Commentary Magazine


Topic: Howard Kurtz

Just When Grace Is Called for, Count on the MSM to Wallow in Disgrace

Fox’s Bernard Goldberg, in commenting on the media’s coverage of the Tucson massacre, put it (as usual) very well: “In all my years as a working journalist I’ve never seen such shallow, thoughtless, agenda-driven drivel as I have in the past 36 hours — and it’s all masquerading as serious analysis and commentary.” He added, “This is as bad as anything they’ve ever done.”

As a wise friend wrote me yesterday: “I don’t think I have ever seen any episode in media that quite approaches this level of depravity.”

And Howard Kurtz put it this way: “This isn’t about a nearly year-old Sarah Palin map; it’s about a lone nut job who doesn’t value human life. It would be nice if we briefly put aside partisan differences and came together with sympathy and support for Gabby Giffords and the other victims, rather than opening rhetorical fire ourselves.”

I concur with all three, and I only wish there were more media voices like Messrs. Goldberg and Kurtz, putting this disgraceful moment it its proper context.

Fox’s Bernard Goldberg, in commenting on the media’s coverage of the Tucson massacre, put it (as usual) very well: “In all my years as a working journalist I’ve never seen such shallow, thoughtless, agenda-driven drivel as I have in the past 36 hours — and it’s all masquerading as serious analysis and commentary.” He added, “This is as bad as anything they’ve ever done.”

As a wise friend wrote me yesterday: “I don’t think I have ever seen any episode in media that quite approaches this level of depravity.”

And Howard Kurtz put it this way: “This isn’t about a nearly year-old Sarah Palin map; it’s about a lone nut job who doesn’t value human life. It would be nice if we briefly put aside partisan differences and came together with sympathy and support for Gabby Giffords and the other victims, rather than opening rhetorical fire ourselves.”

I concur with all three, and I only wish there were more media voices like Messrs. Goldberg and Kurtz, putting this disgraceful moment it its proper context.

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Morning Commentary

On a trip to China this weekend, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that the country’s military capabilities are more advanced than previously thought: “China’s investment in new ballistic missiles designed to destroy naval vessels, as well as its pursuit of a stealth fighter, has raised concern in the Pentagon that China’s military is seeking the capability to destroy U.S. warships and aircraft operating off China’s coast.”

Former classmates of Jared Loughner, the alleged shooter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, paint a picture of a very disturbed individual who was disruptive in class, posted nonsensical and rambling messages online, and was obsessed with trying to manipulate his own dreams: “Loughner’s online accounts contain some political comments but are dominated by bizarre discussions of his desire to establish a new currency and his disdain for what he considered the public’s low literacy rates. He also wrote threatening and despairing messages.”

From what little we know about the alleged shooter, it doesn’t appear that the motive was political, Ben Smith writes: “Jared Lee Loughner’s YouTube and MySpace pages don’t offer much evidence that he was drinking from the main streams of American politics. The obsession with the gold standard and the hostility to the federal government resonate with the far right, the burned American flag with the left, but the discussion of mind control and grammar sound more like mental illness than politics.”

And if left-wingers want to blame Sarah Palin’s supposed “heated rhetoric” for the Arizona shooting, then they should blame journalists as well, writes Howard Kurtz: “Let’s be honest: Journalists often use military terminology in describing campaigns. We talk about the air war, the bombshells, targeting politicians, knocking them off, candidates returning fire or being out of ammunition. So we shouldn’t act shocked when politicians do the same thing. Obviously, Palin should have used dots or asterisks on her map. But does anyone seriously believe she was trying to incite violence?”

Fanatics may have silenced Salmaan Taseer, but his assassination was not the death knell for Pakistani liberalism, writes his son Shehrbano Taseer in the New York Times: “It may sound odd, but I can’t imagine my father dying in any other way. Everything he had, he invested in Pakistan, giving livelihoods to tens of thousands, improving the economy. My father believed in our country’s potential. He lived and died for Pakistan. To honor his memory, those who share that belief in Pakistan’s future must not stay silent about injustice. We must never be afraid of our enemies. We must never let them win.”

Who are the real hijackers of Islam — the radicals or the moderates? Jonah Goldberg writes that Taseer’s assassination makes it abundantly clear that extremists, not peaceful Muslims, make up the majority of the Islamic world: “For years we’ve been hearing about how the peaceful religion of Islam has been hijacked by extremists. What if it’s the other way around? Worse, what if the peaceful hijackers are losing their bid to take over the religion? That certainly seems to be the case in Pakistan.”

On a trip to China this weekend, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that the country’s military capabilities are more advanced than previously thought: “China’s investment in new ballistic missiles designed to destroy naval vessels, as well as its pursuit of a stealth fighter, has raised concern in the Pentagon that China’s military is seeking the capability to destroy U.S. warships and aircraft operating off China’s coast.”

Former classmates of Jared Loughner, the alleged shooter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, paint a picture of a very disturbed individual who was disruptive in class, posted nonsensical and rambling messages online, and was obsessed with trying to manipulate his own dreams: “Loughner’s online accounts contain some political comments but are dominated by bizarre discussions of his desire to establish a new currency and his disdain for what he considered the public’s low literacy rates. He also wrote threatening and despairing messages.”

From what little we know about the alleged shooter, it doesn’t appear that the motive was political, Ben Smith writes: “Jared Lee Loughner’s YouTube and MySpace pages don’t offer much evidence that he was drinking from the main streams of American politics. The obsession with the gold standard and the hostility to the federal government resonate with the far right, the burned American flag with the left, but the discussion of mind control and grammar sound more like mental illness than politics.”

And if left-wingers want to blame Sarah Palin’s supposed “heated rhetoric” for the Arizona shooting, then they should blame journalists as well, writes Howard Kurtz: “Let’s be honest: Journalists often use military terminology in describing campaigns. We talk about the air war, the bombshells, targeting politicians, knocking them off, candidates returning fire or being out of ammunition. So we shouldn’t act shocked when politicians do the same thing. Obviously, Palin should have used dots or asterisks on her map. But does anyone seriously believe she was trying to incite violence?”

Fanatics may have silenced Salmaan Taseer, but his assassination was not the death knell for Pakistani liberalism, writes his son Shehrbano Taseer in the New York Times: “It may sound odd, but I can’t imagine my father dying in any other way. Everything he had, he invested in Pakistan, giving livelihoods to tens of thousands, improving the economy. My father believed in our country’s potential. He lived and died for Pakistan. To honor his memory, those who share that belief in Pakistan’s future must not stay silent about injustice. We must never be afraid of our enemies. We must never let them win.”

Who are the real hijackers of Islam — the radicals or the moderates? Jonah Goldberg writes that Taseer’s assassination makes it abundantly clear that extremists, not peaceful Muslims, make up the majority of the Islamic world: “For years we’ve been hearing about how the peaceful religion of Islam has been hijacked by extremists. What if it’s the other way around? Worse, what if the peaceful hijackers are losing their bid to take over the religion? That certainly seems to be the case in Pakistan.”

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Wow, She’s Good at Manipulating the Media. Who Knew?

Howard Kurtz – no kidding — has recently discovered that Sarah Palin is a shrewd manipulator of the media. Next up: Dems’ loss of the midterms is a problem for the Obama strategy! It’s hard to comprehend how slow Kurtz and the rest of the non-conservative media have been in coming around to this realization:

I’m starting to believe the detractors are wrong and that Palin is executing a shrewd strategy that has catapulted her past potential rivals, co-opting the same media establishment she loves to denigrate. Even her recent hints about running for president—if indeed she’s willing to subject herself to constant journalistic scrutiny—are designed to stoke interest in her now that midterm madness has faded. …

Those gatekeepers—the infamous lamestream media—are obsessed with Palin, trumpeting her every tweet. They do so even when she’s slamming Politico or Katie Couric or, my personal favorite, “impotent and limp” reporters who use anonymous sources. They can’t help themselves; she’s a helluva story. She drives ratings and Web traffic in an age when every reporter’s page views can be measured. Each side enables the other.

As commonplace as these observations have been in conservative media and among right-leaning pundits, the dean of media conventional wisdom has apparently just pieced this together.

Palin’s ability to promote herself is, of course, different from her ability to convince Americans to vote for her. But here, too, Kurtz is on the case, quoting John Ellis, a political analyst and cousin of George W. Bush:

“‘She’s too stupid’ is what the Establishment GOP really thinks about Sarah Palin. ‘Good-looking,’ but a ‘ditz.’ This is unfertile ground, since Palin can turn the argument on a dime and say: ‘They drive the country into bankruptcy, they underwrite Fannie and Freddie, they bail out Goldman Sachs, they fight wars they don’t want to win, they say enforcing the immigration laws is silly and they call me stupid! I’ll give you a choice: You can have their smarts or my stupidity, which one do you want?’” …

If the smart guys have failed, if the credentialed creative class has messed things up, it opens the door for a plain-spoken populist ready to refudiate the old order.

Sort of like saying that after two years of Obama, voters “may be primed to hear a critique of the shortcomings of Ivy League–educated elites.”

Listen, these people missed the significance of the Tea Party movement for months. They assumed that health care was a great political coup for Obama. So you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken them two years to get a clue about the political smarts of Sarah Palin.

Howard Kurtz – no kidding — has recently discovered that Sarah Palin is a shrewd manipulator of the media. Next up: Dems’ loss of the midterms is a problem for the Obama strategy! It’s hard to comprehend how slow Kurtz and the rest of the non-conservative media have been in coming around to this realization:

I’m starting to believe the detractors are wrong and that Palin is executing a shrewd strategy that has catapulted her past potential rivals, co-opting the same media establishment she loves to denigrate. Even her recent hints about running for president—if indeed she’s willing to subject herself to constant journalistic scrutiny—are designed to stoke interest in her now that midterm madness has faded. …

Those gatekeepers—the infamous lamestream media—are obsessed with Palin, trumpeting her every tweet. They do so even when she’s slamming Politico or Katie Couric or, my personal favorite, “impotent and limp” reporters who use anonymous sources. They can’t help themselves; she’s a helluva story. She drives ratings and Web traffic in an age when every reporter’s page views can be measured. Each side enables the other.

As commonplace as these observations have been in conservative media and among right-leaning pundits, the dean of media conventional wisdom has apparently just pieced this together.

Palin’s ability to promote herself is, of course, different from her ability to convince Americans to vote for her. But here, too, Kurtz is on the case, quoting John Ellis, a political analyst and cousin of George W. Bush:

“‘She’s too stupid’ is what the Establishment GOP really thinks about Sarah Palin. ‘Good-looking,’ but a ‘ditz.’ This is unfertile ground, since Palin can turn the argument on a dime and say: ‘They drive the country into bankruptcy, they underwrite Fannie and Freddie, they bail out Goldman Sachs, they fight wars they don’t want to win, they say enforcing the immigration laws is silly and they call me stupid! I’ll give you a choice: You can have their smarts or my stupidity, which one do you want?’” …

If the smart guys have failed, if the credentialed creative class has messed things up, it opens the door for a plain-spoken populist ready to refudiate the old order.

Sort of like saying that after two years of Obama, voters “may be primed to hear a critique of the shortcomings of Ivy League–educated elites.”

Listen, these people missed the significance of the Tea Party movement for months. They assumed that health care was a great political coup for Obama. So you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken them two years to get a clue about the political smarts of Sarah Palin.

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Daily Beast Swallows Newsweek

They call it a merger, but let’s not kid ourselves. Tina Brown will be running the show and is sure to offload the remaining deadwood at Newsweek and dispense with its un-navigable website. I sort of imagine Vanity Fair — the East Coast edition. Costumed members of Congress in large group photos by Annie Leibovitz. More slam pieces on Sarah Palin. And, of course, lots and lots of ads. The Daily Beast is editorially eclectic — running from the left-leaning anti-Israel rants of Peter Beinart to the conventional media wisdom of Howard Kurtz to the sharp essays of Mark McKinnon. And, for old times’ sake, she may throw in the conspiracy meanderings of Seymour Hersh, just in case the New Yorker crowd wants to take a peek now and then. So it will certainly be a less dreary and predictable publication than the newer Newsweek or the old Newsweek, for that matter.

Yes, her own politics are predictably left, but she has, at least in this round of her career, not imposed the sort of ideological rigidity that has branded the Huffington Post as the left’s cocoon (where nary a non-liberal opinion can be uttered). But what they say in a Tina Brown publication is much less important than how they say it. And how they dress.

It may not be a better class of journalism, but it will certainly make a splash and might well be commercially viable. Besides, I look forward to all the stories on politicians and their pets and to getting an inside look at the lavish homes of our elected leaders.

They call it a merger, but let’s not kid ourselves. Tina Brown will be running the show and is sure to offload the remaining deadwood at Newsweek and dispense with its un-navigable website. I sort of imagine Vanity Fair — the East Coast edition. Costumed members of Congress in large group photos by Annie Leibovitz. More slam pieces on Sarah Palin. And, of course, lots and lots of ads. The Daily Beast is editorially eclectic — running from the left-leaning anti-Israel rants of Peter Beinart to the conventional media wisdom of Howard Kurtz to the sharp essays of Mark McKinnon. And, for old times’ sake, she may throw in the conspiracy meanderings of Seymour Hersh, just in case the New Yorker crowd wants to take a peek now and then. So it will certainly be a less dreary and predictable publication than the newer Newsweek or the old Newsweek, for that matter.

Yes, her own politics are predictably left, but she has, at least in this round of her career, not imposed the sort of ideological rigidity that has branded the Huffington Post as the left’s cocoon (where nary a non-liberal opinion can be uttered). But what they say in a Tina Brown publication is much less important than how they say it. And how they dress.

It may not be a better class of journalism, but it will certainly make a splash and might well be commercially viable. Besides, I look forward to all the stories on politicians and their pets and to getting an inside look at the lavish homes of our elected leaders.

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Who’s the Least Self-Reflective of Them All?

It is a delightful coincidence for fans of George W. Bush that his memoirs and accompanying media onslaught should come just as Obama is in full funk mode following his midterm shellacking. What is even more amusing than the return of  the Decider to the public limelight is the reaction of the media, which have greeted the book precisely as one would expect. The press continually “misunderestimated” him, and they do so again.

A case in point is the Los Angeles Times book review, which finds Bush’s tome to be an “unexpectedly engrossing memoir.” Unexpected by those who considered him a simpleton. Like so many on the left, the Times‘s reviewer, Tim Rutten, is bothered that Bush wasn’t more bothered about waterboarding terrorists to save American lives. For liberals, the decision was reprehensible, or at the very least agonizing. For Bush, it was straightforward: waterboard KSM or risk American lives. That the press can’t understand the moral imperative for the president to act as he did tells us as much about mainstream journalists as it does about Bush.

Likewise, because their caricature of Bush so colored their perceptions, the media elites are amazed to find out how respectful Bush was of opponents:

Given the contentious political use Karl Rove and other Bush aides made of abortion, readers also may be interested in the former president’s unfailingly respectful discussion of the abortion-rights advocates with whom he disagrees. …

Actually, one of the impressions that arises repeatedly in “Decision Points” is how much civility and bi-partisan cooperation matter to Bush. “The death spiral of decency during my time in office, exacerbated by the advent of 24-hour cable news and hyper-partisan political blogs, was deeply disappointing,” he writes.

Shocking to the left, I suppose. But let’s be blunt: the Bush=Hitler derangement syndrome never embittered Bush, nor did he ever imagine it was the role of the president to be the partisan in chief.

Yes, the contrast with Obama is great. Bush wasn’t “eloquent,” we were told, yet he managed to communicate with great clarity where he stood and what he stood for. Bush was “divisive,” we were instructed, yet he was respectful and exceptionally kind to aides, foes, and average Americans. Bush was “isolated” and “stubborn,” but he turned around a losing war strategy, kept his composure after the 2006 midterms, and never blamed the voters for his political misfortunes. You would think the media would now consider whether their evaluation of Bush was wrong. But no, they prefer to be “surprised” or even confounded by a book that reveals their take on Bush to be badly out of sync with the real man.

And even worse for the liberal intelligentsia, they have to concede that Obama looks remarkably bad in comparison. Howard Kurtz writes that “it felt like we were watching The Decider vs. The Agonizer.” There is the halfhearted attempt to make agonizing a virtue, but really, is Hamlet the model we want for commander in chief?

The irony is delicious. The press objects that Bush was simple-minded and not reflective. Umm, I think it’s called “projection” when one’s critique of others amounts to a spot-on self-diagnosis. The media would do well to reflect a bit more on whether their own coverage of Bush was accurate or remotely fair. But that’s not their style. They are, as Rutten would put it, “singularly unapologetic.”

It is a delightful coincidence for fans of George W. Bush that his memoirs and accompanying media onslaught should come just as Obama is in full funk mode following his midterm shellacking. What is even more amusing than the return of  the Decider to the public limelight is the reaction of the media, which have greeted the book precisely as one would expect. The press continually “misunderestimated” him, and they do so again.

A case in point is the Los Angeles Times book review, which finds Bush’s tome to be an “unexpectedly engrossing memoir.” Unexpected by those who considered him a simpleton. Like so many on the left, the Times‘s reviewer, Tim Rutten, is bothered that Bush wasn’t more bothered about waterboarding terrorists to save American lives. For liberals, the decision was reprehensible, or at the very least agonizing. For Bush, it was straightforward: waterboard KSM or risk American lives. That the press can’t understand the moral imperative for the president to act as he did tells us as much about mainstream journalists as it does about Bush.

Likewise, because their caricature of Bush so colored their perceptions, the media elites are amazed to find out how respectful Bush was of opponents:

Given the contentious political use Karl Rove and other Bush aides made of abortion, readers also may be interested in the former president’s unfailingly respectful discussion of the abortion-rights advocates with whom he disagrees. …

Actually, one of the impressions that arises repeatedly in “Decision Points” is how much civility and bi-partisan cooperation matter to Bush. “The death spiral of decency during my time in office, exacerbated by the advent of 24-hour cable news and hyper-partisan political blogs, was deeply disappointing,” he writes.

Shocking to the left, I suppose. But let’s be blunt: the Bush=Hitler derangement syndrome never embittered Bush, nor did he ever imagine it was the role of the president to be the partisan in chief.

Yes, the contrast with Obama is great. Bush wasn’t “eloquent,” we were told, yet he managed to communicate with great clarity where he stood and what he stood for. Bush was “divisive,” we were instructed, yet he was respectful and exceptionally kind to aides, foes, and average Americans. Bush was “isolated” and “stubborn,” but he turned around a losing war strategy, kept his composure after the 2006 midterms, and never blamed the voters for his political misfortunes. You would think the media would now consider whether their evaluation of Bush was wrong. But no, they prefer to be “surprised” or even confounded by a book that reveals their take on Bush to be badly out of sync with the real man.

And even worse for the liberal intelligentsia, they have to concede that Obama looks remarkably bad in comparison. Howard Kurtz writes that “it felt like we were watching The Decider vs. The Agonizer.” There is the halfhearted attempt to make agonizing a virtue, but really, is Hamlet the model we want for commander in chief?

The irony is delicious. The press objects that Bush was simple-minded and not reflective. Umm, I think it’s called “projection” when one’s critique of others amounts to a spot-on self-diagnosis. The media would do well to reflect a bit more on whether their own coverage of Bush was accurate or remotely fair. But that’s not their style. They are, as Rutten would put it, “singularly unapologetic.”

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The Chronically Unserious Dana Milbank

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

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It’s the White House That’s Scared, Not the Voters

In examining the White House’s “bunker mentality,” Howard Kurtz talks to the Ragin’ Cajun, James Carville:

James Carville, the Cajun strategist, describes the White House mood bluntly: “They’re frightened.” Obama, he says, is “very insular” and “relies on a small group of people.” Recalling the atmosphere in the Clinton White House before the Republicans took both houses in 1994, Carville says: “You know it’s going to be bad but there’s a piece of you that says it’s not that bad, that there’s a new Newsweek poll out or something. You get beat down.”

Well, good to know that Newsweek is a joke among liberals as well. Now, his point is well taken, but this crew was in the bunker even when their polling was high. From Day 1, they’ve been super-sensitive to the slightest criticism. They’ve felt besieged by talk radio, Fox News, Gallup, and on and on. Combine bare-knuckle politics with a president with a messiah complex and you get a White House that goes for the jugular at the mildest provocation.

And nothing is ever their fault. Not even the media strategy:

Despite Obama’s sky-high profile, White House advisers scoff at suggestions of overexposure, saying that shrinking viewership requires the president to make multiple appearances to reach the same audience that Reagan could with a single network interview. …

It’s equally true that 9.6 percent unemployment isn’t a communications problem. But deflecting the political blame certainly is. Perhaps this is the new normal—a president and White House staff having to work overtime to peddle their wares in a crowded marketplace.

“It’s a chaotic environment,” [Dan] Pfeiffer says. “There are no clean shots anymore. Everything we do is instantly analyzed by people who are our allies and people who are our adversaries.”

Oh, woe is them. No other president — not Lincoln or FDR — has ever had it so hard. No president — not George W. Bush — ever faced so much criticism. Silly? Yes. But it goes a long way toward explaining why the White House continually doubles down on losing strategies. It’s never their fault, you see.

In examining the White House’s “bunker mentality,” Howard Kurtz talks to the Ragin’ Cajun, James Carville:

James Carville, the Cajun strategist, describes the White House mood bluntly: “They’re frightened.” Obama, he says, is “very insular” and “relies on a small group of people.” Recalling the atmosphere in the Clinton White House before the Republicans took both houses in 1994, Carville says: “You know it’s going to be bad but there’s a piece of you that says it’s not that bad, that there’s a new Newsweek poll out or something. You get beat down.”

Well, good to know that Newsweek is a joke among liberals as well. Now, his point is well taken, but this crew was in the bunker even when their polling was high. From Day 1, they’ve been super-sensitive to the slightest criticism. They’ve felt besieged by talk radio, Fox News, Gallup, and on and on. Combine bare-knuckle politics with a president with a messiah complex and you get a White House that goes for the jugular at the mildest provocation.

And nothing is ever their fault. Not even the media strategy:

Despite Obama’s sky-high profile, White House advisers scoff at suggestions of overexposure, saying that shrinking viewership requires the president to make multiple appearances to reach the same audience that Reagan could with a single network interview. …

It’s equally true that 9.6 percent unemployment isn’t a communications problem. But deflecting the political blame certainly is. Perhaps this is the new normal—a president and White House staff having to work overtime to peddle their wares in a crowded marketplace.

“It’s a chaotic environment,” [Dan] Pfeiffer says. “There are no clean shots anymore. Everything we do is instantly analyzed by people who are our allies and people who are our adversaries.”

Oh, woe is them. No other president — not Lincoln or FDR — has ever had it so hard. No president — not George W. Bush — ever faced so much criticism. Silly? Yes. But it goes a long way toward explaining why the White House continually doubles down on losing strategies. It’s never their fault, you see.

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NPR: Bringing Us Together

It is not easy to get Sarah Palin and the Daily Beast on the same side of an issue. But both are aghast at NPR’s firing of Juan Williams. Palin tweeted: “NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it.” Howard Kurtz commented:

Did National Public Radio really fire Juan Williams for his remarks about Muslims—or the forum in which he made them?

I suspect that if he’d said the same thing to Charlie Rose, rather than on the O’Reilly Factor, he’d still have his radio job.

It’s no secret that some NPR folks have been uncomfortable with Williams’ role on Fox News, where he’s also a part-time commentator. Last year, Politico reported, NPR tried to persuade its White House correspondent, Mara Liasson, to give up her Fox gig.

What Williams said makes me uncomfortable, but it isn’t close to being a firing offense—not for someone who is paid for his opinions.

In these divisive times, it’s nice to see this outbreak of bipartisan horror. In the unscientific readers’ poll at the Washington Post, which one can assume has a healthy contingent of Democrats, 80 percent said NPR was wrong to fire Juan Williams. NPR pretends to be serving the “public” — but the public doesn’t countenance its wholly unreasonable actions.

On the left, there is embarrassment. So some hasten to add that they opposed the firing of Helen Thomas. Which would be like the Juan Williams situation in exactly what way? (Williams explained the regrettable sensation citizens feel when observing those who put their Muslim identity first; Thomas wants Jews to go back to the Holocaust countries.) The mind reels. That wins some prize for moral equivalence but conveys just how uncomfortable are those who might otherwise feel warmly toward NPR.

The NPR debacle is, of course, an example of the same sort of hypocrisy we see in universities. The latter are all about “academic freedom” — even to the point of inviting Ahmadinejad to speak on campus. But that doesn’t extend to conservatives, who generally are not acceptable on campuses of self-regarded elite institutions.

Now, in the legal sense, universities and institutions like NPR can hire whomever they want and fire whomever they want provided they are not in breach of employment agreements or state and federal discrimination laws. But for establishments that trumpet themselves as high-minded exemplars of vigorous debate and intellectual open-mindedness, there’s a hypocrisy problem, to say the least, when that freedom and open-mindedness is limited to those with doctrinaire liberal views.

And it is one heck of an argument for defunding NPR. That and Juan Williams’s $2M contract with Fox are the silver linings in all this.

It is not easy to get Sarah Palin and the Daily Beast on the same side of an issue. But both are aghast at NPR’s firing of Juan Williams. Palin tweeted: “NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it.” Howard Kurtz commented:

Did National Public Radio really fire Juan Williams for his remarks about Muslims—or the forum in which he made them?

I suspect that if he’d said the same thing to Charlie Rose, rather than on the O’Reilly Factor, he’d still have his radio job.

It’s no secret that some NPR folks have been uncomfortable with Williams’ role on Fox News, where he’s also a part-time commentator. Last year, Politico reported, NPR tried to persuade its White House correspondent, Mara Liasson, to give up her Fox gig.

What Williams said makes me uncomfortable, but it isn’t close to being a firing offense—not for someone who is paid for his opinions.

In these divisive times, it’s nice to see this outbreak of bipartisan horror. In the unscientific readers’ poll at the Washington Post, which one can assume has a healthy contingent of Democrats, 80 percent said NPR was wrong to fire Juan Williams. NPR pretends to be serving the “public” — but the public doesn’t countenance its wholly unreasonable actions.

On the left, there is embarrassment. So some hasten to add that they opposed the firing of Helen Thomas. Which would be like the Juan Williams situation in exactly what way? (Williams explained the regrettable sensation citizens feel when observing those who put their Muslim identity first; Thomas wants Jews to go back to the Holocaust countries.) The mind reels. That wins some prize for moral equivalence but conveys just how uncomfortable are those who might otherwise feel warmly toward NPR.

The NPR debacle is, of course, an example of the same sort of hypocrisy we see in universities. The latter are all about “academic freedom” — even to the point of inviting Ahmadinejad to speak on campus. But that doesn’t extend to conservatives, who generally are not acceptable on campuses of self-regarded elite institutions.

Now, in the legal sense, universities and institutions like NPR can hire whomever they want and fire whomever they want provided they are not in breach of employment agreements or state and federal discrimination laws. But for establishments that trumpet themselves as high-minded exemplars of vigorous debate and intellectual open-mindedness, there’s a hypocrisy problem, to say the least, when that freedom and open-mindedness is limited to those with doctrinaire liberal views.

And it is one heck of an argument for defunding NPR. That and Juan Williams’s $2M contract with Fox are the silver linings in all this.

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Ads Like You’ve Never Seen

Jack Conway isn’t going to win the Kentucky Senate race, but he will be remembered as the candidate with the single worst ad in the 2010 midterm cycle. How do we know? Well, it gave birth to one of the most effective counterpunches – a montage of liberal Democrats ripping Conway for attacking Rand Paul’s religious beliefs.

Howard Kurtz at his new Daily Beast perch observes that Conway’s is only the worst of a bad lot. It’s been an especially nasty season for Democratic ads:

We’re talking ugly stuff here …

“The party is doing stuff that is too hot for candidates,” says Evan Tracey, who tracks television advertising as president of the nonpartisan Campaign Media Analysis Group. “You see ad after ad going at them right between the eyes. It’s personal, it’s cutting. It’s ‘here’s what we found in the oppo dump and we’re going to put it in the worst light possible.’”

Kurtz provides a useful compendium of some of the more outlandish ones. He observes that the ads “represent the kind of scorched-earth tactics that strategists employ when their clients are in danger of losing, and losing big. The party is spending heavily on these aerial attacks.” Yes, negative ads sometimes “work,” but by going beyond the bounds of normal political combat, the candidates, like Conway, risk making themselves appear desperate and ethically challenged. And to the degree that independents hate partisanship, these ads are likely to be a major turnoff.

On the bright side, it does seem that the mainstream media and liberal punditocracy are embarrassed by all this. Alas, they had hoped for so much more from the Hope ‘n Change president.

Jack Conway isn’t going to win the Kentucky Senate race, but he will be remembered as the candidate with the single worst ad in the 2010 midterm cycle. How do we know? Well, it gave birth to one of the most effective counterpunches – a montage of liberal Democrats ripping Conway for attacking Rand Paul’s religious beliefs.

Howard Kurtz at his new Daily Beast perch observes that Conway’s is only the worst of a bad lot. It’s been an especially nasty season for Democratic ads:

We’re talking ugly stuff here …

“The party is doing stuff that is too hot for candidates,” says Evan Tracey, who tracks television advertising as president of the nonpartisan Campaign Media Analysis Group. “You see ad after ad going at them right between the eyes. It’s personal, it’s cutting. It’s ‘here’s what we found in the oppo dump and we’re going to put it in the worst light possible.’”

Kurtz provides a useful compendium of some of the more outlandish ones. He observes that the ads “represent the kind of scorched-earth tactics that strategists employ when their clients are in danger of losing, and losing big. The party is spending heavily on these aerial attacks.” Yes, negative ads sometimes “work,” but by going beyond the bounds of normal political combat, the candidates, like Conway, risk making themselves appear desperate and ethically challenged. And to the degree that independents hate partisanship, these ads are likely to be a major turnoff.

On the bright side, it does seem that the mainstream media and liberal punditocracy are embarrassed by all this. Alas, they had hoped for so much more from the Hope ‘n Change president.

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Parker-Spitzer — You Gotta Be Kidding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nothing to See, Move Along

Howard Kurtz can’t understand what all the fuss over the Ground Zero mosque is about:

It seems to me a colossal waste of time, a huge expenditure of national energy over something that is ultimately symbolic, and which government doesn’t have the power to stop anyway (since the planners have obtained the necessary New York City approvals). It is as if the country’s agenda has been reduced to a noisy cable TV debate.

Umm, I think it’s a “teachable moment” — a crystallizing event that gives insight into or confirms our understanding of the president, elite opinion makers, the jihadist enemy we face, and what constitutes a “moderate Muslim.” Oh, and it’s become another issue dividing Democrats, undermining the president’s stature, and contributing to the election wipeout on the horizon. Yeah, not a big deal.

Maybe what Kurtz and certainly what the left punditocracy are saying is that it would be swell if the whole thing just went away. (Like the New Black Panther scandal! Which by the way has also disappeared from liberal media outlets after a brief effort at damage control for their non-coverage of another story deemed “unimportant.”) The mosque controversy is messy. It is divisive. It is uncontrollable by the mainstream media. It is downright inconvenient for those who would prefer the public not be so noisy and the conflict between the elites and the public so stark. But it sure is news, as important and possibly decisive an event as we have seen in the Obama presidency.

Howard Kurtz can’t understand what all the fuss over the Ground Zero mosque is about:

It seems to me a colossal waste of time, a huge expenditure of national energy over something that is ultimately symbolic, and which government doesn’t have the power to stop anyway (since the planners have obtained the necessary New York City approvals). It is as if the country’s agenda has been reduced to a noisy cable TV debate.

Umm, I think it’s a “teachable moment” — a crystallizing event that gives insight into or confirms our understanding of the president, elite opinion makers, the jihadist enemy we face, and what constitutes a “moderate Muslim.” Oh, and it’s become another issue dividing Democrats, undermining the president’s stature, and contributing to the election wipeout on the horizon. Yeah, not a big deal.

Maybe what Kurtz and certainly what the left punditocracy are saying is that it would be swell if the whole thing just went away. (Like the New Black Panther scandal! Which by the way has also disappeared from liberal media outlets after a brief effort at damage control for their non-coverage of another story deemed “unimportant.”) The mosque controversy is messy. It is divisive. It is uncontrollable by the mainstream media. It is downright inconvenient for those who would prefer the public not be so noisy and the conflict between the elites and the public so stark. But it sure is news, as important and possibly decisive an event as we have seen in the Obama presidency.

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OK, Let’s Try This Out: Journolist Isn’t News

Apparently, some are criticizing the Journolist revelations because it’s not news that the liberals are liberals. Yes, imagine the critics yawning at the revelation of a conservative Journolist discussion in which right-leaning pundits wished death or fantasized about doing bodily harm to liberal columnists. Imagine them shrugging shoulders if they heard the right fanning out after winnowing down the arguments in defense of their beloved candidate. Hard, isn’t it? It’s so silly only Journolisters could have come up with it.

Howard Kurtz isn’t buying it:

But there is no getting around the fact that some of these messages, culled from the members-only discussion group Journolist, are embarrassing. They show liberal commentators appearing to cooperate in an effort to hammer out the shrewdest talking points against the Republicans — including, in one case, a suggestion for accusing random conservatives of being racist.

By the way, his conclusion is a head-scratcher. After amply documenting the conspiracy of left-wing hackery, he writes (my comments in brackets): “None of this quite adds up to a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy [it doesn’t?], and there is no reason to believe that some conservative commentators don’t have similar discussions [the double negative is the giveaway for the unsupportable slur].”

Tucker Carlson responds to the “nothing to see here” argument in this way:

We’re not contesting the right of anyone, journalist or not, to have political opinions. (I, for one, have made a pretty good living expressing mine.) What we object to is partisanship, which is by its nature dishonest, a species of intellectual corruption. Again and again, we discovered members of Journolist working to coordinate talking points on behalf of Democratic politicians, principally Barack Obama. That is not journalism, and those who engage in it are not journalists. They should stop pretending to be. The news organizations they work for should stop pretending, too.

It goes beyond that, in fact. The pose of the left punditocracy is that those on the right are angry, unreasoned, thuggish, and motivated by less than high-minded ideals. They’ve written column after column to that effect. In short, it’s not merely the intellectual corruption, indeed fraud, that Carlson has revealed; it is the worst sort of hypocrisy — verging on projection. The angry white men and the hate-filled political marionettes aren’t on talk radio. They’re on Journolist.

Apparently, some are criticizing the Journolist revelations because it’s not news that the liberals are liberals. Yes, imagine the critics yawning at the revelation of a conservative Journolist discussion in which right-leaning pundits wished death or fantasized about doing bodily harm to liberal columnists. Imagine them shrugging shoulders if they heard the right fanning out after winnowing down the arguments in defense of their beloved candidate. Hard, isn’t it? It’s so silly only Journolisters could have come up with it.

Howard Kurtz isn’t buying it:

But there is no getting around the fact that some of these messages, culled from the members-only discussion group Journolist, are embarrassing. They show liberal commentators appearing to cooperate in an effort to hammer out the shrewdest talking points against the Republicans — including, in one case, a suggestion for accusing random conservatives of being racist.

By the way, his conclusion is a head-scratcher. After amply documenting the conspiracy of left-wing hackery, he writes (my comments in brackets): “None of this quite adds up to a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy [it doesn’t?], and there is no reason to believe that some conservative commentators don’t have similar discussions [the double negative is the giveaway for the unsupportable slur].”

Tucker Carlson responds to the “nothing to see here” argument in this way:

We’re not contesting the right of anyone, journalist or not, to have political opinions. (I, for one, have made a pretty good living expressing mine.) What we object to is partisanship, which is by its nature dishonest, a species of intellectual corruption. Again and again, we discovered members of Journolist working to coordinate talking points on behalf of Democratic politicians, principally Barack Obama. That is not journalism, and those who engage in it are not journalists. They should stop pretending to be. The news organizations they work for should stop pretending, too.

It goes beyond that, in fact. The pose of the left punditocracy is that those on the right are angry, unreasoned, thuggish, and motivated by less than high-minded ideals. They’ve written column after column to that effect. In short, it’s not merely the intellectual corruption, indeed fraud, that Carlson has revealed; it is the worst sort of hypocrisy — verging on projection. The angry white men and the hate-filled political marionettes aren’t on talk radio. They’re on Journolist.

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Tolerating Anti-Semites

Howard Kurtz catches up with the conservative blogosphere today, observing of Helen Thomas:

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that she was a member in good standing of a tightly knit club that refused to question why a woman whose main job seemed to be to harangue press secretaries and presidents deserved a front-row seat in the briefing room . … Journalists, especially those who spend a great deal of time together, don’t usually turn on each other. If Thomas was spewing bias and bile, the reasoning went, what was the harm?

All that is true, but there is more to it than that. If the subject of her venom were African-Americans or Hispanics or gays, she would have been booted long ago. Kurtz notes:

Since Thomas was a columnist, she had every right to her opinions — even if her view was that Jews should be banished from Israel. But she didn’t have a perpetual right to a newspaper column or a White House pressroom seat. Hearst bears some responsibility for keeping Thomas on as her behavior grew more disturbing. It’s not that a pro-Israel press corps drove her out; it’s that Thomas could not defend her remarks, and indeed apologized for them.

Actually, it is that Hearst and Thomas’s colleagues had a high threshold for anti-Semitism that allowed her, as Kurtz puts it, to be “regarded her as one of Washington’s harmless gadflies.” For all the diversity-training and political correctness spread throughout the professional class, the attention on hateful speech and bias has focused almost exclusively on race and ethnicity. As a result, racial bigots and those who peddle in ethnic slurs are barred from “polite society.” But take a swipe at evangelical Christians or voice noxious views on Jews? Well, many would cheer the former and simply roll their eyes at the latter.

Kurtz is right that the media bears responsibility for tolerating Thomas. But it’s worth considering more broadly why elites are so indifferent to religious bigotry.

Howard Kurtz catches up with the conservative blogosphere today, observing of Helen Thomas:

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that she was a member in good standing of a tightly knit club that refused to question why a woman whose main job seemed to be to harangue press secretaries and presidents deserved a front-row seat in the briefing room . … Journalists, especially those who spend a great deal of time together, don’t usually turn on each other. If Thomas was spewing bias and bile, the reasoning went, what was the harm?

All that is true, but there is more to it than that. If the subject of her venom were African-Americans or Hispanics or gays, she would have been booted long ago. Kurtz notes:

Since Thomas was a columnist, she had every right to her opinions — even if her view was that Jews should be banished from Israel. But she didn’t have a perpetual right to a newspaper column or a White House pressroom seat. Hearst bears some responsibility for keeping Thomas on as her behavior grew more disturbing. It’s not that a pro-Israel press corps drove her out; it’s that Thomas could not defend her remarks, and indeed apologized for them.

Actually, it is that Hearst and Thomas’s colleagues had a high threshold for anti-Semitism that allowed her, as Kurtz puts it, to be “regarded her as one of Washington’s harmless gadflies.” For all the diversity-training and political correctness spread throughout the professional class, the attention on hateful speech and bias has focused almost exclusively on race and ethnicity. As a result, racial bigots and those who peddle in ethnic slurs are barred from “polite society.” But take a swipe at evangelical Christians or voice noxious views on Jews? Well, many would cheer the former and simply roll their eyes at the latter.

Kurtz is right that the media bears responsibility for tolerating Thomas. But it’s worth considering more broadly why elites are so indifferent to religious bigotry.

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The Reviews Are in

On the op-ed page of a certain famous mass-circulation newspaper, the editors declare:

The country is frustrated and apprehensive and still waiting for Mr. Obama to put his vision into action.The president cannot plug the leak or magically clean up the fouled Gulf of Mexico. But he and his administration need to do a lot more to show they are on top of this mess, and not perpetually behind the curve. …

Americans need to know that Mr. Obama, whose coolness can seem like detachment, is engaged. This is not a mere question of presentation or stagecraft, although the White House could do better at both. (We cringed when he told the “Today” show that he had spent important time figuring out “whose ass to kick” about the spill. Everyone knew that answer on Day 2.)

One of the paper’s top columnist’s writes:

The former constitutional lawyer now in the White House understands that the press has a role in the democracy. But he is an elitist, too, as well as thin-skinned and controlling. So he ends up regarding scribes as intrusive, conveying a distaste for what he sees as the fundamental unseriousness of a press driven by blog-around-the-clock deadlines. … It hurts Obama to be a crybaby about it, and to blame the press and the “old Washington game” for his own communication failures. . . Now that Obama has been hit with negative press, he’s even more contemptuous. “He’s never needed to woo the press,” says the NBC White House reporter Chuck Todd. “He’s never really needed us.” So, as The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz writes, the more press-friendly, emotionally accessible, if gaffe-prone Biden has become “the administration’s top on-air spokesman.”

The Wall Street Journal and William McGurn? The Washington Examiner and Michael Barone? No, the New York Times and Maureen Dowd. It’s one more sign that the bottom is dropping out of Obama’s support, and the unraveling of his presidency is picking up steam. Unless he gets a grip and finds some grown-ups from whom he is willing to take advice, this is not going to improve.

On the op-ed page of a certain famous mass-circulation newspaper, the editors declare:

The country is frustrated and apprehensive and still waiting for Mr. Obama to put his vision into action.The president cannot plug the leak or magically clean up the fouled Gulf of Mexico. But he and his administration need to do a lot more to show they are on top of this mess, and not perpetually behind the curve. …

Americans need to know that Mr. Obama, whose coolness can seem like detachment, is engaged. This is not a mere question of presentation or stagecraft, although the White House could do better at both. (We cringed when he told the “Today” show that he had spent important time figuring out “whose ass to kick” about the spill. Everyone knew that answer on Day 2.)

One of the paper’s top columnist’s writes:

The former constitutional lawyer now in the White House understands that the press has a role in the democracy. But he is an elitist, too, as well as thin-skinned and controlling. So he ends up regarding scribes as intrusive, conveying a distaste for what he sees as the fundamental unseriousness of a press driven by blog-around-the-clock deadlines. … It hurts Obama to be a crybaby about it, and to blame the press and the “old Washington game” for his own communication failures. . . Now that Obama has been hit with negative press, he’s even more contemptuous. “He’s never needed to woo the press,” says the NBC White House reporter Chuck Todd. “He’s never really needed us.” So, as The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz writes, the more press-friendly, emotionally accessible, if gaffe-prone Biden has become “the administration’s top on-air spokesman.”

The Wall Street Journal and William McGurn? The Washington Examiner and Michael Barone? No, the New York Times and Maureen Dowd. It’s one more sign that the bottom is dropping out of Obama’s support, and the unraveling of his presidency is picking up steam. Unless he gets a grip and finds some grown-ups from whom he is willing to take advice, this is not going to improve.

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Who Would Bid on a Flop?

Howard Kurtz looks at the bidders for Newsweek:

One is Newsmax, a conservative Web site and monthly favored by Sarah Palin and founded by Christopher Ruddy, who once investigated conspiracy theories that Clinton administration officials Vince Foster and Ron Brown were murdered. Another is Thane Ritchie, an Illinois hedge-fund manager and Ross Perot fan who is angling to start a new political party. The third is OpenGate Capital, a private equity firm that two years ago bought TV Guide for $1. It’s hard to imagine any of them supporting Newsweek as a vibrant weekly that could compete with Time.

Ummm, it’s really not vibrant, and it apparently isn’t competitive with Time now, so what could these or any new owner do? But Newsweek says it has lots of other bidders. Tons, I am sure. Nevertheless, it seems there is anger among the staffers, who are aggrieved that “Editor Jon Meacham erred badly by transforming the newsweekly into an upscale, left-leaning opinion magazine.” But Meacham kept telling us it was news! Oh my, quite startling to learn this was all a flim-flam, and a grossly unsuccessful one at that.

Kurtz then opines:

On one level, the situation is a paradox. Here you have a magazine loaded with talent — from the Pulitzer-winning Meacham (who is pursuing his own bid to buy the magazine) to such media stars as Jonathan Alter, Howard Fineman, Mike Isikoff, Evan Thomas, Fareed Zakaria and Robert Samuelson — and few seem willing to bet on its financial future. That amounts to a no-confidence vote not just on the category of newsweeklies, which have long been squeezed between daily papers and in-depth monthlies, but on print journalism itself. The lucrative properties these days are digital, and Newsweek’s Web site has long been a flop, both creatively and commercially.

Oh, puleez. With the exception of Samuelson, these are predictable liberals parroting the anti-Israel, pro-Obama, anti-conservative line. It isn’t a vote of no confidence in the concept of a weekly — it’s a vote of no confidence in this product and those people. Whoever buys it, if anyone does, would do well to scrap the dreary liberal perspective, fire most of the current crew, and figure out something a lot of people actually want to read. I can tell you it’s not “a sort of a God” Thomas or Zakaria’s noxious views on Israel.

Howard Kurtz looks at the bidders for Newsweek:

One is Newsmax, a conservative Web site and monthly favored by Sarah Palin and founded by Christopher Ruddy, who once investigated conspiracy theories that Clinton administration officials Vince Foster and Ron Brown were murdered. Another is Thane Ritchie, an Illinois hedge-fund manager and Ross Perot fan who is angling to start a new political party. The third is OpenGate Capital, a private equity firm that two years ago bought TV Guide for $1. It’s hard to imagine any of them supporting Newsweek as a vibrant weekly that could compete with Time.

Ummm, it’s really not vibrant, and it apparently isn’t competitive with Time now, so what could these or any new owner do? But Newsweek says it has lots of other bidders. Tons, I am sure. Nevertheless, it seems there is anger among the staffers, who are aggrieved that “Editor Jon Meacham erred badly by transforming the newsweekly into an upscale, left-leaning opinion magazine.” But Meacham kept telling us it was news! Oh my, quite startling to learn this was all a flim-flam, and a grossly unsuccessful one at that.

Kurtz then opines:

On one level, the situation is a paradox. Here you have a magazine loaded with talent — from the Pulitzer-winning Meacham (who is pursuing his own bid to buy the magazine) to such media stars as Jonathan Alter, Howard Fineman, Mike Isikoff, Evan Thomas, Fareed Zakaria and Robert Samuelson — and few seem willing to bet on its financial future. That amounts to a no-confidence vote not just on the category of newsweeklies, which have long been squeezed between daily papers and in-depth monthlies, but on print journalism itself. The lucrative properties these days are digital, and Newsweek’s Web site has long been a flop, both creatively and commercially.

Oh, puleez. With the exception of Samuelson, these are predictable liberals parroting the anti-Israel, pro-Obama, anti-conservative line. It isn’t a vote of no confidence in the concept of a weekly — it’s a vote of no confidence in this product and those people. Whoever buys it, if anyone does, would do well to scrap the dreary liberal perspective, fire most of the current crew, and figure out something a lot of people actually want to read. I can tell you it’s not “a sort of a God” Thomas or Zakaria’s noxious views on Israel.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A couple of good questions (which should have been asked before the bill was passed): “Now that Congress has imposed new requirements on health insurance plans, regulators are trying to resolve another big question: Which plans must comply with the requirements? In keeping with President Obama’s promise that you can hold on to your insurance if you like it, the new law exempts existing health plans from many of its provisions. But the law leaves it to regulators to decide how much a health plan can change without giving up its grandfathered status. In other words, when does a health plan cease to be the same health plan?”

A very belated apology: Ben Smith writes, “Richard Blumenthal’s defiance got him through his first day, but his most expansive apology yet — to the Courant — indicates both that the damage isn’t controlled, and that he himself thinks he has something to apologize for.” Sort of like Bill Clinton: apologize when you’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

A boffo suggestion: “Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) called on the White House on Monday to detail conversations it allegedly had with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to try to convince him to drop his Senate bid. Weiner said that allegations that White House officials had offered Sestak an administration job in exchange for his dropping of his primary bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) had become a growing political liability. ‘I think what the White House should do is, to some degree, say, ‘Here are the facts,’ Weiner said Monday morning during an appearance on MSNBC. ‘If there’s not a lot [to] what’s going on here, then just say what happened.'” Like be transparent?

A new stonewall in a long series of stonewalls (e.g., Fort Hood, Black Panthers): Reid Wilson writes that the GOP “is pleased” Sestak won since it can pummel the job-offer scandal. “GOPers have used the issue to raise questions about the WH’s honesty, transparency and ethics. … The stonewalling has gone to incredible lengths. On Thursday, Gibbs parried with reporters 13 times, refusing to address Sestak’s claims, referring to previous comments he made in March. The refusal to talk about Sestak at all has given GOPers an opening.”

An excellent inquiry: Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “President Obama spent much more time talking about this immigration law in Arizona and spent much more time talking with President Calderon of Mexico about it than with the governor of Arizona, whom he’s never had the courtesy to call and say, ‘Well, would you like to make a case for the law to me — make the case to me for the law before I go around trashing it?'” Well, he didn’t get the facts before trashing the Cambridge police in Gatesgate either. He tends to avoid getting information from those with whom he disagrees.

A savvy political calculation (subscription required): “The House Democratic freshmen who rose to power riding then-candidate Barack Obama’s coattails are now eager to strut their independence heading into the midterms. Some rookies opposed Obama’s cap-and-trade climate change bill; others rejected his health care plan. But even those Members who backed all of the president’s signature initiatives are ready to show that they can win their first re-election bids without leaning on Obama’s star power. ‘You have to be an independent, no matter what,’ Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper said.”

A keen insight: “Despite his newfound prominence, Todd, like his colleagues, has limited access to the man he is covering. ‘Obama himself is the one who doesn’t like dealing with the press,’ he says, exonerating the White House staff. ‘You can’t even do shouted questions.'” Now he has to actually report on that, not just offer it to Howard Kurtz in a puff piece on himself.

A near-certain pickup for the Republicans: “Governor John Hoeven now has the support of nearly three-out-of-four North Dakota voters in his bid to be the state’s next U.S. senator. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in North Dakota finds Hoeven earning 72% support, while his Democratic opponent State Senator Tracy Potter picks up 23%.” Yeah, 72 percent. (Looks like the statewide House seat is a goner for the Democrats too.)

A vote of no-confidence: “Confidence in America’s efforts in the War on Terror has fallen again this month, and, following the unsuccessful terrorist bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square, more voters than ever now believe the nation is not safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that only 31% now believe the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11, down seven points from last month and the lowest level of confidence measured in over three years of regular tracking.”

A couple of good questions (which should have been asked before the bill was passed): “Now that Congress has imposed new requirements on health insurance plans, regulators are trying to resolve another big question: Which plans must comply with the requirements? In keeping with President Obama’s promise that you can hold on to your insurance if you like it, the new law exempts existing health plans from many of its provisions. But the law leaves it to regulators to decide how much a health plan can change without giving up its grandfathered status. In other words, when does a health plan cease to be the same health plan?”

A very belated apology: Ben Smith writes, “Richard Blumenthal’s defiance got him through his first day, but his most expansive apology yet — to the Courant — indicates both that the damage isn’t controlled, and that he himself thinks he has something to apologize for.” Sort of like Bill Clinton: apologize when you’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

A boffo suggestion: “Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) called on the White House on Monday to detail conversations it allegedly had with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to try to convince him to drop his Senate bid. Weiner said that allegations that White House officials had offered Sestak an administration job in exchange for his dropping of his primary bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) had become a growing political liability. ‘I think what the White House should do is, to some degree, say, ‘Here are the facts,’ Weiner said Monday morning during an appearance on MSNBC. ‘If there’s not a lot [to] what’s going on here, then just say what happened.'” Like be transparent?

A new stonewall in a long series of stonewalls (e.g., Fort Hood, Black Panthers): Reid Wilson writes that the GOP “is pleased” Sestak won since it can pummel the job-offer scandal. “GOPers have used the issue to raise questions about the WH’s honesty, transparency and ethics. … The stonewalling has gone to incredible lengths. On Thursday, Gibbs parried with reporters 13 times, refusing to address Sestak’s claims, referring to previous comments he made in March. The refusal to talk about Sestak at all has given GOPers an opening.”

An excellent inquiry: Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “President Obama spent much more time talking about this immigration law in Arizona and spent much more time talking with President Calderon of Mexico about it than with the governor of Arizona, whom he’s never had the courtesy to call and say, ‘Well, would you like to make a case for the law to me — make the case to me for the law before I go around trashing it?'” Well, he didn’t get the facts before trashing the Cambridge police in Gatesgate either. He tends to avoid getting information from those with whom he disagrees.

A savvy political calculation (subscription required): “The House Democratic freshmen who rose to power riding then-candidate Barack Obama’s coattails are now eager to strut their independence heading into the midterms. Some rookies opposed Obama’s cap-and-trade climate change bill; others rejected his health care plan. But even those Members who backed all of the president’s signature initiatives are ready to show that they can win their first re-election bids without leaning on Obama’s star power. ‘You have to be an independent, no matter what,’ Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper said.”

A keen insight: “Despite his newfound prominence, Todd, like his colleagues, has limited access to the man he is covering. ‘Obama himself is the one who doesn’t like dealing with the press,’ he says, exonerating the White House staff. ‘You can’t even do shouted questions.'” Now he has to actually report on that, not just offer it to Howard Kurtz in a puff piece on himself.

A near-certain pickup for the Republicans: “Governor John Hoeven now has the support of nearly three-out-of-four North Dakota voters in his bid to be the state’s next U.S. senator. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in North Dakota finds Hoeven earning 72% support, while his Democratic opponent State Senator Tracy Potter picks up 23%.” Yeah, 72 percent. (Looks like the statewide House seat is a goner for the Democrats too.)

A vote of no-confidence: “Confidence in America’s efforts in the War on Terror has fallen again this month, and, following the unsuccessful terrorist bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square, more voters than ever now believe the nation is not safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that only 31% now believe the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11, down seven points from last month and the lowest level of confidence measured in over three years of regular tracking.”

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The Truth and Barack Obama

Who knew that Barack Obama’s real ambition is to be Howard Kurtz?

In his commencement address at Hampton University, the president once again decided to act as if he were America’s Media-Critic-in-Chief. In Obama’s words:

You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — (laughter) — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.

Later in the speech, Obama added this:

So, allowing you to compete in the global economy is the first way your education can prepare you. But it can also prepare you as citizens. With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, and on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not. Let’s face it, even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I’ve had some experience in that regard.

There are several things one can take away from the president’s remarks.

The first is that there’s a certain irony in being instructed by Obama about avoiding arguments that “don’t always rank that high on the truth meter.” This instruction, after all, comes from a man who, throughout the health-care debate, repeatedly made false and misleading arguments about the effects of ObamaCare on bending the cost curve, on the deficit and debt, on whether people will be forced to leave their employer-based policies, on whether his plan advocated Medicare cuts, on whether it would subsidize abortions, and much else.

Mr. Obama is also the person who, when he was running for the presidency, promised all health-care negotiations would be broadcast on C-SPAN (They weren’t.), that he would accept public financing for his campaign (He didn’t.), that he would put an end to “phony accounting” (He hasn’t.), that lobbyists will not work in his White House (They do.), that he would slash earmarks by more than half (He has not.), that he opposed giving Miranda rights to terrorists (He favors them.), that he was against an individual health-care mandate (He supported it.), and that he would resist the temptation “to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long” (He succumbed to the temptation.).

Where, I wonder, does Mr. Obama rank these statements on his cherished Truth Meter?

And what are we to make of the fact that the very paragraph from Obama’s speech where he laments the lack of truth in public statements includes — you guessed it — a false statement by Obama?

In his commencement address, Obama insists he doesn’t know how to work an iPod. But here’s an item that appeared on the Huffington Post on June 25, 2008:

WASHINGTON — Bob Dylan. Yo-Yo Ma. Sheryl Crow. Jay-Z. These aren’t musical acts in a summer concert series: They’re artists featured on Barack Obama’s iPod.

“I have pretty eclectic tastes,” the Democratic presidential contender said in an interview to be published in Friday’s issue of Rolling Stone.

Is that distant sound we hear the Truth Meter going off again?

By now Obama has spoken out against the New Media often enough to know that he both despises it and is obsessed with it. For all of his talk about his eagerness to listen to others, “especially when we disagree,” as he put it on the night of his election, Obama clearly resents being challenged. He gets especially exasperated and condescending when his challenger has made the better argument. That is, in fact, a trait of Team Obama; we see that attitude on display almost every day in the person of Robert Gibbs, the snidest and least likable press secretary in our lifetime.

The president and his aides are clearly used to being cosseted. They seem to believe the American public should treat them as reverentially as staff members of the New Yorker do.

It may seem odd for a man who presents himself as a public intellectual who cherishes open-mindedness and vigorous debate to be so relentlessly critical of the diversity of voices and viewpoints now in the public square. But remember this: Barack Obama is a man whose attitudes and sensibilities have been shaped by the academy, an institution that is the least (classically) liberal and open-minded in American life today. A stifling conformity and an unwillingness to engage arguments on the merits, combined with a reflexive tendency to attack the motives of those who hold opposing views, are hallmarks of the modern university. They are also, alas, hallmarks of America’s 44th president. But Mr. Obama is learning the hard way that America is not one big Ivy League campus. Here, differing opinions are heard, whether they are welcomed by those in power or not. The public will not bow down before any man or any office. And politicians who treat dissenting voices as if they are a Tower of Babble, to be mocked and ridiculed into silence, eventually receive their comeuppance. So shall Obama.

Who knew that Barack Obama’s real ambition is to be Howard Kurtz?

In his commencement address at Hampton University, the president once again decided to act as if he were America’s Media-Critic-in-Chief. In Obama’s words:

You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — (laughter) — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.

Later in the speech, Obama added this:

So, allowing you to compete in the global economy is the first way your education can prepare you. But it can also prepare you as citizens. With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, and on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not. Let’s face it, even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I’ve had some experience in that regard.

There are several things one can take away from the president’s remarks.

The first is that there’s a certain irony in being instructed by Obama about avoiding arguments that “don’t always rank that high on the truth meter.” This instruction, after all, comes from a man who, throughout the health-care debate, repeatedly made false and misleading arguments about the effects of ObamaCare on bending the cost curve, on the deficit and debt, on whether people will be forced to leave their employer-based policies, on whether his plan advocated Medicare cuts, on whether it would subsidize abortions, and much else.

Mr. Obama is also the person who, when he was running for the presidency, promised all health-care negotiations would be broadcast on C-SPAN (They weren’t.), that he would accept public financing for his campaign (He didn’t.), that he would put an end to “phony accounting” (He hasn’t.), that lobbyists will not work in his White House (They do.), that he would slash earmarks by more than half (He has not.), that he opposed giving Miranda rights to terrorists (He favors them.), that he was against an individual health-care mandate (He supported it.), and that he would resist the temptation “to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long” (He succumbed to the temptation.).

Where, I wonder, does Mr. Obama rank these statements on his cherished Truth Meter?

And what are we to make of the fact that the very paragraph from Obama’s speech where he laments the lack of truth in public statements includes — you guessed it — a false statement by Obama?

In his commencement address, Obama insists he doesn’t know how to work an iPod. But here’s an item that appeared on the Huffington Post on June 25, 2008:

WASHINGTON — Bob Dylan. Yo-Yo Ma. Sheryl Crow. Jay-Z. These aren’t musical acts in a summer concert series: They’re artists featured on Barack Obama’s iPod.

“I have pretty eclectic tastes,” the Democratic presidential contender said in an interview to be published in Friday’s issue of Rolling Stone.

Is that distant sound we hear the Truth Meter going off again?

By now Obama has spoken out against the New Media often enough to know that he both despises it and is obsessed with it. For all of his talk about his eagerness to listen to others, “especially when we disagree,” as he put it on the night of his election, Obama clearly resents being challenged. He gets especially exasperated and condescending when his challenger has made the better argument. That is, in fact, a trait of Team Obama; we see that attitude on display almost every day in the person of Robert Gibbs, the snidest and least likable press secretary in our lifetime.

The president and his aides are clearly used to being cosseted. They seem to believe the American public should treat them as reverentially as staff members of the New Yorker do.

It may seem odd for a man who presents himself as a public intellectual who cherishes open-mindedness and vigorous debate to be so relentlessly critical of the diversity of voices and viewpoints now in the public square. But remember this: Barack Obama is a man whose attitudes and sensibilities have been shaped by the academy, an institution that is the least (classically) liberal and open-minded in American life today. A stifling conformity and an unwillingness to engage arguments on the merits, combined with a reflexive tendency to attack the motives of those who hold opposing views, are hallmarks of the modern university. They are also, alas, hallmarks of America’s 44th president. But Mr. Obama is learning the hard way that America is not one big Ivy League campus. Here, differing opinions are heard, whether they are welcomed by those in power or not. The public will not bow down before any man or any office. And politicians who treat dissenting voices as if they are a Tower of Babble, to be mocked and ridiculed into silence, eventually receive their comeuppance. So shall Obama.

Read Less

Like LBJ Losing Cronkite?

It wasn’t too long ago that Obama wasn’t funny. That is, none of the late-night comics thought he was funny. The New Yorker couldn’t run a funny cartoon on its cover. Obama was above jokes. You don’t laugh at “sort of God,” you see. But as the mask of competence slips and the blunders mount, he becomes once again a comic target. Howard Kurtz tells us Obama is now really in trouble because he’s lost Jon Stewart:

It was inevitable that Obama would become a late-night target, at least when Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Dave Letterman have taken time out from sliming each other. But Stewart, who makes no secret of leaning left, is a pop-culture bellwether. And while the White House notes that Obama used the prompter to address journalists, not the students, the details matter little in comedy.

Stewart’s barbs are generating partisan buzz. …

“He’s clearly become an important cultural arbiter,” says Robert Lichter, director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. “He’s pulled off the trick of being taken seriously when he wants to be and taken frivolously when he wants to be.”

What is even more remarkable is that “real” news people seem to take their cues from a comic. He’s an “icon” to real journalists, Kurtz tells us. He quotes Brian Williams: “A lot of the work that Jon and his staff do is serious. They hold people to account, for errors and sloppiness.” Well, everything is relative, I suppose. The “real” media’s disinclination to treat Obama as roughly as they have treated previous presidents has left the field wide open for a cable network comic to play the role that independent journalists used to — holding the White House accountable, skewering the president for errors, and refusing to take seriously the spin coming from administration flacks.

It may be that Stewart’s newfound boldness in ribbing Obama is indicative of a change in Obama’s fortunes. But it also speaks volumes about the reluctance of the entire media — serious and otherwise — for the better part of a year to critically assess Obama’s policies and political instincts.

Now that the spell is broken and Obama is “funny,” maybe the media will discover he is also fodder for serious reporting. Perhaps they will ask some serious questions — when and if he ever gives another press conference. How was it that he claimed that the Christmas Day bomber was an isolated extremist? Did he really let Eric Holder come up with the idea all on his own for a New York trial for KSM? Did Obama not know that his own health-care plan would chase Americans out of their own health-care plans? Why did he sign an omnibus spending bill with 9,000 earmarks if earmarks are nothing more than petty corruption? How can he say the stimulus is a success if he promised it would keep unemployment at 8 percent?  There is nothing funny about any of those issues, but the media might want to press the president for answers to these and other queries. At least if they want to stay ahead of Jon Stewart.

It wasn’t too long ago that Obama wasn’t funny. That is, none of the late-night comics thought he was funny. The New Yorker couldn’t run a funny cartoon on its cover. Obama was above jokes. You don’t laugh at “sort of God,” you see. But as the mask of competence slips and the blunders mount, he becomes once again a comic target. Howard Kurtz tells us Obama is now really in trouble because he’s lost Jon Stewart:

It was inevitable that Obama would become a late-night target, at least when Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Dave Letterman have taken time out from sliming each other. But Stewart, who makes no secret of leaning left, is a pop-culture bellwether. And while the White House notes that Obama used the prompter to address journalists, not the students, the details matter little in comedy.

Stewart’s barbs are generating partisan buzz. …

“He’s clearly become an important cultural arbiter,” says Robert Lichter, director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. “He’s pulled off the trick of being taken seriously when he wants to be and taken frivolously when he wants to be.”

What is even more remarkable is that “real” news people seem to take their cues from a comic. He’s an “icon” to real journalists, Kurtz tells us. He quotes Brian Williams: “A lot of the work that Jon and his staff do is serious. They hold people to account, for errors and sloppiness.” Well, everything is relative, I suppose. The “real” media’s disinclination to treat Obama as roughly as they have treated previous presidents has left the field wide open for a cable network comic to play the role that independent journalists used to — holding the White House accountable, skewering the president for errors, and refusing to take seriously the spin coming from administration flacks.

It may be that Stewart’s newfound boldness in ribbing Obama is indicative of a change in Obama’s fortunes. But it also speaks volumes about the reluctance of the entire media — serious and otherwise — for the better part of a year to critically assess Obama’s policies and political instincts.

Now that the spell is broken and Obama is “funny,” maybe the media will discover he is also fodder for serious reporting. Perhaps they will ask some serious questions — when and if he ever gives another press conference. How was it that he claimed that the Christmas Day bomber was an isolated extremist? Did he really let Eric Holder come up with the idea all on his own for a New York trial for KSM? Did Obama not know that his own health-care plan would chase Americans out of their own health-care plans? Why did he sign an omnibus spending bill with 9,000 earmarks if earmarks are nothing more than petty corruption? How can he say the stimulus is a success if he promised it would keep unemployment at 8 percent?  There is nothing funny about any of those issues, but the media might want to press the president for answers to these and other queries. At least if they want to stay ahead of Jon Stewart.

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“Shameful”?

In an article today, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post cites various media figures–from Tom Shales of the Post to Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher to Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann–who are outraged at the performance of George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson during Wednesday’s Democratic debate. The ABC News duo’s performance, we are told, was “despicable,” “shameful,” and “disgraced democracy itself.”

And what did Stephanopoulos and Gibson do to earn this scorn? Why, they asked Barack Obama some probing questions, including one about his past relationships with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr. and a former leader of the Weather Underground, William Ayers.

Consider this thought experiment: Assume that a conservative candidate for the GOP nomination spent two decades at a church whose senior pastor was a white supremacist who uttered ugly racial (as well as anti-American) epithets from the pulpit. Assume, too, that this minister wasn’t just the candidate’s pastor but also a close friend, the man who married the candidate and his wife, baptized his two daughters, and inspired the title of his best-selling book.

In addition, assume that this GOP candidate, in preparing for his entry into politics, attended an early organizing meeting at the home of a man who, years before, was involved in blowing up multiple abortion clinics and today was unrepentant, stating his wish that he had bombed even more clinics. And let’s say that the GOP candidate’s press spokesman described the relationship between the two men as “friendly.”

Do you think that if those moderating a debate asked the GOP candidate about these relationships for the first time, after 22 previous debates had been held, that other journalists would become apoplectic at the moderators for merely asking about the relationships? Not only would there be a near-universal consensus that those questions should be asked; there would be a moral urgency in pressing for answers. We would, I predict, be seeing an unprecedented media “feeding frenzy.”

The truth is that a close relationship with a white supremacist pastor and a friendly relationship with an abortion clinic bomber would, by themselves, torpedo a conservative candidate running for president. There is an enormous double standard at play here, one rooted in the fawning regard many journalists have for Barack Obama. They have a deep, even emotional, investment in his candidacy. And, as we are seeing, they will turn on anyone, even their colleagues, who dare raise appropriate and searching questions–the kind journalists are supposed to ask. The reaction to Stephanopoulos and Gibson is a revealing and depressing glimpse into the state of modern journalism.

In an article today, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post cites various media figures–from Tom Shales of the Post to Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher to Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann–who are outraged at the performance of George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson during Wednesday’s Democratic debate. The ABC News duo’s performance, we are told, was “despicable,” “shameful,” and “disgraced democracy itself.”

And what did Stephanopoulos and Gibson do to earn this scorn? Why, they asked Barack Obama some probing questions, including one about his past relationships with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr. and a former leader of the Weather Underground, William Ayers.

Consider this thought experiment: Assume that a conservative candidate for the GOP nomination spent two decades at a church whose senior pastor was a white supremacist who uttered ugly racial (as well as anti-American) epithets from the pulpit. Assume, too, that this minister wasn’t just the candidate’s pastor but also a close friend, the man who married the candidate and his wife, baptized his two daughters, and inspired the title of his best-selling book.

In addition, assume that this GOP candidate, in preparing for his entry into politics, attended an early organizing meeting at the home of a man who, years before, was involved in blowing up multiple abortion clinics and today was unrepentant, stating his wish that he had bombed even more clinics. And let’s say that the GOP candidate’s press spokesman described the relationship between the two men as “friendly.”

Do you think that if those moderating a debate asked the GOP candidate about these relationships for the first time, after 22 previous debates had been held, that other journalists would become apoplectic at the moderators for merely asking about the relationships? Not only would there be a near-universal consensus that those questions should be asked; there would be a moral urgency in pressing for answers. We would, I predict, be seeing an unprecedented media “feeding frenzy.”

The truth is that a close relationship with a white supremacist pastor and a friendly relationship with an abortion clinic bomber would, by themselves, torpedo a conservative candidate running for president. There is an enormous double standard at play here, one rooted in the fawning regard many journalists have for Barack Obama. They have a deep, even emotional, investment in his candidacy. And, as we are seeing, they will turn on anyone, even their colleagues, who dare raise appropriate and searching questions–the kind journalists are supposed to ask. The reaction to Stephanopoulos and Gibson is a revealing and depressing glimpse into the state of modern journalism.

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The Sleeping Giant Awakens

No, it is not Hillary or Bill Clinton that has woken up from a stupor; it’s the media. Either because they were guilted into some self-reflection by Saturday Night Live or because the Clinton team’s harping on biased media coverage took its toll, the media seems to be dropping its reverential tone toward Barack Obama.

Jake Tapper on NAFTA-gate: “And in fact, the story seems today more alive than ever. That is, if the press does its job.” Clinton goads them further with this, reported by MSNBC:

I would ask you to look at this story, substitute my name for Sen. Obama’s name and see what you would do with this story. That’s what I would ask you to do. If some of my economic advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments basically saying ignore what I’m saying because it’s only political rhetoric, I think it raises serious questions.

And Howard Kurtz devotes an entire column to the question of whether Barack Obama’s soft coverage (I suppose we can now all admit publicly that is was soft) is toughening. Kurtz cites an exchange in which Obama was finally asked about dropping his flag label pin, asking if it signifies “the end of a long period in which the media have gone easy on the man who could all but clinch the Democratic nomination in tomorrow’s primaries.” The heightened media coverage is one more reason (in addition to some brightening poll trends) why Clinton, I think, will be sticking around for quite a while after Tuesday.

No, it is not Hillary or Bill Clinton that has woken up from a stupor; it’s the media. Either because they were guilted into some self-reflection by Saturday Night Live or because the Clinton team’s harping on biased media coverage took its toll, the media seems to be dropping its reverential tone toward Barack Obama.

Jake Tapper on NAFTA-gate: “And in fact, the story seems today more alive than ever. That is, if the press does its job.” Clinton goads them further with this, reported by MSNBC:

I would ask you to look at this story, substitute my name for Sen. Obama’s name and see what you would do with this story. That’s what I would ask you to do. If some of my economic advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments basically saying ignore what I’m saying because it’s only political rhetoric, I think it raises serious questions.

And Howard Kurtz devotes an entire column to the question of whether Barack Obama’s soft coverage (I suppose we can now all admit publicly that is was soft) is toughening. Kurtz cites an exchange in which Obama was finally asked about dropping his flag label pin, asking if it signifies “the end of a long period in which the media have gone easy on the man who could all but clinch the Democratic nomination in tomorrow’s primaries.” The heightened media coverage is one more reason (in addition to some brightening poll trends) why Clinton, I think, will be sticking around for quite a while after Tuesday.

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