Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart’s Moral Lunacy

In the past I’ve praised Jon Stewart, a liberal, for being an outstanding comedian and satirist. I watch his program and, despite being a conservative, I generally count myself a fan of it. But for Stewart’s political humor to work, it has to have some basis in reality. He has to have identify a real-world absurdity in order to mock it. Which is why Stewart’s recent segment on Israel and Hamas was unfunny, not the least bit clever, and even irresponsible (a point I’ll return to in a moment).

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In the past I’ve praised Jon Stewart, a liberal, for being an outstanding comedian and satirist. I watch his program and, despite being a conservative, I generally count myself a fan of it. But for Stewart’s political humor to work, it has to have some basis in reality. He has to have identify a real-world absurdity in order to mock it. Which is why Stewart’s recent segment on Israel and Hamas was unfunny, not the least bit clever, and even irresponsible (a point I’ll return to in a moment).

Mr. Stewart asserted that both sides–Israel and Hamas–are engaging in aerial bombardment. But because Israel is more effective at prosecuting the war, and because more Palestinians than Israelis are dying, Israel is the more guilty party. It’s framed as an example of moral equivalence, but with Israel more morally culpable because of the “asymmetric” nature of the conflict.

This is moral lunacy.

You would never know from watching Stewart that Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state (and says so in its charter); that Hamas started the war; that Hamas wants to escalate the war; that Hamas has refused repeated ceasefires; and that Hamas is using innocent Palestinians as human shields by, for example, using hospitals and schools for military purposes. You would never know, in other words, that Hamas has a vested interest in more dead Palestinians, precisely in the hopes that people like Jon Stewart will make Israel out to be the more malicious of the two combatants. And when Stewart ridicules Israel for warning Palestinians to evacuate before the IDF strikes military targets in Gaza–”Evacuate to where!?”–he is displaying (at best) an embarrassing ignorance. Israel actually drops leaflets with maps indicating where residents of Gaza can go–specific sites–where they’ll be unharmed. So Israel is instructing Gazans to leave dangerous combat zones. And what about Hamas? It’s urging Gazans to stay. Why? In order for them to be killed.

Mr. Stewart, whenever he’s confronted with his errors and misleading segments, will invoke the excuse that he’s merely a comedian, so it’s absurd to judge him in the fashion we judge political commentators. Except that he’s not “merely” a comedian, and he knows it. Mr. Stewart actually has a fair amount of influence on our politics. Members of the political class have their thinking, and even their reporting, shaped by what he says. He is, for many of them, a moral conscience of sorts. Jon Stewart knows it, and he takes advantage of it. He uses his humor to advance his ideology, to give voice to his political and moral beliefs.

Now it’s true enough that Stewart is a comedian before he’s a political commentator. But to say he’s more one than the other isn’t to say he’s simply one or the other. He’s a comedian who often uses comedy to make political comment. And so Stewart should be held accountable, at least within reason, for what he says and what he does.

In this instance, Stewart committed two mistakes. He wasn’t funny, and in the process he showed himself to be a moral fool.

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Jon Stewart (Literally) Laughs at Pelosi

If you want to do yourself a favor, set aside eight minutes to watch Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart interview House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Ms. Pelosi is so programmed and evasive–her answers are so obviously partisan, non-responsive, and unimpressive–that several times Stewart literally laughs in her face, most especially when she admits she has no idea why the ObamaCare website failed so miserably. (When discussing the backlog at the Veterans Administration and the failures of it and the Defense Department to communicate with each other, Pelosi conceded it was a terrible problem. “OK, do something about it,” Pelosi concludes. To which Stewart quipped, “I was actually going to say that to you.”) 

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If you want to do yourself a favor, set aside eight minutes to watch Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart interview House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Ms. Pelosi is so programmed and evasive–her answers are so obviously partisan, non-responsive, and unimpressive–that several times Stewart literally laughs in her face, most especially when she admits she has no idea why the ObamaCare website failed so miserably. (When discussing the backlog at the Veterans Administration and the failures of it and the Defense Department to communicate with each other, Pelosi conceded it was a terrible problem. “OK, do something about it,” Pelosi concludes. To which Stewart quipped, “I was actually going to say that to you.”) 

Jon Stewart is liberal, but he’s intellectually honest enough to (respectfully) challenge those who share his progressive beliefs, at least from time to time. For Ms. Pelosi to do so poorly while being interviewed by a man of the left tells you a great deal about her, but also something about how intellectually bankrupt leading Democrats are.

When liberals like Nancy Pelosi act in a way that embarrasses Jon Stewart, you know they’re in a fair amount of trouble. 

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Why the West Buys Iran’s PR Campaign

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s speech at the Davos Forum in Switzerland yesterday sounded all the familiar Western-friendly themes that he has used throughout his charm offensive. He reassured the world that Iran doesn’t want nuclear weapons and seeks only peaceful reconciliation with the West. According to the New York Times, he was well-received by most of the foreign-policy wonks and government officials in attendance who were only too happy to buy into his talk of “prudent moderation” and “constructive engagement” which was, as one attendee called it, “an application to rejoin the international community.”

Israel was alone in pouring cold water on the festivities, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had the bad manners to note that Rouhani’s peaceful rhetoric was, in reality, belied by his country’s ongoing nuclear project, its ballistic missile program, its support for international terrorism, and its daily calls for Israel’s destruction. Even Israeli President Shimon Peres—an inveterate enthusiast of the sort of diplomatic mummery for which the annual meetings at Davos are known—mournfully observed that Rouhani had omitted any mention of any support for Middle East peace talks or any commitment to stop Iran’s missile development and shipment of arms to  Syria’s Bashar Assad and Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon.

But Israeli criticisms are falling have fallen on deaf ears both in Davos and in the Obama administration, which remains committed to the cheery fiction that Rouhani’s victory in Iran’s faux presidential election last year was a signal of a major reset in the affairs of the Islamic Republic. But if Americans are falling for Rouhani’s transparent deceptions, it’s worth asking why. The answer doesn’t come from Davos but rather what preceded the international gathering last week in a segment on Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart’s political comedy is a reliable barometer of what liberals are thinking and has, at times, even won praise from some writing here in COMMENTARY for his willingness to call out Democrats for their hypocrisy. But on Iran, Stewart has gone all out for the administration’s embrace of Rouhani. In a segment called “Let’s Break a Deal” he told us all we need to know about why so many in the West refuse to give serious thought to the Iranian nuclear threat.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s speech at the Davos Forum in Switzerland yesterday sounded all the familiar Western-friendly themes that he has used throughout his charm offensive. He reassured the world that Iran doesn’t want nuclear weapons and seeks only peaceful reconciliation with the West. According to the New York Times, he was well-received by most of the foreign-policy wonks and government officials in attendance who were only too happy to buy into his talk of “prudent moderation” and “constructive engagement” which was, as one attendee called it, “an application to rejoin the international community.”

Israel was alone in pouring cold water on the festivities, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had the bad manners to note that Rouhani’s peaceful rhetoric was, in reality, belied by his country’s ongoing nuclear project, its ballistic missile program, its support for international terrorism, and its daily calls for Israel’s destruction. Even Israeli President Shimon Peres—an inveterate enthusiast of the sort of diplomatic mummery for which the annual meetings at Davos are known—mournfully observed that Rouhani had omitted any mention of any support for Middle East peace talks or any commitment to stop Iran’s missile development and shipment of arms to  Syria’s Bashar Assad and Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon.

But Israeli criticisms are falling have fallen on deaf ears both in Davos and in the Obama administration, which remains committed to the cheery fiction that Rouhani’s victory in Iran’s faux presidential election last year was a signal of a major reset in the affairs of the Islamic Republic. But if Americans are falling for Rouhani’s transparent deceptions, it’s worth asking why. The answer doesn’t come from Davos but rather what preceded the international gathering last week in a segment on Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart’s political comedy is a reliable barometer of what liberals are thinking and has, at times, even won praise from some writing here in COMMENTARY for his willingness to call out Democrats for their hypocrisy. But on Iran, Stewart has gone all out for the administration’s embrace of Rouhani. In a segment called “Let’s Break a Deal” he told us all we need to know about why so many in the West refuse to give serious thought to the Iranian nuclear threat.

In the segment, Stewart hailed the interim nuclear deal with Iran as a “historic treaty” that would ensure that it would not be able to develop nuclear weapons. He castigated its critics and those who advocate a new sanctions bill that would take effect if the current talks fail, assailing them with his typical contempt and vitriol. According to Stewart the fact that 58 U.S. senators want more sanctions—something the administration deceitfully claims will blow up the diplomatic process—is just another example of the “immaturity and lack of self-control” of the Senate. He claimed the senators were ignorant of the terms of the deal, and then piled on further by saying the real reason for their doubts about Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal is their loyalty to Israel. He joked that the 58 were acting as “senators from the great state of Israel” rather than representing American interests. The idea of listening to Israel’s concerns on a matter that involves a threat to its existence was further satirized when he favorably compared Rouhani’s insults directed at the administration’s claims about the nuclear deal to criticisms aimed at Secretary of State John Kerry over peace talks with the Palestinians by Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon.

Stewart’s use of the same Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” myths that cross the line into anti-Semitism is thinly disguised bigotry aimed at delegitimizing the efforts of pro-Israel Americans to point out the folly of this administration’s dangerously gullible Iran policy before it is too late.

But even if you strip away his vile slanders, the basic message of Stewart’s rant, like that of other defenders of the rush to rapprochement with Iran, is something much more basic: they genuinely don’t care about Iran’s lies or about the deadly nature of the Iranian nuclear threat. They just want the issue to go away and if that requires smearing the Israelis or fellow Americans who have given serious consideration to the terms of the deal, then that is exactly what they will do.

Though Stewart pretended that it was the sanctions advocates who didn’t understand the situation, his unfunny tirade demonstrated his own ignorance and his lack of interest in the facts about what the Iranians have gained from the interim deal in terms of unraveling sanctions or how little they are giving up in terms of their nuclear development (a point confirmed at Davos by the Iranians). All Jon Stewart and those for whom he was shilling care about is acting as the administration’s cheerleaders on a treaty that would create détente with a tyrannical, terrorist-sponsoring anti-Semitic regime that is bent on wiping Israel off the map.

People like Stewart and others who are buying Rouhani’s act aren’t doing so because they love Iran or even because they despise Israel and enjoy its discomfort at the prospect of a deadly enemy being embraced and empowered by the West, though some obviously do like that aspect. What they really like about Iran’s decision to create a new façade of cordiality to the West—one that seems to them to be a repudiation of Rouhani’s repulsive predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—is that it allows them to pretend that there is nothing to worry about. Rouhani allows them to live in denial as Ahmadinejad did not. As long as an open villain like Ahmadinejad was the front man for the regime, it was hard to ignore the truth about Iran’s bid for regional hegemony or its desire to annihilate Israel. But with Rouhani they can, like the Obama administration itself, treat the Middle East as a former problem from which they may now withdraw in comfort.

We know Rouhani’s charm offensive is effective because it’s accomplished what every good public-relations campaign aims to do: tell people what they want to hear and persuade them it’s the truth even when it’s a lie. Under the circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that those who are willing and able to see reality—like the Israelis and those Americans who share their legitimate concerns about the direction of American foreign policy—are going to be subjected to continued mockery and abuse.

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Liberals and the Federal Favor Trap

Many conservatives have a conflicted attitude toward Jon Stewart. He can be clever, and he sometimes trains his sights on Democratic foibles, but for the most part the ridicule on his show is aimed at conservatives in public life. But Stewart’s transformation over the years into a hectoring, standard-issue liberal means his monologues and interviews often demonstrate clearly and pithily what conservatives don’t like about the big-government left.

And he did so last night, in his extended interview with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Stewart, ever in search of Republican hypocrisy, tried to tag Christie with the label because Christie accepted federal disaster relief funds after Hurricane Sandy but balked at setting up a state Obamacare exchange. This is how the conversation went:

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Many conservatives have a conflicted attitude toward Jon Stewart. He can be clever, and he sometimes trains his sights on Democratic foibles, but for the most part the ridicule on his show is aimed at conservatives in public life. But Stewart’s transformation over the years into a hectoring, standard-issue liberal means his monologues and interviews often demonstrate clearly and pithily what conservatives don’t like about the big-government left.

And he did so last night, in his extended interview with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Stewart, ever in search of Republican hypocrisy, tried to tag Christie with the label because Christie accepted federal disaster relief funds after Hurricane Sandy but balked at setting up a state Obamacare exchange. This is how the conversation went:

Stewart: So New Jersey is in trouble, and it needs the federal government to step in. And you go to them and you say I need this amount of money. And there’s some horse-trading. But for the most part, they’re going to deliver at least $30 billion to the state of New Jersey, wouldn’t you say? Or maybe even a little more?

Christie: I’m hopeful.

Stewart: At the same time, they want to set up exchanges for health insurance in New Jersey, and you don’t want to do that.

Christie: Well, I don’t want to do it right now.

Stewart: When they’re doing it.

Christie: Well, no. Here’s the issue, Jon, and why I vetoed it. I’m asking them a bunch of questions about how much this is going to cost and everything else, and they won’t answer my questions.

They argued for a bit about whether the Obama administration was being forthcoming enough, and how much money it would ultimately cost New Jersey to set up the exchange. Here is Stewart’s response:

Stewart: So my point to you is, but when you need it for hurricane relief, they don’t come to you and say: But wait a minute, how exactly is this going to go? What is the money going to go for? How are you going to spend it?

Christie: Sure they do.

Forget for a moment that Stewart was wrong, as Christie pointed out, and just peer into the mind of a contemporary liberal. Sure, the government will be happy to help the stranded, the people who just lost everything in a natural disaster, the people with nowhere to go. But first, says the liberal, don’t you think you should do something for the president?

Everything comes with strings attached, even in the case of a natural disaster. Christie pointed out that not setting up a state health-care exchange doesn’t prevent people from getting insurance through the federal exchange the government would set up instead. And he reminded Stewart that when other hurricanes and natural disasters hit around the country, the federal help to those states was paid for in part through New Jersey taxpayer dollars, so this is hardly a case of the victims being greedy.

Later on in the interview, the two came back to this subject. Stewart said he thinks Republicans don’t want the government to do anything unless they themselves need it, in which case their needs rise above those of others. Here’s the example Stewart puts forth to make his stand:

Stewart: For instance, two wars that were not paid for with tax cuts and all those things, yet God forbid a woman wants birth control paid for on her health-care plan, that’s government waste. Not everybody believes that their tax dollars are being paid correctly, but we live in a society.

Christie: But now what prevents us though, and what’s destructive about having a debate about that?

Christie’s answer was appropriate: Welcome, Jon Stewart, to a democracy. But notice Stewart’s logic: If fighting a war to defend the United States is the government’s responsibility, then so is taxpayer-funded birth control. If government’s job is to do anything, then its job is to do everything. And when the government helps its citizens, it expects that favor to be returned.

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War of the Late October Gaffes

Last night while appearing on the Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, President Obama should have considered how to phrase his feelings on the deaths of four Americans in Libya a bit more carefully. Here is the exchange in full context:

Stewart: I would say, even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page.

Obama: Here’s what I’ll say: If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal.

“Not optimal” is, obviously, an understatement, when discussing the deaths of four Americans, including the first American ambassador to die in the line of duty since 1979. It’s clear from the context of the interview, however, that the president is using Stewart’s phrase to make clear that he agrees that what happened in Benghazi on September 11 of this year was unacceptable.

What this exchange showcases, however, is the lack of scrutiny Obama’s gaffes seem to elicit from the media.
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Last night while appearing on the Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, President Obama should have considered how to phrase his feelings on the deaths of four Americans in Libya a bit more carefully. Here is the exchange in full context:

Stewart: I would say, even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page.

Obama: Here’s what I’ll say: If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal.

“Not optimal” is, obviously, an understatement, when discussing the deaths of four Americans, including the first American ambassador to die in the line of duty since 1979. It’s clear from the context of the interview, however, that the president is using Stewart’s phrase to make clear that he agrees that what happened in Benghazi on September 11 of this year was unacceptable.

What this exchange showcases, however, is the lack of scrutiny Obama’s gaffes seem to elicit from the media.

The media narrative for this campaign has, in large part, become set by the talking points of the Obama campaign and young, liberal Tumblr creators. The latest Romney “gaffe” has become, as Alana mentioned earlier, an absolutely exhausting display of liberal faux-outrage, a desperate attempt to drag down Romney’s soaring poll numbers. The media has had an incredible ability to beat to death any real or imagined Romney gaffes while ignoring far more egregious ones from President Obama.

This media focus solely on gaffes, however, may end up hurting the Obama campaign in the long run. The Romney campaign is forced to set its messaging and imaging as precisely as possible, focusing on incredibly minor details in order to avoid a media firestorm. The Romney team knows that any minor misstep is a potential catastrophe, while the Obama campaign has the security in knowing that they abide by a different set of rules. Romney joked about the double-standard last night at the Al Smith dinner, telling the crowd: “And I’ve already seen early reports from tonight’s dinner, headline; “Obama Embraced by Catholics. Romney Dines with Rich People.”

Does this mean that during Monday’s foreign policy debate Romney should mention this Obama statement for an American public that hasn’t heard about “not optimal” in the mainstream media? In a word: No. The Romney campaign has spent the time since the debates began focusing on real issues, not binders and Big Bird. Romney’s success since the first debate can largely be attributed to the fact that before this, Americans had only passing glimpses at the Republican nominee. The night of the first debate many voters realized, for the first time, that Romney is more than a rich, robotic white male. During the first debate he unquestionably performed better than President Obama, and during the second, on the issue that matters to most voters most, the economy, Romney again appeared more capable according to viewer polls. The media’s attempts to paint a caricature of Romney post-debates will certainly be met with far less success than earlier this summer, when Democratic attacks on a “War on Women” actually gained traction among voters, especially females. Now that the American people have seen the candidates speak unfiltered, they understand just what an exaggeration Romney’s supposed gaffes on Big Bird and binders truly are. Only one of the men on stage is running a presidential campaign. The other is, at best, running for student council.

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Jon Stewart Rips White House Over Benghazi Inconsistencies

You know something has officially become a problem for the White House when Jon Stewart picks up on it:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
American Terror Story
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

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You know something has officially become a problem for the White House when Jon Stewart picks up on it:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
American Terror Story
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

The Jon Stewart demographic isn’t going to vote for Romney anyway (if they vote at all), but this does get the story out to an audience that might otherwise be unaware of it. The same goes for USA Today, which published a scathing editorial criticizing the Obama administration’s inconsistent narrative:

Spontaneous? Hardly. The administration acknowledges that Ambassador Chris Stevens died in an organized terrorist attack, likely mounted by an Islamic extremist group and an al-Qaeda affiliate.

Without warning? Not exactly. Violence against Westerners had been escalating for months in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. In June, an improvised explosive device damaged a perimeter wall at the Benghazi compound. On Aug. 27, the State Department issued a travel warning, citing the threat of assassinations and bombings in both Benghazi and Tripoli. According to a journal found and described by CNN, Stevens himself was worried about safety. …

This, then, was not one of those failures that is only visible in retrospect. It was a predictable vulnerability that the State Department failed to protect against. And for the sake of Americans in other foreign outposts, that calls for much closer scrutiny than the administration has been willing to allow.

The administration will not be able to avoid closer scrutiny for long. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa sent a letter to Hillary Clinton this morning detailing more troubling reports of security concerns in Benghazi that had been brought to him by whistle blowers:

Based on information provided to the Committee by individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya, the attack that claimed the Ambassador’s life was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months leading up to September 11, 2012. It was clearly never, as administration officials once insisted, the result of a popular protest. In addition, multiple U.S. federal government officials have confirmed to the Committee that, prior to the September 11 attack, the U.S. mission in Libya made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi. The mission in Libya, however, was denied these resources by officials in Washington.

In the six months prior to the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack, there were two other attacks on the consulate involving explosives, according to Issa’s letter. One occurred in early April, when two Libyans who had previously provided security for the consulate allegedly threw an IED over the consulate’s fence. In June, there was a bombing that blew a large hole in the consulate security perimeter. Based on just those two incidents, it’s unfathomable that security wasn’t increased at the consulate before the sensitive date of Sept. 11.

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The Sad Reality of Harry Reid’s Senate

Yesterday afternoon, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor and offered the words that will—or at least should—define his tenure in the Senate. “The amendment days are over,” Reid somberly declared. He was referring to a specific bill—Rand Paul’s legislation that would remove foreign aid from Egypt, Libya, and Pakistan—but Reid could say those words at any time, because that sentiment hangs over the Senate day after day.

The basic backstory is this: Paul has wanted a vote on this bill for quite some time, but since Republicans aren’t permitted to offer legislation or amendments in Reid’s Senate, he has been ignored. Paul decided he was going to hold up Senate business so he could get his floor vote. Liberals call this obstruction, but they are either uninformed or disingenuous; it’s actually a response to obstruction, which begins with Reid’s methodical deconstruction of basic Senate procedures. John McCain wanted to have a debate on the subject–something that is now foreign to Reid’s Senate as well–and to offer amendments to the bill. No, said Reid. Here is how the Hill framed it:

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Yesterday afternoon, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor and offered the words that will—or at least should—define his tenure in the Senate. “The amendment days are over,” Reid somberly declared. He was referring to a specific bill—Rand Paul’s legislation that would remove foreign aid from Egypt, Libya, and Pakistan—but Reid could say those words at any time, because that sentiment hangs over the Senate day after day.

The basic backstory is this: Paul has wanted a vote on this bill for quite some time, but since Republicans aren’t permitted to offer legislation or amendments in Reid’s Senate, he has been ignored. Paul decided he was going to hold up Senate business so he could get his floor vote. Liberals call this obstruction, but they are either uninformed or disingenuous; it’s actually a response to obstruction, which begins with Reid’s methodical deconstruction of basic Senate procedures. John McCain wanted to have a debate on the subject–something that is now foreign to Reid’s Senate as well–and to offer amendments to the bill. No, said Reid. Here is how the Hill framed it:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) caved on Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) demand for a vote on his bill to end aid to some Middle Eastern countries.

It now constitutes “caving” for Reid to allow a vote in the Senate–and without amendments or debate. The amendment process is key to understanding why liberal commentators get it so wrong when they complain about the GOP’s insistence on being permitted to take part in the democratic process. Reid has perfected the art of “filling the amendment tree,” which is a device he employs to use up all allowable amendment space on a bill with his own so the GOP is unable to offer theirs.

The best demonstration of how far from reality the GOP’s critics are, and the best refutation of it as well, actually came in Senator Marco Rubio’s full interview with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show in June. Stewart asked Rubio about GOP obstruction, and what he sees as a one-sided refusal to engage in bipartisanship. He asked Rubio: “can you explain to me why my reality is wrong?” Rubio was happy to. He explained to Stewart that in order to protect Democrats from having to take any votes—even votes they’ll win—Reid won’t let the GOP offer amendments or get votes on their legislation.

Later on, Rubio gave a few examples of Reid’s obstruction. Rubio said he put forth a bill called the AGREE Act, because it was essentially a piece of legislation that incorporated the positions that Democrats and Republicans both agreed on. He said he offered a Jobs 2.0 bill that was bipartisan as well. He couldn’t get a vote on either one, he said.

Though Rubio didn’t mention it, it’s worth here pointing out what exactly Reid was doing instead of passing bipartisan legislation. While the Senate still hasn’t passed a budget in three years, Reid was wasting Senate floor time on stunts like leveling unfounded accusations against Mitt Romney and possibly flouting ethics rules to campaign for Obama on the Senate floor–all instead of a jobs bill or a budget. Then Reid has the audacity to say that the time for amendments is over, because they have to get moving on temporary bills to fund the government, which shouldn’t be necessary in the first place if Reid were doing his job.

The Stewart-Rubio debate on Senate procedure wrapped up with this exchange:

Stewart: “There is an accountability issue within the Republican conference that I think is not a fantasy of mine, or has been made up. And in any conversation of it, it’s been ‘well those guys are mean too, and we’re not’.”

Rubio: “But you’re talking about the filibuster. The filibuster basically is requiring 60 votes on a bill. That’s what the filibuster is. I’m saying we can’t even get the vote on the ideas that we’ve offered. And so when you don’t allow the minority party to get votes on legitimate ideas, the only tool the minority party has, the only leverage you have as the minority party in the Senate is the 60-vote threshold. That’s the counterreaction to it. And that’s what I’m trying to tell you.”

Stewart: “So you don’t feel that you’ve overused your filibuster, it’s you’ve overprotected yourselves from the viciousness of the lack of voting you’re allowed?”

Rubio: “No. I’m saying the Senate isn’t working the way it’s supposed to work. The Senate is supposed to be a place where any senator can offer amendments on any bill, you have a vote on it, [and] if they don’t like it you vote against it and we move on.”

And with that, the conversation moved on as well, with Stewart duly educated and pronouncing the debate—which he was losing, badly—too technical for the show. I’ve written before about the various Senate traditions and procedures that Reid has destroyed in his ongoing quest for a debate-free, vote-free, budget-free Senate. The amendment process is a major one, however, and those mourning the end of the Senate we once knew can either continue their partisan venting by attacking Republicans or they can be honest and go right to the source. They can talk to Harry Reid.

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Jon Stewart Destroys ABC’s Brian Ross

Anyone who watches Jon Stewart knows that he’s a person of liberal political views – but he also shows impressive flashes of independence. Last night was such an instance. In the course of his show, Stewart skillfully rips apart ABC News and its chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, for falsely suggesting that the Aurora, Colorado, killer was a member of the Tea Party.

Ross, based on the flimsiest evidence, took an innocent man and, in the words of Stewart, “casually, baselessly, and publicly accused [him] of – I don’t know – maybe being a mass murderer.”

Stewart then explains why this occurred. The mindset of Ross, according to Stewart, is that linking the Tea Party to the atrocity fits into “a pre-existing narrative. I should get that on the TV.” As Stewart puts it, “Tea Party, low taxes, madman. You do the math.”

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Anyone who watches Jon Stewart knows that he’s a person of liberal political views – but he also shows impressive flashes of independence. Last night was such an instance. In the course of his show, Stewart skillfully rips apart ABC News and its chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, for falsely suggesting that the Aurora, Colorado, killer was a member of the Tea Party.

Ross, based on the flimsiest evidence, took an innocent man and, in the words of Stewart, “casually, baselessly, and publicly accused [him] of – I don’t know – maybe being a mass murderer.”

Stewart then explains why this occurred. The mindset of Ross, according to Stewart, is that linking the Tea Party to the atrocity fits into “a pre-existing narrative. I should get that on the TV.” As Stewart puts it, “Tea Party, low taxes, madman. You do the math.”

Stewart then asks, in the form of a joke, quite a serious question: What story does a guy have to blow to get in trouble at ABC? What exactly does a chief investigative correspondent have to get wrong in order to be grounded by the news division?

When it comes to ABC News, apparently, tendentious, reckless and false allegations aren’t terribly problematic – at least when the object of the smear is the Tea Party.

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Holder: Of Course Bush and Cheney Were Right All Along

At first, you might think Eric Holder’s testimony this morning was hypocritical. After all, he defiantly echoed the Bush administration’s defense of the separation of powers that drove liberals absolutely crazy. (Watch this Jon Stewart interview with John Bolton from 2007 in which Stewart gets so frustrated by the executive privilege argument he tells Bolton to “man up.” I’m sure he’ll be telling Holder to “man up” any day now.)

But in truth, Holder’s defense of executive privilege was perfectly consistent with the Obama administration’s position on this all along. For example, here’s a McClatchy dispatch about a move Obama made immediately upon assuming office:

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At first, you might think Eric Holder’s testimony this morning was hypocritical. After all, he defiantly echoed the Bush administration’s defense of the separation of powers that drove liberals absolutely crazy. (Watch this Jon Stewart interview with John Bolton from 2007 in which Stewart gets so frustrated by the executive privilege argument he tells Bolton to “man up.” I’m sure he’ll be telling Holder to “man up” any day now.)

But in truth, Holder’s defense of executive privilege was perfectly consistent with the Obama administration’s position on this all along. For example, here’s a McClatchy dispatch about a move Obama made immediately upon assuming office:

President Barack Obama, in his first full day in office, revoked a controversial executive order signed by President Bush in 2001 that limited release of former presidents’ records.

The new order could expand public access to records of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the years to come as well as other past leaders, said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.

Get it now? Obama fully intended to provide more transparency–about the Bush administration. Open government groups, like the ACLU and the Sunlight Foundation, learned this lesson just a few months ago, when the Obama administration (Holder’s Justice Department specifically) proposed changes to Freedom of Information Act rules the ACLU described as “authorizing agencies to lie.” They were not exaggerating. The only thing this administration has more disdain for than the opinion of the American public is the concept of transparency.

Just for fun, here’s a comparison of what Bolton said to Stewart and what Holder said this morning. Bolton:

I think it’s important that the president have the advantage of confidentiality in his advice–that people are not worried that they spill their guts to the president and the next day they’ve got to up to Congress and say exactly what they said. You’re going to be more candid with your boss if you can give him advice in private and not have it in the public record shortly thereafter. That’s a fact.

And Holder:

Prior administrations have recognized that robust internal communications would be chilled, and the Executive Branch’s ability to respond to oversight requests thereby impeded, if our internal communications concerning our responses to congressional oversight were disclosed to Congress. For both Branches, this would be an undesirable outcome. The appropriate functioning of the separation of powers requires that Executive Branch officials have the ability to communicate confidentially as they discuss how to respond to inquiries from Congress.

Notice the difference? Holder went one step further by telling Congress he’s doing this for their own good as well as that of his boss. That is, Bolton was less condescending and less confrontational in his attitude toward congressional inquiry. That the Obama administration has gone further than the Bush administration in executive power is now, and has been for a while, common knowledge. But they also have added a note of contempt to it, just so Congress and the public know how much this White House resents them.

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‘Spontaneous Eruption of Pro-Mubarak Sentiment’

Here’s America’s best satirist, Jon Stewart, on the “spontaneous eruption of pro-Mubarak sentiment from everyday Egyptians trained in the art of whip-based crowd control.”

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Mess O’Slightly-to-the-Left O’Potamia – Pro-Mubarak Demonstrators
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

Here’s America’s best satirist, Jon Stewart, on the “spontaneous eruption of pro-Mubarak sentiment from everyday Egyptians trained in the art of whip-based crowd control.”

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Mess O’Slightly-to-the-Left O’Potamia – Pro-Mubarak Demonstrators
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

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Note to Bill O’Reilly, RE: Jon Stewart — Quit While You’re Behind

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart is engaged in a television duel with Bill O’Reilly. It started with Stewart taking Fox News, including Bill O’Reilly, to task for periodically invoking the Nazi analogy. O’Reilly fired back, saying Stewart had taken O’Reilly’s comments out of context. Last night Stewart answered O’Reilly.

Out of this back and forth emerge a few things. First, let’s agree to do away with Nazi analogies unless extraordinary circumstances (like, say, genocide) demand it. Using it as often as people do is offensive and weakens rather than strengthens an argument. Second, don’t use anonymous (and disgusting) Web comments to make broad, sweeping characterizations. And third, don’t debate Jon Stewart unless you have a really strong argument on your side.

Though he’s a political liberal, I enjoy Jon Stewart. On a nightly basis, he demonstrates that he’s America’s best satirist, smart, well-informed, and formidable. If Bill O’Reilly is wise, he’ll quit while he’s behind. (h/t: Mediaite.com)

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart is engaged in a television duel with Bill O’Reilly. It started with Stewart taking Fox News, including Bill O’Reilly, to task for periodically invoking the Nazi analogy. O’Reilly fired back, saying Stewart had taken O’Reilly’s comments out of context. Last night Stewart answered O’Reilly.

Out of this back and forth emerge a few things. First, let’s agree to do away with Nazi analogies unless extraordinary circumstances (like, say, genocide) demand it. Using it as often as people do is offensive and weakens rather than strengthens an argument. Second, don’t use anonymous (and disgusting) Web comments to make broad, sweeping characterizations. And third, don’t debate Jon Stewart unless you have a really strong argument on your side.

Though he’s a political liberal, I enjoy Jon Stewart. On a nightly basis, he demonstrates that he’s America’s best satirist, smart, well-informed, and formidable. If Bill O’Reilly is wise, he’ll quit while he’s behind. (h/t: Mediaite.com)

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Morning Commentary

The Iraqi parliament finally approves a diverse new unity government, ending nine months of political stalemate and concern for the fledgling democracy: “Although Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds were represented in the previous government, this is the first time that all the major factions have been included, lending hope that Iraq can put behind it the bitter sectarian struggles and divisive politics of the past five years.”

More than nine Senate Republicans are expected to support New START when it’s brought up for ratification today, which is enough to approve the treaty. So what’s the GOP getting in return for its support? According to the Washington Times, Sen. Jon Kyl’s negotiations with President Obama have secured $85 billion to modernize and maintain our nuclear arsenal, as well as a commitment to build robust missile defenses.

In the New York Post, Jonah Goldberg analyzes the field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

In USA Today, Sarah Palin discusses the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran: “Some have said the Israelis should undertake military action on their own if they are convinced the Iranian program is approaching the point of no return. But Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not just Israel’s problem; it is the world’s problem. I agree with the former British prime minister Tony Blair, who said recently that the West must be willing to use force ‘if necessary’ if that is the only alternative.”

Is Michele Bachmann considering a presidential run? Her $31,000 in contributions to Iowa candidates over the past year has some bloggers asking that question. Iowa’s campaign-finance report shows that Sarah Palin gave only $15,000 during the same time period.

Has it really come to this? Robert Gibbs is now seeking political help from Jon Stewart.

Ron Radosh sees similarities between Hugo Chavez’s recent power grab and the rise of Nazi power: “By passing the Enabling Act — the same term used by Chavez today — Hitler sought to abolish democracy by formally democratic means. … By banning opposition Communist delegates who had all been arrested, and preventing Social-Democrats from taking seats to which they were elected after the Reichstag fire, the Nazis now had the necessary votes to pass the Act. Clearly, Hugo Chavez must have studied Hitler’s tactics before commencing upon a similar road.”

The Iraqi parliament finally approves a diverse new unity government, ending nine months of political stalemate and concern for the fledgling democracy: “Although Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds were represented in the previous government, this is the first time that all the major factions have been included, lending hope that Iraq can put behind it the bitter sectarian struggles and divisive politics of the past five years.”

More than nine Senate Republicans are expected to support New START when it’s brought up for ratification today, which is enough to approve the treaty. So what’s the GOP getting in return for its support? According to the Washington Times, Sen. Jon Kyl’s negotiations with President Obama have secured $85 billion to modernize and maintain our nuclear arsenal, as well as a commitment to build robust missile defenses.

In the New York Post, Jonah Goldberg analyzes the field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

In USA Today, Sarah Palin discusses the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran: “Some have said the Israelis should undertake military action on their own if they are convinced the Iranian program is approaching the point of no return. But Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not just Israel’s problem; it is the world’s problem. I agree with the former British prime minister Tony Blair, who said recently that the West must be willing to use force ‘if necessary’ if that is the only alternative.”

Is Michele Bachmann considering a presidential run? Her $31,000 in contributions to Iowa candidates over the past year has some bloggers asking that question. Iowa’s campaign-finance report shows that Sarah Palin gave only $15,000 during the same time period.

Has it really come to this? Robert Gibbs is now seeking political help from Jon Stewart.

Ron Radosh sees similarities between Hugo Chavez’s recent power grab and the rise of Nazi power: “By passing the Enabling Act — the same term used by Chavez today — Hitler sought to abolish democracy by formally democratic means. … By banning opposition Communist delegates who had all been arrested, and preventing Social-Democrats from taking seats to which they were elected after the Reichstag fire, the Nazis now had the necessary votes to pass the Act. Clearly, Hugo Chavez must have studied Hitler’s tactics before commencing upon a similar road.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

An unnamed NBC exec explains what’s wrong with a talk show host making campaign donations. It’s sort of like Pete Rose betting on baseball. “The minute that a paid commentator starts betting on an outcome, you call into question your credibility in Republican primaries or Democratic primaries, you call into question whether an elected hopeful/official is coming on your air to win a favor, to win your endorsement and then it defeats the purpose of why you have a show in the first place.”

Jon Stewart explains to the media what’s wrong with picking on politicians’ kids. (Yes, it’s pathetic that Stewart is now among the best MSM ombudsmen out there.)

Sounds like he’s figured out what’s wrong with the RNC. “In his announcement [for RNC chairman], Saul Anuzis promised to be ‘a nuts & bolts type of Chairman.’ ‘Of course I will be happy to discuss politics and elections with the media,’ he wrote, ‘but I won’t be competing with valuable airtime from the men and women on our ticket.’ He also pledged to serve only one term.”

John Yoo’s take (which I am delighted matches my own) on what’s wrong with Obama’s anti-terror policies: “The near-total acquittal of an al Qaeda agent by a New York jury this week should, at a minimum, be the last gasp for President Obama’s misguided effort to wage the war on terrorism in the courtroom. But it should also spell the end for a broader law-enforcement approach that interferes with our effective prosecution of the conflict. The best course now is simply to detain al Qaeda members, exploit them for intelligence, and delay trials until the end of hostilities.”

Nothing better sums up what’s right and what’s wrong with Sarah Palin than Matt Labash’s brilliant piece on her new reality show. A sample: “Gravitas, it’s safe to say, is the enemy of freedom. And freedom is about motion—being in it, staying in it. On the show, this involves seein’, and doin’, and experiencin’ things that don’t require a ‘g’ on the end of them, such as shootin’, and rock climbin’, and snow machinin’, and clubbin’ halibut over the head (‘let me see the club, you look crazy,’ says Bristol to her mom when they do the deed on a commercial fishing boat) and media-critiquin’ and BlackBerryin’, which Palin gets caught doing even in the midst of wilderness adventures.” Read the whole thing — and prepare to roar.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth explains what’s wrong with ObamaCare: “If Obamacare offered as much choice as federal health plans, there would be no need to repeal it. Obamacare is a mandatory, one-size-fits-all, expensive, Cadillac plan. The federal health plan allows workers to sign up for low-cost catastrophic plans with health savings accounts (illegal under Obamacare) or high-cost plans with more coverage, all at different prices. Or workers can opt out altogether and pick another system without penalty (again, illegal under Obamacare). Sign-ups and plan changes are once a year, not if you get sick. If Congress replaced Obamacare with the federal plan, everyone would be better off.”

Daniel Kurtzer’s diagnosis of what’s wrong with the Obama peace-plan bribe is screwy. He thinks it “rewards” Israel for settlement-building. But it is instructive in one sense: no one seems to agree it’s a smart move.

What’s wrong with the Obama peace-plan gambit? Elliott Abrams and Michael Singh explain: “The most worrying aspect of Obama’s package is the linkages it establishes between Israeli concessions on settlements (and apparently on the pace of construction in Jerusalem as well) and other unrelated policy matters. Washington has long opposed, and frequently vetoed, U.N. Security Council initiatives targeting Israel. … The suggestion that unless there is a construction freeze America will no longer do so will make it far harder for U.S. negotiators to defeat or soften drafts put forward in the council in future years, and encourage further assaults on Israel there. Leaving Israel undefended in the United Nations will make successful negotiations less, not more, likely, for an Israel that is under constant attack will batten down the hatches not ‘take risks for peace.’” Read the whole thing.

An unnamed NBC exec explains what’s wrong with a talk show host making campaign donations. It’s sort of like Pete Rose betting on baseball. “The minute that a paid commentator starts betting on an outcome, you call into question your credibility in Republican primaries or Democratic primaries, you call into question whether an elected hopeful/official is coming on your air to win a favor, to win your endorsement and then it defeats the purpose of why you have a show in the first place.”

Jon Stewart explains to the media what’s wrong with picking on politicians’ kids. (Yes, it’s pathetic that Stewart is now among the best MSM ombudsmen out there.)

Sounds like he’s figured out what’s wrong with the RNC. “In his announcement [for RNC chairman], Saul Anuzis promised to be ‘a nuts & bolts type of Chairman.’ ‘Of course I will be happy to discuss politics and elections with the media,’ he wrote, ‘but I won’t be competing with valuable airtime from the men and women on our ticket.’ He also pledged to serve only one term.”

John Yoo’s take (which I am delighted matches my own) on what’s wrong with Obama’s anti-terror policies: “The near-total acquittal of an al Qaeda agent by a New York jury this week should, at a minimum, be the last gasp for President Obama’s misguided effort to wage the war on terrorism in the courtroom. But it should also spell the end for a broader law-enforcement approach that interferes with our effective prosecution of the conflict. The best course now is simply to detain al Qaeda members, exploit them for intelligence, and delay trials until the end of hostilities.”

Nothing better sums up what’s right and what’s wrong with Sarah Palin than Matt Labash’s brilliant piece on her new reality show. A sample: “Gravitas, it’s safe to say, is the enemy of freedom. And freedom is about motion—being in it, staying in it. On the show, this involves seein’, and doin’, and experiencin’ things that don’t require a ‘g’ on the end of them, such as shootin’, and rock climbin’, and snow machinin’, and clubbin’ halibut over the head (‘let me see the club, you look crazy,’ says Bristol to her mom when they do the deed on a commercial fishing boat) and media-critiquin’ and BlackBerryin’, which Palin gets caught doing even in the midst of wilderness adventures.” Read the whole thing — and prepare to roar.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth explains what’s wrong with ObamaCare: “If Obamacare offered as much choice as federal health plans, there would be no need to repeal it. Obamacare is a mandatory, one-size-fits-all, expensive, Cadillac plan. The federal health plan allows workers to sign up for low-cost catastrophic plans with health savings accounts (illegal under Obamacare) or high-cost plans with more coverage, all at different prices. Or workers can opt out altogether and pick another system without penalty (again, illegal under Obamacare). Sign-ups and plan changes are once a year, not if you get sick. If Congress replaced Obamacare with the federal plan, everyone would be better off.”

Daniel Kurtzer’s diagnosis of what’s wrong with the Obama peace-plan bribe is screwy. He thinks it “rewards” Israel for settlement-building. But it is instructive in one sense: no one seems to agree it’s a smart move.

What’s wrong with the Obama peace-plan gambit? Elliott Abrams and Michael Singh explain: “The most worrying aspect of Obama’s package is the linkages it establishes between Israeli concessions on settlements (and apparently on the pace of construction in Jerusalem as well) and other unrelated policy matters. Washington has long opposed, and frequently vetoed, U.N. Security Council initiatives targeting Israel. … The suggestion that unless there is a construction freeze America will no longer do so will make it far harder for U.S. negotiators to defeat or soften drafts put forward in the council in future years, and encourage further assaults on Israel there. Leaving Israel undefended in the United Nations will make successful negotiations less, not more, likely, for an Israel that is under constant attack will batten down the hatches not ‘take risks for peace.’” Read the whole thing.

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Media Star Blames … the Media?

Jon Stewart is a media star. He’s rich and famous because he has perfected the art of news-tainment that a key demographic (young TV viewers with lots of dispensable income) can’t get enough of. So he holds a rally, is savvy enough to steer clear of real political issues, and slams the media, which has made him who he is. No, really:

Did Stewart and Colbert strike a blow for sanity, or just furnish an afternoon’s ephemeral entertainment? Jon turned serious at the end, even while acknowledging that “there are boundaries for a comedian/pundit/talker guy.”

And did he take aim at Washington? No, it was once again the low-hanging fruit of the 24-hour cable news “conflictinator.” This machine “did not cause our problems”—whew, I thought he might call for banning the channels—”but its existence makes solving them that much harder. … If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

So is Stewart part of the problem — the leading purveyor of snark in lieu of substance? Or is it lame to hold him — and those on the other 500 channels — responsible for what ails us? It reminds me of the Comedy Channel’s favorite pol, who proclaimed:

Meanwhile, 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 rank all that high on the truth meter. With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations; information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment. All of this is not only putting new pressures on you; it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy.

Yes, that was Obama. He, too, was once a media darling who now blames too much on the 24/7 news cycle.

It seems the media is a scapegoat, even for those who have benefited the most from it. You’d think that those who’ve attained fame and fortune would show a little more gratitude for the plethora of outlets that allow their message to reach hundreds of millions of Americans. And it would be swell if Obama and his liberal cheerleaders would show a little more enthusiasm for the vibrant, unruly, and delightfully robust political debate that is the hallmark of a free country and a functioning democracy.

Jon Stewart is a media star. He’s rich and famous because he has perfected the art of news-tainment that a key demographic (young TV viewers with lots of dispensable income) can’t get enough of. So he holds a rally, is savvy enough to steer clear of real political issues, and slams the media, which has made him who he is. No, really:

Did Stewart and Colbert strike a blow for sanity, or just furnish an afternoon’s ephemeral entertainment? Jon turned serious at the end, even while acknowledging that “there are boundaries for a comedian/pundit/talker guy.”

And did he take aim at Washington? No, it was once again the low-hanging fruit of the 24-hour cable news “conflictinator.” This machine “did not cause our problems”—whew, I thought he might call for banning the channels—”but its existence makes solving them that much harder. … If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

So is Stewart part of the problem — the leading purveyor of snark in lieu of substance? Or is it lame to hold him — and those on the other 500 channels — responsible for what ails us? It reminds me of the Comedy Channel’s favorite pol, who proclaimed:

Meanwhile, 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 rank all that high on the truth meter. With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations; information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment. All of this is not only putting new pressures on you; it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy.

Yes, that was Obama. He, too, was once a media darling who now blames too much on the 24/7 news cycle.

It seems the media is a scapegoat, even for those who have benefited the most from it. You’d think that those who’ve attained fame and fortune would show a little more gratitude for the plethora of outlets that allow their message to reach hundreds of millions of Americans. And it would be swell if Obama and his liberal cheerleaders would show a little more enthusiasm for the vibrant, unruly, and delightfully robust political debate that is the hallmark of a free country and a functioning democracy.

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RE: “Yes We Can, But…”

As Pete pointed out, the president’s appearance on Jon Stewart’s show was a telling one. It’s not only we conservatives who think it was a bad outing for Obama. Dana Milbank observes:

The president had come, on the eve of what will almost certainly be the loss of his governing majority, to plead his case before Jon Stewart, gatekeeper of the disillusioned left. But instead of displaying the sizzle that won him an army of youthful supporters two years ago, Obama had a Brownie moment.

Obama may have thought that he’d get the “cool kid” treatment — the condescending left is full of his kind of people, after all — but, instead, he was the butt of the joke. Milbank continues:

“In fairness,” the president replied defensively, “Larry Summers did a heckuva job.”

“You don’t want to use that phrase, dude,” Stewart recommended with a laugh.

Dude. The indignity of a comedy show host calling the commander in chief “dude” pretty well captured the moment for Obama. He was making this first-ever appearance by a president on the Daily Show as part of a long-shot effort to rekindle the spirit of ’08. In the Daily Show, Obama had a friendly host and an even friendlier crowd.

And yet he wound up looking neither cool nor presidential. Milbank suggests that this was an attempt to compensate for a lousy MTV outing. (Then, “he was serious and defensive, pointing a finger at his host several times as he quarreled with the premise of a question.”) But it was really an attempt to compensate for a lousy two years.

In a real sense, Obama has tried to maintain two contradictory roles. On the one hand, he wants to be the darling of the left and of the cultural elites. He sneers at middle America, turns up his nose at “triumphalism” (as he described pride in the Iraq war effort), finds shoddy our record on human rights, attacks Wall Street, and finds American exceptionalism gauche. But he is also president, commander in chief, attempting to encourage an economic revival, leader of a major national party, and — most important from his perspective — up for re-election in 2012. The darling of the left runs headlong into thechief executive/presidential 2012 candidate. We saw the dramatic clash of these two roles in the debate over the Ground Zero mosque. Obama and the leftist elites vs. everyone else.

But here’s the thing about the leftist elites — nicely personified for this purpose by Jon Stewart. They don’t like a loser. Cool kids are not losers. Their spin doesn’t get by the cynics and the wisecrackers. So, pretty soon, the cool kids have something in common with the rest of America: they conclude that this president is a bumbler and not, after all, the change they were hoping for.

As Pete pointed out, the president’s appearance on Jon Stewart’s show was a telling one. It’s not only we conservatives who think it was a bad outing for Obama. Dana Milbank observes:

The president had come, on the eve of what will almost certainly be the loss of his governing majority, to plead his case before Jon Stewart, gatekeeper of the disillusioned left. But instead of displaying the sizzle that won him an army of youthful supporters two years ago, Obama had a Brownie moment.

Obama may have thought that he’d get the “cool kid” treatment — the condescending left is full of his kind of people, after all — but, instead, he was the butt of the joke. Milbank continues:

“In fairness,” the president replied defensively, “Larry Summers did a heckuva job.”

“You don’t want to use that phrase, dude,” Stewart recommended with a laugh.

Dude. The indignity of a comedy show host calling the commander in chief “dude” pretty well captured the moment for Obama. He was making this first-ever appearance by a president on the Daily Show as part of a long-shot effort to rekindle the spirit of ’08. In the Daily Show, Obama had a friendly host and an even friendlier crowd.

And yet he wound up looking neither cool nor presidential. Milbank suggests that this was an attempt to compensate for a lousy MTV outing. (Then, “he was serious and defensive, pointing a finger at his host several times as he quarreled with the premise of a question.”) But it was really an attempt to compensate for a lousy two years.

In a real sense, Obama has tried to maintain two contradictory roles. On the one hand, he wants to be the darling of the left and of the cultural elites. He sneers at middle America, turns up his nose at “triumphalism” (as he described pride in the Iraq war effort), finds shoddy our record on human rights, attacks Wall Street, and finds American exceptionalism gauche. But he is also president, commander in chief, attempting to encourage an economic revival, leader of a major national party, and — most important from his perspective — up for re-election in 2012. The darling of the left runs headlong into thechief executive/presidential 2012 candidate. We saw the dramatic clash of these two roles in the debate over the Ground Zero mosque. Obama and the leftist elites vs. everyone else.

But here’s the thing about the leftist elites — nicely personified for this purpose by Jon Stewart. They don’t like a loser. Cool kids are not losers. Their spin doesn’t get by the cynics and the wisecrackers. So, pretty soon, the cool kids have something in common with the rest of America: they conclude that this president is a bumbler and not, after all, the change they were hoping for.

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Is the Joke on Them?

David Brooks, in his online conversation with Gail Collins, observes of the upcoming rally by Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart:

By the way, I’m totally confused about what the political impact of Stewart-stock and Colbert-palooza will be. On the one hand, watching their shows I get the impression they are generally mainstream liberals. On the other hand I do think their shows are unintentionally conservative. Just as the show “60 Minutes” sends the collective message that political institutions are corrupt, so the Comedy Central shows send the message that politicians are buffoons. Both messages undermine faith in political action and public sector endeavor and so cut right against the intentions of their founders.

But normally their audiences are self-selected, largely liberal viewers who enjoy the collective experience of mocking conservatives. So they don’t really do damage to their “cause.” Their goal is more cultural than political: to reaffirm that they are cooler, smarter, and more clever than those dim-witted right-wingers.

How that comes off to the “public” – that is, a larger audience that is not in on the joke but rather the butt of the joke — is what has so many liberals nervous. The title of the event — the Rally to Restore Sanity — tells it all. Like Obama (but funnier), Colbert and Stewart are quite certain that Americans, after demonstrating sheer brilliance in 2008, are suffering from some mental affliction. If the comedians really wanted to restore sanity, they’d start with those on the left who are convinced that foreign money, Karl Rove, and Fox News are to blame for their party’s woes. But I don’t see that happening.

David Brooks, in his online conversation with Gail Collins, observes of the upcoming rally by Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart:

By the way, I’m totally confused about what the political impact of Stewart-stock and Colbert-palooza will be. On the one hand, watching their shows I get the impression they are generally mainstream liberals. On the other hand I do think their shows are unintentionally conservative. Just as the show “60 Minutes” sends the collective message that political institutions are corrupt, so the Comedy Central shows send the message that politicians are buffoons. Both messages undermine faith in political action and public sector endeavor and so cut right against the intentions of their founders.

But normally their audiences are self-selected, largely liberal viewers who enjoy the collective experience of mocking conservatives. So they don’t really do damage to their “cause.” Their goal is more cultural than political: to reaffirm that they are cooler, smarter, and more clever than those dim-witted right-wingers.

How that comes off to the “public” – that is, a larger audience that is not in on the joke but rather the butt of the joke — is what has so many liberals nervous. The title of the event — the Rally to Restore Sanity — tells it all. Like Obama (but funnier), Colbert and Stewart are quite certain that Americans, after demonstrating sheer brilliance in 2008, are suffering from some mental affliction. If the comedians really wanted to restore sanity, they’d start with those on the left who are convinced that foreign money, Karl Rove, and Fox News are to blame for their party’s woes. But I don’t see that happening.

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“Yes We Can, But…”

President Obama’s interview with Jon Stewart is getting a lot of attention — and deservedly so. There were, I think, several things to note from the interview.

The first is that I wish that most news anchors and reporters were half as good at interviewing the president as Jon Stewart is. Stewart is, of course, a liberal and he came at Obama from a liberal perspective. But he asked penetrating questions in an engaging manner and, from time to time, succeeded in getting Obama to abandon his usual spin and talking points.

As for Obama himself: he was at times prickly and defensive, sounding almost insulted at having to answer questions that are critical rather than worshipful. Now, all politicians struggle with this; they are, after all, only human. But Obama seems to have a particularly thin skin — and is particularly dismissive of those who don’t buy into his Narrative of Greatness.

Throughout the interview, Obama also found himself hoisted with his own petard. It is Obama who created, by his words and promises, almost Messianic expectations for himself and his presidency. He was going to do so much, so fast, so well. Those expectations have come crashing down around Obama. Stewart’s line of questing was consistent. “Is the difficulty you have here the distance between what you ran on and what you’ve delivered,” Stewart asked the president. Mr. Obama did not seem happy with Stewart’s impertinence. But, at least, out of the interview emerged a new motto from the Obama White House. It’s based on what the president himself said: “Yes We Can — but…” as in “I think what I would say is ‘yes we can, but it’s not going to happen overnight.’”

Most of us missed the qualifiers during the campaign.

There was also the kind of vanity and self-justification we’ve come to expect from the president. ObamaCare is one of the most unpopular major pieces of legislation in American history. Virtually all of the promises Obama has made about it are unraveling. It is one of the reasons Democrats will be handed a devastating defeat on Tuesday. Yet Obama not only defended his health-care bill; he called it “as significant a piece of legislation as we’ve seen in this country’s history.”

Actually, no, at least not in the (positive) way Obama interprets it. But it is one of the worst and most politically damaging pieces of legislation we’ve seen in quite a long while.

Mr. Obama’s presidency is failing. Jon Stewart sees it. Seemingly, only the president does not.

President Obama’s interview with Jon Stewart is getting a lot of attention — and deservedly so. There were, I think, several things to note from the interview.

The first is that I wish that most news anchors and reporters were half as good at interviewing the president as Jon Stewart is. Stewart is, of course, a liberal and he came at Obama from a liberal perspective. But he asked penetrating questions in an engaging manner and, from time to time, succeeded in getting Obama to abandon his usual spin and talking points.

As for Obama himself: he was at times prickly and defensive, sounding almost insulted at having to answer questions that are critical rather than worshipful. Now, all politicians struggle with this; they are, after all, only human. But Obama seems to have a particularly thin skin — and is particularly dismissive of those who don’t buy into his Narrative of Greatness.

Throughout the interview, Obama also found himself hoisted with his own petard. It is Obama who created, by his words and promises, almost Messianic expectations for himself and his presidency. He was going to do so much, so fast, so well. Those expectations have come crashing down around Obama. Stewart’s line of questing was consistent. “Is the difficulty you have here the distance between what you ran on and what you’ve delivered,” Stewart asked the president. Mr. Obama did not seem happy with Stewart’s impertinence. But, at least, out of the interview emerged a new motto from the Obama White House. It’s based on what the president himself said: “Yes We Can — but…” as in “I think what I would say is ‘yes we can, but it’s not going to happen overnight.’”

Most of us missed the qualifiers during the campaign.

There was also the kind of vanity and self-justification we’ve come to expect from the president. ObamaCare is one of the most unpopular major pieces of legislation in American history. Virtually all of the promises Obama has made about it are unraveling. It is one of the reasons Democrats will be handed a devastating defeat on Tuesday. Yet Obama not only defended his health-care bill; he called it “as significant a piece of legislation as we’ve seen in this country’s history.”

Actually, no, at least not in the (positive) way Obama interprets it. But it is one of the worst and most politically damaging pieces of legislation we’ve seen in quite a long while.

Mr. Obama’s presidency is failing. Jon Stewart sees it. Seemingly, only the president does not.

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Another Brilliant Idea of the Left

Call it the Backlash Midterms. Obama pushed through ObamaCare to pump up the base; it pumped up conservatives and angered independents. Obama took to the campaign trail; his peevishness and attacks on his own base further depressed liberals and reminded other voters why they were upset. Jack Conway runs an attack ad on Rand Paul; liberals and conservatives alike are appalled. Even NPR gets in on the backlash act — firing Juan Williams and thereby unleashing a furious attack on their funding and journalistic standards.

Then caustic liberals decide to have a rally on the mall. Bad idea. As this report explains:

Jon Stewart has tried to paint the “million moderate march” he will hold on the Mall this Saturday as a live-action version of his comedy show, a satirical take on political demonstrations. But some liberal groups are doing their best to adopt the rally as their own. … [G]roups ranging from PETA to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws are preparing props and making snarky signs in preparation for the event, and more than 200,000 people have said on Facebook that they will attend.

Many conservatives have watched smugly as liberal activists have become caught up in a gathering that will probably resemble a circus more than it does a serious political event and that is taking place on a prime day for campaign volunteers to help get out the vote.

Really — have these people learned nothing? Stephen Colbert’s performance on Capitol Hill seemed to personify Democrats’  fundamental unseriousness and disregard for the public’s concerns. Now the same comic, with Jon Stewart in tow, is going to mock and sneer at his fellow citizens as “snarky” (read: obnoxious) signs display the views of the liberal “cool” crowd. It is a disaster waiting to happen — and will fill the cable and network news shows on the weekend before the election. Great going, fellas.

Call it the Backlash Midterms. Obama pushed through ObamaCare to pump up the base; it pumped up conservatives and angered independents. Obama took to the campaign trail; his peevishness and attacks on his own base further depressed liberals and reminded other voters why they were upset. Jack Conway runs an attack ad on Rand Paul; liberals and conservatives alike are appalled. Even NPR gets in on the backlash act — firing Juan Williams and thereby unleashing a furious attack on their funding and journalistic standards.

Then caustic liberals decide to have a rally on the mall. Bad idea. As this report explains:

Jon Stewart has tried to paint the “million moderate march” he will hold on the Mall this Saturday as a live-action version of his comedy show, a satirical take on political demonstrations. But some liberal groups are doing their best to adopt the rally as their own. … [G]roups ranging from PETA to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws are preparing props and making snarky signs in preparation for the event, and more than 200,000 people have said on Facebook that they will attend.

Many conservatives have watched smugly as liberal activists have become caught up in a gathering that will probably resemble a circus more than it does a serious political event and that is taking place on a prime day for campaign volunteers to help get out the vote.

Really — have these people learned nothing? Stephen Colbert’s performance on Capitol Hill seemed to personify Democrats’  fundamental unseriousness and disregard for the public’s concerns. Now the same comic, with Jon Stewart in tow, is going to mock and sneer at his fellow citizens as “snarky” (read: obnoxious) signs display the views of the liberal “cool” crowd. It is a disaster waiting to happen — and will fill the cable and network news shows on the weekend before the election. Great going, fellas.

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The Comedy Central President

Timothy Noah at left-leaning Slate is nervous about the upcoming Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart rally:

There’s still a lot we don’t fully understand about the Tea Partiers and the political independents who have lost faith in Obama. But one thing we should all be pretty clear on by now is that they hate, hate, hate anything that smacks of elitism. The spectacle of affluent 18-to-34-year-olds blanketing the Mall to snicker at jokes about wingnut ignoramuses and Bible thumpers will, I fear, have the effect of a red cape waved before a bull. Stewart and Colbert aren’t supposed to want to affect the midterm elections, and for the most part I believe they don’t. But let Republicans regain the House (and maybe even the Senate) in part because Comedy Central used mockery not merely to burlesque political protest but also, to some inevitable extent, to practice it—and I think Stewart and Colbert will be sorry they came.

Well, if it will make him feel better, the House is already pretty much lost, and the Senate isn’t going to be decided by sneering comics. It does, however, remind us that the “cool” set was originally entranced with the “cool” candidate Obama. Why? Well, aside from liberalism (Hillary Clinton had that after all), they shared a contempt for the Bible-and-gun huggers, a suspicion that their fellow citizens were dolts and racists, and a confidence that they were smarter than just about anyone else. Appropriately, in the final week of the campaign, Obama is appearing on The Daily Show. The host and his audience are indeed the president’s base.

Noah is nervous that it’s dangerous to the liberals’ cause to take this act out in public, where the voters might get the idea that Obama’s supporters are snickering at them. Well, they are. And Obama’s affinity for those who ooze contempt for Americans goes a long way toward explaining why he is now so estranged from the people he seeks to lead.

Timothy Noah at left-leaning Slate is nervous about the upcoming Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart rally:

There’s still a lot we don’t fully understand about the Tea Partiers and the political independents who have lost faith in Obama. But one thing we should all be pretty clear on by now is that they hate, hate, hate anything that smacks of elitism. The spectacle of affluent 18-to-34-year-olds blanketing the Mall to snicker at jokes about wingnut ignoramuses and Bible thumpers will, I fear, have the effect of a red cape waved before a bull. Stewart and Colbert aren’t supposed to want to affect the midterm elections, and for the most part I believe they don’t. But let Republicans regain the House (and maybe even the Senate) in part because Comedy Central used mockery not merely to burlesque political protest but also, to some inevitable extent, to practice it—and I think Stewart and Colbert will be sorry they came.

Well, if it will make him feel better, the House is already pretty much lost, and the Senate isn’t going to be decided by sneering comics. It does, however, remind us that the “cool” set was originally entranced with the “cool” candidate Obama. Why? Well, aside from liberalism (Hillary Clinton had that after all), they shared a contempt for the Bible-and-gun huggers, a suspicion that their fellow citizens were dolts and racists, and a confidence that they were smarter than just about anyone else. Appropriately, in the final week of the campaign, Obama is appearing on The Daily Show. The host and his audience are indeed the president’s base.

Noah is nervous that it’s dangerous to the liberals’ cause to take this act out in public, where the voters might get the idea that Obama’s supporters are snickering at them. Well, they are. And Obama’s affinity for those who ooze contempt for Americans goes a long way toward explaining why he is now so estranged from the people he seeks to lead.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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