Commentary Magazine


Topic: Keith Olbermann

Unmasked in Plain Sight

Peter Wehner and Jennifer Rubin have thoroughly dissected the lameness of Obama’s speech last night on the oil spill. I agree with their takes, but was also struck by the reaction of the people in the Frank Luntz citizen panel featured by Sean Hannity in his Fox show after the speech. I expected them to find the speech weak, but I was surprised to hear so many argue that Obama’s rhetoric had focused on getting cap-and-trade legislation passed rather than on responding pragmatically to the oil spill.

This surprised me because Obama was actually oblique and nonspecific in his agenda-related references. Bill O’Reilly, in his discussions with Sarah Palin and Monica Crowley right after the speech, pointed out to them that Obama did not, in fact, press for the cap-and-trade legislation. He merely adduced the oil spill as a catalyst for reducing America’s dependence on oil and developing a sustainable energy policy. I suspect this absence of explicit policy references is what’s so particularly trying to the president’s supporters on the left. When Keith Olbermann, Howard Fineman, and Chris Matthews speak of Obama’s failing to project leadership, they mean Obama is allowing this crisis to go to waste.

But Frank Luntz’s panelists saw it differently. As far as most of them were concerned, Obama is not letting the crisis go to waste at all. Regardless of what he said, what they heard was that the president is more focused on passing cap-and-trade than on controlling the consequences of the oil spill.

If Luntz’s panelists are truly representative, as he labors to ensure they are, then there seems to be a decisive loss for Obama of the benefit of public doubt. The MSNBC pundits, for their part, were hoping to see Obama masterfully unite rhetoric, storytelling, and leadership to justify the carbon-tax program — justify it so thoroughly and inspirationally that its opponents would be confounded. It disappointed them not to get such a performance, but the absence of it was meaningless to the perceptions of the Luntz panelists. They held themselves undeceived: whatever he says, Obama is pushing for cap-and-trade.

This is a case in which the prosaic public mind is probably more acute than the perceptions of many in the punditry. Obama never achieved a soaring persuasiveness or any appearance of moral leadership in wrangling Congress to pass ObamaCare either. The American public spent painful months watching his detached, scheming Oval Office issue perfunctory sound bites by day while bribing and arm-twisting by night. It was a “Chicago machine” performance, devoid of even the superficial romance of true believers’ passion.

There is nothing today that justifies interpreting the president’s vagueness last night as a sign of moderation or judicious jury’s-still-out indecision. Frank Luntz’s panelists probably have Obama pegged. He’s pushing cap-and-trade. He may simply have seen no reason to provoke a backlash by making a more overt case on Tuesday evening. Doing so could well have been a tactical error, one that would have interfered later with ramming cap-and-trade through by holding congressmen at political gunpoint.

Peter Wehner and Jennifer Rubin have thoroughly dissected the lameness of Obama’s speech last night on the oil spill. I agree with their takes, but was also struck by the reaction of the people in the Frank Luntz citizen panel featured by Sean Hannity in his Fox show after the speech. I expected them to find the speech weak, but I was surprised to hear so many argue that Obama’s rhetoric had focused on getting cap-and-trade legislation passed rather than on responding pragmatically to the oil spill.

This surprised me because Obama was actually oblique and nonspecific in his agenda-related references. Bill O’Reilly, in his discussions with Sarah Palin and Monica Crowley right after the speech, pointed out to them that Obama did not, in fact, press for the cap-and-trade legislation. He merely adduced the oil spill as a catalyst for reducing America’s dependence on oil and developing a sustainable energy policy. I suspect this absence of explicit policy references is what’s so particularly trying to the president’s supporters on the left. When Keith Olbermann, Howard Fineman, and Chris Matthews speak of Obama’s failing to project leadership, they mean Obama is allowing this crisis to go to waste.

But Frank Luntz’s panelists saw it differently. As far as most of them were concerned, Obama is not letting the crisis go to waste at all. Regardless of what he said, what they heard was that the president is more focused on passing cap-and-trade than on controlling the consequences of the oil spill.

If Luntz’s panelists are truly representative, as he labors to ensure they are, then there seems to be a decisive loss for Obama of the benefit of public doubt. The MSNBC pundits, for their part, were hoping to see Obama masterfully unite rhetoric, storytelling, and leadership to justify the carbon-tax program — justify it so thoroughly and inspirationally that its opponents would be confounded. It disappointed them not to get such a performance, but the absence of it was meaningless to the perceptions of the Luntz panelists. They held themselves undeceived: whatever he says, Obama is pushing for cap-and-trade.

This is a case in which the prosaic public mind is probably more acute than the perceptions of many in the punditry. Obama never achieved a soaring persuasiveness or any appearance of moral leadership in wrangling Congress to pass ObamaCare either. The American public spent painful months watching his detached, scheming Oval Office issue perfunctory sound bites by day while bribing and arm-twisting by night. It was a “Chicago machine” performance, devoid of even the superficial romance of true believers’ passion.

There is nothing today that justifies interpreting the president’s vagueness last night as a sign of moderation or judicious jury’s-still-out indecision. Frank Luntz’s panelists probably have Obama pegged. He’s pushing cap-and-trade. He may simply have seen no reason to provoke a backlash by making a more overt case on Tuesday evening. Doing so could well have been a tactical error, one that would have interfered later with ramming cap-and-trade through by holding congressmen at political gunpoint.

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The Liberal Tipping Point Away from Obama

Jen and Pete, you both point out the grave disappointment expressed last night about Barack Obama’s speech on the part of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and Howard Fineman. This is a significant development, because it indicates this is a liberal tipping point — both tactical and emotional — away from Barack Obama.

The bad polling news for Democrats and Obama, the apparent refusal of the economy to turn itself around dramatically enough to stave off a reckoning in the November elections, the worrisome headlines from Afghanistan, and the increasing public confusion about the response to the oil spill are now taking their toll on the finger-in-the-wind brigade. I’m referring to that breed of media and political professionals whose enthusiasm for the politicians they support and admire is conditioned in part on how the politicians are doing. The finger-in-the-wind brigade is made up of fair-weather friends. When they feel the political breezes shifting, they shift as well — from passionate support to analytical distance, then to careful criticism, then confused dismay, and eventually to outright contempt. This happened to George W. Bush in 2005 among the finger-in-the-wind brigade on the conservative side, and it’s now happening in 2010 on the liberal side.

In their various expressions of dismay and worry and even contempt, the members of the fair-weather brigade are holding Obama to a peculiar standard. They seem to want him to transmute the oil spill into a huge moral drama with BP or capitalism or deregulation or the carbon-based economy itself as the villain and Obama himself as the crusading muckraker who will take the bad guys down. Obama himself would like to do nothing more. That’s why, in just three days’ time, he (a) likened the oil spill to 9/11, (b) compared the cleanup to the American response to World War II, and (c) said that if we could put a man on the moon, we could fix the whole oil problem. He wants to figure out how to make this a “game changer” for him and for his left-liberal agenda.

The problem is, it can’t be. The accident was an accident, and the cleanup after the accident is one of those godawful, uninspiring, unthrilling, and highly confusing tasks that inevitably follow any accident. Nobody seems quite to have known what to do and when, and there were and are conflicting crosscurrents involving the potential environmental damage from the cleanup itself that cannot be wished or willed away through strong “leadership.” What’s happening is a catastrophe, but it’s the result of something very, very big that cannot be turned into a cause Obama can fight —  decades’ worth of policy decisions based on the desire to extract billions of gallons of oil invisibly, without public complaint, so that no one would have to see a rig or smell the work the way everybody in the New York metropolitan used to have to roll up his windows and put on the air conditioner going past exit 12 on the New Jersey Turnpike when Standard Oil refineries were still active there. The temptation to believe in semi-magical oil extraction proved so great that Obama himself found it irresistible this year.

But if the standard to which they are holding Obama is impossible, that’s because it’s hoist-by-his-own-petard time for Obama, as brought to you by Euripides. Anyone who greets a primary victory as Obama did in 2008 by saying that history would record that “this was the moment when the oceans began to recede” is just asking for it. And “it” may be upon him.

Jen and Pete, you both point out the grave disappointment expressed last night about Barack Obama’s speech on the part of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and Howard Fineman. This is a significant development, because it indicates this is a liberal tipping point — both tactical and emotional — away from Barack Obama.

The bad polling news for Democrats and Obama, the apparent refusal of the economy to turn itself around dramatically enough to stave off a reckoning in the November elections, the worrisome headlines from Afghanistan, and the increasing public confusion about the response to the oil spill are now taking their toll on the finger-in-the-wind brigade. I’m referring to that breed of media and political professionals whose enthusiasm for the politicians they support and admire is conditioned in part on how the politicians are doing. The finger-in-the-wind brigade is made up of fair-weather friends. When they feel the political breezes shifting, they shift as well — from passionate support to analytical distance, then to careful criticism, then confused dismay, and eventually to outright contempt. This happened to George W. Bush in 2005 among the finger-in-the-wind brigade on the conservative side, and it’s now happening in 2010 on the liberal side.

In their various expressions of dismay and worry and even contempt, the members of the fair-weather brigade are holding Obama to a peculiar standard. They seem to want him to transmute the oil spill into a huge moral drama with BP or capitalism or deregulation or the carbon-based economy itself as the villain and Obama himself as the crusading muckraker who will take the bad guys down. Obama himself would like to do nothing more. That’s why, in just three days’ time, he (a) likened the oil spill to 9/11, (b) compared the cleanup to the American response to World War II, and (c) said that if we could put a man on the moon, we could fix the whole oil problem. He wants to figure out how to make this a “game changer” for him and for his left-liberal agenda.

The problem is, it can’t be. The accident was an accident, and the cleanup after the accident is one of those godawful, uninspiring, unthrilling, and highly confusing tasks that inevitably follow any accident. Nobody seems quite to have known what to do and when, and there were and are conflicting crosscurrents involving the potential environmental damage from the cleanup itself that cannot be wished or willed away through strong “leadership.” What’s happening is a catastrophe, but it’s the result of something very, very big that cannot be turned into a cause Obama can fight —  decades’ worth of policy decisions based on the desire to extract billions of gallons of oil invisibly, without public complaint, so that no one would have to see a rig or smell the work the way everybody in the New York metropolitan used to have to roll up his windows and put on the air conditioner going past exit 12 on the New Jersey Turnpike when Standard Oil refineries were still active there. The temptation to believe in semi-magical oil extraction proved so great that Obama himself found it irresistible this year.

But if the standard to which they are holding Obama is impossible, that’s because it’s hoist-by-his-own-petard time for Obama, as brought to you by Euripides. Anyone who greets a primary victory as Obama did in 2008 by saying that history would record that “this was the moment when the oceans began to recede” is just asking for it. And “it” may be upon him.

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The Unmasking of Barack Obama (Continued)

I guess the thrill up the leg is gone. If you’re Barack Obama and, as Jennifer points out, your speech is panned by Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and Howard Fineman — three Obama acolytes in the press — then it’s reasonable to assume that the speech can be judged a failure. And last night’s Oval Office address was certainly that.

President Obama was thin on policies. He focused on inputs instead of outcomes. The words were flat. And it contained one of the worst sections from an Oval Office address ever:

All of these approaches [on energy policy] have merit, and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet. You see, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon. And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom. Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is our capacity to shape our destiny — our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there. We know we’ll get there.

It is a faith in the future that sustains us as a people. It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the Gulf right now.

This is clueless nonsense. For one thing, the reference to the moon landing is hackneyed. The reference to not accepting inaction is meaningless in the context of what is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico right now. And the concession that “we’re unsure exactly what that [destiny] looks like” and “we don’t yet know precisely how to get there” is devastating. President Obama is invoking pseudo-inspirational rhetoric that is disconnected from reality and from a road map.

Barack Obama is clearly more interested in the theater of the presidency than he is in governing. He is cut out to be a legislator and a commentator, not a chief executive. And when he spoke about seizing the moment and embarking on a national mission, as if he were trying to rise above the environmental catastrophe he looks powerless to stop, there was something slightly pathetic about it. He was trying to recapture the magic from a campaign that was long ago and far away. He is now being humbled by events and his own limitations. And he doesn’t know what to do about it.

The unmasking of Barack Obama continues. It is not a pretty thing to witness.

I guess the thrill up the leg is gone. If you’re Barack Obama and, as Jennifer points out, your speech is panned by Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and Howard Fineman — three Obama acolytes in the press — then it’s reasonable to assume that the speech can be judged a failure. And last night’s Oval Office address was certainly that.

President Obama was thin on policies. He focused on inputs instead of outcomes. The words were flat. And it contained one of the worst sections from an Oval Office address ever:

All of these approaches [on energy policy] have merit, and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet. You see, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon. And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom. Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is our capacity to shape our destiny — our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there. We know we’ll get there.

It is a faith in the future that sustains us as a people. It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the Gulf right now.

This is clueless nonsense. For one thing, the reference to the moon landing is hackneyed. The reference to not accepting inaction is meaningless in the context of what is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico right now. And the concession that “we’re unsure exactly what that [destiny] looks like” and “we don’t yet know precisely how to get there” is devastating. President Obama is invoking pseudo-inspirational rhetoric that is disconnected from reality and from a road map.

Barack Obama is clearly more interested in the theater of the presidency than he is in governing. He is cut out to be a legislator and a commentator, not a chief executive. And when he spoke about seizing the moment and embarking on a national mission, as if he were trying to rise above the environmental catastrophe he looks powerless to stop, there was something slightly pathetic about it. He was trying to recapture the magic from a campaign that was long ago and far away. He is now being humbled by events and his own limitations. And he doesn’t know what to do about it.

The unmasking of Barack Obama continues. It is not a pretty thing to witness.

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RE: Obama’s Boring Speech

Things have gotten so bad for Obama that MSNBC pundits sound like me. The troika of Keith Olbermann, Howard Fineman, and Chris Matthews, ripping Obama’s Oval Office speech with the bitterness of spurned lovers, complain he didn’t do much or say much or project much leadership. And indeed, with his hands folded on that really big and empty desk, you got the impression not that Obama was in charge of that office but that he didn’t do much real work there.

Salon’s Joan Walsh was similarly dismissive. (“I was underwhelmed by President Obama’s first Oval Office speech, as I expected to be. From the moment he began, hands folded on his desk like a well-behaved student, the imagery and energy was off, inadequate to the visual, horror-movie scope of the Gulf oil disaster.”) Maureen Dowd remains infuriated with the hapless president. (“How can a man who was a dazzling enough politician to become the first black president at age 47 suddenly become so obdurately self-destructive about politics?”) Hmm. Because he’s in over his head? Because all he’s ever done is promote himself? Even Politico — the Daily Variety of D.C., which has few harsh words for the town’s stars — acknowledged that “this wasn’t one of Obama’s best speeches” and observed “it wasn’t entirely clear where Obama would go from here to achieve this ‘national mission.'”

This was  certainly the liberal media’s big chance to write the “Comeback Kid” story on the oil spill, as they tried to do after every equally ineffective health-care address (“Game changer!” we heard after nothing at all was changed). Instead, they informed the president that he’s no FDR. (Howard Fineman: “It was Obama who compared the Gulf disaster to World War Two, and it was, unfortunately, Obama who was unable to approach let alone match the specificity, combativeness and passion of Franklin Roosevelt.”) Have they suddenly become more savvy or recovered their objectivity? Perhaps they see it all crumbling — the generic polling, the NPR poll, and the president’s ratings slide all confirm that Obama and his party are heading for a drubbing.

Not unlike what the White House did to Creigh Deeds: rather than admit to the failure of liberal ideas, the easiest solution is to blame the candidate — in this case, the perpetual candidate who resides in the White House. So just as readily as they scrambled onto the Obama bandwagon, they are scurrying off. The MSNBC gang and liberal columnists look now to empathize with and retain the loyalty of their liberal audience, which is frustrated that the “sort of a God” has proved inept.

The same “Run for your lives!” mentality will soon take hold of the Democrats on the ballot. Whether they aim to reconnect with their base (as Bill Halter tried to do) or dash to the center of the political spectrum, they will flee from association with the president for whom they walked the plank on vote after vote. I suspect they will have as hard a time retaining voters as MSNBC, Salon, and the New York Times will in keeping their target audience and readership. The Democratic base is depressed — for good reason — and probably won’t be much interested in voting, watching gobs of cable news, or reading endless recriminations from aggrieved columnists as the liberal media tracks the descent of the Obama presidency.

Things have gotten so bad for Obama that MSNBC pundits sound like me. The troika of Keith Olbermann, Howard Fineman, and Chris Matthews, ripping Obama’s Oval Office speech with the bitterness of spurned lovers, complain he didn’t do much or say much or project much leadership. And indeed, with his hands folded on that really big and empty desk, you got the impression not that Obama was in charge of that office but that he didn’t do much real work there.

Salon’s Joan Walsh was similarly dismissive. (“I was underwhelmed by President Obama’s first Oval Office speech, as I expected to be. From the moment he began, hands folded on his desk like a well-behaved student, the imagery and energy was off, inadequate to the visual, horror-movie scope of the Gulf oil disaster.”) Maureen Dowd remains infuriated with the hapless president. (“How can a man who was a dazzling enough politician to become the first black president at age 47 suddenly become so obdurately self-destructive about politics?”) Hmm. Because he’s in over his head? Because all he’s ever done is promote himself? Even Politico — the Daily Variety of D.C., which has few harsh words for the town’s stars — acknowledged that “this wasn’t one of Obama’s best speeches” and observed “it wasn’t entirely clear where Obama would go from here to achieve this ‘national mission.'”

This was  certainly the liberal media’s big chance to write the “Comeback Kid” story on the oil spill, as they tried to do after every equally ineffective health-care address (“Game changer!” we heard after nothing at all was changed). Instead, they informed the president that he’s no FDR. (Howard Fineman: “It was Obama who compared the Gulf disaster to World War Two, and it was, unfortunately, Obama who was unable to approach let alone match the specificity, combativeness and passion of Franklin Roosevelt.”) Have they suddenly become more savvy or recovered their objectivity? Perhaps they see it all crumbling — the generic polling, the NPR poll, and the president’s ratings slide all confirm that Obama and his party are heading for a drubbing.

Not unlike what the White House did to Creigh Deeds: rather than admit to the failure of liberal ideas, the easiest solution is to blame the candidate — in this case, the perpetual candidate who resides in the White House. So just as readily as they scrambled onto the Obama bandwagon, they are scurrying off. The MSNBC gang and liberal columnists look now to empathize with and retain the loyalty of their liberal audience, which is frustrated that the “sort of a God” has proved inept.

The same “Run for your lives!” mentality will soon take hold of the Democrats on the ballot. Whether they aim to reconnect with their base (as Bill Halter tried to do) or dash to the center of the political spectrum, they will flee from association with the president for whom they walked the plank on vote after vote. I suspect they will have as hard a time retaining voters as MSNBC, Salon, and the New York Times will in keeping their target audience and readership. The Democratic base is depressed — for good reason — and probably won’t be much interested in voting, watching gobs of cable news, or reading endless recriminations from aggrieved columnists as the liberal media tracks the descent of the Obama presidency.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

But they are supposed to go into harm’s way for their country: the Navy takes away the lard and water hoses from a 60-year tradition in which plebes climb a greased 21-foot monument. Why? They might get hurt. A former Naval Academy graduate chimes in: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.” Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing proper names in Scrabble.

But don’t we have a First Amendment or something? “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused the president of being in the pocket of Big Oil, a charge usually leveled by Democrats at the GOP. ‘You’ve got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but, regrettably, you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.” Gosh, if we only licensed talking heads.

But he’s a “genius”! “Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a ‘fluctuation.'” His long-winded gobbledygook about moving from the G-7 to the G-20 “was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric — and utterly unhelpful.”

But isn’t it like allowing Keith Olbermann to review a George W. Bush biography? The Washington Post has David Frum (who’s carved out a niche in Limbaugh-bashing for the mainstream media) review the latest biography of Rush Limbaugh. Surprise, surprise, he concludes: “It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth.”

But you didn’t really buy all that “transparency” jazz did you? “The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. … In the letter to [Rep. Darrell] Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter.”

But if David Axelrod is right about there being “no evidence” of a deal, then Sestak is lying. Mark Hemingway: “There’s no good outcome here for the White House. Either the White House did something illegal here or their party’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania is a delusional fabulist. But regardless, their prolonged foot-dragging here only appears to be making things worse.”

But the White House said, “Trust us”: “The number two Democrat in the Senate, who has close ties to the White House, is urging Rep. Joe Sestak to come clean. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Democrat should fully explain whether Obama administration officials pressed him to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exchange for a job.”

But Democrats insisted we needed a humungous new uber-department! James Carafano on the BP response: “Explain to me why nine years after 9/11 we struggle with disasters. Well, the answer is easy. Homeland Security wastes its time on routine disaster; the secretary worries more about how to grant amnesty to illegals than battling terrorists and preparing for catastrophes. Congress dumps money in wasteful programs and uses 108 committees, sub-committees, and commissions to provide chaotic and incoherent oversight to the department.”

But (as a sharp colleague suggested) couldn’t we work out a deal where Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul both exit their races? Jonah Goldberg sums up why conservatives should carry no water for Paul: “[I]t’s certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.” (By the way, would Paul commend Obama for doing nothing at all about the BP spill?)

But they are supposed to go into harm’s way for their country: the Navy takes away the lard and water hoses from a 60-year tradition in which plebes climb a greased 21-foot monument. Why? They might get hurt. A former Naval Academy graduate chimes in: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.” Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing proper names in Scrabble.

But don’t we have a First Amendment or something? “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused the president of being in the pocket of Big Oil, a charge usually leveled by Democrats at the GOP. ‘You’ve got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but, regrettably, you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.” Gosh, if we only licensed talking heads.

But he’s a “genius”! “Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a ‘fluctuation.'” His long-winded gobbledygook about moving from the G-7 to the G-20 “was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric — and utterly unhelpful.”

But isn’t it like allowing Keith Olbermann to review a George W. Bush biography? The Washington Post has David Frum (who’s carved out a niche in Limbaugh-bashing for the mainstream media) review the latest biography of Rush Limbaugh. Surprise, surprise, he concludes: “It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth.”

But you didn’t really buy all that “transparency” jazz did you? “The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. … In the letter to [Rep. Darrell] Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter.”

But if David Axelrod is right about there being “no evidence” of a deal, then Sestak is lying. Mark Hemingway: “There’s no good outcome here for the White House. Either the White House did something illegal here or their party’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania is a delusional fabulist. But regardless, their prolonged foot-dragging here only appears to be making things worse.”

But the White House said, “Trust us”: “The number two Democrat in the Senate, who has close ties to the White House, is urging Rep. Joe Sestak to come clean. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Democrat should fully explain whether Obama administration officials pressed him to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exchange for a job.”

But Democrats insisted we needed a humungous new uber-department! James Carafano on the BP response: “Explain to me why nine years after 9/11 we struggle with disasters. Well, the answer is easy. Homeland Security wastes its time on routine disaster; the secretary worries more about how to grant amnesty to illegals than battling terrorists and preparing for catastrophes. Congress dumps money in wasteful programs and uses 108 committees, sub-committees, and commissions to provide chaotic and incoherent oversight to the department.”

But (as a sharp colleague suggested) couldn’t we work out a deal where Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul both exit their races? Jonah Goldberg sums up why conservatives should carry no water for Paul: “[I]t’s certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.” (By the way, would Paul commend Obama for doing nothing at all about the BP spill?)

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Olbermann Tries to Pass for Sane

What could be more ludicrous than selling Newsweek as an objective news journal? Selling Keith Olbermann as a serious talk-show analyst. His ratings are tumbling, so he’s out to convince people he’s not a raving lunatic. Tom Bevan tells us that Olbermann’s new promos show Olbermann in a whole new light:

Olbermann tells viewers his show is meant to “illuminate” not to “throw off heat” and that it means to “add to your knowledge” of a given subject. Olbermann also tries to take the edge off his “Worst Persons in the World” feature, saying it’s not meant to be a mean-spirited ad hominem thing, but rather an effort to “blow raspberries” at people in the spirit of an old George Carlin joke.

This might itself be a whole other Saturday Night Live skit. But it does suggest that there is only so much mileage to be gotten out of Bush-hating, conservative-bashing, and unhinged vitriol. Come to think of it, the same might be said of the entire Democratic Party and the liberal chattering class. There is a bit of the “dog caught the bus” syndrome — having inveighed against Bush, beaten John McCain, and captured the White House, what is going to lift their spirits now? Apparently not Keith Olbermann.

What could be more ludicrous than selling Newsweek as an objective news journal? Selling Keith Olbermann as a serious talk-show analyst. His ratings are tumbling, so he’s out to convince people he’s not a raving lunatic. Tom Bevan tells us that Olbermann’s new promos show Olbermann in a whole new light:

Olbermann tells viewers his show is meant to “illuminate” not to “throw off heat” and that it means to “add to your knowledge” of a given subject. Olbermann also tries to take the edge off his “Worst Persons in the World” feature, saying it’s not meant to be a mean-spirited ad hominem thing, but rather an effort to “blow raspberries” at people in the spirit of an old George Carlin joke.

This might itself be a whole other Saturday Night Live skit. But it does suggest that there is only so much mileage to be gotten out of Bush-hating, conservative-bashing, and unhinged vitriol. Come to think of it, the same might be said of the entire Democratic Party and the liberal chattering class. There is a bit of the “dog caught the bus” syndrome — having inveighed against Bush, beaten John McCain, and captured the White House, what is going to lift their spirits now? Apparently not Keith Olbermann.

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Ezra Klein: The Foreclosure Made Him Do It

Ezra Klein is one of the lefty horde of bloggers the Washington Post has taken on board in an effort to remain relevant. Or get eyeballs on the Internet. Or something. Anyway, he writes mostly on domestic policy. I think that’s a good idea, if his latest offering is any indication.

It is, in a few short graphs, the perfect distillation of the left’s cockeyed take on terrorism, the nature of man, and evil. (I will assume Klein is not a clever comic out to skewer his ilk.) He writes: “The arrested subject of last weekend’s Times Square bomb plot is a homeowner in the midst of foreclosure.” Citing an MSNBC story, he notes that Faisal Shahzad bought a house in 2004 and was foreclosed.” (He leaves out the part that the home was abandoned “months ago.” More on why he actually stopped paying his mortgage later.) And what conclusion does Klein reach?

This guy is like string theory for the media: He brings together the seemingly incompatible stories that drove the past decade. That said, you of course don’t want to speculate on why someone “really” did something. The hearts of men are opaque, and motives are complex. But it’s a reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don’t make headlines but do ruin lives. And for all that we’ve done to save the financial sector, we’ve not done nearly enough to help struggling homeowners.

Thunk. Where to begin — how about the explanation for why he quit his job, stopped paying his mortgage, and started buying propane tanks, wires, and such? He stopped living a normal life — and paying his mortgage — to become a terrorist and train in Pakistan. Oh, yes. That. (His own paper has a fairly good account of the sequence of events, as does the Wall Street Journal, which notes that he hated Preisdent George W. Bush. I await his column excoriating Keith Olbermann for fomenting violence.)

But the disinclination to accept the obvious — as we saw in the Fort Hood shooting — is strong. “The hearts of men are opaque, and motives are complex,” Klein waxes lyrical. Do we really think a man who travels to Pakistan to get bomb training has an opaque heart? Really, maybe he was upset about global warming. Animal rights?

And the defense lawyer should take note. Klein presents the closing summation for the jury: “It’s a reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don’t make headlines but do ruin lives.” (Who knew that all those risky Fannie and Freddie loans to uncreditworthy buyers were breeding terrorists?)

This is the mentality that cheers ideas like closing Guantanamo, eschewing enhanced interrogation (if they had captured the suspect and the location of the bomb had been unknown, would the administration have stuck to the Army Field Manual?), Mirandizing terrorists, and tying ourselves in knots to avoid identifying the enemy as Islamic fundamentalists out to butcher Americans. Nothing opaque about that.

Ezra Klein is one of the lefty horde of bloggers the Washington Post has taken on board in an effort to remain relevant. Or get eyeballs on the Internet. Or something. Anyway, he writes mostly on domestic policy. I think that’s a good idea, if his latest offering is any indication.

It is, in a few short graphs, the perfect distillation of the left’s cockeyed take on terrorism, the nature of man, and evil. (I will assume Klein is not a clever comic out to skewer his ilk.) He writes: “The arrested subject of last weekend’s Times Square bomb plot is a homeowner in the midst of foreclosure.” Citing an MSNBC story, he notes that Faisal Shahzad bought a house in 2004 and was foreclosed.” (He leaves out the part that the home was abandoned “months ago.” More on why he actually stopped paying his mortgage later.) And what conclusion does Klein reach?

This guy is like string theory for the media: He brings together the seemingly incompatible stories that drove the past decade. That said, you of course don’t want to speculate on why someone “really” did something. The hearts of men are opaque, and motives are complex. But it’s a reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don’t make headlines but do ruin lives. And for all that we’ve done to save the financial sector, we’ve not done nearly enough to help struggling homeowners.

Thunk. Where to begin — how about the explanation for why he quit his job, stopped paying his mortgage, and started buying propane tanks, wires, and such? He stopped living a normal life — and paying his mortgage — to become a terrorist and train in Pakistan. Oh, yes. That. (His own paper has a fairly good account of the sequence of events, as does the Wall Street Journal, which notes that he hated Preisdent George W. Bush. I await his column excoriating Keith Olbermann for fomenting violence.)

But the disinclination to accept the obvious — as we saw in the Fort Hood shooting — is strong. “The hearts of men are opaque, and motives are complex,” Klein waxes lyrical. Do we really think a man who travels to Pakistan to get bomb training has an opaque heart? Really, maybe he was upset about global warming. Animal rights?

And the defense lawyer should take note. Klein presents the closing summation for the jury: “It’s a reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don’t make headlines but do ruin lives.” (Who knew that all those risky Fannie and Freddie loans to uncreditworthy buyers were breeding terrorists?)

This is the mentality that cheers ideas like closing Guantanamo, eschewing enhanced interrogation (if they had captured the suspect and the location of the bomb had been unknown, would the administration have stuck to the Army Field Manual?), Mirandizing terrorists, and tying ourselves in knots to avoid identifying the enemy as Islamic fundamentalists out to butcher Americans. Nothing opaque about that.

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Journalism’s Worst Crime

“There’s no worse crime in journalism these days than simply deciding something’s a story because Drudge links to it,” according to NBC’s chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd. Really? No worse crime? Not Dan Rather’s use of forged documents in a one-sided 60 Minutes hit piece intended to cost President Bush re-election? Not the plagiarism and fabrications of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair and the New Republic’s Stephen Glass?

There are, in fact, an endless number of “crimes” in journalism that are worse than deciding something is a story because Matt Drudge links to it.

And while we’re on this topic: exactly who should decide what qualifies as a news story? Chuck Todd believes Chuck Todd should. Mr. Todd, of course, works for NBC and MSNBC – the latter being the most partisan and reckless cable news network in America, home to such magisterial journalists as Keith Olbermann, Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, and Rachel Maddow. So why should we trust Todd’s judgment over Matt Drudge’s? Because Todd is part of the “old” media, of course. Because he’s an “objective journalist” who is able to sort through all the news of the day and determine what merits attention and what does not.

Mr. Todd’s comments embody a particular mindset – one deeply resentful that the MSM is no longer the gatekeeper of the news, that there are now hundreds of outlets and blogs that influence the news and allow the American people a choice in what they are able to watch. The old guard hates the competition – and they hate the end of their monopoly. That’s understandable; every person who has been a part of a monopoly has resented its end, even if it advances the public interest.

Chuck Todd and his colleagues can continue to howl into the wind. They can continue to complain and plead their case. It doesn’t much matter. Events have moved way beyond them. The genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no turning back.

“There’s no worse crime in journalism these days than simply deciding something’s a story because Drudge links to it,” according to NBC’s chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd. Really? No worse crime? Not Dan Rather’s use of forged documents in a one-sided 60 Minutes hit piece intended to cost President Bush re-election? Not the plagiarism and fabrications of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair and the New Republic’s Stephen Glass?

There are, in fact, an endless number of “crimes” in journalism that are worse than deciding something is a story because Matt Drudge links to it.

And while we’re on this topic: exactly who should decide what qualifies as a news story? Chuck Todd believes Chuck Todd should. Mr. Todd, of course, works for NBC and MSNBC – the latter being the most partisan and reckless cable news network in America, home to such magisterial journalists as Keith Olbermann, Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, and Rachel Maddow. So why should we trust Todd’s judgment over Matt Drudge’s? Because Todd is part of the “old” media, of course. Because he’s an “objective journalist” who is able to sort through all the news of the day and determine what merits attention and what does not.

Mr. Todd’s comments embody a particular mindset – one deeply resentful that the MSM is no longer the gatekeeper of the news, that there are now hundreds of outlets and blogs that influence the news and allow the American people a choice in what they are able to watch. The old guard hates the competition – and they hate the end of their monopoly. That’s understandable; every person who has been a part of a monopoly has resented its end, even if it advances the public interest.

Chuck Todd and his colleagues can continue to howl into the wind. They can continue to complain and plead their case. It doesn’t much matter. Events have moved way beyond them. The genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no turning back.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

If you thought Obama was talking “We are the World” gibberish again to the “Muslim World,” you were right. He sort of seemed to be saying (if you get the plain English translation): “We’ll pull out of Iraq, soon and responsibly (is there any other way?); also, we’ll close our eyes and click our heels together three times and wish upon a star over and over again until Israelis and Palestinians reach Peace; in return you, in Afghanistan and beyond, will become modern, woman-respecting democrats because of our forged partnerships (and a few troops? Oh, never mind them!).” Read the whole thing, as they say.

Mickey Kaus reads the typically aggressive and hyper-partisan Obami’s invitation to Republicans to the health-care summit and finds: “Unsubtle subtext: We like our bill and the purpose of this meeting is to set things up so it can pass. … But what if, as a Republican, you don’t think we are ‘the closest … to resolving this issue in … nearly 100 years’? Maybe you don’t think the bill will resolve the issue at all! (I disagree, but I’m not a Republican.) … Even if Obama’s only trying to appear bipartisan, his aides are doing a mighty poor job of conveying that impression.”

Even Dana Milbank can figure out that the Washington blizzards were “an inconvenient meteorological phenomenon for Al Gore.” He writes: “In Washington’s blizzards, the greens were hoisted by their own petard. For years, climate-change activists have argued by anecdote to make their case. Gore, in his famous slide shows, ties human-caused global warming to increasing hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, drought, and the spread of mosquitoes, pine beetles, and disease.” He even concedes, “The scientific case has been further undermined by high-profile screw-ups. First there were the hacked e-mails of a British research center that suggested the scientists were stacking the deck to overstate the threat. Now comes word of numerous errors in a 2007 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including the bogus claim that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear in 25 years.” Maybe Al Gore should give back the Oscar.

I suppose it’s not news when Harry Reid screws up a potential bipartisan deal and blindsides the White House. But, on his sinking down the bipartisan Senate bill, even the New York Times acknowledges that “it was a telling glimpse into the state of mind of rattled Senate Democrats.” And another reason why Reid’s defeat might be a very welcome development by his party.

There is an alternative to civilian trials for terrorists. And it’s legal and everything: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) repeated his call Saturday for the Obama administration to try suspected terrorists in military tribunals. A former military lawyer himself, Graham said the tribunal system was well-equipped to handle delicate terrorism cases. . . . Graham was a main author of the Military Commission Act of 2009, which modified the tribunal system to align with a Supreme Court ruling.” Funny how none of the Obama spinners defending their handling of terrorist even mention the 2009 statute.

Politico asks “Why Cheney attacks?” The insiderish Beltway outlet can’t really be that dense, right? For starters, Cheney has been right and is in sync with the American people. And then the former VP does manage to get under the skin of the Obami and send them scrambling. (Politico might want to cut out the Stephen Walt and Keith Olbermann quotes — jeez — as well as the Beagle Blogger psychobabble if it wants to be taken seriously on these sorts of stories.)

Gov. Chris Christie earns plaudits: “As politicians spend America into the fiscal abyss, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has a novel idea: Freeze spending. For such statesmanship, watch him be demonized like no one before. . . New Jersey’s new governor, the successor of so many corrupt chief executives, is taking action that will make him, like Reagan, the focus of pure hate from those who think what taxpayers earn is Monopoly money to be treated according to the whims and desires of politicians, bureaucrats, union bosses and other power players.”

Not everyone (anyone?) is buying the itsy-bitsy-sanctions approach. (“Sanctions on the accounts of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in WESTERN banks?”) Amitai Etzioni writes: ” You can fool some people some of the time, but the Obama Administration credibility is melting faster than the snow in Washington.”

If you thought Obama was talking “We are the World” gibberish again to the “Muslim World,” you were right. He sort of seemed to be saying (if you get the plain English translation): “We’ll pull out of Iraq, soon and responsibly (is there any other way?); also, we’ll close our eyes and click our heels together three times and wish upon a star over and over again until Israelis and Palestinians reach Peace; in return you, in Afghanistan and beyond, will become modern, woman-respecting democrats because of our forged partnerships (and a few troops? Oh, never mind them!).” Read the whole thing, as they say.

Mickey Kaus reads the typically aggressive and hyper-partisan Obami’s invitation to Republicans to the health-care summit and finds: “Unsubtle subtext: We like our bill and the purpose of this meeting is to set things up so it can pass. … But what if, as a Republican, you don’t think we are ‘the closest … to resolving this issue in … nearly 100 years’? Maybe you don’t think the bill will resolve the issue at all! (I disagree, but I’m not a Republican.) … Even if Obama’s only trying to appear bipartisan, his aides are doing a mighty poor job of conveying that impression.”

Even Dana Milbank can figure out that the Washington blizzards were “an inconvenient meteorological phenomenon for Al Gore.” He writes: “In Washington’s blizzards, the greens were hoisted by their own petard. For years, climate-change activists have argued by anecdote to make their case. Gore, in his famous slide shows, ties human-caused global warming to increasing hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, drought, and the spread of mosquitoes, pine beetles, and disease.” He even concedes, “The scientific case has been further undermined by high-profile screw-ups. First there were the hacked e-mails of a British research center that suggested the scientists were stacking the deck to overstate the threat. Now comes word of numerous errors in a 2007 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including the bogus claim that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear in 25 years.” Maybe Al Gore should give back the Oscar.

I suppose it’s not news when Harry Reid screws up a potential bipartisan deal and blindsides the White House. But, on his sinking down the bipartisan Senate bill, even the New York Times acknowledges that “it was a telling glimpse into the state of mind of rattled Senate Democrats.” And another reason why Reid’s defeat might be a very welcome development by his party.

There is an alternative to civilian trials for terrorists. And it’s legal and everything: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) repeated his call Saturday for the Obama administration to try suspected terrorists in military tribunals. A former military lawyer himself, Graham said the tribunal system was well-equipped to handle delicate terrorism cases. . . . Graham was a main author of the Military Commission Act of 2009, which modified the tribunal system to align with a Supreme Court ruling.” Funny how none of the Obama spinners defending their handling of terrorist even mention the 2009 statute.

Politico asks “Why Cheney attacks?” The insiderish Beltway outlet can’t really be that dense, right? For starters, Cheney has been right and is in sync with the American people. And then the former VP does manage to get under the skin of the Obami and send them scrambling. (Politico might want to cut out the Stephen Walt and Keith Olbermann quotes — jeez — as well as the Beagle Blogger psychobabble if it wants to be taken seriously on these sorts of stories.)

Gov. Chris Christie earns plaudits: “As politicians spend America into the fiscal abyss, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has a novel idea: Freeze spending. For such statesmanship, watch him be demonized like no one before. . . New Jersey’s new governor, the successor of so many corrupt chief executives, is taking action that will make him, like Reagan, the focus of pure hate from those who think what taxpayers earn is Monopoly money to be treated according to the whims and desires of politicians, bureaucrats, union bosses and other power players.”

Not everyone (anyone?) is buying the itsy-bitsy-sanctions approach. (“Sanctions on the accounts of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in WESTERN banks?”) Amitai Etzioni writes: ” You can fool some people some of the time, but the Obama Administration credibility is melting faster than the snow in Washington.”

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From the Fever Swamps of MSNBC…

If you want to see yet one more embarrassing performance from the circus act known as MSNBC, take a look at this exchange between Lawrence O’Donnell and former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen. O’Donnell is so unhinged that Joe Scarborough has to go to break and says he’ll finish the interview himself.

O’Donnell, like Keith Olbermann and the rest of MSNBC’s prime-time lineup, serves a useful public purpose. He demonstrates to the public the rage and bitterness that now consumes so much of the Left. It isn’t always pleasant to watch, and it certainly doesn’t further enlightened public discourse. But it does focus attention on a movement that has real influence on the Democratic party and on the president himself.

Obama and the Left remain joined at the hip; and if Obama is serious about wanting greater civility in our national dialogue, perhaps he can focus a bit more of his unhappiness and lectures on modern liberalism’s fever swamps.

If you want to see yet one more embarrassing performance from the circus act known as MSNBC, take a look at this exchange between Lawrence O’Donnell and former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen. O’Donnell is so unhinged that Joe Scarborough has to go to break and says he’ll finish the interview himself.

O’Donnell, like Keith Olbermann and the rest of MSNBC’s prime-time lineup, serves a useful public purpose. He demonstrates to the public the rage and bitterness that now consumes so much of the Left. It isn’t always pleasant to watch, and it certainly doesn’t further enlightened public discourse. But it does focus attention on a movement that has real influence on the Democratic party and on the president himself.

Obama and the Left remain joined at the hip; and if Obama is serious about wanting greater civility in our national dialogue, perhaps he can focus a bit more of his unhappiness and lectures on modern liberalism’s fever swamps.

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Why Punch Is No More…

Pete, your post put me in mind of a story Malcolm Muggeridge tells in The End of Christendom, of an evening at the theater with then Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey.  Muggeridge, you may remember, was, among other things, the editor of Britain’s venerable humor magazine Punch for several years. Well, during a performance of Godspell, the good Archbishop saw fit to leap out of his seat at a climactic moment and yell, “Long live God!”

Which, to Muggeridge:

was like shouting “Carry on eternity” or “Keep going infinity.” The incident made a deep impression on my mind because it illustrated the basic difficulty I met with when I was editor of Punch: that the eminent so often say and do things which are infinitely more ridiculous than anything you can invent for them. That might not sound to you like a terrible difficulty but it is, believe me, the main headache of the editor of an ostensibly humorous paper. You go to great trouble to invent a ridiculous Archbishop of Canterbury and give him ridiculous lines to say and then suddenly he rises in his seat at the theater and shouts out “Long live God.” And you’re defeated, you’re broken.

Needless to say, Keith Olbermann is not “eminent,” as was Dr. Ramsey, merely immanent, much like a hallucination. Perhaps for not too much longer, given that his expectorations threaten the livelihood of many a satirist.

Pete, your post put me in mind of a story Malcolm Muggeridge tells in The End of Christendom, of an evening at the theater with then Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey.  Muggeridge, you may remember, was, among other things, the editor of Britain’s venerable humor magazine Punch for several years. Well, during a performance of Godspell, the good Archbishop saw fit to leap out of his seat at a climactic moment and yell, “Long live God!”

Which, to Muggeridge:

was like shouting “Carry on eternity” or “Keep going infinity.” The incident made a deep impression on my mind because it illustrated the basic difficulty I met with when I was editor of Punch: that the eminent so often say and do things which are infinitely more ridiculous than anything you can invent for them. That might not sound to you like a terrible difficulty but it is, believe me, the main headache of the editor of an ostensibly humorous paper. You go to great trouble to invent a ridiculous Archbishop of Canterbury and give him ridiculous lines to say and then suddenly he rises in his seat at the theater and shouts out “Long live God.” And you’re defeated, you’re broken.

Needless to say, Keith Olbermann is not “eminent,” as was Dr. Ramsey, merely immanent, much like a hallucination. Perhaps for not too much longer, given that his expectorations threaten the livelihood of many a satirist.

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Keith Olbermann: Beyond Satire

Here’s Jon Stewart mocking MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann over the latter’s comments on Scott Brown. Stewart is clever and funny, as he usually is; but what is most revealing is that Stewart, in attempting to lampoon Olbermann, comes across as far more sane and balanced than Olbermann does in real life. It’s official, then: Keith Olbermann is now beyond satirizing. He has entered territory where almost no man has gone before. And he’s all yours, MSNBC.

Here’s Jon Stewart mocking MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann over the latter’s comments on Scott Brown. Stewart is clever and funny, as he usually is; but what is most revealing is that Stewart, in attempting to lampoon Olbermann, comes across as far more sane and balanced than Olbermann does in real life. It’s official, then: Keith Olbermann is now beyond satirizing. He has entered territory where almost no man has gone before. And he’s all yours, MSNBC.

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Sad Sacks at MSNBC

Keith Olbermann is ticking through the polls and remarking on the Martha Coakley “free fall.” He is subdued, if not despondent, as he reviews the finger-pointing festival that has broken out among the Democrats. But Rachel Maddow is nearly catatonic. “It is remarkable to see the blaming going around,” she muses before a single vote is counted. “Something went wrong in the Democratic strategy,” she intones.

Now, the MSNBC folks know no more than the rest of them, but if the body language of  loony liberals equates to vote totals, it’ll be a bad night for their favorite party.

Keith Olbermann is ticking through the polls and remarking on the Martha Coakley “free fall.” He is subdued, if not despondent, as he reviews the finger-pointing festival that has broken out among the Democrats. But Rachel Maddow is nearly catatonic. “It is remarkable to see the blaming going around,” she muses before a single vote is counted. “Something went wrong in the Democratic strategy,” she intones.

Now, the MSNBC folks know no more than the rest of them, but if the body language of  loony liberals equates to vote totals, it’ll be a bad night for their favorite party.

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Where the Political Discourse Is Ugly

Yesterday I wrote that if Scott Brown wins the Massachusetts election, “it’s a safe bet that in response [Democrats] and their allies will lash out in rage, angry at the perceived injustice of it all, furious at the fate that has befallen them.”

Enter the increasingly bizarre Keith Olbermann, the public face of MSNBC. In his short commentary last night, Mr. Olbermann offered these measured thoughts:

In short, in Scott Brown we have an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against woman and against politicians with whom he disagrees. In any other time in our history, this man would have been laughed off the stage as an unqualified and a disaster in the making by the most conservative of conservatives. Instead, the commonwealth of Massachusetts is close to sending this bad joke to the Senate of the United States.

This was too much for Olbermann’s colleague Joe Scarborough, who called Olbermann’s comments “reckless” and “sad.” Olbermann’s comments come after MSNBC’s Ed Schultz said on his radio program:

I tell you what, if I lived in Massachusetts I’d try to vote 10 times. I don’t know if they’d let me or not, but I’d try to. Yeah, that’s right. I’d cheat to keep these bastards out. I would. ‘Cause that’s exactly what they are.

An impressive duo, no? Any network that makes Chris Matthews appear as a rock of stability, civility, and reason has achieved something that is not easy.

MSNBC, with a few exceptions (like Scarborough), long ago became a circus act. But it’s a circus act that serves a purpose. It reflects the temper and mindset of much of the Left. It is a movement fueled by paranoia and hate, even with Obama in the White House and Democrats in control of Congress. If Olbermann and Schultz’s comments are indicative of how the core of the Democratic Party is reacting simply in anticipation of a loss in Massachusetts, it’s hard to envision what will happen if Brown actually wins, let alone what would happen if Republicans make widespread gains in November.

Such ugliness by any political group or movement — whether from the Left or the Right — is not good for democratic discourse. It’s why each side needs to police its own ranks. But when the Left becomes as unhinged as Olbermann and some of his colleagues are — when the public gets to peer into their dark, angry, and bitter little world — it will have political ramifications, none of them good for Democrats.

Sometimes seeing ugliness on full display, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable, reveals certain realities. America can decide for itself if it wants to support an ideology that produces people like Keith Olbermann.

Yesterday I wrote that if Scott Brown wins the Massachusetts election, “it’s a safe bet that in response [Democrats] and their allies will lash out in rage, angry at the perceived injustice of it all, furious at the fate that has befallen them.”

Enter the increasingly bizarre Keith Olbermann, the public face of MSNBC. In his short commentary last night, Mr. Olbermann offered these measured thoughts:

In short, in Scott Brown we have an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against woman and against politicians with whom he disagrees. In any other time in our history, this man would have been laughed off the stage as an unqualified and a disaster in the making by the most conservative of conservatives. Instead, the commonwealth of Massachusetts is close to sending this bad joke to the Senate of the United States.

This was too much for Olbermann’s colleague Joe Scarborough, who called Olbermann’s comments “reckless” and “sad.” Olbermann’s comments come after MSNBC’s Ed Schultz said on his radio program:

I tell you what, if I lived in Massachusetts I’d try to vote 10 times. I don’t know if they’d let me or not, but I’d try to. Yeah, that’s right. I’d cheat to keep these bastards out. I would. ‘Cause that’s exactly what they are.

An impressive duo, no? Any network that makes Chris Matthews appear as a rock of stability, civility, and reason has achieved something that is not easy.

MSNBC, with a few exceptions (like Scarborough), long ago became a circus act. But it’s a circus act that serves a purpose. It reflects the temper and mindset of much of the Left. It is a movement fueled by paranoia and hate, even with Obama in the White House and Democrats in control of Congress. If Olbermann and Schultz’s comments are indicative of how the core of the Democratic Party is reacting simply in anticipation of a loss in Massachusetts, it’s hard to envision what will happen if Brown actually wins, let alone what would happen if Republicans make widespread gains in November.

Such ugliness by any political group or movement — whether from the Left or the Right — is not good for democratic discourse. It’s why each side needs to police its own ranks. But when the Left becomes as unhinged as Olbermann and some of his colleagues are — when the public gets to peer into their dark, angry, and bitter little world — it will have political ramifications, none of them good for Democrats.

Sometimes seeing ugliness on full display, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable, reveals certain realities. America can decide for itself if it wants to support an ideology that produces people like Keith Olbermann.

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RE: ObamaCare Loses Brooks

While I’m certainly glad that someone on the Times op-ed page has come out against ObamaCare, David Brooks could certainly have been a bit more forceful about it. Nothing wishy-washy about Keith Olbermann’s rejection of ObamaCare.

But I was struck by one thing that Brooks wrote: “The fact is, nobody knows how to reduce cost growth within the current system.”

Of course we do.

Allow people to buy insurance across state lines and thus escape unwanted mandates and such economic idiocies as “guaranteed issuance.” If New Yorkers could buy health insurance in Connecticut, their insurance costs would drop by 40 percent overnight. How’s that for reducing costs, Mr. Brooks?

Reform tort law. Texas did exactly that a few years ago and the cost of medical malpractice insurance — which, of course, is passed on to patients — fell by an average of 21 percent, and 7,000 new doctors began practicing in the state, many in under-served areas.

Require that medical-service providers post prices for standard procedures, allowing comparative shopping by doctors and patients alike. Charges for standard procedures can vary dramatically because they aren’t readily ascertained. Once posted, they would tend to converge toward the lower end. Combined with medical savings accounts that incite health-care consumers to look for the lowest prices, the reduction in costs would amount to billions of dollars.

Allow the young to buy high-deductible, low-cost health insurance to protect them from highly unlikely but devastating accidents and illnesses that represent the greatest risks to their health. That would enlarge the insurance pool and decrease the number of uninsured who are shifted onto the bills of those with insurance. That allows lower premiums.

Health-care costs will increase for reasons we can do nothing about, like inflation, an aging population, new and expensive technologies and drugs, and the fact that when we save a patient from dying of one illness, we guarantee that he will later die of another, at further cost. But there are hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in the health-care system today, and we know exactly how to fix that.

The only reason we haven’t is because politicians don’t want it fixed.

While I’m certainly glad that someone on the Times op-ed page has come out against ObamaCare, David Brooks could certainly have been a bit more forceful about it. Nothing wishy-washy about Keith Olbermann’s rejection of ObamaCare.

But I was struck by one thing that Brooks wrote: “The fact is, nobody knows how to reduce cost growth within the current system.”

Of course we do.

Allow people to buy insurance across state lines and thus escape unwanted mandates and such economic idiocies as “guaranteed issuance.” If New Yorkers could buy health insurance in Connecticut, their insurance costs would drop by 40 percent overnight. How’s that for reducing costs, Mr. Brooks?

Reform tort law. Texas did exactly that a few years ago and the cost of medical malpractice insurance — which, of course, is passed on to patients — fell by an average of 21 percent, and 7,000 new doctors began practicing in the state, many in under-served areas.

Require that medical-service providers post prices for standard procedures, allowing comparative shopping by doctors and patients alike. Charges for standard procedures can vary dramatically because they aren’t readily ascertained. Once posted, they would tend to converge toward the lower end. Combined with medical savings accounts that incite health-care consumers to look for the lowest prices, the reduction in costs would amount to billions of dollars.

Allow the young to buy high-deductible, low-cost health insurance to protect them from highly unlikely but devastating accidents and illnesses that represent the greatest risks to their health. That would enlarge the insurance pool and decrease the number of uninsured who are shifted onto the bills of those with insurance. That allows lower premiums.

Health-care costs will increase for reasons we can do nothing about, like inflation, an aging population, new and expensive technologies and drugs, and the fact that when we save a patient from dying of one illness, we guarantee that he will later die of another, at further cost. But there are hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in the health-care system today, and we know exactly how to fix that.

The only reason we haven’t is because politicians don’t want it fixed.

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Liberals in Revolt, Looking for Allies

The Left is having a meltdown. They might yet get nationalized health care, but they’re beside themselves with fury. As this report sums up:

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is mounting a campaign of sorts against the initiative in its current form. MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has declared, “This is not health. This is not care. This is certainly not reform.” Liberal blogs such as Daily Kos are blasting the Senate bill, especially since it dropped a government-run “public option” and killed a plan to expand Medicare. Liberal House members are venting their fury at senators who are lukewarm on the revamp, especially Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson. Labor unions are protesting proposed taxes on high-value insurance policies.

On one hand, there’s reason to view all this with a great deal of skepticism. We haven’t seen, with the possible exception of Sen. Bernie Sanders, any indication that the Left will submarine the bill in the Senate. And virtually everyone suspects that whatever does get through the Senate will be jammed down the throats of House Democrats. They’ve shown no inclination to resist Nancy Pelosi on any significant vote.

However, there is reason for the White House and Democratic lawmakers to be very, very nervous. They need these angry liberals to support them, give money, and turn out to vote in 2010. The “angry Left” is useful to Democratic pols — so long as the Left’s anger is directed at others — and gets liberals to the polls for establishment Democrats. Should the liberal base stay home in a huff, the bleak 2010 picture will get bleaker.

What to do? Well, the White House and Democratic congressional leaders are convinced it will all work out in the end if the reviled health-care bill passes. Everyone — the Left included — will learn to love it, they keep telling themselves. Perhaps. But maybe there’s a strange convergence of interests. The Left wants to kill the bill. Conservatives want to kill the bill. Red State Democrats don’t really want to vote on the bill. What all these diverse groups need to do, then, is, well, kill the bill.

But then Democrats will need to look for someone to blame. (You don’t suppose they could blame George W. Bush? He’s come in so handy for so long, and on this one he almost surely wouldn’t mind.) Perhaps the Democrats should have held tight on the public option and let Sen. Joe Lieberman sink it. Come to think of it, that would have made a whole lot of people very happy. And it might have saved a lot of Democratic seats in 2010. Ah, well.

The Left is having a meltdown. They might yet get nationalized health care, but they’re beside themselves with fury. As this report sums up:

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is mounting a campaign of sorts against the initiative in its current form. MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has declared, “This is not health. This is not care. This is certainly not reform.” Liberal blogs such as Daily Kos are blasting the Senate bill, especially since it dropped a government-run “public option” and killed a plan to expand Medicare. Liberal House members are venting their fury at senators who are lukewarm on the revamp, especially Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson. Labor unions are protesting proposed taxes on high-value insurance policies.

On one hand, there’s reason to view all this with a great deal of skepticism. We haven’t seen, with the possible exception of Sen. Bernie Sanders, any indication that the Left will submarine the bill in the Senate. And virtually everyone suspects that whatever does get through the Senate will be jammed down the throats of House Democrats. They’ve shown no inclination to resist Nancy Pelosi on any significant vote.

However, there is reason for the White House and Democratic lawmakers to be very, very nervous. They need these angry liberals to support them, give money, and turn out to vote in 2010. The “angry Left” is useful to Democratic pols — so long as the Left’s anger is directed at others — and gets liberals to the polls for establishment Democrats. Should the liberal base stay home in a huff, the bleak 2010 picture will get bleaker.

What to do? Well, the White House and Democratic congressional leaders are convinced it will all work out in the end if the reviled health-care bill passes. Everyone — the Left included — will learn to love it, they keep telling themselves. Perhaps. But maybe there’s a strange convergence of interests. The Left wants to kill the bill. Conservatives want to kill the bill. Red State Democrats don’t really want to vote on the bill. What all these diverse groups need to do, then, is, well, kill the bill.

But then Democrats will need to look for someone to blame. (You don’t suppose they could blame George W. Bush? He’s come in so handy for so long, and on this one he almost surely wouldn’t mind.) Perhaps the Democrats should have held tight on the public option and let Sen. Joe Lieberman sink it. Come to think of it, that would have made a whole lot of people very happy. And it might have saved a lot of Democratic seats in 2010. Ah, well.

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The Real Hypocrisy

COMMENTARY contributor Jamie Kirchick, observing NPR’s ever-so-helpful effort to assist in the Obami’s Fox vendetta by pressuring Mara Liasson to stay off its news programs, spots the double standard at play. He writes:

“By appearing on Fox, reporters validate its propaganda values and help to undermine the role of legitimate news organizations,” declared Jacob Weisberg in a Newsweek column titled “Why Fox News Is Un-American” (remember that title the next time a liberal accuses a conservative of “questioning my patriotism”). “Respectable journalists — I’m talking to you, Mara Liasson — should stop appearing on its programs,” Weisberg insisted.

Kirchick wants to know why Weisberg hasn’t spotted the “violators of the Fourth Estate’s vaunted ethical standards” in his own shop — those who regularly turn up on the netroot network, MSNBC. Yes, it seems that Newsweek‘s supposedly impartial newsmen — Richard Wolffe, Howard Fineman, and Jonathan Alter — all have visited Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. Unlike Liasson, who confines herself to news programs, this trio has offered themselves up as bit players in Olbermann’s rant-athon and cogs in the Obama hype-machine. And, as Kirchick notes, Wolffe wrote a slobbering account of the Obama campaign. And then there was this embarrassing episode:

This year, Fineman went beyond the bounds of journalistic propriety by introducing Olbermann at a political fund-raiser. “He’s not a liberal,” Fineman gushed. “What Keith is is an anti-establishment character who doesn’t want people in power to get away with things.” Fineman added that Olbermann “rediscovered the role of journalism and that role is deeply informed judgment about people in power and about the morality of our country.”

Yikes. But perhaps the Newsweek vs. NPR journalist comparison isn’t precisely accurate. Liasson actually is a neutral newsperson who makes some effort to cover events fairly and to leave hyper-partisan invectives to others. She might be cheerily susceptible to liberal spin, but she’s not in the business of spinning for the Obami herself or gratuitously throwing jabs at the Right.

By contrast, the new Newsweek gang gave up “news” reporting a while ago. The entire publication is now devoted to Obama-hype and slams against the usual conservative suspects, those in biking shorts and with talk-radio shows in particular. Newsweek is, in effect, the MSNBC of the weekly “news” magazine world, minus the more extreme Republicans = Nazis formulations one hears on Countdown. So the real hypocrisy here is not only that the media elites see Liasson alone as violating some code of journalistic purity; it is that they accept the pretense that Newsweek is a news outlet rather than a liberal opinion journal in search of an audience.

COMMENTARY contributor Jamie Kirchick, observing NPR’s ever-so-helpful effort to assist in the Obami’s Fox vendetta by pressuring Mara Liasson to stay off its news programs, spots the double standard at play. He writes:

“By appearing on Fox, reporters validate its propaganda values and help to undermine the role of legitimate news organizations,” declared Jacob Weisberg in a Newsweek column titled “Why Fox News Is Un-American” (remember that title the next time a liberal accuses a conservative of “questioning my patriotism”). “Respectable journalists — I’m talking to you, Mara Liasson — should stop appearing on its programs,” Weisberg insisted.

Kirchick wants to know why Weisberg hasn’t spotted the “violators of the Fourth Estate’s vaunted ethical standards” in his own shop — those who regularly turn up on the netroot network, MSNBC. Yes, it seems that Newsweek‘s supposedly impartial newsmen — Richard Wolffe, Howard Fineman, and Jonathan Alter — all have visited Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. Unlike Liasson, who confines herself to news programs, this trio has offered themselves up as bit players in Olbermann’s rant-athon and cogs in the Obama hype-machine. And, as Kirchick notes, Wolffe wrote a slobbering account of the Obama campaign. And then there was this embarrassing episode:

This year, Fineman went beyond the bounds of journalistic propriety by introducing Olbermann at a political fund-raiser. “He’s not a liberal,” Fineman gushed. “What Keith is is an anti-establishment character who doesn’t want people in power to get away with things.” Fineman added that Olbermann “rediscovered the role of journalism and that role is deeply informed judgment about people in power and about the morality of our country.”

Yikes. But perhaps the Newsweek vs. NPR journalist comparison isn’t precisely accurate. Liasson actually is a neutral newsperson who makes some effort to cover events fairly and to leave hyper-partisan invectives to others. She might be cheerily susceptible to liberal spin, but she’s not in the business of spinning for the Obami herself or gratuitously throwing jabs at the Right.

By contrast, the new Newsweek gang gave up “news” reporting a while ago. The entire publication is now devoted to Obama-hype and slams against the usual conservative suspects, those in biking shorts and with talk-radio shows in particular. Newsweek is, in effect, the MSNBC of the weekly “news” magazine world, minus the more extreme Republicans = Nazis formulations one hears on Countdown. So the real hypocrisy here is not only that the media elites see Liasson alone as violating some code of journalistic purity; it is that they accept the pretense that Newsweek is a news outlet rather than a liberal opinion journal in search of an audience.

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Pansygate

As if we did not have enough outrage over real and semi-real issues, we now have Pansygate.  Indignation has gripped some over this comment by Governor Mike Easley at Tuesday’s endorsement presser for Hillary Clinton: “This lady right here makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy.”

He did not, it should be noted, say Barack Obama was a pansy. He said Rocky was, in comparison to Hillary. And sometimes a dainty flower is just a flower, and a weakling is just a weakling (two commonly accepted meanings). But some–including a pleading Keith Olbermann, who tried unsuccessfully on MSNBC last night to badger a poor Roll Call reporter into conceding this was a discriminatory remark–will not be persuaded.

Suffice it to say that on a day when Obama was the focus of a storm of negative attention, the last thing Clinton would have wanted would be to get involved in anything controversial or suggestive of intolerance. She is now, you see, auditioning as the Uniter. That’s how far we’ve come.

As if we did not have enough outrage over real and semi-real issues, we now have Pansygate.  Indignation has gripped some over this comment by Governor Mike Easley at Tuesday’s endorsement presser for Hillary Clinton: “This lady right here makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy.”

He did not, it should be noted, say Barack Obama was a pansy. He said Rocky was, in comparison to Hillary. And sometimes a dainty flower is just a flower, and a weakling is just a weakling (two commonly accepted meanings). But some–including a pleading Keith Olbermann, who tried unsuccessfully on MSNBC last night to badger a poor Roll Call reporter into conceding this was a discriminatory remark–will not be persuaded.

Suffice it to say that on a day when Obama was the focus of a storm of negative attention, the last thing Clinton would have wanted would be to get involved in anything controversial or suggestive of intolerance. She is now, you see, auditioning as the Uniter. That’s how far we’ve come.

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In the Kitchen with Bin Laden

Senator Hillary Clinton has a new ad that describes the presidency as “the toughest job in the world. You need to be ready for anything–especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing, and an economy in crisis.” The ad quotes Harry Truman–“if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”– and concludes with this question: “Who do you think has what it takes?”

Among the images in the ad is one of Osama bin Laden. It turns out that was too much for some of Barack Obama’s supporters. In his interview last night with Clinton, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann said:

Let me ask you about the campaign and something you said in Pittsburgh today and again, let me read the quote about being president. “It’s the toughest job in the world and you have to be ready for anything. Two wars, skyrocketing oil prices, an economy in crisis. Well, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” That is almost word for word the narration of this new ad that your campaign put out today, and that ad flashes a very brief image of Osama bin Laden. For nearly six years now since Senator Max Cleland was cut down by a commercial that featured a picture of bin Laden, that has been — that tactic has been kind of a bloody shirt for many Democrats. Is it not just, in your opinion, as much of a scare tactic for a Democrat to use it against another Democrat, as it is for a Republican to use it in a race against the Democrat?

Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist, was on CNN making the same complaint:

What’s really disappointing about this ad is all of us should remember in 2002 when the Republicans ran an ad featuring Osama bin Laden against Max Cleland. And all the Democrats were upset about that, because they used Osama bin Laden to stir up fear. And now here we are again, watching Democrats use Osama bin Laden to stir fear against other Democrats.

The Max Cleland ad has become an urban legend in some quarters. According to this narrative, an ad run by Cleland’s opponent, Saxby Chambliss, questioned the patriotism of Cleland, a man who served in Vietnam and became a triple amputee. In point of fact, this ad did no such thing. Cleland had voted multiple times against a homeland security bill that would have given the President freedom from union rules which Bush had deemed necessary to make the new Department of Homeland Security more effective. Chambliss’s ad included pictures of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, underscoring the threats faced by America. At no point was Cleland’s patriotism impugned. What the ad did do was dispute Cleland’s claim that he had the “courage to lead” and that he “supports President Bush at every opportunity.”

So it has come to this: simply the picture of Osama bin Laden in an ad highlighting threats to America has become a “scare tactic” and a “bloody shirt for many Democrats.” Forget the fact that the threats we face are real, that bin Laden was responsible for killing almost 3,000 Americans on September 11th, and that he is leading figure in a jihadist movement that wants to destroy our country and kill many more of our people. Using the image of bin Laden is verboten.

This is yet one more example of the delicate sensibilities and manufactured outrage that makes people wonder about contemporary liberalism. I suspect Americans are more concerned with the threat posed by bin Laden than they are concerned by the use of his image in an ad. The public is right to be impatient with such childishness.

Senator Hillary Clinton has a new ad that describes the presidency as “the toughest job in the world. You need to be ready for anything–especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing, and an economy in crisis.” The ad quotes Harry Truman–“if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”– and concludes with this question: “Who do you think has what it takes?”

Among the images in the ad is one of Osama bin Laden. It turns out that was too much for some of Barack Obama’s supporters. In his interview last night with Clinton, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann said:

Let me ask you about the campaign and something you said in Pittsburgh today and again, let me read the quote about being president. “It’s the toughest job in the world and you have to be ready for anything. Two wars, skyrocketing oil prices, an economy in crisis. Well, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” That is almost word for word the narration of this new ad that your campaign put out today, and that ad flashes a very brief image of Osama bin Laden. For nearly six years now since Senator Max Cleland was cut down by a commercial that featured a picture of bin Laden, that has been — that tactic has been kind of a bloody shirt for many Democrats. Is it not just, in your opinion, as much of a scare tactic for a Democrat to use it against another Democrat, as it is for a Republican to use it in a race against the Democrat?

Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist, was on CNN making the same complaint:

What’s really disappointing about this ad is all of us should remember in 2002 when the Republicans ran an ad featuring Osama bin Laden against Max Cleland. And all the Democrats were upset about that, because they used Osama bin Laden to stir up fear. And now here we are again, watching Democrats use Osama bin Laden to stir fear against other Democrats.

The Max Cleland ad has become an urban legend in some quarters. According to this narrative, an ad run by Cleland’s opponent, Saxby Chambliss, questioned the patriotism of Cleland, a man who served in Vietnam and became a triple amputee. In point of fact, this ad did no such thing. Cleland had voted multiple times against a homeland security bill that would have given the President freedom from union rules which Bush had deemed necessary to make the new Department of Homeland Security more effective. Chambliss’s ad included pictures of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, underscoring the threats faced by America. At no point was Cleland’s patriotism impugned. What the ad did do was dispute Cleland’s claim that he had the “courage to lead” and that he “supports President Bush at every opportunity.”

So it has come to this: simply the picture of Osama bin Laden in an ad highlighting threats to America has become a “scare tactic” and a “bloody shirt for many Democrats.” Forget the fact that the threats we face are real, that bin Laden was responsible for killing almost 3,000 Americans on September 11th, and that he is leading figure in a jihadist movement that wants to destroy our country and kill many more of our people. Using the image of bin Laden is verboten.

This is yet one more example of the delicate sensibilities and manufactured outrage that makes people wonder about contemporary liberalism. I suspect Americans are more concerned with the threat posed by bin Laden than they are concerned by the use of his image in an ad. The public is right to be impatient with such childishness.

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“Shameful”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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