Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jeff Zeleny

Brit Hume v. Sarah Palin

Rick Santorum’s profanity-laced outburst at Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times has elicited a fair amount of comment in the political world, as one might imagine – including among Fox News analysts. If you’d like to hear two very different interpretations of Senator Santorum’s reaction, you can watch Brit Hume here and Sarah Palin here.

Hume wasn’t harsh in his critique of Santorum, saying he was probably “fatigued” and showed “some exasperation,” but added that Zeleny is a “reasonable guy” who asked a legitimate question and would have taken Santorum at his word when it came to a clarification. Palin, on the other hand, said this:

Santorum’s response to that liberal-leftist, in-the-tank for Obama press character really revealed some of Rick Santorum’s character. And it was good and it was strong and it was about time because he’s saying enough is enough of the liberal media twisting a conservative’s words, putting words in his mouth, taking things out of context and even just making things up. So when I heard Rick Santorum’s response, I was like ‘Well, welcome to my world Rick’ and ‘Good on ya.’ Don’t retreat. You are saying “enough is enough. I was that glad he called out this reporter. He and the other candidates all of them need to do more of this. Because believe me the American people are tired of what that leftist media continue to do to conservatives.

So there you have it – Jeff Zeleny is, according to Hume, a “reasonable guy” while to Palin he is a “liberal-leftist, in-the-tank-for-Obama press character.” Hume says Santorum was fatigued and exasperated; Palin thinks Santorum and the other GOP candidates should do more of this kind of media push back (presumably including the profanity). One of the commentators is detached; the other is embittered.

Between Hume and Palin, who do you think is the more sober, mature, thoughtful and reasonable?

I’ll report, you decide.

 

Rick Santorum’s profanity-laced outburst at Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times has elicited a fair amount of comment in the political world, as one might imagine – including among Fox News analysts. If you’d like to hear two very different interpretations of Senator Santorum’s reaction, you can watch Brit Hume here and Sarah Palin here.

Hume wasn’t harsh in his critique of Santorum, saying he was probably “fatigued” and showed “some exasperation,” but added that Zeleny is a “reasonable guy” who asked a legitimate question and would have taken Santorum at his word when it came to a clarification. Palin, on the other hand, said this:

Santorum’s response to that liberal-leftist, in-the-tank for Obama press character really revealed some of Rick Santorum’s character. And it was good and it was strong and it was about time because he’s saying enough is enough of the liberal media twisting a conservative’s words, putting words in his mouth, taking things out of context and even just making things up. So when I heard Rick Santorum’s response, I was like ‘Well, welcome to my world Rick’ and ‘Good on ya.’ Don’t retreat. You are saying “enough is enough. I was that glad he called out this reporter. He and the other candidates all of them need to do more of this. Because believe me the American people are tired of what that leftist media continue to do to conservatives.

So there you have it – Jeff Zeleny is, according to Hume, a “reasonable guy” while to Palin he is a “liberal-leftist, in-the-tank-for-Obama press character.” Hume says Santorum was fatigued and exasperated; Palin thinks Santorum and the other GOP candidates should do more of this kind of media push back (presumably including the profanity). One of the commentators is detached; the other is embittered.

Between Hume and Palin, who do you think is the more sober, mature, thoughtful and reasonable?

I’ll report, you decide.

 

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Free Speech, Not the GOP, Is the Winner in Court Campaign-Finance Ruling

Today’s Supreme Court ruling striking down provisions of the McCain-Feingold federal campaign-finance law is a tremendous victory for free speech in the United States. The 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission upholds the principle that that 2002 law and other similar attempts to regulate campaign finance flouted, namely, that the government should not regulate political speech.

The case grew out of a 2008 federal ban on the showing of a documentary film, Hillary: The Movie, during the presidential primaries in which Hillary Clinton, the object of the movie’s criticism, was a candidate. McCain-Feingold allowed the Federal Election Commission to stop the showing of the film because a corporation produced it, even though the corporation in question was a nonprofit. This case aptly illustrated the way this law did not so much protect the electoral process from the corrupting influence of money as it protected politicians from the effects of political speech that they did not like. Far from bolstering the democratic process, McCain-Feingold suppressed it. Like just about every other campaign-finance law that has been passed since the 1970s, when the Watergate scandal gave impetus to a drive to “reform” election spending, this law did not eliminate the influence of money on politics, but it did play favorites as to which sort of speech may or may not be legal. While efforts to bring transparency into campaign finance remain laudable, the process by which money began to be shunted first into political action committees and then, in the wake of McCain-Feingold, into new classes of unaccountable groups did nothing to make the system fairer or cleaner. Instead, it granted a government agency the power to regulate or suppress the one kind of speech that the founders of our republic would have agreed was inviolate: political speech. The court has now chipped away at this expansion of federal power to allow corporations and other groups the freedom to advocate on elections as they please.

The responses to this ruling from some in the political class are predictable. President Obama has issued a call to Congress to pass legislation to overturn the will of the courts, something that we trust the new absence of a filibuster-proof majority for the Democrats will render impossible.

Interestingly, among the first reactions was a blog post by New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny, who claimed that, “at first blush, Republican candidates would seem to benefit from this seismic change in how political campaigns are conducted in America.” To back this assertion up, he quoted the president’s demagogic statement that claimed the “Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

As Zeleny also noted, labor unions and a host of Left-leaning groups are now also free to spend money to publicize their views, as they like. It should also be pointed out that the notion that big business is a dependable backer of the GOP is a myth. The crony capitalism that the bank bailouts have highlighted in the past two years has aptly illustrated the fact that many industries, including the denizens of Wall Street, have a stronger loyalty to corporate welfare that benefits them than they do to the principles of free enterprise. The steady flow of money from firms such as Goldman, Sachs (the principal survivor and beneficiary of the latest shakedowns) to Democratic candidates like Obama is proof of this.

The point here is that more political speech is not a danger to the republic; it is instead the lifeblood of democracy. The only ones to gain from the suppression of views via campaign-spending laws are those politicians who are the subject of critical scrutiny. Acting in the name of “reform,” campaign-finance-restriction advocates have sought to restrict political speech, effectively empowering the politicians and the mainstream media at the expense of the electorate. In a democracy, the people must be free to sort out the views of a host of disparate elements. The free flow of critical advertisements and independent documentaries such as Hillary: The Movie challenge the monopoly of public expression that such a system breeds. Let’s hope this ruling marks the beginning of the end of an era in which the political class used its legislative power to silence their critics.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling striking down provisions of the McCain-Feingold federal campaign-finance law is a tremendous victory for free speech in the United States. The 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission upholds the principle that that 2002 law and other similar attempts to regulate campaign finance flouted, namely, that the government should not regulate political speech.

The case grew out of a 2008 federal ban on the showing of a documentary film, Hillary: The Movie, during the presidential primaries in which Hillary Clinton, the object of the movie’s criticism, was a candidate. McCain-Feingold allowed the Federal Election Commission to stop the showing of the film because a corporation produced it, even though the corporation in question was a nonprofit. This case aptly illustrated the way this law did not so much protect the electoral process from the corrupting influence of money as it protected politicians from the effects of political speech that they did not like. Far from bolstering the democratic process, McCain-Feingold suppressed it. Like just about every other campaign-finance law that has been passed since the 1970s, when the Watergate scandal gave impetus to a drive to “reform” election spending, this law did not eliminate the influence of money on politics, but it did play favorites as to which sort of speech may or may not be legal. While efforts to bring transparency into campaign finance remain laudable, the process by which money began to be shunted first into political action committees and then, in the wake of McCain-Feingold, into new classes of unaccountable groups did nothing to make the system fairer or cleaner. Instead, it granted a government agency the power to regulate or suppress the one kind of speech that the founders of our republic would have agreed was inviolate: political speech. The court has now chipped away at this expansion of federal power to allow corporations and other groups the freedom to advocate on elections as they please.

The responses to this ruling from some in the political class are predictable. President Obama has issued a call to Congress to pass legislation to overturn the will of the courts, something that we trust the new absence of a filibuster-proof majority for the Democrats will render impossible.

Interestingly, among the first reactions was a blog post by New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny, who claimed that, “at first blush, Republican candidates would seem to benefit from this seismic change in how political campaigns are conducted in America.” To back this assertion up, he quoted the president’s demagogic statement that claimed the “Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

As Zeleny also noted, labor unions and a host of Left-leaning groups are now also free to spend money to publicize their views, as they like. It should also be pointed out that the notion that big business is a dependable backer of the GOP is a myth. The crony capitalism that the bank bailouts have highlighted in the past two years has aptly illustrated the fact that many industries, including the denizens of Wall Street, have a stronger loyalty to corporate welfare that benefits them than they do to the principles of free enterprise. The steady flow of money from firms such as Goldman, Sachs (the principal survivor and beneficiary of the latest shakedowns) to Democratic candidates like Obama is proof of this.

The point here is that more political speech is not a danger to the republic; it is instead the lifeblood of democracy. The only ones to gain from the suppression of views via campaign-spending laws are those politicians who are the subject of critical scrutiny. Acting in the name of “reform,” campaign-finance-restriction advocates have sought to restrict political speech, effectively empowering the politicians and the mainstream media at the expense of the electorate. In a democracy, the people must be free to sort out the views of a host of disparate elements. The free flow of critical advertisements and independent documentaries such as Hillary: The Movie challenge the monopoly of public expression that such a system breeds. Let’s hope this ruling marks the beginning of the end of an era in which the political class used its legislative power to silence their critics.

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What’s Missing Today in Massachusetts? Exit Polls

Here’s an interesting piece of intelligence that may have an impact on the spin of today’s special Senate election in Massachusetts: no exit polls. In a post on the New York Times’s political blog The Caucus, reporters Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny lament the absence of pollsters blanketing the state in order to give political junkies data to chew on in the aftermath of the voting. According to Zeleny, “There are no exit polls, of course, because no one anticipated this special election would turn into a real race — from the television networks that pay for the exit polls to Democratic leaders in Washington who will suffer if Martha Coakley loses. So without them, we will be left to rely on anecdotal information.”

While the Timesmen play it close to the vest on the looming prospect of a monumental Republican upset of what had been considered as safe a Democratic seat as there was in the country, the lack of polling data about why the voters are abandoning the party of the Kennedys could be significant as the party in power contemplates what went wrong. Even if Martha Coakley pulls victory from the jaws of defeat, the fact that a GOP win is a distinct possibility must be seen as an ominous sign for the Democrats. As inaccurate and misleading as exit polls can be, such a survey conducted in Massachusetts today might give us more of an idea about the motivations of voters, as well as the level of defections from the Democrats and the way independents are moving toward the Republicans.

Even more to the point, the absence of polling data — even with a dramatic shift in the only poll that actually counts — might also help keep the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress in denial about the unpopularity of their radical domestic programs. Some on the Left are actually suggesting that they might seek to delay Scott Brown’s certification or swearing in while ObamaCare is hustled through the Congress before the Democrats lose their filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate. So it’s clear that the notion put forward by wise men such as Fox News’s Brit Hume that a Coakley defeat will be an opportunity for them to step back from the left-wing precipice may be a piece of good advice that the Obama administration will not heed.

The absence of exit-polling data will give the spinmeisters on the cable networks less to jaw about, even though a Republican win or even a close race will provide all the information we actually need to understand the wave of dissatisfaction and frustration with the administration that is sweeping across the country. But it may leave some of the chattering classes wondering, like the old saw about a tree falling in the forest with no one to see or hear it: if an election is held without exit polls, does it really count?

Here’s an interesting piece of intelligence that may have an impact on the spin of today’s special Senate election in Massachusetts: no exit polls. In a post on the New York Times’s political blog The Caucus, reporters Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny lament the absence of pollsters blanketing the state in order to give political junkies data to chew on in the aftermath of the voting. According to Zeleny, “There are no exit polls, of course, because no one anticipated this special election would turn into a real race — from the television networks that pay for the exit polls to Democratic leaders in Washington who will suffer if Martha Coakley loses. So without them, we will be left to rely on anecdotal information.”

While the Timesmen play it close to the vest on the looming prospect of a monumental Republican upset of what had been considered as safe a Democratic seat as there was in the country, the lack of polling data about why the voters are abandoning the party of the Kennedys could be significant as the party in power contemplates what went wrong. Even if Martha Coakley pulls victory from the jaws of defeat, the fact that a GOP win is a distinct possibility must be seen as an ominous sign for the Democrats. As inaccurate and misleading as exit polls can be, such a survey conducted in Massachusetts today might give us more of an idea about the motivations of voters, as well as the level of defections from the Democrats and the way independents are moving toward the Republicans.

Even more to the point, the absence of polling data — even with a dramatic shift in the only poll that actually counts — might also help keep the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress in denial about the unpopularity of their radical domestic programs. Some on the Left are actually suggesting that they might seek to delay Scott Brown’s certification or swearing in while ObamaCare is hustled through the Congress before the Democrats lose their filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate. So it’s clear that the notion put forward by wise men such as Fox News’s Brit Hume that a Coakley defeat will be an opportunity for them to step back from the left-wing precipice may be a piece of good advice that the Obama administration will not heed.

The absence of exit-polling data will give the spinmeisters on the cable networks less to jaw about, even though a Republican win or even a close race will provide all the information we actually need to understand the wave of dissatisfaction and frustration with the administration that is sweeping across the country. But it may leave some of the chattering classes wondering, like the old saw about a tree falling in the forest with no one to see or hear it: if an election is held without exit polls, does it really count?

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