Commentary Magazine


Topic: Fox News

Media Bias and the Real Opportunists

Politico’s savvy and generally reliable media news columnist Dylan Byers wrote about Sharyl Attkisson’s forced departure from CBS news. In a piece published shortly after Attkisson expressed worries about her computer being tapped—at a time when we learned about government spying on Fox News’s James Rosen and several other journalists at the Associated Press—Byers broke the story about the antipathy for the investigative reporter’s work uncovering information about Obama administration scandals on the part of most of the CBS staff. It was clear, Byers wrote, that many of her colleagues thought that her fearless reporting was out of line. The majority of those working in the mainstream press think that giving Barack Obama the same aggressive scrutiny that had been directed at George W. Bush is unacceptable or even partisan. Thus, Attkisson’s departure earlier this month came as little surprise to Byers or anyone else.

But now that Attkisson is writing a book about her experiences and thinking about the next chapter in her career, Byers is taking a cynical tone about her struggles. In a piece published on Friday titled “Media career path: Cry media bias,” Byers seems to be saying that the same person he had previously praised as a “dogged reporter” who had not played political favorites with her coverage is merely doing what is necessary to get a big payoff and perhaps even land a gig at Fox News:

It’s an increasingly well-traveled path: Over the course of the past two decades, a handful of journalists have left mainstream media jobs while decrying what they saw as an inherent bias in their own industry. Among them: Bernie Goldberg, John Stossel, and Doug McKelway — all of whom found a home at Fox News, a cable news channel that markets itself on the premise that the media is unfair and unbalanced.

To those who don’t believe there is bias in the media, such criticisms can seem like a self-promotional stunt. Various national surveys show that a majority of the population doesn’t trust the media. So if you’re going to leave it, why not fashion yourself as a martyr, pick up a loyal following in the process, and prove your bona fides to Fox News chief Roger Ailes in the hope that he’ll offer you a contract?

While Byers finds sources to support and oppose this thesis, it is a preposterous argument. While it is true a few outliers have gone public with their complaints about the monolithic political culture of most mainstream broadcast and print outlets and eventually found their way to Fox, what happened to them is the exception that proves the rule. There’s a reason why people like that wind up at Fox. By breaking the code of silence about the supposed objectivity of newsrooms like the one at CBS, they have nowhere else to go.

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Politico’s savvy and generally reliable media news columnist Dylan Byers wrote about Sharyl Attkisson’s forced departure from CBS news. In a piece published shortly after Attkisson expressed worries about her computer being tapped—at a time when we learned about government spying on Fox News’s James Rosen and several other journalists at the Associated Press—Byers broke the story about the antipathy for the investigative reporter’s work uncovering information about Obama administration scandals on the part of most of the CBS staff. It was clear, Byers wrote, that many of her colleagues thought that her fearless reporting was out of line. The majority of those working in the mainstream press think that giving Barack Obama the same aggressive scrutiny that had been directed at George W. Bush is unacceptable or even partisan. Thus, Attkisson’s departure earlier this month came as little surprise to Byers or anyone else.

But now that Attkisson is writing a book about her experiences and thinking about the next chapter in her career, Byers is taking a cynical tone about her struggles. In a piece published on Friday titled “Media career path: Cry media bias,” Byers seems to be saying that the same person he had previously praised as a “dogged reporter” who had not played political favorites with her coverage is merely doing what is necessary to get a big payoff and perhaps even land a gig at Fox News:

It’s an increasingly well-traveled path: Over the course of the past two decades, a handful of journalists have left mainstream media jobs while decrying what they saw as an inherent bias in their own industry. Among them: Bernie Goldberg, John Stossel, and Doug McKelway — all of whom found a home at Fox News, a cable news channel that markets itself on the premise that the media is unfair and unbalanced.

To those who don’t believe there is bias in the media, such criticisms can seem like a self-promotional stunt. Various national surveys show that a majority of the population doesn’t trust the media. So if you’re going to leave it, why not fashion yourself as a martyr, pick up a loyal following in the process, and prove your bona fides to Fox News chief Roger Ailes in the hope that he’ll offer you a contract?

While Byers finds sources to support and oppose this thesis, it is a preposterous argument. While it is true a few outliers have gone public with their complaints about the monolithic political culture of most mainstream broadcast and print outlets and eventually found their way to Fox, what happened to them is the exception that proves the rule. There’s a reason why people like that wind up at Fox. By breaking the code of silence about the supposed objectivity of newsrooms like the one at CBS, they have nowhere else to go.

Labeling those who call out media bias as opportunists turns truth on its head. While Goldberg and Stossel (and perhaps now Attkisson) did not suffer for their candor the fact is the media practices de facto segregation when it comes to politics.

Anyone who wants to stay on the mainstream media gravy train either agrees with the industry’s liberal groupthink or keeps their mouth shut. Those few who do speak out about it are more or less ostracized and forced to seek employment elsewhere. Meanwhile the vast majority of those who continue to work at the big broadcast networks and most of the influential dailies are so biased they actually think critical reporting about a liberal president they personally support is somehow wrong and those who pursue such stories are worthy of suspicion rather than praise. The chattering classes may actually believe their pose of objectivity is based on the truth, but that is just an illustration of how distorted their viewpoint has become. It is they who are the real opportunists, not Goldberg, Stossel, or Attkisson.

Liberals—including the ones who currently work at the White House—look down their noses at Fox and dismiss the stories and the opinions it broadcasts. But it bears repeating that the reason it was created and for its astounding success is that it provided a much needed and long-delayed alternative to the stultifying and uniform liberalism broadcast elsewhere on the dial. The genius of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes was in addressing the needs of an underserved market niche composed of almost half the American public.

Sharyl Attkisson’s fate at CBS wasn’t an illustration of opportunism but rather one that showed what happens to those who dissent from the liberal party line. Let’s hope she lands on her feet. But the bias problem she leaves behind at CBS and that at other liberal mainstream papers and broadcast outlets remains a glaring indictment of the American press.

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Obama’s Latest Victim: MSNBC

As his sinking poll ratings have demonstrated, a lot of Americans are unhappy with President Obama. Weak leadership abroad, ObamaCare, and various scandals have all combined to send his popularity into a tailspin from which he is not likely to recover before the end of his term in office. But perhaps the ones who should be most angry with him are his biggest fans in the media rather than his conservative antagonists. Like the World War Two era pop classic teaches us, Obama is demonstrating that “you always hurt the ones you love.”

As Dylan Byers notes today in Politico, a new study from the Pew Research Journalism Project that incorporates Nielson ratings data shows that MSNBC is bleeding viewers and revenue at a pace that outstrips the rest of the cable news market. While Fox and CNN have both lost ground as the television market becomes more fractured by the vast number of choices available to viewers, in 2013 the left-wing network lost a staggering 24 percent of its prime-time audience and 15 percent of those who watch during the day. That is double the losses experienced by CNN and four times those of Fox. On the revenue side of things, while Fox and CNN are growing, MSNBC is losing income.

What’s the reason for this? The answer, according to Byers, is obvious. The network established itself as a liberal destination by being the place where viewers knew to go for criticism of George W. Bush and then celebrations of Barack Obama. But as Obama begins his slide into second-term irrelevance, left-wingers are no longer finding it entertaining to tune into the NBC knock-off network to watch talking heads parrot administration talking points and trash Republicans. Like fans of a sports team that is playing out the string in a season where they won’t make the playoffs, liberals are giving up and tuning out.

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As his sinking poll ratings have demonstrated, a lot of Americans are unhappy with President Obama. Weak leadership abroad, ObamaCare, and various scandals have all combined to send his popularity into a tailspin from which he is not likely to recover before the end of his term in office. But perhaps the ones who should be most angry with him are his biggest fans in the media rather than his conservative antagonists. Like the World War Two era pop classic teaches us, Obama is demonstrating that “you always hurt the ones you love.”

As Dylan Byers notes today in Politico, a new study from the Pew Research Journalism Project that incorporates Nielson ratings data shows that MSNBC is bleeding viewers and revenue at a pace that outstrips the rest of the cable news market. While Fox and CNN have both lost ground as the television market becomes more fractured by the vast number of choices available to viewers, in 2013 the left-wing network lost a staggering 24 percent of its prime-time audience and 15 percent of those who watch during the day. That is double the losses experienced by CNN and four times those of Fox. On the revenue side of things, while Fox and CNN are growing, MSNBC is losing income.

What’s the reason for this? The answer, according to Byers, is obvious. The network established itself as a liberal destination by being the place where viewers knew to go for criticism of George W. Bush and then celebrations of Barack Obama. But as Obama begins his slide into second-term irrelevance, left-wingers are no longer finding it entertaining to tune into the NBC knock-off network to watch talking heads parrot administration talking points and trash Republicans. Like fans of a sports team that is playing out the string in a season where they won’t make the playoffs, liberals are giving up and tuning out.

All cable stations are hurt by the digital revolution that has transformed television watching and diminished the clout of all stations on the dial. Cable news networks are also particularly vulnerable to the political cycle, with boom times during elections and important events and declines when nothing particularly interesting is happening. But MSNBC is in a particularly tight spot because of the nature of their political bias.

As I wrote last year when the previous Pew report on the media was published, the research breaking down the various cable news stations’ broadcasts showed that MSNBC was the most biased of all the networks. While the majority of commentary on Fox is conservative, they still run a respectable amount of straight news and generally always provide a liberal foil to their right-wing talkers even if the sole left-winger is always outnumbered. But on MSNBC, the liberal mindset is uniform with few of their shows even bothering to interview stray conservatives, let alone let alone feature them on a regular basis even as tokens. Other than Chuck Todd’s Morning Rundown which provides relatively fair coverage and as good a daily take on the political scene as is available on television, the only break on their schedule from left-wing uniformity comes from Joe Scarborough, the co-host of their morning show. But though Scarborough can go off on rants that displease MSNBC’s viewers, he spent much of 2013 reading from the liberal hymnal about gun control and denouncing the Tea Party. Meanwhile just about everyone else on that show and the rest of their network lineup is a reliable font of left-wing conventional wisdom.

MSNBC’s efforts to counteract the effect of an aging audience with younger, inexperienced, and often incompetent hosts like Ronan Farrow have been laughable failures. As Byers rightly points out, any thought about lowering the age of the average viewer is belied by the catheter ads that punctuate the shows hosted by such ingénues. Having bet their future on the concept of a network that would be more liberal than Fox was conservative, the network has a lot to lose if Democrats become apathetic in the waning days of a lame-duck Obama administration. But its corporate masters at NBC should cheer up. If conservatives do take back Congress this year and perhaps even elect a Republican in 2016, depressed liberals will need an outlet for the derangement syndrome that will be named after whomever it is the GOP nominates for the presidency in two years. If so, MSNBC will be there to give it to them.

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Aiming at Ailes–and Missing Badly

One of the most famous quotes about Fox News is Charles Krauthammer’s quip that Fox’s success was due to its appeal to a niche market: half the country. There are times it seems almost an understatement, so thoroughly does Fox dominate the ratings. And in fact it’s almost as though Krauthammer’s “half the country” might refer to the speakers instead of the audience. Just as talk radio thrived as an alternative to mainstream liberal news and opinion, so too did Fox suddenly offer otherwise-marginalized right-of-center views to a public who didn’t want to be as ideologically cloistered as is the modern liberal establishment.

This came to mind when I read a humorous, but telling account of a recent interview with Gabriel Sherman, the author of a new book on Fox’s Roger Ailes. The title of the book is The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News–and Divided a Country. That last phrase piqued the interest of Norah O’Donnell and Charlie Rose, who interviewed Sherman late last week. Specifically, they wanted to know, how precisely has Ailes divided the country? The Washington Post’s media writer Erik Wemple caught the exchange and posted a transcript of that part of the interview:

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One of the most famous quotes about Fox News is Charles Krauthammer’s quip that Fox’s success was due to its appeal to a niche market: half the country. There are times it seems almost an understatement, so thoroughly does Fox dominate the ratings. And in fact it’s almost as though Krauthammer’s “half the country” might refer to the speakers instead of the audience. Just as talk radio thrived as an alternative to mainstream liberal news and opinion, so too did Fox suddenly offer otherwise-marginalized right-of-center views to a public who didn’t want to be as ideologically cloistered as is the modern liberal establishment.

This came to mind when I read a humorous, but telling account of a recent interview with Gabriel Sherman, the author of a new book on Fox’s Roger Ailes. The title of the book is The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News–and Divided a Country. That last phrase piqued the interest of Norah O’Donnell and Charlie Rose, who interviewed Sherman late last week. Specifically, they wanted to know, how precisely has Ailes divided the country? The Washington Post’s media writer Erik Wemple caught the exchange and posted a transcript of that part of the interview:

O’Donnell: You say he’s divided a country.

Sherman: Yes, he has.

O’Donnell: How?

Sherman: Because his ability to drive a message: He has an unrivaled ability to know what resonates with a certain audience. You know, he comes from a blue-collar factory town in Ohio, he speaks to…

Rose: So what’s the message that divides the country?

Sherman: He speaks to that part of America that feels left behind by the culture. You know, it’s the old Nixon silent majority, which is what was his formative experience.

Wemple notes that Sherman does not, in fact, come close to answering the question. It’s quite a charge to say that someone divided the United States. When it’s put in the title of your biography of that person, the reader expects you to not only make that case but use it as a basis for understanding the subject’s work. Wemple continues:

After three years of reporting and more than 600 interviews, Sherman should come equipped to his media interviews with better answers. What’s divisive, after all, about understanding what “resonates with a certain audience”? What’s the problem with speaking to Americans who feel “left behind by the culture”? Wouldn’t that be a public service? Indeed, everything that Sherman cited to the CBS people — including blue-collar origins — would appear to be assets for a guy like Ailes. Why haven’t Fox News allies seized upon these remarks as evidence of Sherman’s disdain for conservative America? (Stelter tells the Erik Wemple Blog that he planned a follow-up to that portion of Sherman’s “CBS This Morning” interview but ran out of time).

Taken at face value, the exchange would seem to be totally unedifying. But it’s actually quite the opposite. Roger Ailes most certainly did not divide the country, and few people are unhinged enough to believe he did. So what made Sherman use the phrase–in the book’s title, no less? It becomes easier to understand when you remember that Sherman’s evasive response was actually him thinking he answered the question.

The American left became spoiled by its dominance of major media before Fox. Liberals reveled in their belief that they had ownership of a high-minded consensus. In order to own that consensus, however, the liberal media elite had to be speaking for the country. But who strikes you as more representative of the broader American public–Gabriel Sherman, a writer for New York magazine who also lives in New York City, or the “blue-collar” Ohioans Sherman mentions?

This is not a paean to the “real America” that supposedly excludes coastal elites. It was Sherman, in fact, who brought up the blue-collar folk that Ailes resonates with as an example of the supposed divisive nature of Ailes’s work. In his blisteringly negative review of the book for Slate, Michael Wolff notes that Sherman gets facts wrong and uses unreliable sources. But even more than that, he doesn’t seem to understand the difference between cable and network news, and the audiences they attract. Wolff adds:

Fox’s prime-time audience averages 1.1 million. Network news audiences in the great old days reached 40 million. Sherman’s thesis that Ailes “divided a country” is quite absurd. What Ailes did do is to help turn politics into a special interest category. It is not just the Fox view that is a closed ecosystem—it is the liberal view of the Fox view that is as much a part of the bubble. Perfectly targeted co-dependents.

The country was already divided politically among conservatives, liberals, and everything in between. What Ailes did was enter the conversation, and did so quite effectively. And liberals won’t forgive him for it.

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Team Obama’s Damascus Road Experiences

We’re seeing some remarkable conversions occur before our very eyes. Take David Axelrod, who was President Obama’s top political adviser in the White House.

For years Axelrod, along with Anita Dunn and others, led a Nixonian campaign to discredit and delegitimize Fox News. Yet now Axelrod is angst-ridden and aggrieved at the Justice Department’s surveillance of a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, telling MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he finds all of this “disturbing.”

“I do think there are real issues regarding the relationship with the media on this leak matter,” according to Axelrod. “The notion of naming a journalist as a co-conspirator for receiving information is something that I find very disturbing.”

Mr. Axelrod’s professed solidarity with Fox News is touching. But a few of us thought the effort back in 2009 to target Fox was disturbing, too – and we went on to predict that it would lead to something that looks very much like what has occurred: the abuse of government power to intimidate people Team Obama viewed as a threat.

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We’re seeing some remarkable conversions occur before our very eyes. Take David Axelrod, who was President Obama’s top political adviser in the White House.

For years Axelrod, along with Anita Dunn and others, led a Nixonian campaign to discredit and delegitimize Fox News. Yet now Axelrod is angst-ridden and aggrieved at the Justice Department’s surveillance of a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, telling MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he finds all of this “disturbing.”

“I do think there are real issues regarding the relationship with the media on this leak matter,” according to Axelrod. “The notion of naming a journalist as a co-conspirator for receiving information is something that I find very disturbing.”

Mr. Axelrod’s professed solidarity with Fox News is touching. But a few of us thought the effort back in 2009 to target Fox was disturbing, too – and we went on to predict that it would lead to something that looks very much like what has occurred: the abuse of government power to intimidate people Team Obama viewed as a threat.

Speaking of the scales falling from their eyes, we’re now asked to believe that Attorney General Eric Holder, is “beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse” for his role in authorizing a search warrant that named James Rosen as an “aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in a crime. A very well developed sense of right and wrong, combined with the fear that he might have committed perjury in his Congressional testimony, will do that to a fellow.

We’re seeing a variation of this with the IRS scandal. The president and Democrats are falling all over themselves condemning the abuse of power by the IRS. But what they conveniently forget is their role in creating a climate that allowed the abuse to flourish. After all, when the DNC runs ads accusing pro-Republican groups of “stealing our democracy,” when the president of the United States suggests they are breaking the law, and when senior Democratic Senators write letters (see here) to the IRS requesting that it survey major nonprofits involved in political campaign activity for their possible “violation of tax laws,” what you are bound to get is what we now have.

The president and his top aides gave clear guidance as to which properties needed to be targeted and provided the accelerants to get a fire burning. And now they profess being shocked that arson was going on.

How stupid do they think we are?

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Obama’s Hypocritical War on Reporters

Revelations about the Justice Department’s spying on the Associated Press already had the media up in arms, but the news of yet another instance of the government cracking down on journalists seems to have woken much of the country to the truth about the administration’s disregard for freedom of the press. On Sunday the Washington Post reported that Fox News chief Washington correspondent (and COMMENTARY contributor) James Rosen was subjected to having his emails read and phone tapped in the course of an investigation of an alleged leak of classified information about North Korea.

Following similar action against the Associated Press, there can be no denying the chilling effect the snooping on journalists has on the ability of the press to do its job in a democracy. Indeed, the Rosen case ought to be a bridge too far for even those who understand that the government has a legitimate interest in preventing leaks. The egregious nature of the accusation against Rosen that he was a “co-conspirator” in what amounts to a charge of espionage, along with the government consultant who allegedly gave him information to report, betrays a lack of respect for journalists and journalism. It also shows a willingness to disregard the law that protects professional news gatherers from this kind of harassment.

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Revelations about the Justice Department’s spying on the Associated Press already had the media up in arms, but the news of yet another instance of the government cracking down on journalists seems to have woken much of the country to the truth about the administration’s disregard for freedom of the press. On Sunday the Washington Post reported that Fox News chief Washington correspondent (and COMMENTARY contributor) James Rosen was subjected to having his emails read and phone tapped in the course of an investigation of an alleged leak of classified information about North Korea.

Following similar action against the Associated Press, there can be no denying the chilling effect the snooping on journalists has on the ability of the press to do its job in a democracy. Indeed, the Rosen case ought to be a bridge too far for even those who understand that the government has a legitimate interest in preventing leaks. The egregious nature of the accusation against Rosen that he was a “co-conspirator” in what amounts to a charge of espionage, along with the government consultant who allegedly gave him information to report, betrays a lack of respect for journalists and journalism. It also shows a willingness to disregard the law that protects professional news gatherers from this kind of harassment.

What appears to have happened to Rosen is different from the AP case, in that unlike that fishing expedition that exposed more than 100 journalists to the revelation of their sources as well as invasions of their privacy, this investigation is limited to the Fox News reporter. The leak, which is supposed to have happened in 2009, concerned a report by Rosen that stated sources inside North Korea had informed the United States that Pyongyang would respond to United Nations sanctions with more nuclear tests.

But the notion that Rosen was an “abettor and/or co-conspirator” of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, the alleged source of the leak, is an absurdity. The Post story said that according to the FBI, Rubin’s efforts to gain Kim’s confidence and to get him to give him information about the threat from North Korea “broke the law.” But the practices that the article described are not the product of a “covert” or “intelligence” operation. They are what journalists do every day in Washington and everywhere else as they seek to inform the public. There is no law against publishing classified information, so the government sought to use the Espionage Act to punish Rosen and his source. But treating journalists as spies renders the First Amendment protections of the press null and void. When the U.S. government behaves in this fashion it is saying in effect that there is no difference between the constitutional democracy led by Barack Obama and the authoritarian regime of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Say what you will about a dictator like Putin, but at least we are spared having his spokesman claim that he is a defender of a free and “unfettered” press while defending those who spy on reporters.

There is a legitimate public interest in keeping genuine classified information —as opposed to the mass of material that is merely labeled “classified”—secret. But what appears to be going on here is an administration campaign to both chill the press and to intimidate whistle-blowers and others inside the government. It also seems as if the administration is seeking to criminalize the normal give and take between journalists and officials that is the life’s blood of a free press.

But the problems don’t stop there. The targeting of a leading Fox News reporter as far back as 2009 at a time when, as Kirsten Powers notes today in the Daily Beast, the administration was doing its best to delegitimize the cable news channel makes one wonder if the Justice Department was taking its cue from its political masters when it sought to make an example of Rosen.

Another disturbing element of this topic is what appears to be the selective nature of the administration’s war on reporters.

Conservatives were angry last year when leaks about top-secret programs like the Stuxnet computer virus aimed at Iran’s nuclear program seemed to be part of an administration strategy to bolster the president’s reputation during an election year. The memory of the calls for investigations of those leaks now leads some of Obama’s defenders to decry what they see as hypocrisy on the right about their umbrage about the AP case. But the problem here is not the principle of leaking but whether the government is only prosecuting those leaks that did not suit the White House’s political interests.

Though the Justice Department has pursued more of these cases in the last four years than all of Obama’s predecessors combined, we have yet to learn of a leaker inside the White House doing the perp walk or one of the West Wing’s favorite outlets for such leaks being given the same treatment as the AP or Fox’s Rosen.

Once Kim has his day in court (which the Post says will be sometime in 2014), we’ll have a better idea of where the truth lies in this case, though the notion that Rosen’s reporting endangered national security strikes most observers, including liberal pundits who hate Fox, as lacking even a shred of credibility. But, as with the other leak investigations, the draconian efforts to make it harder for reporters to do their jobs seems to be part of a culture of intimidation that runs rampant in this administration. If President Obama really believes in protecting a free press he must act now to stop the Department of Justice from snooping on journalists in this manner. If not, he and his mouthpiece Jay Carney should stop pretending they have any respect for the Constitution. 

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Why Liberals Still Detest Fox News

More than 16 years after its founding and 11 years after it assumed its current perch as the most-watched cable news network, Fox News remains the favorite punching bag of the left. Liberals take it as an article of faith that Fox is not merely biased but a travesty that serious people should ignore. But the notion that there is something unholy about what is broadcast on Fox or that its mix of news and opinion is uniquely biased has never stood up to scrutiny.

That assumption was once again on display this past week in a New York Times review of a new biography of Fox founder Roger Ailes.  Veteran Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani had little patience for Zev Chafets’s new book, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, because it presents Ailes in a not unsympathetic light and takes down some of the common liberal charges about Fox and its on-air personalities. According to Kakutani, Chafets should have focused on its “role in accelerating partisanship in our increasingly polarized society” and how it “frames its reports from the conservative point of view.” Implicit in these lines is the belief that there is something exceptional in a broadcast network that has a political point of view or that what Fox does is so egregious when it is compared to its competitors.

Refutation of these prejudices comes from no less an authority than an icon of establishment liberalism: the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. In its State of the News Media: An Annual Report on American Journalism, Pew details, among other interesting tidbits the percentages of news reporting and opinion on the three biggest cable news channels. According to the study, the breakdown of MSNBC shows that a whopping 85 percent of its airtime is taken up with opinion, compared to 55 percent of the time on Fox and 45 percent of CNN’s air.

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More than 16 years after its founding and 11 years after it assumed its current perch as the most-watched cable news network, Fox News remains the favorite punching bag of the left. Liberals take it as an article of faith that Fox is not merely biased but a travesty that serious people should ignore. But the notion that there is something unholy about what is broadcast on Fox or that its mix of news and opinion is uniquely biased has never stood up to scrutiny.

That assumption was once again on display this past week in a New York Times review of a new biography of Fox founder Roger Ailes.  Veteran Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani had little patience for Zev Chafets’s new book, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, because it presents Ailes in a not unsympathetic light and takes down some of the common liberal charges about Fox and its on-air personalities. According to Kakutani, Chafets should have focused on its “role in accelerating partisanship in our increasingly polarized society” and how it “frames its reports from the conservative point of view.” Implicit in these lines is the belief that there is something exceptional in a broadcast network that has a political point of view or that what Fox does is so egregious when it is compared to its competitors.

Refutation of these prejudices comes from no less an authority than an icon of establishment liberalism: the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. In its State of the News Media: An Annual Report on American Journalism, Pew details, among other interesting tidbits the percentages of news reporting and opinion on the three biggest cable news channels. According to the study, the breakdown of MSNBC shows that a whopping 85 percent of its airtime is taken up with opinion, compared to 55 percent of the time on Fox and 45 percent of CNN’s air.

These numbers tell us that while the majority of what Fox broadcasts is conservative opinion, it is a pittance when compared to the volume of uniformly liberal commentary on MSNBC. If more of CNN’s airtime is taken up with reporting than on Fox, it must be remembered that the vast majority of the opinions heard on that network is also liberal. And when that is combined with the heavy liberal tilt on the original three national networks, NBC, ABC and especially CBS (the home of the supposedly authoritative 60 Minutes which is so soft on the head of the Democratic Party that even one of its hosts admits it can be relied upon never to discomfit President Obama), it makes Fox’s conservative views one of the few places where alternatives to the left can be found.

If Kakutani and the legions of liberals who blast Fox reporters for not reporting the news from a liberal perspective think there is something wrong about that it is because they are so used to dominating the news media, both print and broadcast, that they still think Ailes has done something wrong in providing viewers with another way of looking at the world.

Of course, the real difference between Fox and its competitors is not so much its divergence from liberalism as Ailes’s honesty about the fact that his network has a different frame of reference.

For decades, mainstream news icons like Walter Cronkite maintained the pretense of objectivity while tilting his enormously influential broadcasts to the left. But while belief in his impartiality and that of almost all of his colleagues on CBS and the other big two of that time was based on myth rather than truth, it was more believable than the willingness of his successors as well as many of those seen on MSNBC and CNN—including those that report as well as those who merely opine—to continue to pretend that they aren’t ideologues.

Fox’s success is rooted in its honesty about its point of view as well as the fact that the uniform liberalism of the other networks has left the field wide open for a conservative alternative. What Ailes and his backer Rupert Murdoch did was to find an underserved niche of the news market. Only in this case that niche is made up of approximately half of the American people. No wonder liberals resent it so bitterly.

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Fox News Fights Back Against Obama Smear

Recently in an interview with the liberal magazine the New Republic on “his enemies, the media and the future of football,” President Obama took aim not just at his antagonists on Capitol Hill but also those in the press, particularly Fox News. He told the New Republic

One of the biggest factors is going to be how the media shapes debates. If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you’ll see more of them doing it.

The swipe at Fox wasn’t the president’s first, though it appears to have struck a nerve at the network. Two Fox personalities, Megyn Kelly and Kirsten Powers, responded to the president’s remarks. In a blog post on the Fox website, Kelly’s remarks were partially transcribed by the network, indicating the following was the main thrust of Fox’s argument against the statement:

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Recently in an interview with the liberal magazine the New Republic on “his enemies, the media and the future of football,” President Obama took aim not just at his antagonists on Capitol Hill but also those in the press, particularly Fox News. He told the New Republic

One of the biggest factors is going to be how the media shapes debates. If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you’ll see more of them doing it.

The swipe at Fox wasn’t the president’s first, though it appears to have struck a nerve at the network. Two Fox personalities, Megyn Kelly and Kirsten Powers, responded to the president’s remarks. In a blog post on the Fox website, Kelly’s remarks were partially transcribed by the network, indicating the following was the main thrust of Fox’s argument against the statement:

“For me this isn’t about what he said about Fox News [...] it’s about once again the president saying that if somebody disagrees with him, if Republicans disagree with him, it’s because someone has ‘gotten’ to them,” she told Fox News Digital political editor Chris Stirewalt. “It sounds dismissive of heartfelt beliefs that Republicans may hold or their constituents may hold that just don’t line up with his.”

One of Fox’s most vocal liberals, Kirsten Powers, took to the Fox opinion page to discuss Obama’s “war on Fox News.” 

Whether you are liberal or conservative, libertarian, moderate or politically agnostic, everyone should be concerned when leaders of our government believe they can intentionally try to delegitimize a news organization they don’t like. 

In fact, if you are a liberal – as I am – you should be the most offended, as liberalism is founded on the idea of cherishing dissent and an inviolable right to freedom of expression. 

That more liberals aren’t calling out the White House for this outrageous behavior tells you something about the state of liberalism in America today. 

Powers’s entire column is a must-read and holds the president’s feet to the fire on his administration’s efforts to remove Fox from the national conversation by denying the network equal access to conference calls and interviews. Despite Fox’s record-setting ratings, the president has deemed the network an illegitimate source of news while his allies at Media Matters declared their intention to destroy the network through “guerrilla warfare and sabotage.” It’s easy to imagine the kind of uproar President George W. Bush would have faced if he had made a similar attempt at stifling MSNBC or another liberal news outlet. It’s more difficult, however, to imagine President Bush actually attempting something so hostile to the free exchange of ideas and information.

While some media liberals spent the eight years of the Bush administration accusing the president of fascism, one would hope that the current president’s attempts to limit the freedom of the press to do their jobs would elicit a response of some kind. That no liberal but a Fox News paid contributor has forcefully pushed back against the president’s efforts portends a sad future for American liberalism, as Powers herself notes: “That more liberals aren’t calling out the White House for this outrageous behavior tells you something about the state of liberalism in America today.”

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Note to Palin: GOP Needs More than a Mouth

As expected, Fox News cut its ties with Sarah Palin on Friday. The former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate had worn out her welcome at the network over the last year and her brand had lost a lot of its pizzazz after sitting out the 2012 presidential contest and new conservative voices had come to the fore. Though she remains a cult favorite among some on the right and a convenient punching bag for the left, in a party with a large cast of rising stars like Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and with Rand Paul looking to expand his appeal beyond his father’s libertarian base, her hold on the affections of the Tea Party and/or the GOP base looks tenuous at best. It’s likely that Fox decided she was yesterday’s news.

Palin is taking the blow with her customary defiance. In her first interview since the announcement, she channeled John Paul Jones as she told Breitbart News that she “hadn’t yet begun to fight.”  She spoke about the need for conservatives to go outside their comfort zone and to stop “preaching to the choir.” That’s good advice, though it’s hard to see how anyone as polarizing as Palin is going to get moderates to listen to anything she has to say.

While it’s not clear what her next step is, anyone who writes her off completely is bound to wind up looking silly. She lost a lot of her credibility when she resigned her governorship and then made a number of puzzling career choices, which did nothing but further marginalize her as a serious political figure. But the raw political talent that dazzled so many conservatives in 2008 is still there, even if she spent the last four years acting like a reality TV show star and alienating many people who once wished her well. The problem for Palin is not in finding another platform for her views (something that is all but a given in this era of social media and proliferating political websites) but that if she still harbors an ambition to be more than just another talking head, she’s going to have to something more than talk.

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As expected, Fox News cut its ties with Sarah Palin on Friday. The former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate had worn out her welcome at the network over the last year and her brand had lost a lot of its pizzazz after sitting out the 2012 presidential contest and new conservative voices had come to the fore. Though she remains a cult favorite among some on the right and a convenient punching bag for the left, in a party with a large cast of rising stars like Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and with Rand Paul looking to expand his appeal beyond his father’s libertarian base, her hold on the affections of the Tea Party and/or the GOP base looks tenuous at best. It’s likely that Fox decided she was yesterday’s news.

Palin is taking the blow with her customary defiance. In her first interview since the announcement, she channeled John Paul Jones as she told Breitbart News that she “hadn’t yet begun to fight.”  She spoke about the need for conservatives to go outside their comfort zone and to stop “preaching to the choir.” That’s good advice, though it’s hard to see how anyone as polarizing as Palin is going to get moderates to listen to anything she has to say.

While it’s not clear what her next step is, anyone who writes her off completely is bound to wind up looking silly. She lost a lot of her credibility when she resigned her governorship and then made a number of puzzling career choices, which did nothing but further marginalize her as a serious political figure. But the raw political talent that dazzled so many conservatives in 2008 is still there, even if she spent the last four years acting like a reality TV show star and alienating many people who once wished her well. The problem for Palin is not in finding another platform for her views (something that is all but a given in this era of social media and proliferating political websites) but that if she still harbors an ambition to be more than just another talking head, she’s going to have to something more than talk.

Palin’s shrinking fan base still hopes she will return to the fray in 2016. Her spring tour of the East Coast in 2011 just as the presidential race was starting demonstrated that she hadn’t lost her star power even if she seemed as unprepared as ever to face the scrutiny of a hostile press. But as the Republican Party licks its wounds from its second defeat at the hands of Barack Obama, most of those who will be considered for the job of leading it back to the White House have one thing in common that Palin lacks: job resumes that show that they either have the guts to fight the Democrats in Washington as Rubio, Ryan and Paul are doing or a record of showing how Republicans can run a state on conservative principles, as Jindal and Christie are proving.

Each of them has different virtues as well as different faults, but all have spent the time since Obama was first elected on the frontlines of the battle against liberalism. It may be that not having a job is something of an advantage in a presidential campaign, but as the years go by the more Palin has taken on the aspect of a celebrity rather than a politician, let alone a political thinker. Celebrity counts a lot in our day and age, but it cannot transform a person who has done everything in her power not to be taken seriously into the sort of person whom Republicans, let alone the general electorate, will trust with the fate of the nation.

Sarah Palin is still a relatively young woman and has a long career of advocacy in front of her. But if she really wants to get back in the political arena, at some point she’s going to have to demonstrate that she’s capable of doing something more than run her mouth. Facebook postings and Internet videos don’t compare well to running a state or standing up to the Democrats in Congress. Unless she decides to get back in the fight somewhere other than on the radio or TV, the odds are she’s going to spend 2016 and every other subsequent presidential year the same place she spent 2012: on the sidelines with fewer and fewer people paying attention to what she says or does.

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Mainstream Media’s Pose of Fairness is the Real Poison in American Journalism

The New York Times’ former reputation as the nation’s objective newspaper of record was always a façade that covered up a persistent liberal bias that skewed its coverage of both politics and the world. But during the eight years that Bill Keller served as executive editor, the Times accelerated its descent into the partisan and hyper-liberal biased reporting and unbalanced opinion pages that we now take for granted as the paper’s calling card. Keller’s liberal prejudices were never a secret while he was the paper’s editor and in his current guise as a weekly opinion columnist, the last veil has dropped. But even now, he can’t seem to give up the pose of being the professional journalist who is too busy getting the story right to inject his politics into the copy.

This is the principal conceit of his latest column in which he commits the unpardonable sin of trying to shoot a fish in a barrel and missing. By taking aim at Rupert Murdoch — the easiest target in the world this week — Keller only manages to call more attention to his own partisanship and hypocrisy. His point is that Murdoch’s creation Fox News and its conservative bias is “America’s poison,” and claims that for all of its flaws, the mainstream media is still far more fair and balanced than the network that uses that phrase to describe itself. But the idea that Fox is any more biased than the Times, let alone NBC, CNN or NPR — the examples he cites of other more objective outlets — is absurd.

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The New York Times’ former reputation as the nation’s objective newspaper of record was always a façade that covered up a persistent liberal bias that skewed its coverage of both politics and the world. But during the eight years that Bill Keller served as executive editor, the Times accelerated its descent into the partisan and hyper-liberal biased reporting and unbalanced opinion pages that we now take for granted as the paper’s calling card. Keller’s liberal prejudices were never a secret while he was the paper’s editor and in his current guise as a weekly opinion columnist, the last veil has dropped. But even now, he can’t seem to give up the pose of being the professional journalist who is too busy getting the story right to inject his politics into the copy.

This is the principal conceit of his latest column in which he commits the unpardonable sin of trying to shoot a fish in a barrel and missing. By taking aim at Rupert Murdoch — the easiest target in the world this week — Keller only manages to call more attention to his own partisanship and hypocrisy. His point is that Murdoch’s creation Fox News and its conservative bias is “America’s poison,” and claims that for all of its flaws, the mainstream media is still far more fair and balanced than the network that uses that phrase to describe itself. But the idea that Fox is any more biased than the Times, let alone NBC, CNN or NPR — the examples he cites of other more objective outlets — is absurd.

The only evidence he gives for what he considers the obvious superiority of the non-Fox liberal media is that the Times Sunday Magazine once published an even-handed profile of Rush Limbaugh by Zev Chafets. He says such a fair-minded piece about Nancy Pelosi would never have run on Fox. He also thinks it is terrible that Fox News head Roger Ailes didn’t cooperate with a liberal trying to write his biography and that it takes a dim view of employees who leak material in order to embarrass the company.

The problem with this argument is that the Chafets profile is merely the exception that proves the rule at the Times. While there are occasional instances of fairness, they merely highlight the paper’s typical unfairness to anyone or any group that it opposes. The comparison is also ridiculous because most of Fox’s programming is the moral equivalent to the Times’ editorial and op-ed pages. There the analogy between the two is almost exact. Liberal voices are a distinct minority on Fox but no more so than genuine conservatives at the Times.

If anything, a comparison of the airtime that Fox devotes to straight news coverage to the Times’ news pages is actually quite flattering to the former. While Fox’s news hounds may not be perfectly objective one wonders if they have ever committed any journalistic sin so blatant as the Times’ decision just this past Friday to run a front page news feature on racism directed at President Obama in Ohio whose only possible point was to try to rally liberals around the incumbent lest hate triumph. Nor can I recall Fox’s news operation ever doing anything as despicable or lacking in ethics as Keller’s decision to publish a major expose of John McCain’s personal life at the height of the 2008 presidential campaign that lacked any proof of the wrongdoing the piece insinuated.

Even after all these years, Keller and other liberals still don’t understand why Fox is popular. Along with conservative talk radio, it was created to balance the obvious bias of a mainstream media that pretended it had no bias. Audiences despise the pretense and appreciate Fox’s straightforward point of view. That’s why, as I wrote this past week, CNN, whose dishonesty about its liberal bias is as obvious as that of the Times, is the loser in the cable rating wars.

No one should fault Keller for his liberalism. It is his pretense of fairness that is galling. His claims about Fox’s faults can be just as easily directed at the Times. The real poison at the heart of American journalism isn’t Fox, it’s the mainstream media’s false front of objectivity.

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CNN’s Failing Biased Business Model

The news that CNN’s ratings are at a ten-year low should come as no surprise to viewers of the cable news channel. The consensus is the downward spiral of the network’s viewership is due to the fact that it is caught in the middle between two supposedly hyper-partisan competitors — Fox News on the right and MSNBC on the left — with the result that their brand of nonpartisan news is being marginalized.

But this interpretation of events is not only incorrect, it misses the point about why audiences aren’t thrilled by CNN. When given a choice between channels that don’t pretend to be totally even-handed like Fox and MSNBC and one that is masquerading as above such things, most will inevitably choose the former over the latter. Contrary to the self-serving excuse that CNN’s professionalism doesn’t sell as well as the partisanship exhibited on Fox and MSNBC, the viewers aren’t being fooled. They know that most of the hosts on CNN tilt sharply to the left and are put off by the pretense of objectivity.

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The news that CNN’s ratings are at a ten-year low should come as no surprise to viewers of the cable news channel. The consensus is the downward spiral of the network’s viewership is due to the fact that it is caught in the middle between two supposedly hyper-partisan competitors — Fox News on the right and MSNBC on the left — with the result that their brand of nonpartisan news is being marginalized.

But this interpretation of events is not only incorrect, it misses the point about why audiences aren’t thrilled by CNN. When given a choice between channels that don’t pretend to be totally even-handed like Fox and MSNBC and one that is masquerading as above such things, most will inevitably choose the former over the latter. Contrary to the self-serving excuse that CNN’s professionalism doesn’t sell as well as the partisanship exhibited on Fox and MSNBC, the viewers aren’t being fooled. They know that most of the hosts on CNN tilt sharply to the left and are put off by the pretense of objectivity.

Just as is the case with Fox, much of the straight news coverage on CNN is pretty fair. It should also be specified that their primary night coverage throughout the Republican nomination race led by Wolf Blitzer was actually superior to what was broadcast on Fox.

But does anyone really think that most of CNN’s on-air hosts are any less biased than those on Fox or lean to the left any less than their competitors on MSNBC? Two recent examples, Piers Morgan’s ambush of Jonah Goldberg and Soledad O’Brien’s illiterate riff on race theory during what turned into a debate with Breitbart.com’s Joel Pollak, illustrate the network’s liberal bias.

In both cases, the interviewers didn’t just challenge conservative guests, they debated them and did their best to shut out and denigrate views they disliked. Morgan didn’t even want to talk about Goldberg’s book, let alone allow the author to explain his thesis. O’Brien pretended to act as an authority on something she clearly didn’t understand in order to defend President Obama and one of his radical mentors. We expect that sort of thing from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews or from a Bill O’Reilly on the right at Fox, but it gives the lie to CNN’s much-hyped stance of nonpartisanship.

If CNN wants to broadcast liberal shows, that’s their right. But what viewers don’t like is the same thing they despise elsewhere in the mainstream media: partisans pretending to be objective. The genius of Fox was that it gave people fed up with liberal bias being passed off as even-handed coverage a place to go to get an alternative. MSNBC profits from being a channel where liberals can go to get left-wing punditry without the gloss of faux objectivity. As Dylan Byers writes at Politico, it isn’t just that its harder for viewers to feel an affinity for someone in the middle of the road; it’s that personalities who act as if they are something different from what they obviously are inspire animus, not viewer loyalty.

 

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Sinking Gingrich Flails at Krauthammer

Newt Gingrich has been trying to play the good guy who won’t attack his competitors–at least some of the time. But as his poll numbers head south in the last days before the Iowa caucuses, the candidate’s campaign is getting desperate and nasty. Politico reports that a statement issued by Winning Our Future, an independent group supporting the former speaker’s candidacy, launched an all-out attack on columnist Charles Krauthammer for his criticisms of Gingrich. According to the group, the distinguished conservative thinker is part of an “establishment media” campaign against Gingrich.

It is hard to know what is more bizarre: Gingrich’s attempt to cast Fox News and Krauthammer (who appears on the network) as the “media establishment” or the way this quintessential Washington insider/influence peddler is attempting to masquerade as an outsider in the capital. Gingrich, who likes to style himself the intellectual of the presidential race, is channeling Sarah Palin, who at one point attacked Krauthammer for being too elitist because he criticized her for lack of knowledge of the issues. But in this case, Gingrich’s minions are claiming that Krauthammer is “jealous” of Newt’s smarts. Especially grating for the Gingrich loyalists is the fact that Krauthammer mocked their candidate’s preposterous claim that his failure to get on the Virginia primary ballot was a disaster akin to the attack on Pearl Harbor; a statement so astonishing that Krauthammer cannot be blamed for treating it and its author as a joke.

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Newt Gingrich has been trying to play the good guy who won’t attack his competitors–at least some of the time. But as his poll numbers head south in the last days before the Iowa caucuses, the candidate’s campaign is getting desperate and nasty. Politico reports that a statement issued by Winning Our Future, an independent group supporting the former speaker’s candidacy, launched an all-out attack on columnist Charles Krauthammer for his criticisms of Gingrich. According to the group, the distinguished conservative thinker is part of an “establishment media” campaign against Gingrich.

It is hard to know what is more bizarre: Gingrich’s attempt to cast Fox News and Krauthammer (who appears on the network) as the “media establishment” or the way this quintessential Washington insider/influence peddler is attempting to masquerade as an outsider in the capital. Gingrich, who likes to style himself the intellectual of the presidential race, is channeling Sarah Palin, who at one point attacked Krauthammer for being too elitist because he criticized her for lack of knowledge of the issues. But in this case, Gingrich’s minions are claiming that Krauthammer is “jealous” of Newt’s smarts. Especially grating for the Gingrich loyalists is the fact that Krauthammer mocked their candidate’s preposterous claim that his failure to get on the Virginia primary ballot was a disaster akin to the attack on Pearl Harbor; a statement so astonishing that Krauthammer cannot be blamed for treating it and its author as a joke.

The point here is not so much that Gingrich and his crowd don’t have a clue about who or what is the “establishment.” The intended targets of this attack — Fox, Krauthammer and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal–are the intellectual guerrilla forces who have been intrepidly attacking liberal orthodoxies during the last decade while Gingrich was helping companies game the system in Washington.

Rather, it is the desperation evident as his house of cards campaign implodes. It was only a matter of time before his manifest liabilities in terms of his inconsistencies and monumental egotism began to grate on the public. But rather than go down in a dignified manner befitting the scholar he likes to play at the debates, Gingrich will sink while awkwardly flailing away at those who refused to ignore his obvious deficiencies. It isn’t a pretty picture, but the collapse of a presidential campaign never is.

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Good Year for Fox News

This past year was another very good one for the Fox News Channel, which continued its dominance of cable news (in January FNC will have been the #1 cable news channel for 10 years in a row).

The Associated Press, in reporting on the most recent Nielsen ratings, points out that FNC’s average viewership exceeded CNN and MSNBC combined, both in prime time and for the entire day. Fox typically had 1.87 million viewers in prime time this year. The top 13 programs in cable news all aired on Fox. And Fox was the only cable news network to place in the top 10 list of cable channels in both prime time and entire day.

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This past year was another very good one for the Fox News Channel, which continued its dominance of cable news (in January FNC will have been the #1 cable news channel for 10 years in a row).

The Associated Press, in reporting on the most recent Nielsen ratings, points out that FNC’s average viewership exceeded CNN and MSNBC combined, both in prime time and for the entire day. Fox typically had 1.87 million viewers in prime time this year. The top 13 programs in cable news all aired on Fox. And Fox was the only cable news network to place in the top 10 list of cable channels in both prime time and entire day.

Fox’s ratings lead may well extend in 2012, given both the forthcoming GOP primary race and presidential election. And one day years from now, when political passions cool and his achievements are put in perspective, Roger Ailes will be seen as one of the most significant journalistic figures of the last half-century. He is the man who is most responsible for shattering the monopoly on television news. It’s little wonder he and his network inspire rage in some liberal quarters. And there’s little doubt it bothers Ailes not at all.

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Obama’s Egypt Position Is Becoming Ridiculous

The corner that the Obama administration has boxed itself into on Egypt is growing increasingly cramped and awkward by the hour. As Leon Wieseltier noted at the New Republic website yesterday, the U.S.’s position is “strategically complicated: since Mubarak may fall, it cannot afford to alienate the protestors, but since the protestors may fail, it cannot afford to alienate Mubarak.”

The end result is like watching a tight-rope walker swaying dangerously from one side to the other. It’s stomach-churning. First, it looked like the administration would throw its full support behind Mubarak, with Vice President Biden asserting that the Egyptian leader was no dictator. Then the U.S. position appeared to lurch sharply to the other side during Robert Gibbs’s Friday press conference, where he announced that President Obama hadn’t even tried to contact Mubarak. And then, just when it looked like the administration was about to tip to the side of the Egyptian people, Obama’s public address made it clear that he wasn’t ready to throw “President Mubarak” under the bus just yet.

The equivocation is becoming increasingly uncomfortable to watch. Mainly because it’s so plainly obvious — to both the people saying it and listening to it — that it’s equivocation.

But now that the administration has set out on this strategic high-wire, it’s following it to the end. On Fox News Sunday this morning, Hillary Clinton noted that the Egyptian people “have legitimate grievances and are seeking greater political freedom, a real path to democracy, and economic opportunity.”

She then added that this democratic change could come about under the current regime. “[W]e see a dialogue opening … that has the concrete steps for democratic and economic reform that President Mubarak himself said that he was going to pursue,” she said.

From a logical standpoint, this is an impossible position. You can’t support both the will of the people and Mubarak. Yes, the people want democracy, political freedom, and economic reform. But, more plainly, they don’t want Mubarak — and they could not have made that more obvious over the past few days.

As Max wrote earlier, the Obama administration needs to make a decision. The current balancing act isn’t fooling anybody.

The corner that the Obama administration has boxed itself into on Egypt is growing increasingly cramped and awkward by the hour. As Leon Wieseltier noted at the New Republic website yesterday, the U.S.’s position is “strategically complicated: since Mubarak may fall, it cannot afford to alienate the protestors, but since the protestors may fail, it cannot afford to alienate Mubarak.”

The end result is like watching a tight-rope walker swaying dangerously from one side to the other. It’s stomach-churning. First, it looked like the administration would throw its full support behind Mubarak, with Vice President Biden asserting that the Egyptian leader was no dictator. Then the U.S. position appeared to lurch sharply to the other side during Robert Gibbs’s Friday press conference, where he announced that President Obama hadn’t even tried to contact Mubarak. And then, just when it looked like the administration was about to tip to the side of the Egyptian people, Obama’s public address made it clear that he wasn’t ready to throw “President Mubarak” under the bus just yet.

The equivocation is becoming increasingly uncomfortable to watch. Mainly because it’s so plainly obvious — to both the people saying it and listening to it — that it’s equivocation.

But now that the administration has set out on this strategic high-wire, it’s following it to the end. On Fox News Sunday this morning, Hillary Clinton noted that the Egyptian people “have legitimate grievances and are seeking greater political freedom, a real path to democracy, and economic opportunity.”

She then added that this democratic change could come about under the current regime. “[W]e see a dialogue opening … that has the concrete steps for democratic and economic reform that President Mubarak himself said that he was going to pursue,” she said.

From a logical standpoint, this is an impossible position. You can’t support both the will of the people and Mubarak. Yes, the people want democracy, political freedom, and economic reform. But, more plainly, they don’t want Mubarak — and they could not have made that more obvious over the past few days.

As Max wrote earlier, the Obama administration needs to make a decision. The current balancing act isn’t fooling anybody.

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Is the Right Worse Than the Left?

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric. Read More

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric.

Kinsley is right when he decries hateful rhetoric. But he is not above taking comments out of context to back up his point. For instance, he claims Bill O’Reilly’s reaction to one of his columns consisted of a call by the FOX News host for Kinsley’s head to be cut off. That sounds despicable. But he neglects to mention that what O’Reilly was saying was that Kinsley’s opposition to Guantanamo and other tough anti-terror measures was so obstinate and foolish that perhaps the only thing that might change his mind was for al-Qaeda terrorists to treat him the same way they did Daniel Pearl. That’s pretty harsh, but not the same thing as a call for a beheading.

The cockeyed lesson that liberals seem intent on shoving down the throats of their fellow citizens is that when conservatives talk tough about liberals, it is tantamount to incitement to murder, but that when liberals talk tough about conservatives, it’s just talk, because liberals don’t mean anyone any harm. We have heard a great deal about the way political debate in this country has been debased by violent rhetoric in recent years. But for all of the nastiness of the left about Bush and of the right about Obama, I don’t think any of that has done as much damage to the fabric of democracy as the determination the past few days by the mainstream media and its liberal elites to exploit a crime carried out by a mentally ill person to further their own narrow partisan political agenda.

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RE: Hillary Clinton and the Art of Getting It Exactly Wrong

The Muslim world may have rampant beheadings, daily assassinations, and violent mobs every time an offensive political cartoon is printed in a Nordic newspaper. But, according to Hilary Clinton, the recent shooting in Arizona proves that the United States has just as much of a problem with radical extremism as Islamic countries:

During her Gulf tour, Clinton paused to reflect on Saturday’s tragedy, which took the lives of six people and injured another 14, including US Republican Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head at point-blank range.

“Look, we have extremists in my country. A wonderful, incredibly brave young woman congress member, Congresswoman Giffords, was just shot in our country,” she said in comments obtained by Fox News Channel.

“We have the same kinds of problems. So rather than standing off from each other, we should work to try to prevent the extremists anywhere from being able to commit violence.”

Sure, we help them solve their epidemic of Islamic radicalism, and they help us solve our problem with a single 22-year-old mentally ill lone gunman. Sounds like a fair trade.

Clinton’s comparison is obviously absurd, as Abe pointed out. For one, Muslim extremists are motivated by a distorted form of political Islam. At the moment, there is little evidence that Jared Loughner was motivated by anything other than his own extreme mental illness. In fact, most of the information released so far has painted a portrait of a deeply disturbed, unbalanced young man who could potentially have been a risk to anyone. Former classmates and professors told reporters that they feared Loughner would one day come to school with a gun.

And while the U.S. has obviously had problems with non-Islamic terrorism in the past, it seems way too soon to begin comparing Loughner to a Timothy McVeigh or a Ted Kaczynski. The terms “extremist” and “terrorist” have very specific meanings and should be used carefully. Unless authorities discover a political motive for the Arizona shooting — something more than a couple of nonsensical and deranged scribblings about the gold standard or conscious dreams — any comparisons between Loughner and terrorism should be avoided.

The Muslim world may have rampant beheadings, daily assassinations, and violent mobs every time an offensive political cartoon is printed in a Nordic newspaper. But, according to Hilary Clinton, the recent shooting in Arizona proves that the United States has just as much of a problem with radical extremism as Islamic countries:

During her Gulf tour, Clinton paused to reflect on Saturday’s tragedy, which took the lives of six people and injured another 14, including US Republican Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head at point-blank range.

“Look, we have extremists in my country. A wonderful, incredibly brave young woman congress member, Congresswoman Giffords, was just shot in our country,” she said in comments obtained by Fox News Channel.

“We have the same kinds of problems. So rather than standing off from each other, we should work to try to prevent the extremists anywhere from being able to commit violence.”

Sure, we help them solve their epidemic of Islamic radicalism, and they help us solve our problem with a single 22-year-old mentally ill lone gunman. Sounds like a fair trade.

Clinton’s comparison is obviously absurd, as Abe pointed out. For one, Muslim extremists are motivated by a distorted form of political Islam. At the moment, there is little evidence that Jared Loughner was motivated by anything other than his own extreme mental illness. In fact, most of the information released so far has painted a portrait of a deeply disturbed, unbalanced young man who could potentially have been a risk to anyone. Former classmates and professors told reporters that they feared Loughner would one day come to school with a gun.

And while the U.S. has obviously had problems with non-Islamic terrorism in the past, it seems way too soon to begin comparing Loughner to a Timothy McVeigh or a Ted Kaczynski. The terms “extremist” and “terrorist” have very specific meanings and should be used carefully. Unless authorities discover a political motive for the Arizona shooting — something more than a couple of nonsensical and deranged scribblings about the gold standard or conscious dreams — any comparisons between Loughner and terrorism should be avoided.

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Palin’s Got Bigger Problems Than Charles Krauthammer

Last night on Bill O’Reilly’s show, the FOX News host asked Sarah Palin what she thought about columnist Charles Krauthammer’s observation that the former Alaska governor’s reality TV show, in which she hangs out with fellow TLC network reality star Kate Gosselin, wasn’t exactly presidential.

Palin could have merely responded that she and the eminent analyst had a lot in common lately, as both have been critical of the Republican congressional leadership’s tax deal with President Obama, and that her qualifications for the presidency should be judged by her conservative policy stands, not a television show that everyone knows is meant as entertainment intended to boost her public profile.

But, as even those of us who have been inclined to judge her more favorably than much of the chattering class have come to understand, Sarah Palin is every bit as thin-skinned as the man she’d like to replace in the White House. Her response was vintage Palin, combining a sort of schoolyard banter with bristling resentment. “Oooh. Sorry that I’m not so hoity-toity,” was the best she could come up with as a retort while gesturing that she was not someone who had to put her finger in the air to determine what to think, as if the intellectual yet down-to-earth conservative sage Krauthammer was some liberal media consultant. Just as disturbing as the obnoxiousness of her response was the vague thought that perhaps she’s not quite sure who exactly Krauthammer is. I know she probably isn’t reading his columns (which ought to be required reading for every serious student of politics and policy, no matter where they are on the political spectrum), but you’d think she watches the network where both appear regularly.

But Palin has bigger problems than Krauthammer. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that 60 percent of registered voters said they would “definitely not consider” voting for Palin for president and that she would lose to President Obama in a head-to-head match-up by a margin of 53-40 percent.

Palin’s popularity among Republicans continues to be high, and she will be a formidable contender for the GOP nomination if, as appears likely, she runs. But her appeal is limited to those who already share her views. Palin’s resentment of the Washington establishment and perhaps even of such intellectual gatekeepers of the conservative movement as Krauthammer may resonate with many conservative voters, but her attitude (which is the opposite of conservative icon Ronald Reagan’s genial responses to hostile media) alienates everyone else.

Everything she does and says lately seems geared toward reinforcing the negative opinion of that 60 percent already convinced that she isn’t qualified to be the commander in chief. And there’s simply no way that a person that six out of 10 voters wouldn’t vote for under any circumstances can be elected president.

So, rather than taunting people like Krauthammer, who merely said aloud what so many others are thinking about her unpresidential demeanor, maybe Sarah Palin ought to be waking up to the fact that she is simply unelectable.

Last night on Bill O’Reilly’s show, the FOX News host asked Sarah Palin what she thought about columnist Charles Krauthammer’s observation that the former Alaska governor’s reality TV show, in which she hangs out with fellow TLC network reality star Kate Gosselin, wasn’t exactly presidential.

Palin could have merely responded that she and the eminent analyst had a lot in common lately, as both have been critical of the Republican congressional leadership’s tax deal with President Obama, and that her qualifications for the presidency should be judged by her conservative policy stands, not a television show that everyone knows is meant as entertainment intended to boost her public profile.

But, as even those of us who have been inclined to judge her more favorably than much of the chattering class have come to understand, Sarah Palin is every bit as thin-skinned as the man she’d like to replace in the White House. Her response was vintage Palin, combining a sort of schoolyard banter with bristling resentment. “Oooh. Sorry that I’m not so hoity-toity,” was the best she could come up with as a retort while gesturing that she was not someone who had to put her finger in the air to determine what to think, as if the intellectual yet down-to-earth conservative sage Krauthammer was some liberal media consultant. Just as disturbing as the obnoxiousness of her response was the vague thought that perhaps she’s not quite sure who exactly Krauthammer is. I know she probably isn’t reading his columns (which ought to be required reading for every serious student of politics and policy, no matter where they are on the political spectrum), but you’d think she watches the network where both appear regularly.

But Palin has bigger problems than Krauthammer. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that 60 percent of registered voters said they would “definitely not consider” voting for Palin for president and that she would lose to President Obama in a head-to-head match-up by a margin of 53-40 percent.

Palin’s popularity among Republicans continues to be high, and she will be a formidable contender for the GOP nomination if, as appears likely, she runs. But her appeal is limited to those who already share her views. Palin’s resentment of the Washington establishment and perhaps even of such intellectual gatekeepers of the conservative movement as Krauthammer may resonate with many conservative voters, but her attitude (which is the opposite of conservative icon Ronald Reagan’s genial responses to hostile media) alienates everyone else.

Everything she does and says lately seems geared toward reinforcing the negative opinion of that 60 percent already convinced that she isn’t qualified to be the commander in chief. And there’s simply no way that a person that six out of 10 voters wouldn’t vote for under any circumstances can be elected president.

So, rather than taunting people like Krauthammer, who merely said aloud what so many others are thinking about her unpresidential demeanor, maybe Sarah Palin ought to be waking up to the fact that she is simply unelectable.

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The Magic Bullet

Chris Van Hollen, who will be the ranking member of the House Budget Committee in the new Congress, was on Fox News Sunday this morning (transcript not yet available). To no one’s surprise, I’m sure, he decried extending the “tax cuts for the rich” and raising the estate tax from its present zero to 35 percent for estates over $5 million. That, too, according to Van Hollen, was an unconscionable giveaway of $26 billion to a few thousand families who already have far more than they need. John linked to Senator Bernie Sanders’s 8 1/2 hour rant on the Senate floor on Friday in which he said, less succinctly, the same. And Peter the same day linked to Congressman Alan Grayson (soon, mercifully, to be former congressman Alan Grayson) saying, again, much the same thing. Their animus against “the rich” is palpable and their adherence to the principle of high taxes on the rich (which dates back to Karl Marx in 1848) is religious rather than rational.

I carry no brief for “the rich,” although I’d be happy to be counted among them. But this all reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a close friend, now gone, on this subject. She was very liberal. (How liberal? In 1948, she not only voted for Henry Wallace; she went to the convention and worked in his campaign. That’s liberal.) I proposed a thought experiment. “Suppose,” I said, “there were an economic magic bullet — that if Congress would pass the necessary legislation and the president were to sign it, the effect would be to double everyone’s real take-home income. If you were living on $50,000 this year, you’d have $100,000 to spend next year.”

“Sounds great,” she said.

“But there’s a catch,” I answered. “The effect of the magic bullet would not double the take-home income of those earning over $1 million — it would quintuple it. In other words, the rich would make out far, far better than the average Joe. But there’s no way out, it’s all or nothing. Would you vote for the magic bullet if you were a member of Congress?”

“Certainly not!” she indignantly replied.

“Fine,” I said. “Now it’s six months later and you’re running for re-election. A constituent comes up to you and says, ‘I’m an English teacher at the local high school. I take home $50,000 a year. I have a daughter who needs serious orthodontics that’s not covered by insurance, my son has learning disabilities and has to be tutored, I’m driving a 10-year-old Buick that will have to be replaced very soon, and my mother-in-law will not be able to live on her own much longer. We never go away on vacation and seldom eat out. You voted against my earning an additional $50,000 a year because you objected to Mr. Bigbucks getting $5 million a year instead of $1 million. I don’t give a damn what the Rockefellers earn. I care about what I earn so I can take care of my family.’ What do you tell him, in order to win his vote?”

Her response: “It’s time for dinner.”

We have lowered the marginal rates on high incomes four times since the inception of the income tax — in the 1920s, the 1960s, the 1980s, and the 2000s. In each case, the result was a much more prosperous national economy, lower unemployment, and higher tax revenues for the government. If you do A (lower marginal rates) four times, and four times, despite differing economic circumstances, B (increased prosperity) happens, a rational person might conclude, at least tentatively, that B is the result of A. Not liberals.

As I said, high tax rates on the rich is a religious principle with the left. If the poor have to suffer because of it, so be it.

Chris Van Hollen, who will be the ranking member of the House Budget Committee in the new Congress, was on Fox News Sunday this morning (transcript not yet available). To no one’s surprise, I’m sure, he decried extending the “tax cuts for the rich” and raising the estate tax from its present zero to 35 percent for estates over $5 million. That, too, according to Van Hollen, was an unconscionable giveaway of $26 billion to a few thousand families who already have far more than they need. John linked to Senator Bernie Sanders’s 8 1/2 hour rant on the Senate floor on Friday in which he said, less succinctly, the same. And Peter the same day linked to Congressman Alan Grayson (soon, mercifully, to be former congressman Alan Grayson) saying, again, much the same thing. Their animus against “the rich” is palpable and their adherence to the principle of high taxes on the rich (which dates back to Karl Marx in 1848) is religious rather than rational.

I carry no brief for “the rich,” although I’d be happy to be counted among them. But this all reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a close friend, now gone, on this subject. She was very liberal. (How liberal? In 1948, she not only voted for Henry Wallace; she went to the convention and worked in his campaign. That’s liberal.) I proposed a thought experiment. “Suppose,” I said, “there were an economic magic bullet — that if Congress would pass the necessary legislation and the president were to sign it, the effect would be to double everyone’s real take-home income. If you were living on $50,000 this year, you’d have $100,000 to spend next year.”

“Sounds great,” she said.

“But there’s a catch,” I answered. “The effect of the magic bullet would not double the take-home income of those earning over $1 million — it would quintuple it. In other words, the rich would make out far, far better than the average Joe. But there’s no way out, it’s all or nothing. Would you vote for the magic bullet if you were a member of Congress?”

“Certainly not!” she indignantly replied.

“Fine,” I said. “Now it’s six months later and you’re running for re-election. A constituent comes up to you and says, ‘I’m an English teacher at the local high school. I take home $50,000 a year. I have a daughter who needs serious orthodontics that’s not covered by insurance, my son has learning disabilities and has to be tutored, I’m driving a 10-year-old Buick that will have to be replaced very soon, and my mother-in-law will not be able to live on her own much longer. We never go away on vacation and seldom eat out. You voted against my earning an additional $50,000 a year because you objected to Mr. Bigbucks getting $5 million a year instead of $1 million. I don’t give a damn what the Rockefellers earn. I care about what I earn so I can take care of my family.’ What do you tell him, in order to win his vote?”

Her response: “It’s time for dinner.”

We have lowered the marginal rates on high incomes four times since the inception of the income tax — in the 1920s, the 1960s, the 1980s, and the 2000s. In each case, the result was a much more prosperous national economy, lower unemployment, and higher tax revenues for the government. If you do A (lower marginal rates) four times, and four times, despite differing economic circumstances, B (increased prosperity) happens, a rational person might conclude, at least tentatively, that B is the result of A. Not liberals.

As I said, high tax rates on the rich is a religious principle with the left. If the poor have to suffer because of it, so be it.

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Will Gingrich Influence Palin?

During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, former House speaker Newt Gingrich said he is “much more inclined to run” for president in 2012 than not run.

I’m curious about the effect, if any at all, Gingrich’s words may have on Sarah Palin. Of those Republicans considered the most likely to run for president, Gingrich is perhaps the one individual who can compete with Palin when it comes to exciting the GOP base and its core conservative supporters. He can send a jolt of electricity through GOP audiences that is quite impressive and unmatched by anyone, with the exception of Palin and Governor Chris Christie (who continues to rule out a race in 2012).

I continue to believe that Ms. Palin will not run for president in 2012. She has structured a very impressive and profitable post-2008 campaign life for herself. She’s influential but not fully in the arena. If she decides to run, however, her limitations (which are considerable) will overwhelm her candidacy. She will not be president of the United States. Hopefully, she’s self-aware enough to know that.

During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, former House speaker Newt Gingrich said he is “much more inclined to run” for president in 2012 than not run.

I’m curious about the effect, if any at all, Gingrich’s words may have on Sarah Palin. Of those Republicans considered the most likely to run for president, Gingrich is perhaps the one individual who can compete with Palin when it comes to exciting the GOP base and its core conservative supporters. He can send a jolt of electricity through GOP audiences that is quite impressive and unmatched by anyone, with the exception of Palin and Governor Chris Christie (who continues to rule out a race in 2012).

I continue to believe that Ms. Palin will not run for president in 2012. She has structured a very impressive and profitable post-2008 campaign life for herself. She’s influential but not fully in the arena. If she decides to run, however, her limitations (which are considerable) will overwhelm her candidacy. She will not be president of the United States. Hopefully, she’s self-aware enough to know that.

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What to Do About the Failed Bush-Obama Approach to NoKo

If you sense that the international threats are multiplying — from Syria, from Iran, from North Korea — you are right. That suggests that the Obama team’s assertion — that our problems in the world are traceable to insufficiently smart diplomacy by the Bush team — is wrong. The Fox News Sunday roundtable had an enlightening discussion on the North Korean problem:

LIZ CHENEY: … I think that we’ve seen time and time again, North Korea, if they test a nuclear weapon, there are no consequences. If they build a reactor for the Syrians, there are no consequences. And what they’ve learned is that their belligerence, in fact, oftentimes yields from us capitulation and concessions.

I think that it’s time for us to put them back on the terrorist list, and I think it’s time for to us be very direct with China and say, you know, if you really do want to be the world power that you aspire to be, you’ve got to step up to the plate here. You can’t just benefit from the open economic system in the United States, from the open economies around the world. If you really do view yourself as a world power, and you want the rest of the world to you view you that way –

CHRIS WALLACE: But don’t you think we’re saying that?

CHENEY: I don’t know. I don’t think that we are, actually. I think that we’ve been tiptoeing around the Chinese. I think if you look at what happened last July, when we said we were going to have joint military exercises with the South Koreans, the Chinese objected and said don’t do it in the Yellow Sea. We said OK and we moved it. … I think we should be clear to the Chinese that if they don’t step up to the plate and get the North Koreans — they are the North Korean’s largest trading partner, their closer ally. If they do not engage more effectively and directly in getting the North Koreans to stop what they’re doing, the result will be a nuclear proliferation in that neighborhood. … Read More

If you sense that the international threats are multiplying — from Syria, from Iran, from North Korea — you are right. That suggests that the Obama team’s assertion — that our problems in the world are traceable to insufficiently smart diplomacy by the Bush team — is wrong. The Fox News Sunday roundtable had an enlightening discussion on the North Korean problem:

LIZ CHENEY: … I think that we’ve seen time and time again, North Korea, if they test a nuclear weapon, there are no consequences. If they build a reactor for the Syrians, there are no consequences. And what they’ve learned is that their belligerence, in fact, oftentimes yields from us capitulation and concessions.

I think that it’s time for us to put them back on the terrorist list, and I think it’s time for to us be very direct with China and say, you know, if you really do want to be the world power that you aspire to be, you’ve got to step up to the plate here. You can’t just benefit from the open economic system in the United States, from the open economies around the world. If you really do view yourself as a world power, and you want the rest of the world to you view you that way –

CHRIS WALLACE: But don’t you think we’re saying that?

CHENEY: I don’t know. I don’t think that we are, actually. I think that we’ve been tiptoeing around the Chinese. I think if you look at what happened last July, when we said we were going to have joint military exercises with the South Koreans, the Chinese objected and said don’t do it in the Yellow Sea. We said OK and we moved it. … I think we should be clear to the Chinese that if they don’t step up to the plate and get the North Koreans — they are the North Korean’s largest trading partner, their closer ally. If they do not engage more effectively and directly in getting the North Koreans to stop what they’re doing, the result will be a nuclear proliferation in that neighborhood. …

As the conversation unfolds, Juan Williams accuses Cheney and Bill Kristol of “warmongering” — although neither suggested the use of military force. Cheney and Kristol did suggest a change in approach, which plainly doesn’t amount to going to war against North Korea:

CHENEY: Do you think that what we’ve been doing for the last five years has worked? I mean, what we’ve been doing, basically, is saying we’re going to offer carrots to the North Koreans, because we’re going to talk them out of their program, and we’re going to plead with them to stop? And, by the way, we’re going to ignore evidence that they have got an enrichment program going on, which we learned this week they actually do have going on. …

WILLIAMS: But I must say, the Chinese have now said let’s have more six-party talks. The U.S. government, the Obama administration, has refused those talks. They don’t want more talks. They’re being very clear and hard-lined. So, it does not seem to me that your argument that there is somehow softness going on here is in the play at all. What’s going on is we need to find a way to resolve the issue, and the administration, contrary to what Bill had to say, has been demonstrating admirable restraint and not warmongering and saying, oh, yes, go in there and start a fight that you can’t finish.

KRISTOL: I’m not for warmongering. I am for doing whatever you can do through covert action and other — bribes (ph) and everything. … If they’re doing it, more power to them. Just as in Iran, the stocks (ph) and that virus (ph) seems to have slowed down their nuclear program.

As with Iran, what’s going to do more good, all the talks we’ve had, or actually subverting their nuclear program? In North Korea, what would do the most good is trying to find fissures in the military, people who are upset about his 27-year-old son taking over, and bringing down the regime.

So do we continue the failed engagement tactics of the last years of the Bush administration and the first two years of this one, or do we try something new — more direct discussion with China, increased military presence in the region, commitment to regime change in North Korea, and refraining from rewarding North Korea’s bad behavior? Attempts at engagement have failed — spectacularly so. It seems we have little choice but to try something different. And no, it’s not “warmongering” to oppose aggression by our foes.

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On Roger Ailes’s Apology

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for comments he made comparing NPR executives to “Nazis.” The ADL accepted the mea culpa pretty quickly (too quickly, some say), but there is still a great deal of criticism of Ailes emanating from the media.

“The ADL has repeatedly placed its alliance with Israel’s supporters over its stated reason for existence, and excused inexcusable instances of bigotry, even anti-Semitism,” wrote Ben Adler at Newsweek. “The most recent example is the league’s quick forgiveness of Ailes.”

Adler is right that Ailes’s comments were off-base. But to call his words anti-Semitic is not just an extreme overreaction; it’s also outrageously unfair. A single foolish statement can’t be examined in a vacuum. Ailes’s consistent public support for Israel is a major indicator of his respect for the Jewish community. In fact, the award he received from the Jewish Community Relations Council in 2005 says just that.

Moreover, Ailes’s initial statement needs to be examined in context. The Fox News chairman said that NPR executives were “of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude.” He didn’t praise Nazism. He didn’t claim that Nazis never existed. He didn’t accuse Jews of running the media, pushing the U.S. into international wars on behalf of Israel, bamboozling non-Jews out of money, or other such nonsense that regularly erupts from the mouths of vicious anti-Semites.

Again, that’s not to say that Ailes’s words were acceptable. The Fox News Channel has a longstanding problem with its use of Nazi comparisons. Glenn Beck has been a repeat offender, likening aspects of the progressive movement to the Third Reich, while Bill O’Reilly has previously described the Huffington Post’s comment policy as “the same exact tactics that the Nazis used.” (Of course, conservatives aren’t alone in these remarks. The political left has also made its fair share of Nazi comparisons.)

But perhaps by apologizing, Ailes is acknowledging that this type of rhetoric is problematic. It will be interesting to see if he also re-evaluates the nature of the comments thrown out so casually by his network’s hosts.

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for comments he made comparing NPR executives to “Nazis.” The ADL accepted the mea culpa pretty quickly (too quickly, some say), but there is still a great deal of criticism of Ailes emanating from the media.

“The ADL has repeatedly placed its alliance with Israel’s supporters over its stated reason for existence, and excused inexcusable instances of bigotry, even anti-Semitism,” wrote Ben Adler at Newsweek. “The most recent example is the league’s quick forgiveness of Ailes.”

Adler is right that Ailes’s comments were off-base. But to call his words anti-Semitic is not just an extreme overreaction; it’s also outrageously unfair. A single foolish statement can’t be examined in a vacuum. Ailes’s consistent public support for Israel is a major indicator of his respect for the Jewish community. In fact, the award he received from the Jewish Community Relations Council in 2005 says just that.

Moreover, Ailes’s initial statement needs to be examined in context. The Fox News chairman said that NPR executives were “of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude.” He didn’t praise Nazism. He didn’t claim that Nazis never existed. He didn’t accuse Jews of running the media, pushing the U.S. into international wars on behalf of Israel, bamboozling non-Jews out of money, or other such nonsense that regularly erupts from the mouths of vicious anti-Semites.

Again, that’s not to say that Ailes’s words were acceptable. The Fox News Channel has a longstanding problem with its use of Nazi comparisons. Glenn Beck has been a repeat offender, likening aspects of the progressive movement to the Third Reich, while Bill O’Reilly has previously described the Huffington Post’s comment policy as “the same exact tactics that the Nazis used.” (Of course, conservatives aren’t alone in these remarks. The political left has also made its fair share of Nazi comparisons.)

But perhaps by apologizing, Ailes is acknowledging that this type of rhetoric is problematic. It will be interesting to see if he also re-evaluates the nature of the comments thrown out so casually by his network’s hosts.

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