawsuit.

What appears to have happened is that Rather cannot emotionally or psychologically accept that the Bush National Guard story was built on lies, which ended up destroying his career. And so he has become a desperate, embittered man, frantically trying to vindicate his name, unable to see that his efforts merely remind us what a pitiable figure he has become.

“To the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”  These are the words of Captain Ahab as he tosses his harpoon toward the great white whale.

Dan Rather may want to reacquaint himself with Moby Dick. Things didn’t end well for the obsessive and revenge-seeking Captain Ahab. And they’re not ending well for Rather, either.

 

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The Folks Aren’t Buying It

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air summarizes a CBS poll taken to discern Americans’ sentiments on what caused Jared Loughner’s rampage in Tucson. The poll revealed that 57 percent of respondents think the attack had nothing to do with politics. Even among Democrats, the poll found 49 percent agreeing that Loughner’s motives were non-political. Independents saw Loughner as a non-political actor by a margin of 56 to 33 percent.

This result resonates with my anecdotal observations. Since Saturday, I have not met or heard from a single acquaintance who thought Loughner might have acted from political motives, either left-wing or right-wing. People have even gone out of their way to bring it up. The evidence of Loughner’s mental perturbation is too clear — and the information power of the Internet too readily available — for the people to be swayed in great numbers by a concocted, largely counterfactual narrative.

But I am interested in these poll results on another level as well. Like other CONTENTIONS contributors, I’ve been troubled and saddened by the performance of the usual suspects in the old-media punditry and the Democratic Party. Writing about it has hardly seemed worth the time: it would be like shooting fish in a barrel, and others are doing it much better anyway. But because the worlds of media punditry and politics are prominent features of my own mental landscape, I can’t help giving attention to the rhetorical — and ethical — enormities being perpetrated. Feeling the need to deconstruct them item by item is probably common to most political writers.

I wonder, however, if we are taking the mainstream media’s cringe-worthy performance harder than the rest of America is. The results of the CBS poll give off an air of pragmatic, angst-free rejection of the tea-parties-made-him-do-it narrative. The narrative is reaching anyone who consumes news, but there’s no evidence that it is taking hold. Poll respondents concurred with the “political” assessment of Jared Loughner’s attack in the exact proportion perennially occupied by the left’s committed “base” — i.e., 32 percent of total respondents and 42 percent of Democrats. This suggests that the overheated narrative being stoked by irresponsible media pundits might be satisfying to the converted, but it’s not changing any minds at all.

John Steele Gordon pointed out yesterday that in the age of the Internet, those who try disingenuously to alter or misrepresent the public record will be caught out. That has certainly been a factor in the left’s meltdown following the Loughner incident. I think another factor is simply that the people know unseemly histrionics when they see them, and are naturally put off.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air summarizes a CBS poll taken to discern Americans’ sentiments on what caused Jared Loughner’s rampage in Tucson. The poll revealed that 57 percent of respondents think the attack had nothing to do with politics. Even among Democrats, the poll found 49 percent agreeing that Loughner’s motives were non-political. Independents saw Loughner as a non-political actor by a margin of 56 to 33 percent.

This result resonates with my anecdotal observations. Since Saturday, I have not met or heard from a single acquaintance who thought Loughner might have acted from political motives, either left-wing or right-wing. People have even gone out of their way to bring it up. The evidence of Loughner’s mental perturbation is too clear — and the information power of the Internet too readily available — for the people to be swayed in great numbers by a concocted, largely counterfactual narrative.

But I am interested in these poll results on another level as well. Like other CONTENTIONS contributors, I’ve been troubled and saddened by the performance of the usual suspects in the old-media punditry and the Democratic Party. Writing about it has hardly seemed worth the time: it would be like shooting fish in a barrel, and others are doing it much better anyway. But because the worlds of media punditry and politics are prominent features of my own mental landscape, I can’t help giving attention to the rhetorical — and ethical — enormities being perpetrated. Feeling the need to deconstruct them item by item is probably common to most political writers.

I wonder, however, if we are taking the mainstream media’s cringe-worthy performance harder than the rest of America is. The results of the CBS poll give off an air of pragmatic, angst-free rejection of the tea-parties-made-him-do-it narrative. The narrative is reaching anyone who consumes news, but there’s no evidence that it is taking hold. Poll respondents concurred with the “political” assessment of Jared Loughner’s attack in the exact proportion perennially occupied by the left’s committed “base” — i.e., 32 percent of total respondents and 42 percent of Democrats. This suggests that the overheated narrative being stoked by irresponsible media pundits might be satisfying to the converted, but it’s not changing any minds at all.

John Steele Gordon pointed out yesterday that in the age of the Internet, those who try disingenuously to alter or misrepresent the public record will be caught out. That has certainly been a factor in the left’s meltdown following the Loughner incident. I think another factor is simply that the people know unseemly histrionics when they see them, and are naturally put off.

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Has the Politically Impossible Become Possible?

CBS’s 60 Minutes had a good story on the financial crisis — and in some cases (California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Arizona) the financial meltdown — facing the states. “The day of reckoning has arrived,” according to Governor Chris Christie. It has, and the ramifications will be huge.

One unanswered question is whether the nature of the crisis is fundamentally altering the political dynamics, whether today certain things are politically possible that once were not (pension and benefit reforms, sacrifices by public-employee unions, cuts in K-12 education funding, etc.). We’ll find out in the next year or so.

CBS’s 60 Minutes had a good story on the financial crisis — and in some cases (California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Arizona) the financial meltdown — facing the states. “The day of reckoning has arrived,” according to Governor Chris Christie. It has, and the ramifications will be huge.

One unanswered question is whether the nature of the crisis is fundamentally altering the political dynamics, whether today certain things are politically possible that once were not (pension and benefit reforms, sacrifices by public-employee unions, cuts in K-12 education funding, etc.). We’ll find out in the next year or so.

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Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

People will enjoy this clip, an exchange between CBS’s Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson and liberal journalist Richard Wolffe.

After listening to Wolffe’s political analysis, Ferguson says, “You’re a Democrat, aren’t you?” Wolffe counters by saying, “I am a journalist.” To which Ferguson replies, “A journalist? Much the same thing, isn’t it?”

Mr. Wolffe has nothing to say in response, since he can’t deny his blindingly obvious political or partisan leanings.

Game, set, and match to Mr. Ferguson.

People will enjoy this clip, an exchange between CBS’s Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson and liberal journalist Richard Wolffe.

After listening to Wolffe’s political analysis, Ferguson says, “You’re a Democrat, aren’t you?” Wolffe counters by saying, “I am a journalist.” To which Ferguson replies, “A journalist? Much the same thing, isn’t it?”

Mr. Wolffe has nothing to say in response, since he can’t deny his blindingly obvious political or partisan leanings.

Game, set, and match to Mr. Ferguson.

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Reassessing the Bush Presidency

Earlier this week, I was in Dallas to participate in events surrounding the groundbreaking of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which will include his library and policy institute.

I found the people there to be, almost to a person, in very good spirits, the mood upbeat, relaxed, and celebratory. Part of the reason for this has to do with being reunited with colleagues with whom you stood shoulder-to-shoulder during dramatic and even historic times. Sharing moments of great achievement and hardship can forge deep and lasting bonds of affection.

But there was something else at play — the sense that for America’s 43rd president, certain qualities and achievements are coming into sharper focus.

One area concerns George W. Bush’s core decency and integrity. He was endowed with the gifts of grace and class that have eluded others who have served as president, including Bush’s successor. President Bush is incapable of self-pity and self-conceit. And he has a deep, heartfelt, and unconflicted love for America. He clearly reveres the nation he served. That cannot be said for everyone who has held the office of the presidency.

Beyond that, though, is the realization that the public’s verdict of the Bush presidency is changing. A recalibration is under way.

After several intense, eventful years in office — years in which Bush stood atop the political world and was as popular as any man who has served as president — much of the public grew weary of his administration. The last years of his presidency were spent in a valley he had to fight through, day by day, especially on the matter of Iraq. By the end of his presidency, things that were viewed as strengths were seen as weaknesses. The strong, principled, decisive leader of the first term was viewed as a stubborn, inflexible leader during the second term. The twisting kaleidoscope moves us all in turn.

No matter; Bush persevered and refused to grow weary. He made unpopular decisions (from a new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq to TARP) that turned out to be the right decisions. And one can now see that Bush’s achievements, particularly in the realm of foreign policy — his response to 9/11; keeping America safe from future attacks by putting the country on a war footing; the surge; deposing two sadistic regimes; championing freedom, human rights and the cause of dissidents; the global AIDS and malaria initiatives; and more — are growing in stature. That is something many of us were confident would happen, but it is happening at a quicker pace than we anticipated. As Vice President Cheney said in his splendid remarks, “History is beginning to come around.”

George W. Bush would not be the first president for whom this occurred. “I am not sure he was right about the atomic bomb, or even Korea,” the CBS correspondent Eric Sevareid said of Harry Truman. “But remembering him reminds people what a man in that office ought to be like. It’s character, just character. He stands like a rock in memory now.”

So he does. And so, one day, will George W. Bush.

Earlier this week, I was in Dallas to participate in events surrounding the groundbreaking of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which will include his library and policy institute.

I found the people there to be, almost to a person, in very good spirits, the mood upbeat, relaxed, and celebratory. Part of the reason for this has to do with being reunited with colleagues with whom you stood shoulder-to-shoulder during dramatic and even historic times. Sharing moments of great achievement and hardship can forge deep and lasting bonds of affection.

But there was something else at play — the sense that for America’s 43rd president, certain qualities and achievements are coming into sharper focus.

One area concerns George W. Bush’s core decency and integrity. He was endowed with the gifts of grace and class that have eluded others who have served as president, including Bush’s successor. President Bush is incapable of self-pity and self-conceit. And he has a deep, heartfelt, and unconflicted love for America. He clearly reveres the nation he served. That cannot be said for everyone who has held the office of the presidency.

Beyond that, though, is the realization that the public’s verdict of the Bush presidency is changing. A recalibration is under way.

After several intense, eventful years in office — years in which Bush stood atop the political world and was as popular as any man who has served as president — much of the public grew weary of his administration. The last years of his presidency were spent in a valley he had to fight through, day by day, especially on the matter of Iraq. By the end of his presidency, things that were viewed as strengths were seen as weaknesses. The strong, principled, decisive leader of the first term was viewed as a stubborn, inflexible leader during the second term. The twisting kaleidoscope moves us all in turn.

No matter; Bush persevered and refused to grow weary. He made unpopular decisions (from a new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq to TARP) that turned out to be the right decisions. And one can now see that Bush’s achievements, particularly in the realm of foreign policy — his response to 9/11; keeping America safe from future attacks by putting the country on a war footing; the surge; deposing two sadistic regimes; championing freedom, human rights and the cause of dissidents; the global AIDS and malaria initiatives; and more — are growing in stature. That is something many of us were confident would happen, but it is happening at a quicker pace than we anticipated. As Vice President Cheney said in his splendid remarks, “History is beginning to come around.”

George W. Bush would not be the first president for whom this occurred. “I am not sure he was right about the atomic bomb, or even Korea,” the CBS correspondent Eric Sevareid said of Harry Truman. “But remembering him reminds people what a man in that office ought to be like. It’s character, just character. He stands like a rock in memory now.”

So he does. And so, one day, will George W. Bush.

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What We Had Here Was Not a Failure to Communicate

The day before the election, the New York Review of Books posted a rant about right-wing radio and TV hosts by Yale professor David Bromwich.

Regarding Rush Limbaugh, Bromwich mixed faux analysis (“Limbaugh seldom speaks overtly about race,” but “no careful listener can doubt that race is an element”) with personal insults (Limbaugh is a “demagogue” with a “sadistic streak” who “mixes truth and falsehood at pleasure” and is “almost infantile in his self-love”). Bromwich’s analysis of Glenn Beck was that he is a “charlatan” with an “alarmingly incoherent personality” who exerts his “strongest enchantment” when he “goes awry.” Nuanced.

It was surprising to see an article composed of little more than ad hominem attacks published in a journal with intellectual pretensions — but perhaps it simply reflected the well-known fact that left-wing intellectuals are hard-wired to write like that when they are scared.

Bromwich’s piece was a reminder of the leftist tendency to oscillate between love of the people in the abstract and disappointment in actually existing people. Two years ago, the people who attended Obama rallies were the people we were waiting for; two years later, the president’s press secretary told them to get drug-tested, the vice president lectured them to stop whining, and the president warned them he was beginning to think they were not serious. And those were the supporters; opponents were branded class enemies.

Bromwich attributes Obama’s political problems not to his policies or programs but to the absence of an effective communications strategy:

Looking back, one feels it was an astonishing negligence for the Obama White House to embark on a campaign for national health care without a solid strategy for fighting the tenacious opposition it could expect at the hands of Fox radio and TV.

Bromwich does not indicate what the strategy should have been — only that it should have been solid (solid strategies are the best kind). But if you can’t convince the public of your program when you have the mainstream media (CBS, NBC, ABC), public television (PBS), the most established cable news network (CNN), the “news” show most watched by young voters (The Daily Show), and unlimited access to the bully pulpit, it is not likely that your problem was the hands of a single network. More likely it was the people.

The day before the election, the New York Review of Books posted a rant about right-wing radio and TV hosts by Yale professor David Bromwich.

Regarding Rush Limbaugh, Bromwich mixed faux analysis (“Limbaugh seldom speaks overtly about race,” but “no careful listener can doubt that race is an element”) with personal insults (Limbaugh is a “demagogue” with a “sadistic streak” who “mixes truth and falsehood at pleasure” and is “almost infantile in his self-love”). Bromwich’s analysis of Glenn Beck was that he is a “charlatan” with an “alarmingly incoherent personality” who exerts his “strongest enchantment” when he “goes awry.” Nuanced.

It was surprising to see an article composed of little more than ad hominem attacks published in a journal with intellectual pretensions — but perhaps it simply reflected the well-known fact that left-wing intellectuals are hard-wired to write like that when they are scared.

Bromwich’s piece was a reminder of the leftist tendency to oscillate between love of the people in the abstract and disappointment in actually existing people. Two years ago, the people who attended Obama rallies were the people we were waiting for; two years later, the president’s press secretary told them to get drug-tested, the vice president lectured them to stop whining, and the president warned them he was beginning to think they were not serious. And those were the supporters; opponents were branded class enemies.

Bromwich attributes Obama’s political problems not to his policies or programs but to the absence of an effective communications strategy:

Looking back, one feels it was an astonishing negligence for the Obama White House to embark on a campaign for national health care without a solid strategy for fighting the tenacious opposition it could expect at the hands of Fox radio and TV.

Bromwich does not indicate what the strategy should have been — only that it should have been solid (solid strategies are the best kind). But if you can’t convince the public of your program when you have the mainstream media (CBS, NBC, ABC), public television (PBS), the most established cable news network (CNN), the “news” show most watched by young voters (The Daily Show), and unlimited access to the bully pulpit, it is not likely that your problem was the hands of a single network. More likely it was the people.

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The Obama Coalition Crack-Up

The Obama coalition is breaking up, the New York Times tells us:

Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in recent election cycles among women, Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents; all of those groups broke for Mr. Obama in 2008 and for congressional Democrats when they grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago, according to exit polls.

The poll found that a greater proportion of women would choose Republicans over Democrats in House races than at any time since exit polls began tracking the breakdown in 1982.

And for the Times poll, which a savvy Democratic pundit confided to me does indeed historically “tip Democratic,” the numbers are horrible for the Democrats. Obama’s approval is at 43 percent. And then there is the speaker: “The Democratic House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has clearly emerged as a political liability for her party in the latest Times/CBS poll. Overall, 43 percent of all respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Ms. Pelosi; 15 percent had a favorable opinion, and 40 percent said they had no opinion.” Yowser. No wonder she’s in so many GOP ads.

Other figures evidence the electorate’s rightward shift. Women, who have of late tilted Democratic, are now evenly split between support for Democrats and Republicans. By a margin of 55 to 36 percent, respondents favored smaller government with fewer services over bigger government with more services. Fifty-three percent think Obama does not have a clear plan for creating jobs. Respondents think Republicans are more likely than Democrats to create jobs and reduce the deficit (by a 43 to 32 percent margin).

And oh, by the way, the polling sample — 38 percent Democrat and 27 percent Republican — is more dramatically skewed toward the Democrats than just about any other poll (OK, there’s Newsweek, but not even James Carville takes that seriously).

Obama has managed to lose his own standing, take his party down with him, and convince core Democratic constituencies to vote Republican. And it took him only two years.

The Obama coalition is breaking up, the New York Times tells us:

Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in recent election cycles among women, Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents; all of those groups broke for Mr. Obama in 2008 and for congressional Democrats when they grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago, according to exit polls.

The poll found that a greater proportion of women would choose Republicans over Democrats in House races than at any time since exit polls began tracking the breakdown in 1982.

And for the Times poll, which a savvy Democratic pundit confided to me does indeed historically “tip Democratic,” the numbers are horrible for the Democrats. Obama’s approval is at 43 percent. And then there is the speaker: “The Democratic House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has clearly emerged as a political liability for her party in the latest Times/CBS poll. Overall, 43 percent of all respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Ms. Pelosi; 15 percent had a favorable opinion, and 40 percent said they had no opinion.” Yowser. No wonder she’s in so many GOP ads.

Other figures evidence the electorate’s rightward shift. Women, who have of late tilted Democratic, are now evenly split between support for Democrats and Republicans. By a margin of 55 to 36 percent, respondents favored smaller government with fewer services over bigger government with more services. Fifty-three percent think Obama does not have a clear plan for creating jobs. Respondents think Republicans are more likely than Democrats to create jobs and reduce the deficit (by a 43 to 32 percent margin).

And oh, by the way, the polling sample — 38 percent Democrat and 27 percent Republican — is more dramatically skewed toward the Democrats than just about any other poll (OK, there’s Newsweek, but not even James Carville takes that seriously).

Obama has managed to lose his own standing, take his party down with him, and convince core Democratic constituencies to vote Republican. And it took him only two years.

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Abuse of Power

It is astonishing, really.

The president of the United States has accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its denial and without supporting evidence, of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. “Just this week,” Barack Obama said recently about the chamber, “we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these [political] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, if there is any evidence to support their accusation. Axelrod responded this way: “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”

Likewise, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, wouldn’t back away from the incendiary charges yesterday. “The president will continue to make the argument that we don’t know where this money comes from and entities like the Chamber have said they get money from overseas,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

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It is astonishing, really.

The president of the United States has accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its denial and without supporting evidence, of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. “Just this week,” Barack Obama said recently about the chamber, “we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these [political] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, if there is any evidence to support their accusation. Axelrod responded this way: “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”

Likewise, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, wouldn’t back away from the incendiary charges yesterday. “The president will continue to make the argument that we don’t know where this money comes from and entities like the Chamber have said they get money from overseas,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

Set aside the hypocrisy of this whole episode. (My former White House colleague Ed Gillespie points out that no Democrats, least of all Obama, expressed concern about such outside spending in 2008, when more than $400 million was spent to help elect Barack Obama, much of it from undisclosed donors.) Set aside the fact that Mr. Axelrod concedes that the chamber is abiding by long-standing rules, that it doesn’t have to disclose its donors list, and that no other organizations are disclosing theirs. Set aside the fact that the chamber has 115 foreign-member affiliates who pay a total of less than $100,000 in membership dues to a group whose total budget is more than $200 million. And set aside the fact that various news organizations have dismissed the charges, including the New York Times, which reports, “a closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.”

What we are witnessing is the abuse of power. We are now in a situation in which the president and his most senior advisers feel completely at liberty to throw out unsubstantiated charges and put the burden on people (and institutions) to prove their innocence. Liberals once referred to such tactics as McCarthyism. But Joseph McCarthy, for all his abuses, was “only” a United States senator, one member out of 100. The president and his advisers, on the other hand, have at their disposal far more power and the ability to inflict far more injury.

What Obama and his aides are demanding is that the Chamber of Commerce prove a negative — and in doing so, they are trying to intimidate the chamber into disclosing what is, by law, privileged information. “If the Chamber doesn’t have anything to hide about these contributions,” Mr. Axelrod says, “and I take them at their word that they don’t, then why not disclose? Why not let people see where their money is coming from?”

Let’s see if we can help Mr. Axelrod out by providing him with an explanation.

For one thing, he is employing the guilty-until-proven-innocent argument. For another, the White House’s standard is being selectively applied. And it encourages slanderous charges because it forces innocent people to disprove them. All this is troubling in any case; but it is triply pernicious when it is practiced by those with unmatched power, because they have an unparalleled capacity to intimidate American citizens.

In further answering Axelrod’s argument, consider this thought experiment. It’s the year 2021, and a partisan critic of a future president repeatedly asserts that the president is addicted to child pornography. It turns out that the critic has no proof of the charge — but when told he is asking the president to prove a negative, he responds: “I take the president at his word. But just to be sure, we’d like to examine his phone records and text messages, his computer accounts, and his credit card receipts. What we want, in other words, is full access to all the relevant information we need. After all, if he’s innocent, why not disclose this information? Why not let people see what you’re doing with your life and free time?”

It must be obvious to Messrs. Axelrod and Obama that what they are doing is irresponsible, dangerous, and deeply illiberal. It’s important to note, however, that this libel is taking place within a particular context. The attack on the Chamber of Commerce is only the most recent link in a long chain. The Obama White House has targeted Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, and John Boehner; George W. Bush and Dick Cheney; conservative talk radio; Fox News; the state of Arizona; the Supreme Court (for its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission); members of the Tea Party; critics of ObamaCare who attended town hall meetings; pharmaceutical, insurance, and oil companies; corporate executives, Wall Street, and the “rich.”

All this ugliness comes to us courtesy of a man who said during the 2008 campaign that “the times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook”; who told us that we should “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long”; and who assured us, on the night of his election, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.”

Back in October 2009, I wrote about this White House’s burning anger and resentment toward its critics and what it foreshadowed. That inferno is burning hotter than ever – and if it goes unchecked, it will eventually lead to a crisis.

In an August 16, 1971, memorandum from White House Counsel John Dean to Lawrence Higby, titled “Dealing with our Political Enemies,” Dean wrote:

This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly – how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.

At comparable stages in their first terms, the Obama administration seems to be at least as eager as the Nixon administration to use the available federal machinery to “screw our political enemies.” We know how things turned out for the Nixon administration. President Obama cannot say he hasn’t been forewarned.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

This is what desperation looks like: “Forget the myth of an Obama recovery. The past week has been disastrous for the White House and America’s increasingly disillusioned Left. No wonder the angry and desperate Vice President Joe Biden is talking about ‘playing hell’ if his party suffers defeat in November.”

This is what old-style politics sounds like: “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the burden of proving false the charge by Democrats that the business group is funneling foreign money to Republican campaigns. Axelrod was pressed by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for evidence that the foreign campaign contributions benefiting the GOP is more than ‘peanuts.’  ‘Do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?’ Axelrod said on ‘Face the Nation.’  Ed Gillespie responded that it “was ‘an unbelievable mentality’ for Axelrod to assert charges about foreign contributions without backing them up.” It’s all too believable, unfortunately.

This is what a wave election looks like: “Democrats are buying advertising in places they hadn’t previously reserved it, a strong indication the battlefield is expanding. That includes New England, which hasn’t a single Republican House member. A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing this week in the Massachusetts district covering Cape Cod, where Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt is retiring and ex-police sergeant Jeff Perry is posting a strong GOP challenge.”

This is what a lousy TV appearance looks like: “Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old Senate seat, said Sunday that he wants to “reform” the president’s health care overhaul, and that the $814 billion stimulus was imperfect but that it prevented Americans from standing in soup lines. Giannoulias, who appeared on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to debate Republican Mark Kirk, was on the defensive throughout the debate regarding Obama’s policies, as well as his past work for his family’s community bank and its ties to mob figures.”

This is what an eloquent first lady’s writing looks like: “Though some Afghan leaders have condemned the violence and defended the rights of women, others maintain a complicit silence in hopes of achieving peace. But peace attained by compromising the rights of half of the population will not last. Offenses against women erode security for all Afghans — men and women. And a culture that tolerates injustice against one group of its people ultimately fails to respect and value all its citizens.” Yeah, I miss her too.

This is what the GOP sounded like in 2006. “The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brushed off various members’ ads touting opposition to President Obama and Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that it simply shows the party is a big tent unlike the right.”

This is what “hope and change” looks like? “President Obama’s new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant’s aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms. … While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae’s financial health to the company’s board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004.”

This is what a flaky candidate sounds like: “Jerry Brown: Mammograms not effective.”

This is what desperation looks like: “Forget the myth of an Obama recovery. The past week has been disastrous for the White House and America’s increasingly disillusioned Left. No wonder the angry and desperate Vice President Joe Biden is talking about ‘playing hell’ if his party suffers defeat in November.”

This is what old-style politics sounds like: “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the burden of proving false the charge by Democrats that the business group is funneling foreign money to Republican campaigns. Axelrod was pressed by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for evidence that the foreign campaign contributions benefiting the GOP is more than ‘peanuts.’  ‘Do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?’ Axelrod said on ‘Face the Nation.’  Ed Gillespie responded that it “was ‘an unbelievable mentality’ for Axelrod to assert charges about foreign contributions without backing them up.” It’s all too believable, unfortunately.

This is what a wave election looks like: “Democrats are buying advertising in places they hadn’t previously reserved it, a strong indication the battlefield is expanding. That includes New England, which hasn’t a single Republican House member. A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing this week in the Massachusetts district covering Cape Cod, where Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt is retiring and ex-police sergeant Jeff Perry is posting a strong GOP challenge.”

This is what a lousy TV appearance looks like: “Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old Senate seat, said Sunday that he wants to “reform” the president’s health care overhaul, and that the $814 billion stimulus was imperfect but that it prevented Americans from standing in soup lines. Giannoulias, who appeared on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to debate Republican Mark Kirk, was on the defensive throughout the debate regarding Obama’s policies, as well as his past work for his family’s community bank and its ties to mob figures.”

This is what an eloquent first lady’s writing looks like: “Though some Afghan leaders have condemned the violence and defended the rights of women, others maintain a complicit silence in hopes of achieving peace. But peace attained by compromising the rights of half of the population will not last. Offenses against women erode security for all Afghans — men and women. And a culture that tolerates injustice against one group of its people ultimately fails to respect and value all its citizens.” Yeah, I miss her too.

This is what the GOP sounded like in 2006. “The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brushed off various members’ ads touting opposition to President Obama and Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that it simply shows the party is a big tent unlike the right.”

This is what “hope and change” looks like? “President Obama’s new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant’s aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms. … While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae’s financial health to the company’s board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004.”

This is what a flaky candidate sounds like: “Jerry Brown: Mammograms not effective.”

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RE: ABC’s Humiliation

Apropos your posting, Jennifer, Christiane Amanpour has been ABC’s “This Week host for nine Sundays — and a week ago last Sunday, on September 19, the show dropped to its lowest ratings in the 25-54 age demographic in more than seven years. According to Mediaite, the last time ABC had a lower rating in the demo was the August 24, 2003 show. Year-to-year, the show was down 29 percent in total viewers and 38 percent in the demo, while its popularity declined in both categories week-to-week as well (while that of NBC and CBS grew).

Just like the Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid acknowledged his mistake in making Kevin Kolb the starting quarterback and has now replaced him with Michael Vick, ABC’s brass should recognize the error of its ways and replace Amanpour with Jake Tapper, who not only received higher ratings than Amanpour but is also a far better (and more objective) host. Tapper is, in fact, among the nation’s best political reporters. For reasons Jen details, Amanpour is not.

Apropos your posting, Jennifer, Christiane Amanpour has been ABC’s “This Week host for nine Sundays — and a week ago last Sunday, on September 19, the show dropped to its lowest ratings in the 25-54 age demographic in more than seven years. According to Mediaite, the last time ABC had a lower rating in the demo was the August 24, 2003 show. Year-to-year, the show was down 29 percent in total viewers and 38 percent in the demo, while its popularity declined in both categories week-to-week as well (while that of NBC and CBS grew).

Just like the Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid acknowledged his mistake in making Kevin Kolb the starting quarterback and has now replaced him with Michael Vick, ABC’s brass should recognize the error of its ways and replace Amanpour with Jake Tapper, who not only received higher ratings than Amanpour but is also a far better (and more objective) host. Tapper is, in fact, among the nation’s best political reporters. For reasons Jen details, Amanpour is not.

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Change the Word ‘Christian’ to ‘Muslim,’ Broadcast Networks. I Dare You.

From deadline.com:

I hear ABC, NBC and CBS are all after Good Christian Bitches, which will be written by Steel Magnolias and The First Wives Club scribe Robert Harling. Based on the book of the same name by Kim Gatlin, the project, referred to by some as “Desperate Housewives in Dallas,” centers on Amanda Vaughn, a recently divorced mother of two who, to get a fresh start, moves back to the affluent Dallas neighborhood where she grew where she finds herself in the whirling midst of salacious gossip, Botox, and fraud.

From deadline.com:

I hear ABC, NBC and CBS are all after Good Christian Bitches, which will be written by Steel Magnolias and The First Wives Club scribe Robert Harling. Based on the book of the same name by Kim Gatlin, the project, referred to by some as “Desperate Housewives in Dallas,” centers on Amanda Vaughn, a recently divorced mother of two who, to get a fresh start, moves back to the affluent Dallas neighborhood where she grew where she finds herself in the whirling midst of salacious gossip, Botox, and fraud.

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Another Group Fed Up with Obama?

Obama has been playing the Hispanic community for fools. As his polling numbers among this traditionally Democratic voting group eroded, he promised to elevate immigration reform to the top of the agenda. He had no intention of doing much of anything — other than decrying the efforts of Arizona to fill the void left by the federal government. Well, Obama has now managed to infuriate both proponents of a more restrictionist immigration policy and the Hispanic community. Politico reports:

President Barack Obama has lost the most trusted man in the Hispanic media.

Univision’s Jorge Ramos, an anchor on the nation’s largest Spanish-language television network, says Obama broke his promise to produce an immigration reform bill within a year of taking office. And Latinos are tired of the speeches, disillusioned by the lack of White House leadership and distrustful of the president, Ramos told POLITICO.

“He has a credibility problem right now with Latinos,” Ramos said. “We’ll see what the political circumstances are in a couple of years, but there is a serious credibility problem.”

Ramos has been called the Walter Cronkite of Spanish-language media, an unparalleled nationwide voice for Hispanics. And just like the famed CBS newsman’s commentary helped turn the country against the Vietnam War, Ramos may be on the leading edge of a movement within the Hispanic media to challenge the president on immigration — a shift that some observers believe is contributing to Obama’s eroding poll numbers among Latino voters.

Well, that’s some political karma. Obama’s cynical ploy has backfired spectacularly and revealed him to be very much a divider and not a uniter on a hot-button issue. There may not be consensus in the country on what to do about immigration. But increasingly, voters can agree that Obama is practicing the politics of division and doing so with so little finesse that he’s managing to annoy both sides in the debate.

Obama has been playing the Hispanic community for fools. As his polling numbers among this traditionally Democratic voting group eroded, he promised to elevate immigration reform to the top of the agenda. He had no intention of doing much of anything — other than decrying the efforts of Arizona to fill the void left by the federal government. Well, Obama has now managed to infuriate both proponents of a more restrictionist immigration policy and the Hispanic community. Politico reports:

President Barack Obama has lost the most trusted man in the Hispanic media.

Univision’s Jorge Ramos, an anchor on the nation’s largest Spanish-language television network, says Obama broke his promise to produce an immigration reform bill within a year of taking office. And Latinos are tired of the speeches, disillusioned by the lack of White House leadership and distrustful of the president, Ramos told POLITICO.

“He has a credibility problem right now with Latinos,” Ramos said. “We’ll see what the political circumstances are in a couple of years, but there is a serious credibility problem.”

Ramos has been called the Walter Cronkite of Spanish-language media, an unparalleled nationwide voice for Hispanics. And just like the famed CBS newsman’s commentary helped turn the country against the Vietnam War, Ramos may be on the leading edge of a movement within the Hispanic media to challenge the president on immigration — a shift that some observers believe is contributing to Obama’s eroding poll numbers among Latino voters.

Well, that’s some political karma. Obama’s cynical ploy has backfired spectacularly and revealed him to be very much a divider and not a uniter on a hot-button issue. There may not be consensus in the country on what to do about immigration. But increasingly, voters can agree that Obama is practicing the politics of division and doing so with so little finesse that he’s managing to annoy both sides in the debate.

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Dismantling Joe Klein

Correcting the errors in logic and fact by Joe Klein is more than a full-time job, and I usually have better things to do. But once in a while, he writes a piece that deserves to be examined and dismantled. The posting Klein did on Time magazine’s blog Swampland earlier this week, “Obama on Iraq,” qualifies as one of those instances. Let’s have a look.

1. On Monday Klein wrote this:

It is the way of the world that Barack Obama ‘ s announcement today of the end of the combat phase in Iraq … will not be remembered as vividly as George Bush’s juvenile march across the deck of an aircraft carrier, costumed as a combat aviator in a golden sunset, to announce — six years and tens of thousands of lives prematurely — the “end of combat operations.”

Now let’s see what Klein said about Bush’s landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln on CBS’s Face the Nation, on May 4, 2003:

Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me. And it just shows you how high a mountain these Democrats are going to have to climb. You compare that image, which everybody across the world saw, with this debate last night where you have nine people on a stage and it doesn’t air until 11:30 at night, up against Saturday Night Live, and you see what a major, major struggle the Democrats are going to have to try and beat a popular incumbent president.

Bush’s moment went from being Hollywood cool then to a puerile act now. Such bipolar shifts of opinion in a high-ranking public official would be alarming and dangerous; in a columnist and blogger, they are comical and discrediting.

2. Klein asserts this:

Certainly, even if something resembling democracy prevails, the U.S. invasion and occupation — the carnage and tragedy it wrought — will not be remembered fondly by Iraqis anytime soon. We will own the destruction in perpetuity; if the Iraqis manage to cobble themselves a decent society, they will see it, correctly, as an achievement of their own. [emphasis added]

Here, Klein moves from the merely ludicrous to the offensive. What Klein is arguing is that even if things turn out well in Iraq, America deserves none of the credit. We were responsible only for carnage and tragedy, not liberation. The heroic sacrifices of America’s military men and women are dismissed as inconsequential. Those who have died have done so in vain, according to Klein’s line of reasoning; if the Iraqis manage to cobble for themselves a decent society, he insists, it will be an achievement of their own making alone.

This claim is flatly untrue. Without the intervention of the United States, Saddam Hussein would not have been deposed. And without the sacrifice of treasure and blood made by America, Iraq would have been convulsed by civil war and possibly genocide. It is certainly true that if Iraq continues on its path to self-government, its people will deserve a large share of the credit. But so will America — and so will those who wore America’s uniform into combat. For Klein to dismiss what our country and its warriors have done to advance liberty and humane ends is disturbing and revelatory.

3. Klein writes this: Read More

Correcting the errors in logic and fact by Joe Klein is more than a full-time job, and I usually have better things to do. But once in a while, he writes a piece that deserves to be examined and dismantled. The posting Klein did on Time magazine’s blog Swampland earlier this week, “Obama on Iraq,” qualifies as one of those instances. Let’s have a look.

1. On Monday Klein wrote this:

It is the way of the world that Barack Obama ‘ s announcement today of the end of the combat phase in Iraq … will not be remembered as vividly as George Bush’s juvenile march across the deck of an aircraft carrier, costumed as a combat aviator in a golden sunset, to announce — six years and tens of thousands of lives prematurely — the “end of combat operations.”

Now let’s see what Klein said about Bush’s landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln on CBS’s Face the Nation, on May 4, 2003:

Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me. And it just shows you how high a mountain these Democrats are going to have to climb. You compare that image, which everybody across the world saw, with this debate last night where you have nine people on a stage and it doesn’t air until 11:30 at night, up against Saturday Night Live, and you see what a major, major struggle the Democrats are going to have to try and beat a popular incumbent president.

Bush’s moment went from being Hollywood cool then to a puerile act now. Such bipolar shifts of opinion in a high-ranking public official would be alarming and dangerous; in a columnist and blogger, they are comical and discrediting.

2. Klein asserts this:

Certainly, even if something resembling democracy prevails, the U.S. invasion and occupation — the carnage and tragedy it wrought — will not be remembered fondly by Iraqis anytime soon. We will own the destruction in perpetuity; if the Iraqis manage to cobble themselves a decent society, they will see it, correctly, as an achievement of their own. [emphasis added]

Here, Klein moves from the merely ludicrous to the offensive. What Klein is arguing is that even if things turn out well in Iraq, America deserves none of the credit. We were responsible only for carnage and tragedy, not liberation. The heroic sacrifices of America’s military men and women are dismissed as inconsequential. Those who have died have done so in vain, according to Klein’s line of reasoning; if the Iraqis manage to cobble for themselves a decent society, he insists, it will be an achievement of their own making alone.

This claim is flatly untrue. Without the intervention of the United States, Saddam Hussein would not have been deposed. And without the sacrifice of treasure and blood made by America, Iraq would have been convulsed by civil war and possibly genocide. It is certainly true that if Iraq continues on its path to self-government, its people will deserve a large share of the credit. But so will America — and so will those who wore America’s uniform into combat. For Klein to dismiss what our country and its warriors have done to advance liberty and humane ends is disturbing and revelatory.

3. Klein writes this:

As for myself, I deeply regret that once, on television in the days before the war, I reluctantly but foolishly said that going ahead with the invasion might be the right thing to do. I was far more skeptical, and equivocal, in print–I never wrote in favor of the war and repeatedly raised the problems that would accompany it–but skepticism and equivocation were an insufficient reaction, too.

Well, this admission marks progress of a sort, I suppose.

For the longest time, Klein denied ever having supported the war. He even complained about being criticized by liberals for his support of the Iraq war. “The fact that I’ve been opposed to the Iraq war ever since this 2002 article in Slate just makes it all the more aggravating,” Klein said.

But what proved to be even more aggravating to Joe is when people like Arianna Huffington and me pointed out that Klein supported the war immediately before it began, thus contradicting his revisionist claim.

For the record: On Feb. 22, 2003, Klein told the late Tim Russert that the war was a “really tough decision” but that he, Klein, thought it was probably “the right decision at this point.” Klein then offered several reasons for his judgment: Saddam’s defiance of 17 UN resolutions over a dozen years; Klein’s firm conviction that Saddam was hiding WMD; and the need to send the message that if we didn’t enforce the latest UN resolution, it “empowers every would-be Saddam out there and every would-be terrorist out there.”

It’s worth pointing out that to make a false claim and revise it in light of emerging evidence is something of a pattern with Joe. After all, he repeatedly and forcefully denied being the author of the novel Primary Colors until he was forced to admit that he, in fact, had written it. It takes him a while to grudgingly bow before incontrovertible evidence. But he does get there. Eventually. When he has no other choice.

4.  According to Klein:

In retrospect, the issue then was as clear cut as it is now. It demanded a clarity that I failed to summon. The essential principle is immutable: We should never go to war unless we have been attacked or are under direct, immediate threat of attack. Never. And never again.

Presumably, then, Klein believes that Great Britain declaring war on Germany two days after Hitler’s invasion of Poland (Great Britain and Poland were allies and shared a security pact) was a violation of an “essential” and “immutable” principle. So was the first Gulf War, when the United States repelled Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. So was Tony Blair’s intervention in Kosovo and Sierra Leone (the latter widely viewed as successful in helping save that West African country from barbarism and dictatorship). So, arguably, was the American Civil War; after all, Lincoln could have avoided war, had he given in on the matters of secession and slavery.

According to Klein, no war is justified unless a nation has been attacked or is under the direct, immediate threat of attack — which means interventions for the sake of aiding allies, meeting treaty obligations, averting massive humanitarian disasters, or advancing national interests and national security are always and forever off the table.

Klein’s arguments are those of a simpleton. He has drawn up a doctrine that isn’t based on careful reasoning, subtle analysis, or a sophisticated understanding of history; it is, in fact, a childish overreaction to the events of the moment. What Klein states with emphatic certainty one day is something he will probably jettison the next.

Iraq is a subject on which Joe Klein has been — let’s be gentle here — highly erratic. He both opposed and supported the war before it began. After the war started, he spoke hopefully about the movement toward democracy there. (“This is not a moment for caveats,” he wrote in 2005, after the Iraqi elections. “It is a moment for solemn appreciation of the Iraqi achievement — however it may turn out — and for hope.”) Now he refers to it as a “neo-colonialist obscenity.” President Bush’s “Freedom Agenda” went from being something that “seem[s] to be paying off” and that might even secure Bush the Nobel Peace Prize to a “delusional farce.” Klein ridiculed the idea of the surge, referring to it as “Bush’s futile pipe dream,” before conceding that the surge was wise, necessary, and successful.

This is all of a piece with Klein. And there is a kind of poignancy that surrounds his descent. Once upon a time, Joe was a fairly decent political reporter — but somewhere along the line, he went badly off track. He has become startlingly embittered, consumed by his hatreds, regarding as malevolent enemies all people who hold views different from his. In the past, his writings could be insightful, somewhat balanced, and at times elegant. These days, he’s not good for much more than a rant — and even his rants have become predictable, pedestrian, banal. Witless, even.

This cannot be what Henry Luce envisioned for his magazine.

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Don’t Give Me the Facts, I’ve Got My Story

I’m amazed how Politico can run a story trying to debunk the New Black Panther scandal without interviewing trial team member Christian Adams or any other former or current Justice Department attorney, without relating any of Adams’s testimony, without referencing the voluminous research and evidence unearthed by other news outlets, without contacting the offices of congressmen (Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf) who have been pressing for answers from the administration, and without even mentioning the allegations that the Justice Department won’t file civil rights cases against minorities. For over a year, Politico — as well as every other mainstream outlet — ignored the story, so the name of the game, I suppose, is to explain that they didn’t miss anything.

It is especially odd that a good reporter like Ben Smith wouldn’t make the effort to interview Adams. Adams is doing extensive interviews and is readily available. He’s not been critiquing the media coverage, but did promptly respond to my request for comment on the Politico story (he really is very easy to reach). He told me that Smith did contact him,  and Adams responded saying he was away for the day but inviting Smith to contact him if it was urgent. Adams never heard anything further from Smith. Adams continued:

My area of expertise is the law and the truth about the case. All I can do is provide truthful testimony and information. I know what [trial team leader] Chris Coates would testify to, and I know there are multiple corroborating witnesses both inside and outside the Department. So to me things like Ben Smith are a short lived distraction that in the long run don’t seem to matter given the facts. The idea that I would quit a job to no pay to make something up isn’t resonating beyond a core of sycophantic nuts. If I’m lying or exaggerating, charge me with perjury.

Adams is right that the facts are there — multiple witnesses, documents, and e-mails. They establish that a meritorious case of voter intimidation was dropped by Obama political appointees and that there is an aversion in the Obama administration to filing cases against minorities. That only conservative outlets have bothered to root around and uncover the story tells you more about the mainstream media than it does about the merits of the case.

It’s bad enough to miss an important story; it’s worse to write a belated story which steers clear of the facts you missed. Even when all the legwork is done by others and the story is figuratively handed to them, and even explained to them, some reporters can’t be bothered with the facts.

One final point: it’s not just right wingers who recognize that this is a legitimate and important story. The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander does a mea culpa for the Post’s delinquency in reporting. Bravo. (Oh, if only Politico were so professional and candid.) I look forward to the Post’s future reporting — there certainly is plenty to investigate.

UPDATE: Jan Crawford, the fine legal reporter previously with ABC and now with CBS, has a comprehensive report here. Stephen Hayes’s excellent summary of the case and of the mainstream media’s disinclination to report on it is here.

I’m amazed how Politico can run a story trying to debunk the New Black Panther scandal without interviewing trial team member Christian Adams or any other former or current Justice Department attorney, without relating any of Adams’s testimony, without referencing the voluminous research and evidence unearthed by other news outlets, without contacting the offices of congressmen (Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf) who have been pressing for answers from the administration, and without even mentioning the allegations that the Justice Department won’t file civil rights cases against minorities. For over a year, Politico — as well as every other mainstream outlet — ignored the story, so the name of the game, I suppose, is to explain that they didn’t miss anything.

It is especially odd that a good reporter like Ben Smith wouldn’t make the effort to interview Adams. Adams is doing extensive interviews and is readily available. He’s not been critiquing the media coverage, but did promptly respond to my request for comment on the Politico story (he really is very easy to reach). He told me that Smith did contact him,  and Adams responded saying he was away for the day but inviting Smith to contact him if it was urgent. Adams never heard anything further from Smith. Adams continued:

My area of expertise is the law and the truth about the case. All I can do is provide truthful testimony and information. I know what [trial team leader] Chris Coates would testify to, and I know there are multiple corroborating witnesses both inside and outside the Department. So to me things like Ben Smith are a short lived distraction that in the long run don’t seem to matter given the facts. The idea that I would quit a job to no pay to make something up isn’t resonating beyond a core of sycophantic nuts. If I’m lying or exaggerating, charge me with perjury.

Adams is right that the facts are there — multiple witnesses, documents, and e-mails. They establish that a meritorious case of voter intimidation was dropped by Obama political appointees and that there is an aversion in the Obama administration to filing cases against minorities. That only conservative outlets have bothered to root around and uncover the story tells you more about the mainstream media than it does about the merits of the case.

It’s bad enough to miss an important story; it’s worse to write a belated story which steers clear of the facts you missed. Even when all the legwork is done by others and the story is figuratively handed to them, and even explained to them, some reporters can’t be bothered with the facts.

One final point: it’s not just right wingers who recognize that this is a legitimate and important story. The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander does a mea culpa for the Post’s delinquency in reporting. Bravo. (Oh, if only Politico were so professional and candid.) I look forward to the Post’s future reporting — there certainly is plenty to investigate.

UPDATE: Jan Crawford, the fine legal reporter previously with ABC and now with CBS, has a comprehensive report here. Stephen Hayes’s excellent summary of the case and of the mainstream media’s disinclination to report on it is here.

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Shut Up, the Networks Responded

Ben Smith has the remarkable scoop on this one:

CBS and NBC have refused to air a provocative ad from the confrontational, well-funded National Republican Trust PAC that calls on Americans to oppose the building of a mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site.

The ad — which has about 100,000 views on YouTube — intersperses some of the most horrifying images from the 9/11 attacks with the sounds of Muslim prayer and images of Muslim militants. It focuses on what’s become a divisive — and partisan — issue in New York State, the erection of a Muslim cultural center on Park Place, in the neighborhood near the fallen towers.

“On September 11, they declared war against us,” says the narrator. “And to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at Ground Zero.”

The NBC spokesperson says the problem was “they” — she says it is “unclear as to whether the reference is to terrorists or to the Islamic religious organization that is sponsoring the building of the mosque.” Grammatically she’s correct, but her red pencil is selective, as anyone who’s seen a left-wing ad on TV can attest. Smith reports:

A CBS official, Marty Daly, also rejected the ad, according to emails shared by NRT PAC executive director Scott Wheeler. “They have very selective standards — they’ll run anything MoveOn.org throws out there,” said Wheeler, also citing a controversial 2004 NAACP ad invoking the slain James Byrd.

NRT folks may have the last laugh, however. A whole lot of people will now hear about the effort to shut them up — and be inclined to go online to watch the ad.

Ben Smith has the remarkable scoop on this one:

CBS and NBC have refused to air a provocative ad from the confrontational, well-funded National Republican Trust PAC that calls on Americans to oppose the building of a mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site.

The ad — which has about 100,000 views on YouTube — intersperses some of the most horrifying images from the 9/11 attacks with the sounds of Muslim prayer and images of Muslim militants. It focuses on what’s become a divisive — and partisan — issue in New York State, the erection of a Muslim cultural center on Park Place, in the neighborhood near the fallen towers.

“On September 11, they declared war against us,” says the narrator. “And to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at Ground Zero.”

The NBC spokesperson says the problem was “they” — she says it is “unclear as to whether the reference is to terrorists or to the Islamic religious organization that is sponsoring the building of the mosque.” Grammatically she’s correct, but her red pencil is selective, as anyone who’s seen a left-wing ad on TV can attest. Smith reports:

A CBS official, Marty Daly, also rejected the ad, according to emails shared by NRT PAC executive director Scott Wheeler. “They have very selective standards — they’ll run anything MoveOn.org throws out there,” said Wheeler, also citing a controversial 2004 NAACP ad invoking the slain James Byrd.

NRT folks may have the last laugh, however. A whole lot of people will now hear about the effort to shut them up — and be inclined to go online to watch the ad.

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The Voters Bail on Obamanomics

Greg Sargent takes a look at the latest CBS poll: “Now, 40 percent of Americans polled approve of President Obama’s handling of the economy; 54 percent disapprove. That’s down from 45 percent approval last month. Seventy-one percent of those polled say that their local job market is bad and 70 percent say it’s going to stay the same or get worse.” Sargent then poses a smart query to his fellow Democrats:

At what point does the current Dem message that things are improving become counterproductive happy talk? After all, in the absence of more action, it risks making Dems look out of touch with the reality on the ground and makes it tougher for Obama to point to how awful things are to spur Congress to act.

Well, this has been Obama’s and the Democrats’ problem for some time. They say the stimulus plan is working; voters don’t believe them. They say ObamaCare is going to shrink the deficit; the voters don’t believe them. They say their focus is on jobs; the voters don’t believe them. It is not just that Democrats “look” out of touch — they are! They’ve pursued an agenda the public doesn’t want and expected voters to learn to love their handiwork.

As the Democrats (as well as their media supporters) come to grips with the impending wave election, one likely to sweep many from office, they may finally get reacquainted with reality. Elections have a way of doing that.

Greg Sargent takes a look at the latest CBS poll: “Now, 40 percent of Americans polled approve of President Obama’s handling of the economy; 54 percent disapprove. That’s down from 45 percent approval last month. Seventy-one percent of those polled say that their local job market is bad and 70 percent say it’s going to stay the same or get worse.” Sargent then poses a smart query to his fellow Democrats:

At what point does the current Dem message that things are improving become counterproductive happy talk? After all, in the absence of more action, it risks making Dems look out of touch with the reality on the ground and makes it tougher for Obama to point to how awful things are to spur Congress to act.

Well, this has been Obama’s and the Democrats’ problem for some time. They say the stimulus plan is working; voters don’t believe them. They say ObamaCare is going to shrink the deficit; the voters don’t believe them. They say their focus is on jobs; the voters don’t believe them. It is not just that Democrats “look” out of touch — they are! They’ve pursued an agenda the public doesn’t want and expected voters to learn to love their handiwork.

As the Democrats (as well as their media supporters) come to grips with the impending wave election, one likely to sweep many from office, they may finally get reacquainted with reality. Elections have a way of doing that.

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Obama Destroys the Dream of a Center-Left Coalition

I won’t spoil the very clever fictional construct that David Brooks uses to make his point in today’s column, but his conclusion bears repeating:

Surveys showed public opinion drifting rightward on issue after issue: gun control, abortion, global warming and the role of government. Far from leading Americans, Democrats were repelling them. Between 2008 and 2010 the share of voters who considered the Democrats too liberal surged from 39 percent to 49 percent, according to Gallup surveys.

Prospects for the 2010 election are grim. Election guru Charlie Cook suspects the G.O.P. will retake the House. N.P.R. polled voters in the 60 most competitive House districts currently held by Democrats. Democrats trail Republicans in those districts, on average, by 5 percentage points. Independent voters in the districts favor Republicans by an average of 18 percentage points.

By 57 percent to 37 percent, voters in these districts embrace the proposition that “President Obama’s economic policies have run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses.”

Instead of building faith in government, the events of 2009 and 2010 further undermined it. An absurdly low 6 percent of Americans acknowledge that the stimulus package created jobs, according to a New York Times/CBS survey.

I’ll quibble with “absurdly” if he means irrationally, but he’s accurate on the rest. And his warning is equally on point:

Some Kool-Aid sippers on the left say the problem is that Republicans have better messaging (somehow John Boehner became magically charismatic to independents). Others say the shift to the right is a product of bad economic times. … But the big story is that liberals have failed to create a governing center-left majority. If they can’t do it in circumstances like these, when will they ever?

There is a self-fulfilling quality to the left’s crack-up. The rush to the left and “never let a crisis go to waste” mentality was premised on the view that the window of opportunity to accomplish the liberal agenda was brief. But in piling on one big-government proposal after another, Obama actually shortened the window and gave rise to the conservative resurgence, which threatens to rip up the one significant “achievement” (ObamaCare) jammed through in the first half of his term. (Sigh, yes, the halfway mark is in sight.) Obama might have prolonged his window of opportunity, kept the conservatives at bay, and preserved many of his party’s seats. But that would have required compromise and moderation in pursuit of his desired remaking of the economy and vast expansion of the federal government.

It was the road not taken — the road many hopeful pundits, including Brooks, were convinced Obama would take. The president has proved to be a lot less moderate, a lot less politically savvy, and as a result, a lot less successful than his boosters had imagined. He was nevertheless an invaluable aid in discrediting liberal statism.

I won’t spoil the very clever fictional construct that David Brooks uses to make his point in today’s column, but his conclusion bears repeating:

Surveys showed public opinion drifting rightward on issue after issue: gun control, abortion, global warming and the role of government. Far from leading Americans, Democrats were repelling them. Between 2008 and 2010 the share of voters who considered the Democrats too liberal surged from 39 percent to 49 percent, according to Gallup surveys.

Prospects for the 2010 election are grim. Election guru Charlie Cook suspects the G.O.P. will retake the House. N.P.R. polled voters in the 60 most competitive House districts currently held by Democrats. Democrats trail Republicans in those districts, on average, by 5 percentage points. Independent voters in the districts favor Republicans by an average of 18 percentage points.

By 57 percent to 37 percent, voters in these districts embrace the proposition that “President Obama’s economic policies have run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses.”

Instead of building faith in government, the events of 2009 and 2010 further undermined it. An absurdly low 6 percent of Americans acknowledge that the stimulus package created jobs, according to a New York Times/CBS survey.

I’ll quibble with “absurdly” if he means irrationally, but he’s accurate on the rest. And his warning is equally on point:

Some Kool-Aid sippers on the left say the problem is that Republicans have better messaging (somehow John Boehner became magically charismatic to independents). Others say the shift to the right is a product of bad economic times. … But the big story is that liberals have failed to create a governing center-left majority. If they can’t do it in circumstances like these, when will they ever?

There is a self-fulfilling quality to the left’s crack-up. The rush to the left and “never let a crisis go to waste” mentality was premised on the view that the window of opportunity to accomplish the liberal agenda was brief. But in piling on one big-government proposal after another, Obama actually shortened the window and gave rise to the conservative resurgence, which threatens to rip up the one significant “achievement” (ObamaCare) jammed through in the first half of his term. (Sigh, yes, the halfway mark is in sight.) Obama might have prolonged his window of opportunity, kept the conservatives at bay, and preserved many of his party’s seats. But that would have required compromise and moderation in pursuit of his desired remaking of the economy and vast expansion of the federal government.

It was the road not taken — the road many hopeful pundits, including Brooks, were convinced Obama would take. The president has proved to be a lot less moderate, a lot less politically savvy, and as a result, a lot less successful than his boosters had imagined. He was nevertheless an invaluable aid in discrediting liberal statism.

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