Commentary Magazine


Topic: CNN

Morning Commentary

So how’s that “reset” with Russia going? Turns out the U.S.’s light criticism of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s six-year prison sentence last week did little to faze the Kremlin. Russian police arrested 130 protesters during a New Year’s Eve demonstration against the Khodorkovsky verdict and the country’s prohibition of free assembly.

Greece and the state of California have two things in common — spiraling debt and an unwillingness to take responsibility for it. According to Victor Davis Hanson, it’s no coincidence that both populations can’t stop railing against “them” — the others who apparently created the financial messes Greece and California now face. Writes Hanson: “Oz is over with and the Greeks are furious at ‘them.’ Furious in the sense that everyone must be blamed except themselves. So they protest and demonstrate that they do not wish to stop borrowing money to sustain a lifestyle that they have not earned—but do not wish to cut ties either with their EU beneficiaries and go it alone as in the 1970s. So they rage against reality.”

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Jamie Kirchick calls out Julian Assange for leaking information that has served only to weaken our democracy-supporting allies, such as Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai: “Which leads us back to WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange, who lacks any appreciation for the subtleties of international statecraft, many of which are not at all devious. If Mr. Assange were genuinely committed to democracy, as he claims, he would reveal the minutes of Mr. Mugabe’s war cabinet, or the private musings of the Chinese Politburo that has sustained the Zimbabwean dictator for over three decades.”

Is Obama now cribbing speech tips from the National Review? Bill Kristol has the scoop on the president’s sudden appreciation for American exceptionalism.

With a new year comes a whole host of brand new state laws you may have already unwittingly broken. If you’re from California, check out Mark Hemingway’s post at the Washington Examiner — he has saved you the time of going through the Golden State’s 725 new laws by highlighting the ones that will probably irk you the most.

The incoming Republican chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, told Ed Henry on CNN yesterday that he won’t investigate whether President Obama offered Joe Sestak a position in the administration in exchange for dropping out of the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania last year: “That’s — it was wrong if it was done in the Bush administration. It’s wrong in the Obama administration. But remember, the focus of our committee has always been, and you look at all the work I’ve done over the past four years on the oversight committee; it has been consistently about looking for waste, fraud and abuse. That’s the vast majority of what we do,” Issa told Henry. Issa had previously called the Sestak incident “Obama’s Watergate” and said that the Obama administration may have committed “up to three felonies” by making the deal.

So how’s that “reset” with Russia going? Turns out the U.S.’s light criticism of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s six-year prison sentence last week did little to faze the Kremlin. Russian police arrested 130 protesters during a New Year’s Eve demonstration against the Khodorkovsky verdict and the country’s prohibition of free assembly.

Greece and the state of California have two things in common — spiraling debt and an unwillingness to take responsibility for it. According to Victor Davis Hanson, it’s no coincidence that both populations can’t stop railing against “them” — the others who apparently created the financial messes Greece and California now face. Writes Hanson: “Oz is over with and the Greeks are furious at ‘them.’ Furious in the sense that everyone must be blamed except themselves. So they protest and demonstrate that they do not wish to stop borrowing money to sustain a lifestyle that they have not earned—but do not wish to cut ties either with their EU beneficiaries and go it alone as in the 1970s. So they rage against reality.”

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Jamie Kirchick calls out Julian Assange for leaking information that has served only to weaken our democracy-supporting allies, such as Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai: “Which leads us back to WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange, who lacks any appreciation for the subtleties of international statecraft, many of which are not at all devious. If Mr. Assange were genuinely committed to democracy, as he claims, he would reveal the minutes of Mr. Mugabe’s war cabinet, or the private musings of the Chinese Politburo that has sustained the Zimbabwean dictator for over three decades.”

Is Obama now cribbing speech tips from the National Review? Bill Kristol has the scoop on the president’s sudden appreciation for American exceptionalism.

With a new year comes a whole host of brand new state laws you may have already unwittingly broken. If you’re from California, check out Mark Hemingway’s post at the Washington Examiner — he has saved you the time of going through the Golden State’s 725 new laws by highlighting the ones that will probably irk you the most.

The incoming Republican chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, told Ed Henry on CNN yesterday that he won’t investigate whether President Obama offered Joe Sestak a position in the administration in exchange for dropping out of the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania last year: “That’s — it was wrong if it was done in the Bush administration. It’s wrong in the Obama administration. But remember, the focus of our committee has always been, and you look at all the work I’ve done over the past four years on the oversight committee; it has been consistently about looking for waste, fraud and abuse. That’s the vast majority of what we do,” Issa told Henry. Issa had previously called the Sestak incident “Obama’s Watergate” and said that the Obama administration may have committed “up to three felonies” by making the deal.

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Why FOX Is Crowing

The 2010 cable news ratings are in — and it was an unprecedented rout.

FOX News has the top dozen rated shows on cable news. Thirteen FOX News programs draw more than 1 million viewers; three draw more than 2 million; and one program, The O’Reilly Factor, draws more than 3 million. In fact, the 11:00 p.m. repeat of The O’Reilly Factor, which ranks eighth (1.41 million viewers), easily outdistanced the top-rated program on MSNBC, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, which ranked 13th (1.035 million viewers).

CNN’s top-rated show, Larry King Live, finished at number 18 (672,000 viewers). Things were so bad for CNN in 2010 that Nancy Grace of Headline News ranked ahead of King, who has now retired from his nightly hosting duties.

The genius of Roger Ailes is that he not only brought the network to the top but, once there, continued to build on its dominance. We’ve never seen anything quite like this. It’s no wonder that FOX News provokes such envy and animus from its competitors. They not only can’t beat FOX News; they can hardly compete with it anymore.

The 2010 cable news ratings are in — and it was an unprecedented rout.

FOX News has the top dozen rated shows on cable news. Thirteen FOX News programs draw more than 1 million viewers; three draw more than 2 million; and one program, The O’Reilly Factor, draws more than 3 million. In fact, the 11:00 p.m. repeat of The O’Reilly Factor, which ranks eighth (1.41 million viewers), easily outdistanced the top-rated program on MSNBC, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, which ranked 13th (1.035 million viewers).

CNN’s top-rated show, Larry King Live, finished at number 18 (672,000 viewers). Things were so bad for CNN in 2010 that Nancy Grace of Headline News ranked ahead of King, who has now retired from his nightly hosting duties.

The genius of Roger Ailes is that he not only brought the network to the top but, once there, continued to build on its dominance. We’ve never seen anything quite like this. It’s no wonder that FOX News provokes such envy and animus from its competitors. They not only can’t beat FOX News; they can hardly compete with it anymore.

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Morning Commentary

North Korea largely ignored the South Korean artillery drills this morning, despite fears that the military demonstrations would provoke a violent reaction from Pyongyang: “Defying North Korean threats of violent retaliation and ‘brutal consequences beyond imagination,’ South Korea on Monday staged live-fire artillery drills on an island shelled last month by the North. … The immediate response from Pyongyang was surprisingly muted, however. A statement from the North’s official news agency Monday night said it was ‘not worth reacting’ to the exercise.”

Democrats face an uphill battle on New START this week after two key Senate Republicans announced they will not support the treaty’s ratification: “‘I’ve decided that I cannot support the treaty,’ Mr. McConnell said Sunday on CNN. ‘I think the verification provisions are inadequate, and I do worry about the missile defense implications of it.’”

The second installment in the Washington Post investigation “Top Secret America” sheds light on the Obama administration’s domestic-surveillance counterterrorism policies: “The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation’s history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.”

CNN and the Tea Party Express are teaming up to host a debate for the 2012 GOP presidential candidates, but the move has prompted criticism from both the left and the right: “But news of the alliance elicited a critical reaction from media observers and rival networks, as well as from the presumed target demographic for the debate: tea partiers and conservatives more generally. ‘This is nothing more than a press stunt for CNN that cries out “Pay attention to us!”’ said Everett Wilkinson, an organizer with the South Florida Tea Party, who said there’s been talk in tea party circles about protesting the debate, or even infiltrating it.”

As the FCC takes steps to expand Internet regulation, Robert M. McDowell warns this will lead to decreased innovation and increased consumer prices: “The FCC’s threat to Internet freedom: Analysts and broadband companies of all sizes have told the FCC that new rules are likely to have the perverse effect of inhibiting capital investment, deterring innovation, raising operating costs, and ultimately increasing consumer prices. Others maintain that the new rules will kill jobs. By moving forward with Internet rules anyway, the FCC is not living up to its promise of being ‘data driven’ in its pursuit of mandates—i.e., listening to the needs of the market.”

Universities aren’t teaching today’s young progressives about the dangerous errors made by yesterday’s Communists, writes Barry Rubin: “Are people learning about apologists for foreign states and movements, the concealing of crimes, the foolishness of the intellectuals, the belief that the more government control the better, the failure to understand that the far left was as much an enemy of liberalism as the far right, and the other mistakes involved in that experience?”

North Korea largely ignored the South Korean artillery drills this morning, despite fears that the military demonstrations would provoke a violent reaction from Pyongyang: “Defying North Korean threats of violent retaliation and ‘brutal consequences beyond imagination,’ South Korea on Monday staged live-fire artillery drills on an island shelled last month by the North. … The immediate response from Pyongyang was surprisingly muted, however. A statement from the North’s official news agency Monday night said it was ‘not worth reacting’ to the exercise.”

Democrats face an uphill battle on New START this week after two key Senate Republicans announced they will not support the treaty’s ratification: “‘I’ve decided that I cannot support the treaty,’ Mr. McConnell said Sunday on CNN. ‘I think the verification provisions are inadequate, and I do worry about the missile defense implications of it.’”

The second installment in the Washington Post investigation “Top Secret America” sheds light on the Obama administration’s domestic-surveillance counterterrorism policies: “The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation’s history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.”

CNN and the Tea Party Express are teaming up to host a debate for the 2012 GOP presidential candidates, but the move has prompted criticism from both the left and the right: “But news of the alliance elicited a critical reaction from media observers and rival networks, as well as from the presumed target demographic for the debate: tea partiers and conservatives more generally. ‘This is nothing more than a press stunt for CNN that cries out “Pay attention to us!”’ said Everett Wilkinson, an organizer with the South Florida Tea Party, who said there’s been talk in tea party circles about protesting the debate, or even infiltrating it.”

As the FCC takes steps to expand Internet regulation, Robert M. McDowell warns this will lead to decreased innovation and increased consumer prices: “The FCC’s threat to Internet freedom: Analysts and broadband companies of all sizes have told the FCC that new rules are likely to have the perverse effect of inhibiting capital investment, deterring innovation, raising operating costs, and ultimately increasing consumer prices. Others maintain that the new rules will kill jobs. By moving forward with Internet rules anyway, the FCC is not living up to its promise of being ‘data driven’ in its pursuit of mandates—i.e., listening to the needs of the market.”

Universities aren’t teaching today’s young progressives about the dangerous errors made by yesterday’s Communists, writes Barry Rubin: “Are people learning about apologists for foreign states and movements, the concealing of crimes, the foolishness of the intellectuals, the belief that the more government control the better, the failure to understand that the far left was as much an enemy of liberalism as the far right, and the other mistakes involved in that experience?”

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RE: Republicans and the Hispanic Vote

Jen, I’d be cautious with those CNN exit polls, which do indeed show a better-than-expected Hispanic Republican vote. While analyzing exit polling data for small populations is always dicey, according to this analysis, it was particularly so for Hispanic voters in 2010.

If Republicans like Rep. Lamar Smith spent a fraction of their time talking to Hispanics about shared conservative values, the numbers would grow. There is no question that many Hispanics have more in common with conservatives who support patriotism, traditional families, and limited government than they do with the likes of Pelosi and Reid. But the latter reach out and make Hispanics feel comfortable in their midst, and too few in the Republican Party even bother to try. Maybe Rubio, Sandoval, Martinez, et al. will increase the comfort level for Hispanics within the Republican Party, making outreach come more naturally.

Jen, I’d be cautious with those CNN exit polls, which do indeed show a better-than-expected Hispanic Republican vote. While analyzing exit polling data for small populations is always dicey, according to this analysis, it was particularly so for Hispanic voters in 2010.

If Republicans like Rep. Lamar Smith spent a fraction of their time talking to Hispanics about shared conservative values, the numbers would grow. There is no question that many Hispanics have more in common with conservatives who support patriotism, traditional families, and limited government than they do with the likes of Pelosi and Reid. But the latter reach out and make Hispanics feel comfortable in their midst, and too few in the Republican Party even bother to try. Maybe Rubio, Sandoval, Martinez, et al. will increase the comfort level for Hispanics within the Republican Party, making outreach come more naturally.

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Republicans and the Hispanic Vote

Rep. Lamar Smith gets it partially right when he touts the election of Hispanic Republican candidates and of non-Hispanic pro-border-enforcement Republicans with the help of a significant number of Hispanic voters. “Exit polls reported by CNN and updated this week reveal that a historically robust 38 percent of Hispanic voters cast ballots for House Republican candidates in 2010 — more than in 2006 (30 percent) and 2008 (29 percent).” He observes:

Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, one of the most trusted commentators on Spanish-language television, concluded that “the United States moved to the right, and Latino politicians did so too — among them, a new generation of Hispanic Republicans who support policies that are essentially opposed to the undocumented immigrants in this country.”

Who are these pro-rule-of-law Hispanic rising stars in the Republican Party? Voters elected Susana Martinez governor of New Mexico, Brian Sandoval governor of Nevada and Florida’s Marco Rubio to the U.S. Senate. Bill Flores, Francisco Canseco, Jaime Herrera, Raul Labrador and David Rivera went to the U.S. House of Representatives.

But we should add a couple of caveats. First, Smith notes that Gov. Jan Brewer got 28 percent of the vote, a good result, he suggests, since in 2006 the GOP candidate got 26 percent. Umm … I don’t think barely exceeding the vote totals for 2006, a wipe-out year for the Republicans, should be the goal for the GOP. (Moreover, the percentage of voters who are Hispanic has been increasing in each election, so Republicans will need to do better with each election if they are to retain that share of the general electorate.) And while Rick Perry got 38 percent of the Hispanic vote, he got 55 percent of the overall electorate, suggesting that a huge gap still remains in the GOP’s appeal to Hispanics.

Second, Smith ignores the real issues: tone, rhetoric, and position on legal immigration. Marco Rubio believes in border control, but his life story is built around the immigrant experience, and he eschews inflammatory language that has plagued Republicans like Tom Tancredo. As Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell pointed out to me a few years ago, if the Republicans want to continue to make progress among Hispanic voters, they need to object to the “illegal” part, not the “immigration” part, of the equation.

Smith is on solid ground with his conclusion:

On many of the most important issues of our day – jobs, education, support for small businesses and the economy – the Republican positions line up with Hispanic values. Republican approaches to better education, small businesses and job creation demonstrate that the GOP will put policy over politics when it comes to Hispanic outreach. The right way to attract Hispanic support is to emphasize our shared values.

Too often, Republicans assume that their positions are so intrinsically true that they need no explanation. Wrong. If they want to attract a growing portion of the electorate, they need to explain both that Republicans value Hispanics’ contributions and participation in American society and that school choice, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and other mainstays of the GOP agenda are the best avenue to upward mobility and progress for Hispanics, and for all Americans. Election of impressive candidates like Rubio, Gov. Susana Martinez, Gov. Brian Sandoval, and Reps. Bill Flores, Francisco Canseco, Jaime Herrera, Raul Labrador, and David Rivera is a good start but hardly sufficient.

Rep. Lamar Smith gets it partially right when he touts the election of Hispanic Republican candidates and of non-Hispanic pro-border-enforcement Republicans with the help of a significant number of Hispanic voters. “Exit polls reported by CNN and updated this week reveal that a historically robust 38 percent of Hispanic voters cast ballots for House Republican candidates in 2010 — more than in 2006 (30 percent) and 2008 (29 percent).” He observes:

Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, one of the most trusted commentators on Spanish-language television, concluded that “the United States moved to the right, and Latino politicians did so too — among them, a new generation of Hispanic Republicans who support policies that are essentially opposed to the undocumented immigrants in this country.”

Who are these pro-rule-of-law Hispanic rising stars in the Republican Party? Voters elected Susana Martinez governor of New Mexico, Brian Sandoval governor of Nevada and Florida’s Marco Rubio to the U.S. Senate. Bill Flores, Francisco Canseco, Jaime Herrera, Raul Labrador and David Rivera went to the U.S. House of Representatives.

But we should add a couple of caveats. First, Smith notes that Gov. Jan Brewer got 28 percent of the vote, a good result, he suggests, since in 2006 the GOP candidate got 26 percent. Umm … I don’t think barely exceeding the vote totals for 2006, a wipe-out year for the Republicans, should be the goal for the GOP. (Moreover, the percentage of voters who are Hispanic has been increasing in each election, so Republicans will need to do better with each election if they are to retain that share of the general electorate.) And while Rick Perry got 38 percent of the Hispanic vote, he got 55 percent of the overall electorate, suggesting that a huge gap still remains in the GOP’s appeal to Hispanics.

Second, Smith ignores the real issues: tone, rhetoric, and position on legal immigration. Marco Rubio believes in border control, but his life story is built around the immigrant experience, and he eschews inflammatory language that has plagued Republicans like Tom Tancredo. As Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell pointed out to me a few years ago, if the Republicans want to continue to make progress among Hispanic voters, they need to object to the “illegal” part, not the “immigration” part, of the equation.

Smith is on solid ground with his conclusion:

On many of the most important issues of our day – jobs, education, support for small businesses and the economy – the Republican positions line up with Hispanic values. Republican approaches to better education, small businesses and job creation demonstrate that the GOP will put policy over politics when it comes to Hispanic outreach. The right way to attract Hispanic support is to emphasize our shared values.

Too often, Republicans assume that their positions are so intrinsically true that they need no explanation. Wrong. If they want to attract a growing portion of the electorate, they need to explain both that Republicans value Hispanics’ contributions and participation in American society and that school choice, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and other mainstays of the GOP agenda are the best avenue to upward mobility and progress for Hispanics, and for all Americans. Election of impressive candidates like Rubio, Gov. Susana Martinez, Gov. Brian Sandoval, and Reps. Bill Flores, Francisco Canseco, Jaime Herrera, Raul Labrador, and David Rivera is a good start but hardly sufficient.

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The Bush Brothers and the Freedom Agenda

State of the Union has become the most interesting and best hosted Sunday talk show. Unlike ABC, CNN went for a down-the-middle, no-nonsense interviewer in Candy Crowley. Crowley is able to extract real news — in part because she listens to the answers and asks effective follow-ups. Sunday was no exception. She sat down with George W. Bush and then with Jeb Bush as well.

The newsiest tidbit was Jeb’s apparent openness to a presidential run — but not in 2012:

GEORGE W. BUSH: … I urged [Jeb] to seriously consider running for president, because I think he’d be a great president. But he’s chosen not to run this time, and I finally have believed him.

CROWLEY: See? So you’re getting some place. And you noticed “this time.”

JEB BUSH: You know what? You never say never about anything. I answer the questions forthrightly about 2012.

But just as interesting was the reminder that the so-called “freedom agenda” was central to Bush’s presidency (in obvious contrast to  Obama’s). Asked about the war in Afghanistan, Bush answered:

GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, there’s — first of all, Afghanistan was the site where extremists were able to find a safe haven to attack.

CROWLEY: But they’re mostly gone at this point in Afghanistan.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I wouldn’t make that assumption. Oh, in Afghanistan, yes, but it’s not to say they couldn’t come back if a regime that was welcoming them would give them safe haven again.

I would say that, put yourself in the position of a young girl in Afghanistan, and realize that her life will be incredibly brutalized and/or thwarted by people like the Taliban. And the fundamental question, is it worth it? That’s the question we’ve got to ask. Does it matter to our own national security, or does it matter to our conscience that women will be mistreated? I argue it does. And I understand it’s difficult.

On Iraq he sounded a similar theme: “I think somebody’s going to look back some day and say thank goodness the United States believed in the universality of freedom and liberated 25 million and gave the Iraqis a chance to have their own free — free society.”

Also evident is the devotion of both the Bush brothers to immigration reform:

JEB BUSH: Rick Scott got a majority of the Hispanic vote in Florida. We elected two Hispanic governors, Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval. There were congressmen and women elected of Hispanic origin.

I think the problem is not just a West Coast problem, but it is a big-time California problem. And I think part of it relates to tone.

If you’re watching TV, and someone is kind of legitimately angry that we can’t control our border, and sending signals that it’s them and us, and, by the way, you’re not “us,” you’re “them,” it doesn’t matter what else people turn out. If they’re not — feel like they’re welcome, they’re not going to listen to the message.

CROWLEY: And how does the Republican Party sort of reach out on that? Because immigration reform, you tried.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I did. And I believe the best way to secure the border is to have a comprehensive approach, and said so during an Oval Office address.

The language got carried away though. I mean, people — the issue kind of spiraled out of control and sent bad signals.

I think the Republican Party can attract Latinos through good education policy, good small business policy, good policy toward our veterans. And there have been times when Latinos have voted Republican and times when they haven’t. And so we always need to learn from the past and be sensitive about the future. …

JEB BUSH: Yes. And at the same time, Latino, or Hispanic, as we call people of Hispanic origin in Florida, Hispanics want the border controlled. A great nation has to control its border for national security purposes, for all sorts of purposes. And so I don’t know anybody that says, yes, let’s just open up our border to create chaos.

So, once the border is controlled, and people view it that way, and there’s a perception, it’s benchmarked, and people say yes, then I think you’re going to find that there is common ground to change our immigration policy to help us grow faster as a nation and to welcome people that work hard and play by the rules to create prosperity for us.

None of the brothers got credit from the left for their efforts on immigration reform, while many on the right continue to savage the notion of comprehensive immigration reform — even the Bush formulation (border security first).

Likewise, Bush’s foreign policy was vilified by the Democratic party, which from FDR through JFK was in favor of a freedom-promoting foreign policy. But that’s a faint memory now. Bush’s emphasis on democracy promotion and human rights was the subject of such disdain, that it has taken the current administration two years to drop its aversion to even discussing these topics.

The Crowley interview is a timely reminder that Republicans should be wary of a cramped, batten-down-the-hatches form of conservatism. The political saleability of modern conservatism and its success domestically and overseas are not based solely, or even primarily, on an oppositional agenda (no to spending, no to foreign commitments, no to immigrants). Rather it is the quintessential freedom agenda — free markets, pro-growth policies, a robust assertion of American power and interests oversees, a beacon for and defender of victims of despotism, and a big tent GOP. As the Republicans ready themselves for the 2012 primary, they should not forget that limited government is not an end unto itself, but rather a necessary condition for our freedom and prosperity. Whether on defense spending, immigration, or the war against Islamic terror, conservatives would do well to keep that in mind.

State of the Union has become the most interesting and best hosted Sunday talk show. Unlike ABC, CNN went for a down-the-middle, no-nonsense interviewer in Candy Crowley. Crowley is able to extract real news — in part because she listens to the answers and asks effective follow-ups. Sunday was no exception. She sat down with George W. Bush and then with Jeb Bush as well.

The newsiest tidbit was Jeb’s apparent openness to a presidential run — but not in 2012:

GEORGE W. BUSH: … I urged [Jeb] to seriously consider running for president, because I think he’d be a great president. But he’s chosen not to run this time, and I finally have believed him.

CROWLEY: See? So you’re getting some place. And you noticed “this time.”

JEB BUSH: You know what? You never say never about anything. I answer the questions forthrightly about 2012.

But just as interesting was the reminder that the so-called “freedom agenda” was central to Bush’s presidency (in obvious contrast to  Obama’s). Asked about the war in Afghanistan, Bush answered:

GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, there’s — first of all, Afghanistan was the site where extremists were able to find a safe haven to attack.

CROWLEY: But they’re mostly gone at this point in Afghanistan.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I wouldn’t make that assumption. Oh, in Afghanistan, yes, but it’s not to say they couldn’t come back if a regime that was welcoming them would give them safe haven again.

I would say that, put yourself in the position of a young girl in Afghanistan, and realize that her life will be incredibly brutalized and/or thwarted by people like the Taliban. And the fundamental question, is it worth it? That’s the question we’ve got to ask. Does it matter to our own national security, or does it matter to our conscience that women will be mistreated? I argue it does. And I understand it’s difficult.

On Iraq he sounded a similar theme: “I think somebody’s going to look back some day and say thank goodness the United States believed in the universality of freedom and liberated 25 million and gave the Iraqis a chance to have their own free — free society.”

Also evident is the devotion of both the Bush brothers to immigration reform:

JEB BUSH: Rick Scott got a majority of the Hispanic vote in Florida. We elected two Hispanic governors, Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval. There were congressmen and women elected of Hispanic origin.

I think the problem is not just a West Coast problem, but it is a big-time California problem. And I think part of it relates to tone.

If you’re watching TV, and someone is kind of legitimately angry that we can’t control our border, and sending signals that it’s them and us, and, by the way, you’re not “us,” you’re “them,” it doesn’t matter what else people turn out. If they’re not — feel like they’re welcome, they’re not going to listen to the message.

CROWLEY: And how does the Republican Party sort of reach out on that? Because immigration reform, you tried.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I did. And I believe the best way to secure the border is to have a comprehensive approach, and said so during an Oval Office address.

The language got carried away though. I mean, people — the issue kind of spiraled out of control and sent bad signals.

I think the Republican Party can attract Latinos through good education policy, good small business policy, good policy toward our veterans. And there have been times when Latinos have voted Republican and times when they haven’t. And so we always need to learn from the past and be sensitive about the future. …

JEB BUSH: Yes. And at the same time, Latino, or Hispanic, as we call people of Hispanic origin in Florida, Hispanics want the border controlled. A great nation has to control its border for national security purposes, for all sorts of purposes. And so I don’t know anybody that says, yes, let’s just open up our border to create chaos.

So, once the border is controlled, and people view it that way, and there’s a perception, it’s benchmarked, and people say yes, then I think you’re going to find that there is common ground to change our immigration policy to help us grow faster as a nation and to welcome people that work hard and play by the rules to create prosperity for us.

None of the brothers got credit from the left for their efforts on immigration reform, while many on the right continue to savage the notion of comprehensive immigration reform — even the Bush formulation (border security first).

Likewise, Bush’s foreign policy was vilified by the Democratic party, which from FDR through JFK was in favor of a freedom-promoting foreign policy. But that’s a faint memory now. Bush’s emphasis on democracy promotion and human rights was the subject of such disdain, that it has taken the current administration two years to drop its aversion to even discussing these topics.

The Crowley interview is a timely reminder that Republicans should be wary of a cramped, batten-down-the-hatches form of conservatism. The political saleability of modern conservatism and its success domestically and overseas are not based solely, or even primarily, on an oppositional agenda (no to spending, no to foreign commitments, no to immigrants). Rather it is the quintessential freedom agenda — free markets, pro-growth policies, a robust assertion of American power and interests oversees, a beacon for and defender of victims of despotism, and a big tent GOP. As the Republicans ready themselves for the 2012 primary, they should not forget that limited government is not an end unto itself, but rather a necessary condition for our freedom and prosperity. Whether on defense spending, immigration, or the war against Islamic terror, conservatives would do well to keep that in mind.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Don’t be president, then. “Obama miffed by questions on U.S.”

Don’t think Dems fail to grasp how toxic ObamaCare is. “A leading Senate Democrat vowed Friday to introduce legislation killing a part of the new healthcare reform law that imposes new tax-filing requirements on small businesses. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee and a leading architect of the reform law, said a provision requiring businesses to report more purchases to the IRS will impose undue paperwork burdens on companies amid an economic downturn when they can least afford it.”

Don’t get your hopes up. “All the president has to do is abandon some foolish ideological presuppositions, get down to work, and stop fishing for compliments. If he did so, he’d end up getting genuine compliments—from us and, we dare say, from the American people. And then his self-respect would have a firmer ground than vanity.”

Don’t underestimate your impact, Nancy. “‘We didn’t lose the election because of me,’ Ms. Pelosi told National Public Radio in an interview that aired Friday morning.” No wonder Republicans are “giddy.”

Don’t believe that Obama learned anything from his rebuffs in Copenhagen (on global warming and the Olympics). Charles Krauthammer nails it: “Whenever a president walks into a room with another head of state and he walks out empty-handed — he’s got a failure on his hands. And this was self-inflicted. With Obama it’s now becoming a ritual. It’s a combination of incompetence,  inexperience, and arrogance. He was handed a treaty by the Bush administration. It was done. But he wanted to improve on it. And instead, so far, he’s got nothing. … And this is a pattern with Obama. He thinks he can reinvent the world. With Iran, he decides he has a silver tongue, he’ll sweet-talk ’em into a deal. He gets humiliated over and over again. With the Russians he does a reset, he gives up missile defense, he gets nothing.”

Don’t you wish the Obami would stop giving excuses that make them sound even more incompetent? “The U.S. position on settlements has not officially changed, [National Security Council’s Dan] Shapiro said. The United States still believes that the Israeli settlement moratorium should be extended, but that Palestinians should stay in peace talks even if it is not. He said that President Obama — who said Monday that Israeli settlement construction was ‘never helpful’ to peace talks Israel announced further construction plans in East Jerusalem — wasn’t trying to publicly criticize Netanyahu with his remarks. He simply answered a question put to him in a direct way, said Shapiro.” But not publicly criticize Bibi? They are frightfully inept — or disingenuous.

Don’t you miss smart diplomacy? “President Obama’s failure to conclude the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) is a disaster. It reveals a stunning level of ineptitude and seriously undermines America’s leadership in the global economy. The implications extend far beyond selling Buicks in Busan. … The debacle in Seoul is a slap in the face of a critical U.S. ally in a critical region, and it will cast doubt on U.S. trade promises in other negotiations elsewhere. But if an American president loses his credibility, the damage spreads beyond the narrow confines of economic deals and Northeast Asia.”

Don’t be shocked. CNN’s guest roster skews left.

Don’t let your family pet do this at home. “A 150-pound mountain lion was no match for a squirrel-chasing terrier on a farm in eastern South Dakota. Jack the Jack Russell weighs only 17 pounds, and yet he managed to trap the cougar up a tree on Tuesday. Jack’s owner, Chad Strenge, told The Argus Leader that the dog ‘trees cats all the time,’ and that the plucky terrier probably ‘figured it was just a cat.'”

Don’t be president, then. “Obama miffed by questions on U.S.”

Don’t think Dems fail to grasp how toxic ObamaCare is. “A leading Senate Democrat vowed Friday to introduce legislation killing a part of the new healthcare reform law that imposes new tax-filing requirements on small businesses. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee and a leading architect of the reform law, said a provision requiring businesses to report more purchases to the IRS will impose undue paperwork burdens on companies amid an economic downturn when they can least afford it.”

Don’t get your hopes up. “All the president has to do is abandon some foolish ideological presuppositions, get down to work, and stop fishing for compliments. If he did so, he’d end up getting genuine compliments—from us and, we dare say, from the American people. And then his self-respect would have a firmer ground than vanity.”

Don’t underestimate your impact, Nancy. “‘We didn’t lose the election because of me,’ Ms. Pelosi told National Public Radio in an interview that aired Friday morning.” No wonder Republicans are “giddy.”

Don’t believe that Obama learned anything from his rebuffs in Copenhagen (on global warming and the Olympics). Charles Krauthammer nails it: “Whenever a president walks into a room with another head of state and he walks out empty-handed — he’s got a failure on his hands. And this was self-inflicted. With Obama it’s now becoming a ritual. It’s a combination of incompetence,  inexperience, and arrogance. He was handed a treaty by the Bush administration. It was done. But he wanted to improve on it. And instead, so far, he’s got nothing. … And this is a pattern with Obama. He thinks he can reinvent the world. With Iran, he decides he has a silver tongue, he’ll sweet-talk ’em into a deal. He gets humiliated over and over again. With the Russians he does a reset, he gives up missile defense, he gets nothing.”

Don’t you wish the Obami would stop giving excuses that make them sound even more incompetent? “The U.S. position on settlements has not officially changed, [National Security Council’s Dan] Shapiro said. The United States still believes that the Israeli settlement moratorium should be extended, but that Palestinians should stay in peace talks even if it is not. He said that President Obama — who said Monday that Israeli settlement construction was ‘never helpful’ to peace talks Israel announced further construction plans in East Jerusalem — wasn’t trying to publicly criticize Netanyahu with his remarks. He simply answered a question put to him in a direct way, said Shapiro.” But not publicly criticize Bibi? They are frightfully inept — or disingenuous.

Don’t you miss smart diplomacy? “President Obama’s failure to conclude the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) is a disaster. It reveals a stunning level of ineptitude and seriously undermines America’s leadership in the global economy. The implications extend far beyond selling Buicks in Busan. … The debacle in Seoul is a slap in the face of a critical U.S. ally in a critical region, and it will cast doubt on U.S. trade promises in other negotiations elsewhere. But if an American president loses his credibility, the damage spreads beyond the narrow confines of economic deals and Northeast Asia.”

Don’t be shocked. CNN’s guest roster skews left.

Don’t let your family pet do this at home. “A 150-pound mountain lion was no match for a squirrel-chasing terrier on a farm in eastern South Dakota. Jack the Jack Russell weighs only 17 pounds, and yet he managed to trap the cougar up a tree on Tuesday. Jack’s owner, Chad Strenge, told The Argus Leader that the dog ‘trees cats all the time,’ and that the plucky terrier probably ‘figured it was just a cat.'”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A nightmare for Mitt Romney. “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible presidential candidate in 2012, called for repeal of healthcare legislation during a television interview Sunday morning. ‘I think Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed in the modern history of the country,’ Pawlenty said on CNN’s State of the Union.”

A smart position for Republicans on the Fed buying up $600B in bonds. Rep. Paul Ryan: “It’s a big mistake, in my opinion. Look, we have Congress doing tax and spend, borrow and spend. Now we have the Federal Reserve doing print and spend. If this quantitative easing, which is basically monetizing your debt — I think the upsides are very low. We already have very loose monetary policy, very, very low interest rates. This is going to give us an inflation problem in the future. It’s going to give us an interest rate problem in the future. It is destabilizing investment horizons. The Federal Reserve should be focused on sound and honest money, not on trying to micromanage the economy.” (You can see why a lot of conservatives hope he runs in 2012.)

A succinct analysis of Nancy Pelosi’s staying on as minority leader. “It doesn’t matter whether she’ll be good or merely bad or spectacularly bad. What matters is, you lose 65 seats, you resign. Period. There should not be a question.”

A nervous Democrat: Al Hunt on Pelosi’s decision to stick around: “What that seems to ignore are the millions of voters in places like South Bend, Indiana, or Charlotte, North Carolina, who supported President Barack Obama, are disappointed and anxious today and hope for constructive change. The congressional Democrats’ response: It’s business as usual. The message is ‘we’re going to keep doing exactly what we were doing’ before the party ‘got crushed,’ said Representative Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won his re-election contest 51 percent to 49 percent.” Yes, Republicans are “delighted.”

A rising star. “A young, charismatic Cuban-American with an appealing personal story, [Marco] Rubio took 49 percent of the vote Tuesday, a remarkable total in a three-way race. Exit polls showed he captured 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. As a vice presidential candidate, Rubio could make the nation’s largest swing state even more of a tossup and force Obama’s political team to consider a road map back to the White House without it. National Democrats were watching him long before Tuesday, hoping in vain that he would lose and his potential would be stifled.”

Already a conservative star. ” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie irked NBC’s David Gregory — and probably won over more conservatives weary of the media in the process — by suggesting on “Meet the Press” that the host was acting as an advocate for Democrats in the way he spoke about taxes. Christie, a Republican known for his tell-it-like-it-is attitude, disagreed with Gregory’s characterization of the looming battle in Congress over the Bush years tax rate as ‘tax cuts.'”

A liberal dilettante. That’s the gist of the New York Times‘s assessment of Obama’s Gandhi fetish. “‘The impression on the Indian side is every time you meet him, he talks about Gandhi,’ said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, a leading English-language newspaper, adding that the repeated references struck some officials as platitudinous.” Moreover, India has moved on. “If anything, India’s rise as a global power seems likely to distance it even further from Gandhi. India is inching toward a tighter military relationship with the United States, once distrusted as an imperialist power, even as the Americans are fighting a war in nearby Afghanistan. India also has an urbanizing consumer-driven economy and a growing middle class that indulges itself in cars, apartments and other goods. It is this economic progress that underpins India’s rising geopolitical clout and its attractiveness to the United States as a global partner.”

A nightmare for Mitt Romney. “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible presidential candidate in 2012, called for repeal of healthcare legislation during a television interview Sunday morning. ‘I think Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed in the modern history of the country,’ Pawlenty said on CNN’s State of the Union.”

A smart position for Republicans on the Fed buying up $600B in bonds. Rep. Paul Ryan: “It’s a big mistake, in my opinion. Look, we have Congress doing tax and spend, borrow and spend. Now we have the Federal Reserve doing print and spend. If this quantitative easing, which is basically monetizing your debt — I think the upsides are very low. We already have very loose monetary policy, very, very low interest rates. This is going to give us an inflation problem in the future. It’s going to give us an interest rate problem in the future. It is destabilizing investment horizons. The Federal Reserve should be focused on sound and honest money, not on trying to micromanage the economy.” (You can see why a lot of conservatives hope he runs in 2012.)

A succinct analysis of Nancy Pelosi’s staying on as minority leader. “It doesn’t matter whether she’ll be good or merely bad or spectacularly bad. What matters is, you lose 65 seats, you resign. Period. There should not be a question.”

A nervous Democrat: Al Hunt on Pelosi’s decision to stick around: “What that seems to ignore are the millions of voters in places like South Bend, Indiana, or Charlotte, North Carolina, who supported President Barack Obama, are disappointed and anxious today and hope for constructive change. The congressional Democrats’ response: It’s business as usual. The message is ‘we’re going to keep doing exactly what we were doing’ before the party ‘got crushed,’ said Representative Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won his re-election contest 51 percent to 49 percent.” Yes, Republicans are “delighted.”

A rising star. “A young, charismatic Cuban-American with an appealing personal story, [Marco] Rubio took 49 percent of the vote Tuesday, a remarkable total in a three-way race. Exit polls showed he captured 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. As a vice presidential candidate, Rubio could make the nation’s largest swing state even more of a tossup and force Obama’s political team to consider a road map back to the White House without it. National Democrats were watching him long before Tuesday, hoping in vain that he would lose and his potential would be stifled.”

Already a conservative star. ” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie irked NBC’s David Gregory — and probably won over more conservatives weary of the media in the process — by suggesting on “Meet the Press” that the host was acting as an advocate for Democrats in the way he spoke about taxes. Christie, a Republican known for his tell-it-like-it-is attitude, disagreed with Gregory’s characterization of the looming battle in Congress over the Bush years tax rate as ‘tax cuts.'”

A liberal dilettante. That’s the gist of the New York Times‘s assessment of Obama’s Gandhi fetish. “‘The impression on the Indian side is every time you meet him, he talks about Gandhi,’ said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, a leading English-language newspaper, adding that the repeated references struck some officials as platitudinous.” Moreover, India has moved on. “If anything, India’s rise as a global power seems likely to distance it even further from Gandhi. India is inching toward a tighter military relationship with the United States, once distrusted as an imperialist power, even as the Americans are fighting a war in nearby Afghanistan. India also has an urbanizing consumer-driven economy and a growing middle class that indulges itself in cars, apartments and other goods. It is this economic progress that underpins India’s rising geopolitical clout and its attractiveness to the United States as a global partner.”

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Don’t Think of a Tsunami

George Lakoff is a linguistics professor at Berkeley who made a name for himself in left-liberal circles by claiming the problem with left-liberalism was its failure to “reframe” the discussion in a way that would make Americans think well of left-liberalism. His book, Don’t Think of an Elephant, was particularly popular. Today, on Politico, Lakoff diagnoses the primary problem that plagued Democrats on Tuesday as a “massive communications failure” owing to its refusal to understand properly that

[C]onservatives have an extensive, but not obvious communications system, with many think tanks, framing experts, training institutes, a system of spokespeople linked by talking points, and bookers booking their people not just on radio and TV, but in lots of civic venues. This system is active not only in elections, but 24/7/365. Democrats have no comparable system.

This is a perfect summary of a certain way of thinking on the Left that is so insular it must look to reasons other than policy choices to explain away the American people’s frustrating unwillingness to go along mutely with whatever the Left wants. In the Lakoff worldview, liberal ideas can’t get to the people who should want them because conservatives have formed such an impregnable wall. In his worldview, the forces arrayed loosely to promote liberal ideas are as nothing, notwithstanding the fact that they are:  NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the editorial boards and reportorial staffs of most news organizations, the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment, the Rockefeller Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Center for American Progress, Media Matters for America, the press staffs of nearly 300 Democratic House and Senate members, the White House press office, the Democratic National Committee, the liberal blogsphere, CNN, MSNBC, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund…

There’s more nonsense later in the piece, but I stopped reading after Lakoff “reframed” independent voters as “biconceptuals.”

George Lakoff is a linguistics professor at Berkeley who made a name for himself in left-liberal circles by claiming the problem with left-liberalism was its failure to “reframe” the discussion in a way that would make Americans think well of left-liberalism. His book, Don’t Think of an Elephant, was particularly popular. Today, on Politico, Lakoff diagnoses the primary problem that plagued Democrats on Tuesday as a “massive communications failure” owing to its refusal to understand properly that

[C]onservatives have an extensive, but not obvious communications system, with many think tanks, framing experts, training institutes, a system of spokespeople linked by talking points, and bookers booking their people not just on radio and TV, but in lots of civic venues. This system is active not only in elections, but 24/7/365. Democrats have no comparable system.

This is a perfect summary of a certain way of thinking on the Left that is so insular it must look to reasons other than policy choices to explain away the American people’s frustrating unwillingness to go along mutely with whatever the Left wants. In the Lakoff worldview, liberal ideas can’t get to the people who should want them because conservatives have formed such an impregnable wall. In his worldview, the forces arrayed loosely to promote liberal ideas are as nothing, notwithstanding the fact that they are:  NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the editorial boards and reportorial staffs of most news organizations, the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment, the Rockefeller Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Center for American Progress, Media Matters for America, the press staffs of nearly 300 Democratic House and Senate members, the White House press office, the Democratic National Committee, the liberal blogsphere, CNN, MSNBC, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund…

There’s more nonsense later in the piece, but I stopped reading after Lakoff “reframed” independent voters as “biconceptuals.”

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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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LIVE BLOG: Pennsylvania

Joe Sestak continues to hold on to a lead that he has held for over an hour, though it is steadily diminishing. But savvy Democrats can’t be too happy. Right now CNN is reporting that with 44 percent of the vote counted, Sestak is holding on to a slim four-point lead. But once you realize that 60 percent of Philadelphia’s vote is already in and 90 percent of Pittsburgh’s votes are counted, that means the bulk of the ballots that are not yet tabulated come from the rest of the state. As James Carville once quipped, Pennsylvania can only be understood politically as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between. Which means that Sestak’s lead may well be short-lived.

Joe Sestak continues to hold on to a lead that he has held for over an hour, though it is steadily diminishing. But savvy Democrats can’t be too happy. Right now CNN is reporting that with 44 percent of the vote counted, Sestak is holding on to a slim four-point lead. But once you realize that 60 percent of Philadelphia’s vote is already in and 90 percent of Pittsburgh’s votes are counted, that means the bulk of the ballots that are not yet tabulated come from the rest of the state. As James Carville once quipped, Pennsylvania can only be understood politically as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between. Which means that Sestak’s lead may well be short-lived.

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LIVE BLOG: False Hopes, False Fears

As I write, at 6:24 pm, one can feel the last-minute manic mood of the political class doing its standard final-hours shift. To wit, Democrats and liberals are experiencing a confusing giddiness from bits of data suggesting–if you were looking at them to suggest it–that the night might not be as bad as they fear (indeed, the night is unlikely to end up as bad as they fear, since their worst fears now are losses in the range of 90 seats in the House). To wit, Ed Kilgore at The New Republic, one of the more unpleasant Democratic bloggers:

So CNN just released the first bit of actually revealing national exit poll data: President Obama’s job approval rating is 45 percent positive, 54 percent negative (looks like no one is ambivalent). Comparing this to some of the final polls, the final ABC/Washington Post poll, which gave Republicans only a 4-point advantage in House voting, had the Obama ratio at 46/52. The final Gallup “low-turnout” estimate, which gave Republicans a gigantic 15-point margin, had the Obama ratio at 40/56.  So based on this one data point, it looks like a wave, but maybe not a tsunami.

Exit polls usually skew as many as 10 points in the direction of Democrats, especially when they are done state-by-state. If CNN’s is showing Obama’s unfavorable numbers at 9 points, that’s bad, very bad for Democrats because it’s likely the data are skewed in their favor.

Similarly, emails and phone calls from conservatives and Republicans show a sudden terror that every single piece of information they’ve gotten over the past week may not actually be true — that the Real Clear Politics generic poll average doesn’t show an advantage for Republicans of 9.3 percent and that the final Gallup poll says GOP voters are twice as enthusiastic about turning up at the voting booth as Democrats.

This is always the way. The defeated get a moment to hope; the victors get a moment to fear.

As I write, at 6:24 pm, one can feel the last-minute manic mood of the political class doing its standard final-hours shift. To wit, Democrats and liberals are experiencing a confusing giddiness from bits of data suggesting–if you were looking at them to suggest it–that the night might not be as bad as they fear (indeed, the night is unlikely to end up as bad as they fear, since their worst fears now are losses in the range of 90 seats in the House). To wit, Ed Kilgore at The New Republic, one of the more unpleasant Democratic bloggers:

So CNN just released the first bit of actually revealing national exit poll data: President Obama’s job approval rating is 45 percent positive, 54 percent negative (looks like no one is ambivalent). Comparing this to some of the final polls, the final ABC/Washington Post poll, which gave Republicans only a 4-point advantage in House voting, had the Obama ratio at 46/52. The final Gallup “low-turnout” estimate, which gave Republicans a gigantic 15-point margin, had the Obama ratio at 40/56.  So based on this one data point, it looks like a wave, but maybe not a tsunami.

Exit polls usually skew as many as 10 points in the direction of Democrats, especially when they are done state-by-state. If CNN’s is showing Obama’s unfavorable numbers at 9 points, that’s bad, very bad for Democrats because it’s likely the data are skewed in their favor.

Similarly, emails and phone calls from conservatives and Republicans show a sudden terror that every single piece of information they’ve gotten over the past week may not actually be true — that the Real Clear Politics generic poll average doesn’t show an advantage for Republicans of 9.3 percent and that the final Gallup poll says GOP voters are twice as enthusiastic about turning up at the voting booth as Democrats.

This is always the way. The defeated get a moment to hope; the victors get a moment to fear.

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Snowing the Voters? Good Luck With That

Just like attacking an opponent’s religion (as Jack Conway did), cheating during a televised debate is never a good move. Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink “was caught breaking the debate’s ‘no notes’ rule during a commercial break when she read on stage a text message from a senior advisor that a makeup artist delivered to her on a cell phone.” The GOP has pounced with an ad that strikes a properly contemptuous tone:

“Did you see Alex Sink get caught cheating?” one woman asks in the add, adding, “Cheating. Hilarious.”

To make matters worse, she then seems to have made up a story to explain her cheating:

CNN’s John King on Tuesday pointed out that Sink’s suggestion that she thought the text message might have been from her daughter did not hold water. “We listened very closely to the audio, and the makeup artist, when she approached Alex Sink, said I have a message from the staff,” King said. “And at that point they looked, it was on a cell phone, it was two sentences. It was essentially advice after the last segment of the debate telling her if that question comes up again, remember this, and be more aggressive when Rick Scott questions you.”

Oops. Now, in this election, we’ve had candidates lying about their military record (Richard Blumenthal) and their job record (Joe Miller). These incidents may not determine the outcome of these races. Blumenthal is comfortably ahead; Sink was losing steam even before this debate incident. But they do serve as a reminder and a warning to the politician who thinks she or he can flim-flam the public or conceal embarrassing incidents. Getting away with it is not only unrealistic but indicative of an all-too-familiar arrogance we see in politics, an assumption that the public isn’t very bright and that a cleverly delivered excuse can snow the voters. The voters are paying a lot of attention these days; politicians should be forewarned.

Just like attacking an opponent’s religion (as Jack Conway did), cheating during a televised debate is never a good move. Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink “was caught breaking the debate’s ‘no notes’ rule during a commercial break when she read on stage a text message from a senior advisor that a makeup artist delivered to her on a cell phone.” The GOP has pounced with an ad that strikes a properly contemptuous tone:

“Did you see Alex Sink get caught cheating?” one woman asks in the add, adding, “Cheating. Hilarious.”

To make matters worse, she then seems to have made up a story to explain her cheating:

CNN’s John King on Tuesday pointed out that Sink’s suggestion that she thought the text message might have been from her daughter did not hold water. “We listened very closely to the audio, and the makeup artist, when she approached Alex Sink, said I have a message from the staff,” King said. “And at that point they looked, it was on a cell phone, it was two sentences. It was essentially advice after the last segment of the debate telling her if that question comes up again, remember this, and be more aggressive when Rick Scott questions you.”

Oops. Now, in this election, we’ve had candidates lying about their military record (Richard Blumenthal) and their job record (Joe Miller). These incidents may not determine the outcome of these races. Blumenthal is comfortably ahead; Sink was losing steam even before this debate incident. But they do serve as a reminder and a warning to the politician who thinks she or he can flim-flam the public or conceal embarrassing incidents. Getting away with it is not only unrealistic but indicative of an all-too-familiar arrogance we see in politics, an assumption that the public isn’t very bright and that a cleverly delivered excuse can snow the voters. The voters are paying a lot of attention these days; politicians should be forewarned.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Awkward. Charles Krauthammer vs. Tina Totenberg.

Unsurprising. “The knives are out for Christiane Amanpour at ABC News’ DC bureau.” The only people happy about NPR’s firing of Juan Williams are the ABC execs whose decision to put her in the This Week host chair is now a distant second in the “Top 10 dumbest news-division decisions.” (Parker-Spitzer on CNN is a close third.)

Stark. “POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.”

Unbelievable, even for NPR. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “So much to dislike about NPR, it’s hard to know where to begin. For me, the CEO’s comment, I mean, the arrogance of it. Juan has worked at NPR for — how long? … And she, in a public forum, having had someone call you to fire you, not having had a meeting with you to discuss anything, says he should see a psychiatrist. I mean, that really is unbelievable.” Why isn’t anyone calling for her to be fired?

Pathetic. “The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn’t understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March — an endorsement he has since withdrawn.”

Transparent. The new 2012 presidential contenders’ game is to run down figures like Karl Rove and leap to Christine O’Donnell’s defense to prove your Tea Party bona fides. Puleez. Is shilling for an unelectable candidate really going to convince voters of your own savvy judgment?

What?! Ari Berman of the Nation says a smaller, more leftist Democratic congressional caucus will help the party. This is the Newsweek theory of politics — we’ll have fewer supporters and be more successful!

Awkward. Charles Krauthammer vs. Tina Totenberg.

Unsurprising. “The knives are out for Christiane Amanpour at ABC News’ DC bureau.” The only people happy about NPR’s firing of Juan Williams are the ABC execs whose decision to put her in the This Week host chair is now a distant second in the “Top 10 dumbest news-division decisions.” (Parker-Spitzer on CNN is a close third.)

Stark. “POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.”

Unbelievable, even for NPR. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “So much to dislike about NPR, it’s hard to know where to begin. For me, the CEO’s comment, I mean, the arrogance of it. Juan has worked at NPR for — how long? … And she, in a public forum, having had someone call you to fire you, not having had a meeting with you to discuss anything, says he should see a psychiatrist. I mean, that really is unbelievable.” Why isn’t anyone calling for her to be fired?

Pathetic. “The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn’t understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March — an endorsement he has since withdrawn.”

Transparent. The new 2012 presidential contenders’ game is to run down figures like Karl Rove and leap to Christine O’Donnell’s defense to prove your Tea Party bona fides. Puleez. Is shilling for an unelectable candidate really going to convince voters of your own savvy judgment?

What?! Ari Berman of the Nation says a smaller, more leftist Democratic congressional caucus will help the party. This is the Newsweek theory of politics — we’ll have fewer supporters and be more successful!

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Even Obama’s old seat may be lost. Mark Kirk has a small lead in two recent polls.

Even the White House couldn’t spin this one: “All signs point to huge Republican victories in two weeks, with the GOP now leading Democrats on virtually every measure in an Associated Press-GfK poll of people likely to vote in the first major elections of Barack Obama’s presidency … 50 percent say they will back the GOP candidate in their House district; 43 percent say they’ll support the Democrat … 54 percent disapprove of Obama’s job performance; 45 percent approve.” No wonder Obama wants to talk about the Chamber of Commerce.

Even the VP spot in 2012 is out, says Chris Christie. “Christie also once again said there’s ‘no way’ he’d run for president in 2012. But his wife suggested the freshman governor would be good in the role. ‘Oh, absolutely,’ Mary Pat Christie told MSNBC when asked if she thought her husband would make for a ‘good president.'” Hey, Obama changed his mind about running in 2008.

Even Christine O’Donnell (probably) knows it by heart: “At a Democratic fundraiser on Monday night, President Obama once again misquoted the Declaration of Independence’s most famous sentence and once again omitted its reference to our ‘Creator.'” If you are counting, this is the third time he edited the Preamble. “Other presidents didn’t deliberately misquote the Declaration, and they didn’t leave out (or rewrite) the words about our rights being endowed by our Creator.” But he’s an intellectual, don’t you see?

Even William Galston can’t convince me that Obama will “reach across the aisle” to work cooperatively with a GOP Congress. He should, but he sure isn’t laying the groundwork now.

Even the “unambiguous success” of the GM bailout really isn’t. Charles Lane explains that GM has $27 billion in unfunded pension-plan obligations. “Long term, the bailout can’t work unless the public buys GM’s cars. But the company’s share of the U.S. market was 19 percent in September 2010, down from 19.6 percent at the beginning of the year. Hence, [independent ratings agency] Fitch says, GM’s bonds deserve a ‘junk’ rating: BB-. That, too, is not a big surprise. But it does suggest that the success of the bailout is still, well, ambiguous. GM is not out of the woods yet, and neither are the taxpayers.”

Even the Harvard Club of New York has higher standards than CNN. “This year, the Midtown club turned down Mr. Spitzer’s application for membership — a rare snub by the club — because officials there did not want to be associated with Mr. Spitzer and the prostitution scandal that forced him from the governorship of New York in 2008, according to a person told of the decision by Harvard officials.” Shunning is a much-underrated tool in maintaining ethical standards. (Speaking of which, why did the same Harvard University have Spitzer speak last year on ethics?)

Even unacceptable to Human Rights Watch: “Human Rights Watch has slammed a ruling by an Emirati court which condones the beating of wives by their husbands, saying it sends out a signal that violence against women and children is acceptable.” Would be nice if Obama and his secretary of state would do so as well, since they’re all about human rights these days.

Even liberal Matthew Duss concedes that George Bush was on to something with his “freedom agenda.” In a backhanded way, he advises: “But just because the Bush administration latched onto this critique as a justification for its attempt to reorder the Middle East doesn’t mean it was necessarily wrong. A focus on security at the expense of democracy does generate bad consequences, and acknowledgement of this fact, by anyone, however late coming, is a good thing.” In all his suck-uppery to the PA, Obama has ignored this truism: “Political freedom is not a peripheral concern in Palestine — it is central to the U.S. goal of a functioning, viable, and democratic Palestinian state at peace with Israel.”

Even Obama’s old seat may be lost. Mark Kirk has a small lead in two recent polls.

Even the White House couldn’t spin this one: “All signs point to huge Republican victories in two weeks, with the GOP now leading Democrats on virtually every measure in an Associated Press-GfK poll of people likely to vote in the first major elections of Barack Obama’s presidency … 50 percent say they will back the GOP candidate in their House district; 43 percent say they’ll support the Democrat … 54 percent disapprove of Obama’s job performance; 45 percent approve.” No wonder Obama wants to talk about the Chamber of Commerce.

Even the VP spot in 2012 is out, says Chris Christie. “Christie also once again said there’s ‘no way’ he’d run for president in 2012. But his wife suggested the freshman governor would be good in the role. ‘Oh, absolutely,’ Mary Pat Christie told MSNBC when asked if she thought her husband would make for a ‘good president.'” Hey, Obama changed his mind about running in 2008.

Even Christine O’Donnell (probably) knows it by heart: “At a Democratic fundraiser on Monday night, President Obama once again misquoted the Declaration of Independence’s most famous sentence and once again omitted its reference to our ‘Creator.'” If you are counting, this is the third time he edited the Preamble. “Other presidents didn’t deliberately misquote the Declaration, and they didn’t leave out (or rewrite) the words about our rights being endowed by our Creator.” But he’s an intellectual, don’t you see?

Even William Galston can’t convince me that Obama will “reach across the aisle” to work cooperatively with a GOP Congress. He should, but he sure isn’t laying the groundwork now.

Even the “unambiguous success” of the GM bailout really isn’t. Charles Lane explains that GM has $27 billion in unfunded pension-plan obligations. “Long term, the bailout can’t work unless the public buys GM’s cars. But the company’s share of the U.S. market was 19 percent in September 2010, down from 19.6 percent at the beginning of the year. Hence, [independent ratings agency] Fitch says, GM’s bonds deserve a ‘junk’ rating: BB-. That, too, is not a big surprise. But it does suggest that the success of the bailout is still, well, ambiguous. GM is not out of the woods yet, and neither are the taxpayers.”

Even the Harvard Club of New York has higher standards than CNN. “This year, the Midtown club turned down Mr. Spitzer’s application for membership — a rare snub by the club — because officials there did not want to be associated with Mr. Spitzer and the prostitution scandal that forced him from the governorship of New York in 2008, according to a person told of the decision by Harvard officials.” Shunning is a much-underrated tool in maintaining ethical standards. (Speaking of which, why did the same Harvard University have Spitzer speak last year on ethics?)

Even unacceptable to Human Rights Watch: “Human Rights Watch has slammed a ruling by an Emirati court which condones the beating of wives by their husbands, saying it sends out a signal that violence against women and children is acceptable.” Would be nice if Obama and his secretary of state would do so as well, since they’re all about human rights these days.

Even liberal Matthew Duss concedes that George Bush was on to something with his “freedom agenda.” In a backhanded way, he advises: “But just because the Bush administration latched onto this critique as a justification for its attempt to reorder the Middle East doesn’t mean it was necessarily wrong. A focus on security at the expense of democracy does generate bad consequences, and acknowledgement of this fact, by anyone, however late coming, is a good thing.” In all his suck-uppery to the PA, Obama has ignored this truism: “Political freedom is not a peripheral concern in Palestine — it is central to the U.S. goal of a functioning, viable, and democratic Palestinian state at peace with Israel.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Stu Rothenberg doesn’t think much of the Dems’ Chamber of Commerce gambit: “This is what we call the political version of ‘jumping the shark’ — a desperate-looking charge that a campaign or a party hopes could be a game-changer. It’s pretty early for Democrats to jump the shark, and you have to wonder whether this is really the best shot they have in their arsenal. Yes, it might get some folks agitated, but not many. And it reeks of desperation.”

Voters don’t think much of it either: “Election Day is just two weeks away, and Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 17, 2010. … Even more worrisome for Democrats, however, is the finding that among the voters who are most closely following the midterm elections Republicans hold a 55% to 36% lead.”

CNN voters don’t think much of the Parker-Spitzer show, and Vic Matus thinks even less of Spitzer’s likening himself to Icarus: “Putz. He doesn’t even know the quotation. …It ends, ‘… they first make mad.’ As in insane. Which is precisely the case with Spitzer. … Sorry. I knew Icarus—Icarus was a friend of mine. Eliot Spitzer is no Icarus.”

Charles Lane doesn’t think much of Democrats’ excessive dependence on public-employee unions. “But in an era of increasing discontent over taxes, government spending and the perks of government employees, these are not necessarily the allies you want to have. A party that depends on the public employees to get elected will have trouble reaching out to the wider electorate — i.e., the people who pay the taxes that support public employee salaries and pensions. In politics, you never want to find yourself beholden to a minority whose core interests often clash with the interests of voters.”

Josh Rogin doesn’t think much of Jon Stewart’s claim that Sen. Tom Coburn is holding up aid to Haiti. “The problem is that Coburn’s hold is not responsible for delaying the $1.15 billion Congress already appropriated in late July to help Haiti. … Even the State Department acknowledges that Coburn is not responsible for the delay in this tranche of funds for Haiti.”

ABC doesn’t think much of Dems’ chances of holding the House majority: “In the House, many key House races have seen some tightening, but it’s not enough to make Democrats feel all that much better. Democrats have 63 seats in serious danger compared to just four for Republicans.”

Anyone who lives in the VA-11 (like me!) doesn’t think much of Marc Ambinder’s spin that Rep. Gerry Connolly “knows this district inside and out.” If he did, he would have maintained a moderate voting record like his predecessor Tom Davis, instead of rubber-stamping the Obama agenda and putting his seat at risk.

The liberal JTA doesn’t think much of Howard Berman’s claim that Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill: “Kirk gets this one, I think, on points — as the Sun Times notes, Berman thanked [co-sponsor Rep. Rob] Andrews for his work, a hint that the bill he and Kirk shaped played a role in the final bill. So did AIPAC when the bill passed. And, the sanctions are pretty much identical.”

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee doesn’t think much of its party’s chances in at least five races. A fundraising appeal, Ben Smith explains, “seems to concede what many on both sides now see as nearly done: Five open GOP-held seats, in Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, and Kansas, have slipped pretty near out of reach.”

Stu Rothenberg doesn’t think much of the Dems’ Chamber of Commerce gambit: “This is what we call the political version of ‘jumping the shark’ — a desperate-looking charge that a campaign or a party hopes could be a game-changer. It’s pretty early for Democrats to jump the shark, and you have to wonder whether this is really the best shot they have in their arsenal. Yes, it might get some folks agitated, but not many. And it reeks of desperation.”

Voters don’t think much of it either: “Election Day is just two weeks away, and Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 17, 2010. … Even more worrisome for Democrats, however, is the finding that among the voters who are most closely following the midterm elections Republicans hold a 55% to 36% lead.”

CNN voters don’t think much of the Parker-Spitzer show, and Vic Matus thinks even less of Spitzer’s likening himself to Icarus: “Putz. He doesn’t even know the quotation. …It ends, ‘… they first make mad.’ As in insane. Which is precisely the case with Spitzer. … Sorry. I knew Icarus—Icarus was a friend of mine. Eliot Spitzer is no Icarus.”

Charles Lane doesn’t think much of Democrats’ excessive dependence on public-employee unions. “But in an era of increasing discontent over taxes, government spending and the perks of government employees, these are not necessarily the allies you want to have. A party that depends on the public employees to get elected will have trouble reaching out to the wider electorate — i.e., the people who pay the taxes that support public employee salaries and pensions. In politics, you never want to find yourself beholden to a minority whose core interests often clash with the interests of voters.”

Josh Rogin doesn’t think much of Jon Stewart’s claim that Sen. Tom Coburn is holding up aid to Haiti. “The problem is that Coburn’s hold is not responsible for delaying the $1.15 billion Congress already appropriated in late July to help Haiti. … Even the State Department acknowledges that Coburn is not responsible for the delay in this tranche of funds for Haiti.”

ABC doesn’t think much of Dems’ chances of holding the House majority: “In the House, many key House races have seen some tightening, but it’s not enough to make Democrats feel all that much better. Democrats have 63 seats in serious danger compared to just four for Republicans.”

Anyone who lives in the VA-11 (like me!) doesn’t think much of Marc Ambinder’s spin that Rep. Gerry Connolly “knows this district inside and out.” If he did, he would have maintained a moderate voting record like his predecessor Tom Davis, instead of rubber-stamping the Obama agenda and putting his seat at risk.

The liberal JTA doesn’t think much of Howard Berman’s claim that Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill: “Kirk gets this one, I think, on points — as the Sun Times notes, Berman thanked [co-sponsor Rep. Rob] Andrews for his work, a hint that the bill he and Kirk shaped played a role in the final bill. So did AIPAC when the bill passed. And, the sanctions are pretty much identical.”

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee doesn’t think much of its party’s chances in at least five races. A fundraising appeal, Ben Smith explains, “seems to concede what many on both sides now see as nearly done: Five open GOP-held seats, in Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, and Kansas, have slipped pretty near out of reach.”

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Bill O’Reilly Isn’t a Bigot. But He Is Wrong.

Bill O’Reilly appeared on The View yesterday, and the conversation turned to the effort to build a mosque near Ground Zero. In the course of the discussion, O’Reilly, who opposes building the mosque at this location, pointed out that 70 percent of the public (68 percent according to a CNN/Opinion Research poll) sides with him on this matter. When pressed as to why that’s the case, O’Reilly said, “Because Muslims killed us on 9/11!” This turned an acrimonious debate into an explosive one, with co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar walking off the set.

The whole thing was something of an embarrassment for everyone involved. Perhaps predictably, though, Mr. O’Reilly devoted much of his show, The O’Reilly Factor, to this issue (see here and here). O’Reilly’s basic argument is that everyone knows, or should know, that he’s not an anti-Muslim bigot. Rather, he sees himself as an intrepid truth-teller (“I tell it like it is” and “I’m not in the business of sugar-coating harsh realities”). Everyone by now knows the distinction between radical Muslims and moderate Muslims, O’Reilly argues, so the distinction is unnecessary. Those who are criticizing him are part of the PC police. And it’s commonplace to say that the Japanese attacked us in World War II, so why shouldn’t we say Muslims attacked us on 9/11? Read More

Bill O’Reilly appeared on The View yesterday, and the conversation turned to the effort to build a mosque near Ground Zero. In the course of the discussion, O’Reilly, who opposes building the mosque at this location, pointed out that 70 percent of the public (68 percent according to a CNN/Opinion Research poll) sides with him on this matter. When pressed as to why that’s the case, O’Reilly said, “Because Muslims killed us on 9/11!” This turned an acrimonious debate into an explosive one, with co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar walking off the set.

The whole thing was something of an embarrassment for everyone involved. Perhaps predictably, though, Mr. O’Reilly devoted much of his show, The O’Reilly Factor, to this issue (see here and here). O’Reilly’s basic argument is that everyone knows, or should know, that he’s not an anti-Muslim bigot. Rather, he sees himself as an intrepid truth-teller (“I tell it like it is” and “I’m not in the business of sugar-coating harsh realities”). Everyone by now knows the distinction between radical Muslims and moderate Muslims, O’Reilly argues, so the distinction is unnecessary. Those who are criticizing him are part of the PC police. And it’s commonplace to say that the Japanese attacked us in World War II, so why shouldn’t we say Muslims attacked us on 9/11?

I happen to agree with O’Reilly on the mosque/Ground Zero issue. But his analogy is flawed. With Japan, we were dealing with a nation-state; with al-Qaeda, we are dealing with a small percentage of militants in a faith that includes more than 1.5 billion people in more than 200 countries.

Moreover, O’Reilly’s claim is unfair – and O’Reilly should understand why. Here’s an illustration that might help clarify things. Assume that Sam Harris went on The O’Reilly Factor and, based on the child-abuse scandals that tarnished the reputation of the Catholic Church, made the sweeping claim that “Catholics are child molesters.” My guess is that O’Reilly would (rightly) respond, “No. Some priests molested children, and it was a horrific thing. But you can’t indict an entire faith based on the sins of a relatively few number of priests.”

We shouldn’t kid ourselves; there is a not-insignificant strand of people in the Muslim world who align themselves with the ideology of al-Qaeda – and an even larger number who more or less accept its narrative of history. The condemnations by more moderate Muslims against its militant strand could certainly be more muscular. At the same time, the militant Islamists who attacked us on 9/11 don’t represent the vast majority of Muslims in the world – and certainly not the views of most Muslim Americans.

I understand that in the midst of a passionate debate on television, you can say things in imprecise and offensive ways; we have to leave some room for that to happen in our public discourse. We’re all fallible, and we all, from time to time, say things we wish we could take back. Words that wound shouldn’t necessarily be a hanging offense. Still, I do wish that, on reflection, Mr. O’Reilly, rather than defending his comments, had simply said that in thinking over his statement, he made a mistake. His comment was far too sweeping. It was, in fact, an unfair indictment against all Muslims. And the distinction between radical Islamists and the wider Muslim world (including, of course, Muslim Americans) is important to maintain.

The offense most people might take to what O’Reilly said isn’t based on political correctness, I don’t think; it is based on a deep understanding of what it means to hold and to share the title American citizen. To be an American means, at least in part, to avoid creating unnecessary divisions over matters of faith. This view was central to America’s founding. Comity, tolerance, and respect for people who hold views different from your own is a sign of civility, not weakness.

In his letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, President Washington wrote these beautiful words:

May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.

I certainly don’t think Bill O’Reilly is a bigot. But I do believe that, in this instance, what he said was wrong. He should say so.

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Not a Bush Comeback!

The left has plenty of reason to wig out. Their ideal liberal candidate is proving to be a bust as president. The public is still stubbornly center-right and suspicious of big government. The Tea Party crowd has invigorated and not divided the Republican Party. Obama has been forced to retreat, at least rhetorically, from Israel bashing. But there is one indignity too great to bear: the restoration of George W. Bush’s reputation.

Already voters in Ohio prefer Bush to Obama. Suddenly, “Bush-like” is no longer a political epithet. A chunk of Democrats are vowing to continue the Bush tax cuts. And when it comes to commander-in-chief talents and emotional connectivity to the American people, there is no contest. So be prepared for some screechy backlash.

And no one outdoes Maureen Dowd in the screechy department. She’s back to whining about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, citing a new movie that bears as much relationship to actual events as Gone With the Wind did to the Civil War. It’s really no more than an excuse to rage against the public’s newfound appreciation of  Bush. As this wit put it:

This version of the lives of these two Washington celebutaries  provides the Pulitzer-prize-winning columnist and plagiarist an opportunity to re-douse her favorite targets, the torturing malefactors George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, etc., with more than even the usual amount of spewage from her sulphur pot.

But Dowd herself gave it away in her opening graph, declaring to be “pathetic” a CNN headline and poll suggesting that, in fact, the public might think Bush a better president than his successor. It’s not “pathetic” — it is a political reality. The public is re-evaluating Bush in light of his successor and coming to appreciate that he got many (nearly all, I would argue) of the big things right (e.g., tax cuts, the surge, two qualified Supreme Court justices).

Dowd accuses the country of short-term memory loss. But perhaps her memory is as faulty as her journalistic ethics. It was, after all, Richard Armitage who was the leaker in the Plame affair. Is he in the movie?

The left has plenty of reason to wig out. Their ideal liberal candidate is proving to be a bust as president. The public is still stubbornly center-right and suspicious of big government. The Tea Party crowd has invigorated and not divided the Republican Party. Obama has been forced to retreat, at least rhetorically, from Israel bashing. But there is one indignity too great to bear: the restoration of George W. Bush’s reputation.

Already voters in Ohio prefer Bush to Obama. Suddenly, “Bush-like” is no longer a political epithet. A chunk of Democrats are vowing to continue the Bush tax cuts. And when it comes to commander-in-chief talents and emotional connectivity to the American people, there is no contest. So be prepared for some screechy backlash.

And no one outdoes Maureen Dowd in the screechy department. She’s back to whining about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, citing a new movie that bears as much relationship to actual events as Gone With the Wind did to the Civil War. It’s really no more than an excuse to rage against the public’s newfound appreciation of  Bush. As this wit put it:

This version of the lives of these two Washington celebutaries  provides the Pulitzer-prize-winning columnist and plagiarist an opportunity to re-douse her favorite targets, the torturing malefactors George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, etc., with more than even the usual amount of spewage from her sulphur pot.

But Dowd herself gave it away in her opening graph, declaring to be “pathetic” a CNN headline and poll suggesting that, in fact, the public might think Bush a better president than his successor. It’s not “pathetic” — it is a political reality. The public is re-evaluating Bush in light of his successor and coming to appreciate that he got many (nearly all, I would argue) of the big things right (e.g., tax cuts, the surge, two qualified Supreme Court justices).

Dowd accuses the country of short-term memory loss. But perhaps her memory is as faulty as her journalistic ethics. It was, after all, Richard Armitage who was the leaker in the Plame affair. Is he in the movie?

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Parker-Spitzer — You Gotta Be Kidding

I haven’t been motivated to watch CNN’s new talking-heads show hosted by Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker. Howard Kurtz’s column reviewing his own network’s show and the work of his colleague at the Post’s — why is this remotely acceptable, even with a disclaimer? — doesn’t entice me to reconsider. Kurtz pulls his punches a bit and explains that the show’s problem may be the insufficient amount of conflict. Parker is so darn nice. And she and Spitzer talk past one another without engaging in much debate.

If Kurtz were less conflicted (interest-wise) and less timid, he’d come out and say it: Parker isn’t an impressive representative of the right. She is the sort of conservative whom liberals love — scornful of Sarah Palin, uncreative, and ineffective. In other words, she isn’t going to advance the conservative agenda, so it’s fine to have her on. Meanwhile, Spitzer isn’t a representative of anything other than the debasement of “news.” He resigned in disgrace, spied on his enemies, and is regarded as entirely lacking in judgment (political and personal). So exactly what expertise does he bring to the show? Why should we accept the premise that he has some viable analysis to offer? Put aside whether he deserves public rehabilitation. He is utterly unqualified for the role he is assuming — political guru.

Jon Klein, the former head of CNN, came up with this show. He’s since been booted. Let’s hope this embarrassing excuse for a serious political program will as well.

I haven’t been motivated to watch CNN’s new talking-heads show hosted by Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker. Howard Kurtz’s column reviewing his own network’s show and the work of his colleague at the Post’s — why is this remotely acceptable, even with a disclaimer? — doesn’t entice me to reconsider. Kurtz pulls his punches a bit and explains that the show’s problem may be the insufficient amount of conflict. Parker is so darn nice. And she and Spitzer talk past one another without engaging in much debate.

If Kurtz were less conflicted (interest-wise) and less timid, he’d come out and say it: Parker isn’t an impressive representative of the right. She is the sort of conservative whom liberals love — scornful of Sarah Palin, uncreative, and ineffective. In other words, she isn’t going to advance the conservative agenda, so it’s fine to have her on. Meanwhile, Spitzer isn’t a representative of anything other than the debasement of “news.” He resigned in disgrace, spied on his enemies, and is regarded as entirely lacking in judgment (political and personal). So exactly what expertise does he bring to the show? Why should we accept the premise that he has some viable analysis to offer? Put aside whether he deserves public rehabilitation. He is utterly unqualified for the role he is assuming — political guru.

Jon Klein, the former head of CNN, came up with this show. He’s since been booted. Let’s hope this embarrassing excuse for a serious political program will as well.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Enough already. CNN cans Rick Sanchez.

Enough already. Yuval Levin suggests the White House scrap the fawning praise: “Rahm Emanuel, speaking to President Obama at his departure announcement today, said: ‘I want to thank you for being the toughest leader any country could ask for in the toughest times any president has ever faced.’ Really? The toughest times any president has ever faced? Tougher than the times Lincoln faced? Washington? FDR? Truman? Reagan? And the toughest leader any country could ask for? Yeah?”

Enough already. Nagging  young people doesn’t work. “President Obama is trying to do what he can to close any enthusiasm gap with the GOP. For the second time in a week, Obama told thousands of young people attending a rally to come out and vote in this fall’s mid-term elections to preserve Democratic majorities in Congress that could help the president move forward on his agenda.”

Enough already. Even Michael Bloomberg has had it with Obama’s anti-business outlook. “Obama never said he would be anything other than what he is now. He is a liberal guy, very pro-union, not particularly interested in business.” And he’s not interested in national security. And he’s not interested in entitlement reform. He’s very interested in partisan politics, however.

Enough already. Sen. Carl Levin is having none of this “flexibility” on the Afghanistan-war troop deadline. “‘The president is now under pressure from inside and outside the military to build flexibility into that July 2011 date,’ Levin said in prepared remarks he’s set to deliver to the Council on Foreign Relations. ‘I want to tell you why I believe sticking to that date is essential to success, and why President Obama should not, and I believe will not, modify the July 2011 date.'” Unfortunately, I suspect the president agrees.

Enough already. San Franciscans and their mayor want to take back their streets and sidewalks from the homeless.

Enough already. Kool-Aid non-drinkers say the White House’s gin-up-the-base election strategy is a loser. “In a new memo, the Third Way says the electorate has shifted over the past two years, becoming more conservative. They say that even candidates who are able to match Mr. Obama’s turnout among base voters will likely lose.”

Enough already. CNN cans Rick Sanchez.

Enough already. Yuval Levin suggests the White House scrap the fawning praise: “Rahm Emanuel, speaking to President Obama at his departure announcement today, said: ‘I want to thank you for being the toughest leader any country could ask for in the toughest times any president has ever faced.’ Really? The toughest times any president has ever faced? Tougher than the times Lincoln faced? Washington? FDR? Truman? Reagan? And the toughest leader any country could ask for? Yeah?”

Enough already. Nagging  young people doesn’t work. “President Obama is trying to do what he can to close any enthusiasm gap with the GOP. For the second time in a week, Obama told thousands of young people attending a rally to come out and vote in this fall’s mid-term elections to preserve Democratic majorities in Congress that could help the president move forward on his agenda.”

Enough already. Even Michael Bloomberg has had it with Obama’s anti-business outlook. “Obama never said he would be anything other than what he is now. He is a liberal guy, very pro-union, not particularly interested in business.” And he’s not interested in national security. And he’s not interested in entitlement reform. He’s very interested in partisan politics, however.

Enough already. Sen. Carl Levin is having none of this “flexibility” on the Afghanistan-war troop deadline. “‘The president is now under pressure from inside and outside the military to build flexibility into that July 2011 date,’ Levin said in prepared remarks he’s set to deliver to the Council on Foreign Relations. ‘I want to tell you why I believe sticking to that date is essential to success, and why President Obama should not, and I believe will not, modify the July 2011 date.'” Unfortunately, I suspect the president agrees.

Enough already. San Franciscans and their mayor want to take back their streets and sidewalks from the homeless.

Enough already. Kool-Aid non-drinkers say the White House’s gin-up-the-base election strategy is a loser. “In a new memo, the Third Way says the electorate has shifted over the past two years, becoming more conservative. They say that even candidates who are able to match Mr. Obama’s turnout among base voters will likely lose.”

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