Commentary Magazine


Topic: liberal media

RE: Palin and the Media

Pete, I want to pick up on one point you made. There is no doubt that the liberal media is, well, liberal. The evidence is overwhelming, and Newsbusters and bloggers such as Glenn Reynolds do a fine job pointing it out on a regular basis. It’s important to do so and to pressure the media to play it straight, for the ombudsmen who populate most outlets rarely, if ever, conclude that there is bias at work.

But conservative candidates generally should not whine about the media. It’s not going to help them, and it often makes things worse. When John McCain’s 2008 campaign went on the attack against the New York Times, it was a low point in the campaign and only reinforced the sense that McCain was angry and thin-skinned.

Moreover, conservative candidates today have less to complain about than Ronald Reagan did. Reagan won the governorship of California and two presidential elections without the benefit of talk radio, the Internet, and social media, which have provided new outlets for conservatives and robust competition to the liberal media. And, of course, Fox News wasn’t around either. I sometimes get the impression that candidates use the media as an excuse for why they don’t do well and why their own difficulties are getting aired. Rand Paul tried this tact when his own words landed him in trouble.

The model for how conservatives should deal with the media is Chris Christie — pointing out the bias (for example, what an alternative headline would sound like), not complaining of being a victim, smiling, and exuding jovial confidence. That’s the way for candidates and elected leaders to handle the press — and to endear themselves to voters.

Pete, I want to pick up on one point you made. There is no doubt that the liberal media is, well, liberal. The evidence is overwhelming, and Newsbusters and bloggers such as Glenn Reynolds do a fine job pointing it out on a regular basis. It’s important to do so and to pressure the media to play it straight, for the ombudsmen who populate most outlets rarely, if ever, conclude that there is bias at work.

But conservative candidates generally should not whine about the media. It’s not going to help them, and it often makes things worse. When John McCain’s 2008 campaign went on the attack against the New York Times, it was a low point in the campaign and only reinforced the sense that McCain was angry and thin-skinned.

Moreover, conservative candidates today have less to complain about than Ronald Reagan did. Reagan won the governorship of California and two presidential elections without the benefit of talk radio, the Internet, and social media, which have provided new outlets for conservatives and robust competition to the liberal media. And, of course, Fox News wasn’t around either. I sometimes get the impression that candidates use the media as an excuse for why they don’t do well and why their own difficulties are getting aired. Rand Paul tried this tact when his own words landed him in trouble.

The model for how conservatives should deal with the media is Chris Christie — pointing out the bias (for example, what an alternative headline would sound like), not complaining of being a victim, smiling, and exuding jovial confidence. That’s the way for candidates and elected leaders to handle the press — and to endear themselves to voters.

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More Obama!

The Washington Post tries to throw Obama and the Democrats a lifeline. It’s understandable that the liberal media — which witnessed a complete repudiation of Obama and his agenda at the polls — would scramble to help him out. After all, they invested so much credibility in helping to elect him. But the advice they offer is simply daft:

Strategists at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say it is now clear that, although Obama’s name will not be on the ballot, it will fall to him to build the case for the activist approach that he has pressed his party to take over the past 16 months. And just as important, they say, he must take the lead in making the argument against the Republicans.

Are they joking? The president who in 17 months could not sell ObamaCare to the American people and whose agenda has shifted the country to the right is now expected to remind the entire populace, when his poll numbers are sliding downward, that Democrats believe in big government, lots of regulation, and higher taxes? The Republican reaction is likely to be: Oh, please do!

And by the way, the reporters identify not a single “strategist” other than David Axelrod and congressional Democrats. So the sentence is misleading. It should begin “Democratic pols at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have convinced themselves, despite evidence of the president’s declining popularity …”

The reporters then bizarrely offer up Mark Critz as an example of how candidates can craft their own message. But wait: that message was anti-Obama. As George Will reminds Post readers over on the op-ed page, Critz is “right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat.”

And David Broder, who is not exactly a strategist but is also no GOP booster, is even more blunt in the Post‘s opinion section:

We saw the anti-Washington sentiment Tuesday in Kentucky, where Rand Paul, the physician son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, easily defeated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate for the Republican nomination for a vacant Senate seat — and credited his win to the Tea Partyers. The same sentiment carried to Arkansas, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by her labor-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. And it claimed its largest victim of the year so far in Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter. Run out of the Republican Party last year by a GOP challenger, he fell embarrassingly to a less-known younger congressman in a bid for the Democratic nomination. His failure showed the Obama White House once again to be a toothless tiger — with its endorsements now having failed in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. No good news for the president there.

Republicans would dearly love Obama to test the Post reporters’ theory that the Democrats’ problem is not enough big-government cheerleading. And they would be ecstatic if he came to do it in every close district in the country. Then there will be no denying that the results will be a true reflection of the country’s evaluation of him.

The Washington Post tries to throw Obama and the Democrats a lifeline. It’s understandable that the liberal media — which witnessed a complete repudiation of Obama and his agenda at the polls — would scramble to help him out. After all, they invested so much credibility in helping to elect him. But the advice they offer is simply daft:

Strategists at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say it is now clear that, although Obama’s name will not be on the ballot, it will fall to him to build the case for the activist approach that he has pressed his party to take over the past 16 months. And just as important, they say, he must take the lead in making the argument against the Republicans.

Are they joking? The president who in 17 months could not sell ObamaCare to the American people and whose agenda has shifted the country to the right is now expected to remind the entire populace, when his poll numbers are sliding downward, that Democrats believe in big government, lots of regulation, and higher taxes? The Republican reaction is likely to be: Oh, please do!

And by the way, the reporters identify not a single “strategist” other than David Axelrod and congressional Democrats. So the sentence is misleading. It should begin “Democratic pols at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have convinced themselves, despite evidence of the president’s declining popularity …”

The reporters then bizarrely offer up Mark Critz as an example of how candidates can craft their own message. But wait: that message was anti-Obama. As George Will reminds Post readers over on the op-ed page, Critz is “right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat.”

And David Broder, who is not exactly a strategist but is also no GOP booster, is even more blunt in the Post‘s opinion section:

We saw the anti-Washington sentiment Tuesday in Kentucky, where Rand Paul, the physician son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, easily defeated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate for the Republican nomination for a vacant Senate seat — and credited his win to the Tea Partyers. The same sentiment carried to Arkansas, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by her labor-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. And it claimed its largest victim of the year so far in Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter. Run out of the Republican Party last year by a GOP challenger, he fell embarrassingly to a less-known younger congressman in a bid for the Democratic nomination. His failure showed the Obama White House once again to be a toothless tiger — with its endorsements now having failed in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. No good news for the president there.

Republicans would dearly love Obama to test the Post reporters’ theory that the Democrats’ problem is not enough big-government cheerleading. And they would be ecstatic if he came to do it in every close district in the country. Then there will be no denying that the results will be a true reflection of the country’s evaluation of him.

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Media Clueless on the Tea Parties — Still

Noemie Emery traces the media coverage of the tea parties:

First, they were described as an ignorant rabble, much as the Washington Post had once pegged evangelicals. Then polls showed that they were a rabble that was better off and better informed than the public in general, and they became a selfish and privileged rabble: a privileged rabble parading as populists.

“An aggrieved elite,” Dana Milbank sniffed. “Race is part of the picture,” E.J. Dionne noted. “The Tea Partiers aren’t standing up for the little guy; they’re standing up TO the little guy,” Peter Beinart complained. “The Tea Partiers favor the economically and racially privileged. … What the Tea Partiers dislike about Barack Obama’s economic policies is that they don’t do enough for the rich.”

One sometimes gets the sense that you are watching Margaret Mead reporting on the newest tribe to appear in the wilderness. They seem to have primitive communication! One wonders what the emblems on their native garb are for! The media, of course, have no problem instantaneously recognizing liberal grassroots movements as the authentic voice of the people, but somehow they can’t quite comprehend an ideas-based, fiscally conservative popular movement. (As Emery notes: “The Tea Party is a popular, not a populist, movement, a grass-roots uprising against the cost and expansion of government power. It fears that the debt has become unsustainable.”) It’s not as if their philosophy is a secret; the media mavens, of course, could ask them what they think. But that would simply be written off, I suppose. False consciousness and all that.

Granted, the tea party movement is an oddity, sort of what CATO would be, with clever signs — a mix of popular political color and small (or smaller) government conservatism, based on a healthy skepticism about the reach and power of the federal government. These are foreign concepts to most in the liberal media so they continue to search for other explanations, each less credible than the last, for what can only be described as a great, popular revolt against Obamaism.

Noemie Emery traces the media coverage of the tea parties:

First, they were described as an ignorant rabble, much as the Washington Post had once pegged evangelicals. Then polls showed that they were a rabble that was better off and better informed than the public in general, and they became a selfish and privileged rabble: a privileged rabble parading as populists.

“An aggrieved elite,” Dana Milbank sniffed. “Race is part of the picture,” E.J. Dionne noted. “The Tea Partiers aren’t standing up for the little guy; they’re standing up TO the little guy,” Peter Beinart complained. “The Tea Partiers favor the economically and racially privileged. … What the Tea Partiers dislike about Barack Obama’s economic policies is that they don’t do enough for the rich.”

One sometimes gets the sense that you are watching Margaret Mead reporting on the newest tribe to appear in the wilderness. They seem to have primitive communication! One wonders what the emblems on their native garb are for! The media, of course, have no problem instantaneously recognizing liberal grassroots movements as the authentic voice of the people, but somehow they can’t quite comprehend an ideas-based, fiscally conservative popular movement. (As Emery notes: “The Tea Party is a popular, not a populist, movement, a grass-roots uprising against the cost and expansion of government power. It fears that the debt has become unsustainable.”) It’s not as if their philosophy is a secret; the media mavens, of course, could ask them what they think. But that would simply be written off, I suppose. False consciousness and all that.

Granted, the tea party movement is an oddity, sort of what CATO would be, with clever signs — a mix of popular political color and small (or smaller) government conservatism, based on a healthy skepticism about the reach and power of the federal government. These are foreign concepts to most in the liberal media so they continue to search for other explanations, each less credible than the last, for what can only be described as a great, popular revolt against Obamaism.

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Shocked, Shocked the Media Missed the Story

Howard Kurtz observes that, once again, the mainstream media was stunned by a story they never saw coming. They never saw the Scott Brown wave building, he writes:

The mainstream media were lulled into complacency by Coakley’s big lead in the polls and Massachusetts’s reputation as the bluest of blue states.

“The national press, and frankly to some extent the local press, were taken by surprise,” says Mark Jurkowitz, the Boston Globe’s former media reporter. “The failure here was not to pick up on what was going on out there in the ether. A lot of journalists didn’t know who Scott Brown was or failed to take him seriously because he was a Republican running in an overwhelmingly Democratic state,” says Jurkowitz, now associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

One can understand that at the onset, the race seemed like a slam dunk for the Democrats. Martha Coakley was up 30 points in the polls. But as weeks passed and polls shifted, the mainstream media continued to snooze. The imbalance in crowd size and enthusiasm was evident, yet the media narrative didn’t change. Martha Coakley’s gaffes mounted, but the MSM plodded along. Conservative outlets and analysts who predicted a Brown win or even a close vote were derided as hopelessly out of touch.

This is nothing new. The mainstream media are usually surprised by stories unfavorable to the liberal narrative. For months in late 2007 and early 2008, they feigned ignorance of the Iraq surge’s success, until candidate Barack Obama visited and there was a mad scramble to catch up to the story. The New York Times ignored the Reverend Wright story for weeks during the campaign. The Van Jones story also caught the liberal media unaware. The ACORN scandal did too. And the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial GOP victories seemed to come out of nowhere — but these could then be ignored, they hastened to add, since they weren’t reflective of any national trend (until Scott Brown made it a trifecta). Then the tea party protest movement was ignored or mocked, as were the town hall protests. Notice how the ignored stories all share a common characteristic: bad news for the Left.

The media never seem to learn or improve. The pattern repeats because this is inevitably what comes from discounting facts adverse to one side and minimizing grassroots activism on the Right. When you deride and name-call citizen activists, you wind up missing entire political movements.

The media’s “slice of reality” coverage, of course, only reinforces the predilection of this White House to ignore bad news. It’s not real news, after all, if it’s on Fox. Rasmussen isn’t a real pollster. Gallup is like a 6-year-old with a crayon. And then you wake up only to find that the president’s approval is below 50 percent, the filibuster-proof Senate is no more, ObamaCare is comatose, and the Right has forged an alliance between independents, populists, and  mainstream conservatives. Funny how that happens when you’re pretending not to notice the tea party protests outside your window or are attempting to delegitimize one of the few new outlets actually covering all this news you’d rather forget.

Howard Kurtz observes that, once again, the mainstream media was stunned by a story they never saw coming. They never saw the Scott Brown wave building, he writes:

The mainstream media were lulled into complacency by Coakley’s big lead in the polls and Massachusetts’s reputation as the bluest of blue states.

“The national press, and frankly to some extent the local press, were taken by surprise,” says Mark Jurkowitz, the Boston Globe’s former media reporter. “The failure here was not to pick up on what was going on out there in the ether. A lot of journalists didn’t know who Scott Brown was or failed to take him seriously because he was a Republican running in an overwhelmingly Democratic state,” says Jurkowitz, now associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

One can understand that at the onset, the race seemed like a slam dunk for the Democrats. Martha Coakley was up 30 points in the polls. But as weeks passed and polls shifted, the mainstream media continued to snooze. The imbalance in crowd size and enthusiasm was evident, yet the media narrative didn’t change. Martha Coakley’s gaffes mounted, but the MSM plodded along. Conservative outlets and analysts who predicted a Brown win or even a close vote were derided as hopelessly out of touch.

This is nothing new. The mainstream media are usually surprised by stories unfavorable to the liberal narrative. For months in late 2007 and early 2008, they feigned ignorance of the Iraq surge’s success, until candidate Barack Obama visited and there was a mad scramble to catch up to the story. The New York Times ignored the Reverend Wright story for weeks during the campaign. The Van Jones story also caught the liberal media unaware. The ACORN scandal did too. And the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial GOP victories seemed to come out of nowhere — but these could then be ignored, they hastened to add, since they weren’t reflective of any national trend (until Scott Brown made it a trifecta). Then the tea party protest movement was ignored or mocked, as were the town hall protests. Notice how the ignored stories all share a common characteristic: bad news for the Left.

The media never seem to learn or improve. The pattern repeats because this is inevitably what comes from discounting facts adverse to one side and minimizing grassroots activism on the Right. When you deride and name-call citizen activists, you wind up missing entire political movements.

The media’s “slice of reality” coverage, of course, only reinforces the predilection of this White House to ignore bad news. It’s not real news, after all, if it’s on Fox. Rasmussen isn’t a real pollster. Gallup is like a 6-year-old with a crayon. And then you wake up only to find that the president’s approval is below 50 percent, the filibuster-proof Senate is no more, ObamaCare is comatose, and the Right has forged an alliance between independents, populists, and  mainstream conservatives. Funny how that happens when you’re pretending not to notice the tea party protests outside your window or are attempting to delegitimize one of the few new outlets actually covering all this news you’d rather forget.

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Happy Anniversary

This week Obama did not celebrate the one-year anniversary of his presidency. That is understandable. Who, on either side of the political aisle, would have imagined that at the one-year mark, his nationalized health-care plan would be failing, card check and cap-and-trade would be off the radar, and Obama’s approval rating would be under 50 percent? Couple that with the widespread repudiation of his approach to foreign policy (the exception, more or less, being the prosecution of the war against Islamic fascists in Afghanistan and Iraq), the growth of a grassroots conservative movement, and the victories for Republicans in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts, and you can appreciate how little there is for the Obama team to cheer. Obama has proved unable to move legislation or persuade voters in diverse locales. His base is annoyed and now skewers the president. This is all the more amazing, given his huge congressional majorities and the overwhelmingly sympathetic media coverage he received for much of the year.

Obama was compared to Lincoln and FDR (not to mention the Almighty); now the analogy is to Jimmy Carter. Last year the chatter was of a permanent Democratic majority; now the pundits are weighing whether one or both houses of Congress will flip to the Republicans. He was a political colossus and the harbinger of a new era in politics; now fellow Democrats would be wise to steer clear of him.

The reasons are many — ideological overreach, hubris, and sheer incompetence, to name a few. But the magnitude of the reversal of political fortunes should not be overlooked. It is a reminder that nothing in politics is “permanent” and that winning an election does not obviate the need to proceed with caution and being mindful of public consensus when tackling complex and far-reaching policy issues. It is a lesson — or should be — in an era of ubiquitous media spin that the substance of governance matters and that on matters that affect their lives, ordinary citizens can be relied upon to engage, participate, and affect the outcome of the national debate. It is confirmation that the liberal media may be heavily invested in elections and policy debates but do not predetermine the results. And above all, it is an affirmation of the inherent conservatism and common sense of the American people, who may be swept up in the passion of a campaign but retain a healthy aversion to statism and a fondness for freedom.

There are three years more in Obama’s first term. It would be a mistake to predict how it will all come out. But for now, unlike for the president, there is much for conservatives to celebrate.

This week Obama did not celebrate the one-year anniversary of his presidency. That is understandable. Who, on either side of the political aisle, would have imagined that at the one-year mark, his nationalized health-care plan would be failing, card check and cap-and-trade would be off the radar, and Obama’s approval rating would be under 50 percent? Couple that with the widespread repudiation of his approach to foreign policy (the exception, more or less, being the prosecution of the war against Islamic fascists in Afghanistan and Iraq), the growth of a grassroots conservative movement, and the victories for Republicans in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts, and you can appreciate how little there is for the Obama team to cheer. Obama has proved unable to move legislation or persuade voters in diverse locales. His base is annoyed and now skewers the president. This is all the more amazing, given his huge congressional majorities and the overwhelmingly sympathetic media coverage he received for much of the year.

Obama was compared to Lincoln and FDR (not to mention the Almighty); now the analogy is to Jimmy Carter. Last year the chatter was of a permanent Democratic majority; now the pundits are weighing whether one or both houses of Congress will flip to the Republicans. He was a political colossus and the harbinger of a new era in politics; now fellow Democrats would be wise to steer clear of him.

The reasons are many — ideological overreach, hubris, and sheer incompetence, to name a few. But the magnitude of the reversal of political fortunes should not be overlooked. It is a reminder that nothing in politics is “permanent” and that winning an election does not obviate the need to proceed with caution and being mindful of public consensus when tackling complex and far-reaching policy issues. It is a lesson — or should be — in an era of ubiquitous media spin that the substance of governance matters and that on matters that affect their lives, ordinary citizens can be relied upon to engage, participate, and affect the outcome of the national debate. It is confirmation that the liberal media may be heavily invested in elections and policy debates but do not predetermine the results. And above all, it is an affirmation of the inherent conservatism and common sense of the American people, who may be swept up in the passion of a campaign but retain a healthy aversion to statism and a fondness for freedom.

There are three years more in Obama’s first term. It would be a mistake to predict how it will all come out. But for now, unlike for the president, there is much for conservatives to celebrate.

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One of Theirs Doesn’t Pan Out

Maureen Dowd is a woman scorned, it seems. Candidate Dreamy has become Captain Obvious. She hisses:

“We must do better,” Captain Obvious said Thursday at the White House, “in keeping dangerous people off airplanes while still facilitating air travel.” John Brennan, the deputy national security adviser, was equally illuminating. “The intelligence,” he informed us, “fell through the cracks.” He also offered this: “Al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.” That rings a bell. The president and his intelligence officials stressed that these were not the same mistakes made before 9/11. “Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence,” President Obama said, “this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had.” Wow. That makes me feel that all those billions spent on upgrading the intelligence system were well spent.

And like many a conservative pundit, she’s had quite enough of the “President Cool” routine and of the insistence “on staying aloof and setting his own deliberate pace for responding.” She fumes: “He’s so sure of himself and his actions that he fails to see that he misses the moment to be president — to be the strong father who protects the home from invaders, who reassures and instructs the public at traumatic moments.”

Not even the grande dame of the Gray Lady can avoid the conclusion that Obama hasn’t panned out. The fellow whom she and the entire liberal media swooned over during the campaign and those very qualities the Left punditocracy touted as praiseworthy (e.g., intellecutalism, emotional reserve) have proven ill-suited to the job. Obama is neither leading nor seeming to understand state craft.

How could they have gotten it so wrong? Well, they were plainly in love with the “historic” opportunity to elect an African American. And they saw in Obama one of them — elite educated, scornful of gun clinging and Bible thumping Americans, contemptuous of American exceptionalism, skeptical of “hard power,” and infatuated with the public sector. It turns out that this was a recipe for disaster when it comes the the presidency.

And Obama’s background has proved, if anything, to be a hindrance. Obama’s oversight of the Harvard Law Review didn’t prepare him for the Oval Office. To the contrary, his preference for government by seminar made for an excruciating war-planning process. His cool persona doesn’t instill confidence in voters. It frightens them that their president is disengaged (emotionally and otherwise).

Dowd and her colleagues complain now — but he was their kind of guy. Perhaps we shouldn’t put in the White House someone better suited to edit a liberal publication.

Maureen Dowd is a woman scorned, it seems. Candidate Dreamy has become Captain Obvious. She hisses:

“We must do better,” Captain Obvious said Thursday at the White House, “in keeping dangerous people off airplanes while still facilitating air travel.” John Brennan, the deputy national security adviser, was equally illuminating. “The intelligence,” he informed us, “fell through the cracks.” He also offered this: “Al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.” That rings a bell. The president and his intelligence officials stressed that these were not the same mistakes made before 9/11. “Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence,” President Obama said, “this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had.” Wow. That makes me feel that all those billions spent on upgrading the intelligence system were well spent.

And like many a conservative pundit, she’s had quite enough of the “President Cool” routine and of the insistence “on staying aloof and setting his own deliberate pace for responding.” She fumes: “He’s so sure of himself and his actions that he fails to see that he misses the moment to be president — to be the strong father who protects the home from invaders, who reassures and instructs the public at traumatic moments.”

Not even the grande dame of the Gray Lady can avoid the conclusion that Obama hasn’t panned out. The fellow whom she and the entire liberal media swooned over during the campaign and those very qualities the Left punditocracy touted as praiseworthy (e.g., intellecutalism, emotional reserve) have proven ill-suited to the job. Obama is neither leading nor seeming to understand state craft.

How could they have gotten it so wrong? Well, they were plainly in love with the “historic” opportunity to elect an African American. And they saw in Obama one of them — elite educated, scornful of gun clinging and Bible thumping Americans, contemptuous of American exceptionalism, skeptical of “hard power,” and infatuated with the public sector. It turns out that this was a recipe for disaster when it comes the the presidency.

And Obama’s background has proved, if anything, to be a hindrance. Obama’s oversight of the Harvard Law Review didn’t prepare him for the Oval Office. To the contrary, his preference for government by seminar made for an excruciating war-planning process. His cool persona doesn’t instill confidence in voters. It frightens them that their president is disengaged (emotionally and otherwise).

Dowd and her colleagues complain now — but he was their kind of guy. Perhaps we shouldn’t put in the White House someone better suited to edit a liberal publication.

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Cost Curve?

The Democrats, with some help from the liberal media, are trying to spin the CBO report on premium costs as “good news.” Depends on on the meaning of  “good.” The Wall Street Journal‘s editors help deconstruct the spin:

CBO says it expects employer-sponsored insurance costs to remain roughly in line with the status quo, yet even this is a failure by Mr. Baucus’s and the White House’s own standards. Meanwhile, fixing the individual market—which is expensive and unstable largely because it does not enjoy the favorable tax treatment given to job-based coverage—was supposed to be the whole purpose of “reform.”

Instead, CBO is confirming that new coverage mandates will drive premiums higher. But Democrats are declaring victory, claiming that these higher insurance prices don’t count because they will be offset by new government subsidies. About 57% of the people who buy insurance through the bill’s new “exchanges” that will supplant today’s individual market will qualify for subsidies that cover about two-thirds of the total premium.

So the bill will increase costs but it will then disguise those costs by transferring them to taxpayers from individuals.

To be clear: the cost of insurance premiums will be going up, in large part because government will insist that insurers cover many items they otherwise wouldn’t. But many won’t pay the true cost, because other taxpayers will. This health-care plan is many things, but we should all agree at this point that it is doing nothing to lower costs and much to transfer the wealth.

The Democrats, with some help from the liberal media, are trying to spin the CBO report on premium costs as “good news.” Depends on on the meaning of  “good.” The Wall Street Journal‘s editors help deconstruct the spin:

CBO says it expects employer-sponsored insurance costs to remain roughly in line with the status quo, yet even this is a failure by Mr. Baucus’s and the White House’s own standards. Meanwhile, fixing the individual market—which is expensive and unstable largely because it does not enjoy the favorable tax treatment given to job-based coverage—was supposed to be the whole purpose of “reform.”

Instead, CBO is confirming that new coverage mandates will drive premiums higher. But Democrats are declaring victory, claiming that these higher insurance prices don’t count because they will be offset by new government subsidies. About 57% of the people who buy insurance through the bill’s new “exchanges” that will supplant today’s individual market will qualify for subsidies that cover about two-thirds of the total premium.

So the bill will increase costs but it will then disguise those costs by transferring them to taxpayers from individuals.

To be clear: the cost of insurance premiums will be going up, in large part because government will insist that insurers cover many items they otherwise wouldn’t. But many won’t pay the true cost, because other taxpayers will. This health-care plan is many things, but we should all agree at this point that it is doing nothing to lower costs and much to transfer the wealth.

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Questioning What Went Wrong

Politico’s Arena section recently featured back-to-back questions for discussion. “Obama’s Charisma, Where Did He Leave It?” was followed by “Should Obama hit the reset button on the White House?” Well, that speaks volumes, huh?

Like a Saturday Night Live skit, the questions depend on shared understandings that Obama isn’t who the liberal intelligentsia once thought he was and that his presidency isn’t doing so well. One of the ordinary folk who chimed in on the topic of charisma, reminded readers that not all of us thought Obama was so charismatic to begin with:

Lest you forget: millions of people, me included, never found Obama charismatic at all. Half the country, the truth to tell. I voted against a Democrat for the first time in over 40 years because of his candidacy – he always seemed to me exactly as he has turned out- a man who probably can take a test well, but has zero imagination, a man who thinks leading is telling people what he wants (though he sometimes doesn’t even do that), a man who constantly speaks ambiguously in order to always have an out.

But a great many people, ignoring the vapidity of Obama’s rhetoric about lowering the oceans and “we are the world,” did think s0 and were in full swoon. Now they no longer are. That includes a great many self-styled moderates and many members of the liberal media. The import is clear for the presidency: Obama is neither galvanizing the public opinion nor leading. His countless health-care speeches have done nothing to sway public opinion on ObamaCare. Even the rest of his agenda (e.g., cap-and-trade, card check) seems to be on permanent hold. His decisions on Guantanamo and KSM have been wildly unpopular. And on the world stage, the IOC, the mullahs, and the parties in the Middle East — well, just about everyone — are unmoved by Obama’s supposed mystique.

So we move to the “reset” question: since his poll numbers are tumbling and his agenda is on the skids, shouldn’t he do something about it? Well, we get bizarrely self-contradictory advice (“Resetting toward an agenda that creates jobs quickly and kicks Wall Street speculators in the face will make President Obama and the Democrats very popular next November.” Uh. . . I think Wall Street is where the investment for job growth comes from). There are others who just want to tough it out. Still others are dreaming of a different presidency altogether (“Imagine if he admitted that spending cuts and free trade, not tax hikes, bailouts for unions, and protectionism, were the keys to prosperity.” Well, that was the other 2008 candidate, I think.) And Lanny Davis says it’s the media’s fault. (My, how things have changed.)

But so far, the Obami themselves show no concern over their political belly flops. They don’t seem to be on the verge of a reset, and those who presided over a shockingly unsuccessful first year don’t appear to be in danger of losing their jobs.

Well, in politics as in life, the answers are sometimes not as critical as the questions. And in the case of Obama, the most telling query on everyone’s lips is: what’s wrong with this president? Well, plenty — but until he thinks so, we’ll be getting more of the same.

Politico’s Arena section recently featured back-to-back questions for discussion. “Obama’s Charisma, Where Did He Leave It?” was followed by “Should Obama hit the reset button on the White House?” Well, that speaks volumes, huh?

Like a Saturday Night Live skit, the questions depend on shared understandings that Obama isn’t who the liberal intelligentsia once thought he was and that his presidency isn’t doing so well. One of the ordinary folk who chimed in on the topic of charisma, reminded readers that not all of us thought Obama was so charismatic to begin with:

Lest you forget: millions of people, me included, never found Obama charismatic at all. Half the country, the truth to tell. I voted against a Democrat for the first time in over 40 years because of his candidacy – he always seemed to me exactly as he has turned out- a man who probably can take a test well, but has zero imagination, a man who thinks leading is telling people what he wants (though he sometimes doesn’t even do that), a man who constantly speaks ambiguously in order to always have an out.

But a great many people, ignoring the vapidity of Obama’s rhetoric about lowering the oceans and “we are the world,” did think s0 and were in full swoon. Now they no longer are. That includes a great many self-styled moderates and many members of the liberal media. The import is clear for the presidency: Obama is neither galvanizing the public opinion nor leading. His countless health-care speeches have done nothing to sway public opinion on ObamaCare. Even the rest of his agenda (e.g., cap-and-trade, card check) seems to be on permanent hold. His decisions on Guantanamo and KSM have been wildly unpopular. And on the world stage, the IOC, the mullahs, and the parties in the Middle East — well, just about everyone — are unmoved by Obama’s supposed mystique.

So we move to the “reset” question: since his poll numbers are tumbling and his agenda is on the skids, shouldn’t he do something about it? Well, we get bizarrely self-contradictory advice (“Resetting toward an agenda that creates jobs quickly and kicks Wall Street speculators in the face will make President Obama and the Democrats very popular next November.” Uh. . . I think Wall Street is where the investment for job growth comes from). There are others who just want to tough it out. Still others are dreaming of a different presidency altogether (“Imagine if he admitted that spending cuts and free trade, not tax hikes, bailouts for unions, and protectionism, were the keys to prosperity.” Well, that was the other 2008 candidate, I think.) And Lanny Davis says it’s the media’s fault. (My, how things have changed.)

But so far, the Obami themselves show no concern over their political belly flops. They don’t seem to be on the verge of a reset, and those who presided over a shockingly unsuccessful first year don’t appear to be in danger of losing their jobs.

Well, in politics as in life, the answers are sometimes not as critical as the questions. And in the case of Obama, the most telling query on everyone’s lips is: what’s wrong with this president? Well, plenty — but until he thinks so, we’ll be getting more of the same.

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Fighting Back

The White House and the McCain campaign are both turning up the heat on mainstream media outlets, challenging their inaccuracies and going public with their complaints. In theory this sounds like a fine idea, a much needed correction to the obvious biases and just flat-out inaccuracies that any serious observer of news coverage can spot. And there is no easier way to “bond” with the conservative base than to rail against the liberal media, as John McCain did effectively with the New York Times’ lobbyist story.

But, at least with regard to the McCain campaign, dangers lurk. Their opponent, of course, is Barack Obama–not the media. The “story of the day” is ideally not “McCain attacks CNN for bias,” but “Obama gets trapped in foreign policy misstatement.” For better or worse, the public doesn’t care much about media bias. Nor does the “everyone is out to get Republicans” meme appeal to most voters (many of whom would like to “get” those same Republicans).

It was, it seems, many conservatives and the McCain camp itself which ripped Obama for objecting to press scrutiny on Rezko and Wright. The contrast between McCain–who plunges into media scrums–and Obama–who shrinks from pressers–is an effective one, if the McCain message is transparency, openness and determination under fire. But it doesn’t help to turn around and bellyache that the coverage is insufficiently supportive.

This is a tightrope for the McCain camp: to walk the line between exposing media unfairness and keeping their eye on the ball. Frankly, there is a great deal in mainstream media coverage– whether of Obama’s latest conflict-of-interest problem or of his fumble on Iran–which has been exceedingly fair to the McCain camp. And in our current media universe, the McCain people may have an easier time than any other Republican presidential candidate in political history in getting their message out. After all, Ronald Reagan managed to get elected twice in a media environment utterly dominated by three networks and a handful of openly oppositional newspapers.

The White House and the McCain campaign are both turning up the heat on mainstream media outlets, challenging their inaccuracies and going public with their complaints. In theory this sounds like a fine idea, a much needed correction to the obvious biases and just flat-out inaccuracies that any serious observer of news coverage can spot. And there is no easier way to “bond” with the conservative base than to rail against the liberal media, as John McCain did effectively with the New York Times’ lobbyist story.

But, at least with regard to the McCain campaign, dangers lurk. Their opponent, of course, is Barack Obama–not the media. The “story of the day” is ideally not “McCain attacks CNN for bias,” but “Obama gets trapped in foreign policy misstatement.” For better or worse, the public doesn’t care much about media bias. Nor does the “everyone is out to get Republicans” meme appeal to most voters (many of whom would like to “get” those same Republicans).

It was, it seems, many conservatives and the McCain camp itself which ripped Obama for objecting to press scrutiny on Rezko and Wright. The contrast between McCain–who plunges into media scrums–and Obama–who shrinks from pressers–is an effective one, if the McCain message is transparency, openness and determination under fire. But it doesn’t help to turn around and bellyache that the coverage is insufficiently supportive.

This is a tightrope for the McCain camp: to walk the line between exposing media unfairness and keeping their eye on the ball. Frankly, there is a great deal in mainstream media coverage– whether of Obama’s latest conflict-of-interest problem or of his fumble on Iran–which has been exceedingly fair to the McCain camp. And in our current media universe, the McCain people may have an easier time than any other Republican presidential candidate in political history in getting their message out. After all, Ronald Reagan managed to get elected twice in a media environment utterly dominated by three networks and a handful of openly oppositional newspapers.

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The Moderators

These are the best questions, bar none, asked in a debate this election season. Don’t revenues go down when you raise capital gains taxes? Would you leave Iraq if the generals told you chaos woud ensue? Why did you stop wearing the flag pin? If the ABC game plan was to utterly undermine the “liberal media is giving them a free ride” complaint they succeeded in spades. The questions are tough and actually helpful in pinning down the candidates without being rude or injecting themselves. Conservatives will have to find something else to complain about.

These are the best questions, bar none, asked in a debate this election season. Don’t revenues go down when you raise capital gains taxes? Would you leave Iraq if the generals told you chaos woud ensue? Why did you stop wearing the flag pin? If the ABC game plan was to utterly undermine the “liberal media is giving them a free ride” complaint they succeeded in spades. The questions are tough and actually helpful in pinning down the candidates without being rude or injecting themselves. Conservatives will have to find something else to complain about.

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Post-Racial No More

Gail Collins writes an entire column bemoaning that the Democratic primary race is “now all about white men.” Obama tries to bond with these voters over bowling, but his “37” brings howls of derision and fretting from liberal columnists. But why should they be surprised? For many presidential elections Democrats have bombed with white males. According to exit polling, John Kerry got only 38% of white males in 2004. In the four elections before that, the Democratic presidential candidate got between 36 and 38% of the white male vote.

Does this mean Obama and the Democrats need not be concerned? After all, if Democrats consistently have lost white male voters, but still won elections, they could do so again. Perhaps what the liberal media and establishment Democrats are hesitant to say is that Obama’s appeal to all white voters, not just men, seems to be evaporating. Indeed, some are downright unhinged. Matthew Yglesias went so far as to bizarrely postulate that John McCain’s Bio Tour was a racist appeal to whites. He wrote that:

it’s the best way I can think of to try to take advantage of older people’s potential discomfort with the idea of a woman or a black man in the White House that doesn’t involve exploiting racism or sexism in a discreditable way.

Only a liberal blogger could argue with impunity that patriotism appeals just to whites.

But Democrats concerned about electability should be worried if Obama turns out not to be the “post- racial candidate” his supporters have lauded him as. Even before his association with Reverend Wright was reported, Obama’s appeal to whites and Hispanics was collapsing.
Hillary Clinton gained impressive wins in Ohio and Texas in large part because the multi-racial coalition which Obama seemed to have constructed began to crumble. In Ohio Obama lost 27-70% among white Democrats, while carrying Black voters 88-12%. In Texas he lost among white Democrats 37-62% and by an even larger margin (30-69%) among Hispanic Democrats.

It’s easy for liberal pundits to attack the “angry white male” voters whom Democrats continually fail to attract. But the fact remains that if Obama is not post-racial in his appeal, he can’t win the presidency. It is not just support from white men, but whites of both genders and Hispanics as well that Obama will need. If he can’t win key swing states like Ohio, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Florida (which require him to appeal to whites and Hispanics in large numbers) then the presidency will be out of his reach.

That, much more than bowling scores, should keep Obama supporters up at night.

Gail Collins writes an entire column bemoaning that the Democratic primary race is “now all about white men.” Obama tries to bond with these voters over bowling, but his “37” brings howls of derision and fretting from liberal columnists. But why should they be surprised? For many presidential elections Democrats have bombed with white males. According to exit polling, John Kerry got only 38% of white males in 2004. In the four elections before that, the Democratic presidential candidate got between 36 and 38% of the white male vote.

Does this mean Obama and the Democrats need not be concerned? After all, if Democrats consistently have lost white male voters, but still won elections, they could do so again. Perhaps what the liberal media and establishment Democrats are hesitant to say is that Obama’s appeal to all white voters, not just men, seems to be evaporating. Indeed, some are downright unhinged. Matthew Yglesias went so far as to bizarrely postulate that John McCain’s Bio Tour was a racist appeal to whites. He wrote that:

it’s the best way I can think of to try to take advantage of older people’s potential discomfort with the idea of a woman or a black man in the White House that doesn’t involve exploiting racism or sexism in a discreditable way.

Only a liberal blogger could argue with impunity that patriotism appeals just to whites.

But Democrats concerned about electability should be worried if Obama turns out not to be the “post- racial candidate” his supporters have lauded him as. Even before his association with Reverend Wright was reported, Obama’s appeal to whites and Hispanics was collapsing.
Hillary Clinton gained impressive wins in Ohio and Texas in large part because the multi-racial coalition which Obama seemed to have constructed began to crumble. In Ohio Obama lost 27-70% among white Democrats, while carrying Black voters 88-12%. In Texas he lost among white Democrats 37-62% and by an even larger margin (30-69%) among Hispanic Democrats.

It’s easy for liberal pundits to attack the “angry white male” voters whom Democrats continually fail to attract. But the fact remains that if Obama is not post-racial in his appeal, he can’t win the presidency. It is not just support from white men, but whites of both genders and Hispanics as well that Obama will need. If he can’t win key swing states like Ohio, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Florida (which require him to appeal to whites and Hispanics in large numbers) then the presidency will be out of his reach.

That, much more than bowling scores, should keep Obama supporters up at night.

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No Kidding

Hillary Clinton adviser and superdelegate wrangler Harold Ickes revealed to TPM Election Central (h/t The Page) that he’s talking to superdelegates about Reverend Wright. Shocked? To liberal pundits who think the Wright episode is a nothingburger it may be a surprise. But Democratic insiders–who by and large have real constiutents–do care, at least according to Ickes. The report tells us:

“Super delegates have to take into account the strengths and weakness of both candidates and decide who would make the strongest candidate against what will undoubtedly be ferocious Republican attacks,” Ickes continued. “I’ve had super delegates tell me that the Wright issue is a real issue for them.” In a reference to Wright’s controversial views, Ickes continued: “Nobody thinks that Barack Obama harbors those thoughts. But that’s not the issue. The issue is what Republicans [will do with them]…I think they’re going to give him a very tough time.” Asked whether he was specifically bringing up Wright to super-delegates, Ickes said: “I’ve said what I’ve said . . . I tell people that they need to look at what they think Republicans may use against him. Wright comes up in the conversations.”

There is good reason for Democrats to be concerned, despite the assurances they are getting from the Obama-enablers. This poll shows Clinton leading by 9 points in Indiana, and by 21 points among white voters. Even more telling, this report (worth reading in its entirety for the priceless quotes from actual voters) suggests that, despite what some voters are telling national pollsters, Indiana Democrats are bothered about Wright:

Interviews with dozens of Democrats in this overwhelmingly white region — where voters will go to the polls in the May 6 primary — suggest residual concerns over the controversy involving Obama’s former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. . . Still, there are stirrings of unease among white voters, including those who fear the issue will hurt Obama in a general election. Pew also found that 39 percent of all white voters who had heard of the controversy, including Republicans and independents, said it made them less favorable toward Obama.

Well, there’s the rub. What some national polls and liberal media tell us conflicts with private conversations among Democratic insiders and voter reaction in a battleground state. Which do you think is more reliable?

The Democrats better be very sure this is a non-issue not only with primary voters, but with non-primary voting Democrats and independent voters (whose preferences only really are known on Election Day in November). Lots of material for Ickes and those superdelegates to talk about, it would seem.

Hillary Clinton adviser and superdelegate wrangler Harold Ickes revealed to TPM Election Central (h/t The Page) that he’s talking to superdelegates about Reverend Wright. Shocked? To liberal pundits who think the Wright episode is a nothingburger it may be a surprise. But Democratic insiders–who by and large have real constiutents–do care, at least according to Ickes. The report tells us:

“Super delegates have to take into account the strengths and weakness of both candidates and decide who would make the strongest candidate against what will undoubtedly be ferocious Republican attacks,” Ickes continued. “I’ve had super delegates tell me that the Wright issue is a real issue for them.” In a reference to Wright’s controversial views, Ickes continued: “Nobody thinks that Barack Obama harbors those thoughts. But that’s not the issue. The issue is what Republicans [will do with them]…I think they’re going to give him a very tough time.” Asked whether he was specifically bringing up Wright to super-delegates, Ickes said: “I’ve said what I’ve said . . . I tell people that they need to look at what they think Republicans may use against him. Wright comes up in the conversations.”

There is good reason for Democrats to be concerned, despite the assurances they are getting from the Obama-enablers. This poll shows Clinton leading by 9 points in Indiana, and by 21 points among white voters. Even more telling, this report (worth reading in its entirety for the priceless quotes from actual voters) suggests that, despite what some voters are telling national pollsters, Indiana Democrats are bothered about Wright:

Interviews with dozens of Democrats in this overwhelmingly white region — where voters will go to the polls in the May 6 primary — suggest residual concerns over the controversy involving Obama’s former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. . . Still, there are stirrings of unease among white voters, including those who fear the issue will hurt Obama in a general election. Pew also found that 39 percent of all white voters who had heard of the controversy, including Republicans and independents, said it made them less favorable toward Obama.

Well, there’s the rub. What some national polls and liberal media tell us conflicts with private conversations among Democratic insiders and voter reaction in a battleground state. Which do you think is more reliable?

The Democrats better be very sure this is a non-issue not only with primary voters, but with non-primary voting Democrats and independent voters (whose preferences only really are known on Election Day in November). Lots of material for Ickes and those superdelegates to talk about, it would seem.

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Obama Doesn’t Have A “Jewish Problem.” Really.

Barack Obama has no imperfection or shortcoming that can’t be glossed over by liberal pundits. The latest gloss: he has no Jewish problem and all this “guilt by association” is terribly imprecise and unfair.

You see, Obama is not responsible for Reverend Wright or Tony McPeak. But what about Samantha Power, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Robert Malley? Isn’t it reasonable to ask “Why does Barack Obama have so many foreign policy and national security advisers whose statements about Israel and American Jews are problematic? ” Apparently we should not hold him responsible for selecting these individuals, nor attribute any of their views to him. And we shouldn’t be bothered either, I suppose, by his own comment that “nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”

The evidence that none of this matters? A Gallup poll showing Obama and Clinton splitting the Jewish vote. Others have pointed out that this does not tell us whether Jewish general election voters, given the choice between John McCain and Obama, will stick with the latter.

While it is correct that Jewish voters have favored Democrats in presidential elections, the GOP share of the Jewish vote has risen steadily. Will American Jews stick by a Democratic candidate who surrounds himself with the type of advisors Obama has, who feels unable to reject his pastor even after vile anti-Semitic remarks become known (and still insists his remarks are no big deal, apparently because the really objectionable ones only number “five or six”), and whose foreign policy embraces the notion of meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? We’ll get a hint with the primary in Pennsylvania, a state with a significant number of Jewish voters (5% in the hotly contested 2006 Senate race).

But everything is fine, perfectly fine, say the liberal media Obamaphiles. (And the Italian vote isn’t a problem, either.)

Barack Obama has no imperfection or shortcoming that can’t be glossed over by liberal pundits. The latest gloss: he has no Jewish problem and all this “guilt by association” is terribly imprecise and unfair.

You see, Obama is not responsible for Reverend Wright or Tony McPeak. But what about Samantha Power, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Robert Malley? Isn’t it reasonable to ask “Why does Barack Obama have so many foreign policy and national security advisers whose statements about Israel and American Jews are problematic? ” Apparently we should not hold him responsible for selecting these individuals, nor attribute any of their views to him. And we shouldn’t be bothered either, I suppose, by his own comment that “nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”

The evidence that none of this matters? A Gallup poll showing Obama and Clinton splitting the Jewish vote. Others have pointed out that this does not tell us whether Jewish general election voters, given the choice between John McCain and Obama, will stick with the latter.

While it is correct that Jewish voters have favored Democrats in presidential elections, the GOP share of the Jewish vote has risen steadily. Will American Jews stick by a Democratic candidate who surrounds himself with the type of advisors Obama has, who feels unable to reject his pastor even after vile anti-Semitic remarks become known (and still insists his remarks are no big deal, apparently because the really objectionable ones only number “five or six”), and whose foreign policy embraces the notion of meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? We’ll get a hint with the primary in Pennsylvania, a state with a significant number of Jewish voters (5% in the hotly contested 2006 Senate race).

But everything is fine, perfectly fine, say the liberal media Obamaphiles. (And the Italian vote isn’t a problem, either.)

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If Maureen Dowd Can Figure It Out . . .

Maureen Dowd is the canary in the liberal coal mine. If she begins to gasp for air, you know there is an impending shortage of political oxygen for the Democrats, and specifically for the media’s favorite candidate. In Sunday’s column, she (like a nervous poker player) drops her game face now and then to reveal that, beneath her bubbling and enduring contempt for Republicans and the Clintons, there lurks the realization that the liberal media’s new knight in shining armor is not so shining. She allows that Obama’ s tossing his “typical white person” Grandma under the bus was a bad idea:

Pressed about race on a Philly radio sports show, where he wanted to talk basketball, he called his grandmother “a typical white person, who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know, well there’s a reaction that’s in our experiences that won’t go away and can sometimes come out in the wrong way.” Obama might be right, but he should stay away from the phrase “typical white person” because typically white people don’t like to be reminded of their prejudices. It also undermines Obama’s feel-good appeal in which whites are allowed to transcend race because the candidate himself has transcended race.

So even if Dowd cannot quite admit the intellectual and moral shortcomings of a man who equates the woman who raised him with a hate-mongering preacher, she nevertheless allows that it was politically clumsy of him to bring it up. Well, that’s something.

Then she tip-toes up to an equally troubling issue for Obama:

Even swaddled in flags, Obama is vulnerable on the issue of patriotism. He’s right that you don’t have to wear a flag pin to be patriotic, and that Republicans have coarsely exploited patriotism for ideological ends while failing to do truly patriotic things, like giving our troops the right armor and the proper care at Walter Reed. But Republicans are salivating over Reverend Wright’s “God damn America” imprecation and his post-9/11 “America’s chickens coming home to roost” crack, combined with Michelle Obama’s aggrieved line about belatedly feeling really proud of her country.

While Dowd cannot resist a cheap dig at Republicans (or, apparently, distinguish between administrative ineptitude and lack of patriotism), she gets it, somehow: Obama has a patriotism problem, which will  only become worse in the general election. (There is a reason why John McCain continues to remind voters of his biography.)

So if the doyenne of Obama’s media fan club can figure all this out, I’d imagine that  voters and a few hundred superdelegates (who may actually talk to and understand the views of people outside of Manhattan) can too. Whether they have the time and the will to do something about it remains to be seen.

Maureen Dowd is the canary in the liberal coal mine. If she begins to gasp for air, you know there is an impending shortage of political oxygen for the Democrats, and specifically for the media’s favorite candidate. In Sunday’s column, she (like a nervous poker player) drops her game face now and then to reveal that, beneath her bubbling and enduring contempt for Republicans and the Clintons, there lurks the realization that the liberal media’s new knight in shining armor is not so shining. She allows that Obama’ s tossing his “typical white person” Grandma under the bus was a bad idea:

Pressed about race on a Philly radio sports show, where he wanted to talk basketball, he called his grandmother “a typical white person, who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know, well there’s a reaction that’s in our experiences that won’t go away and can sometimes come out in the wrong way.” Obama might be right, but he should stay away from the phrase “typical white person” because typically white people don’t like to be reminded of their prejudices. It also undermines Obama’s feel-good appeal in which whites are allowed to transcend race because the candidate himself has transcended race.

So even if Dowd cannot quite admit the intellectual and moral shortcomings of a man who equates the woman who raised him with a hate-mongering preacher, she nevertheless allows that it was politically clumsy of him to bring it up. Well, that’s something.

Then she tip-toes up to an equally troubling issue for Obama:

Even swaddled in flags, Obama is vulnerable on the issue of patriotism. He’s right that you don’t have to wear a flag pin to be patriotic, and that Republicans have coarsely exploited patriotism for ideological ends while failing to do truly patriotic things, like giving our troops the right armor and the proper care at Walter Reed. But Republicans are salivating over Reverend Wright’s “God damn America” imprecation and his post-9/11 “America’s chickens coming home to roost” crack, combined with Michelle Obama’s aggrieved line about belatedly feeling really proud of her country.

While Dowd cannot resist a cheap dig at Republicans (or, apparently, distinguish between administrative ineptitude and lack of patriotism), she gets it, somehow: Obama has a patriotism problem, which will  only become worse in the general election. (There is a reason why John McCain continues to remind voters of his biography.)

So if the doyenne of Obama’s media fan club can figure all this out, I’d imagine that  voters and a few hundred superdelegates (who may actually talk to and understand the views of people outside of Manhattan) can too. Whether they have the time and the will to do something about it remains to be seen.

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Beyond Spin

The ABC This Week’s roundtable (running the political gamut from George Will to Donna Brazile) was unanimous on several points: Reverend Wright is a significant problem for Barack Obama, the Democrats are in a bloody war (Brazile says so bloody not even “bleach” can remove it) and Hillary Clinton’s chances for the nomination rest on her ability to demonstrate that Obama is unelectable in the general election. All of this is complicated, they reminded us, by rules crafted so oddly as to prevent a decisive winner. As George Will put it, the Democrats have gone from “an embarrassment of riches to an embarrassment.”

Many conservatives may be concerned that somehow the liberal media will sweep the last couple of days’ events under the rug and Obama will sail on. As exemplified by the ABC panel, I see no substantial risk of this happening. Once Americans saw and heard Wright’s remarks, we went beyond the ability of even the most dogged partisans in the media to spin it in a way that would extract their favored candidate from the predicament he is in.

This is not an extraneous point of policy or something beyond the ability of average people to assess. Millions of voters go to church and synagogue and don’t hear this sort of venomous talk, and would leave if they did. Everyone can ask themselves: If he went to Wright’s church for 20 years, how likely is it that he heard this stuff, and what does his continued attendance say about him? It simply isn’t possible to wish it all away and hope voters don’t notice.

The ABC This Week’s roundtable (running the political gamut from George Will to Donna Brazile) was unanimous on several points: Reverend Wright is a significant problem for Barack Obama, the Democrats are in a bloody war (Brazile says so bloody not even “bleach” can remove it) and Hillary Clinton’s chances for the nomination rest on her ability to demonstrate that Obama is unelectable in the general election. All of this is complicated, they reminded us, by rules crafted so oddly as to prevent a decisive winner. As George Will put it, the Democrats have gone from “an embarrassment of riches to an embarrassment.”

Many conservatives may be concerned that somehow the liberal media will sweep the last couple of days’ events under the rug and Obama will sail on. As exemplified by the ABC panel, I see no substantial risk of this happening. Once Americans saw and heard Wright’s remarks, we went beyond the ability of even the most dogged partisans in the media to spin it in a way that would extract their favored candidate from the predicament he is in.

This is not an extraneous point of policy or something beyond the ability of average people to assess. Millions of voters go to church and synagogue and don’t hear this sort of venomous talk, and would leave if they did. Everyone can ask themselves: If he went to Wright’s church for 20 years, how likely is it that he heard this stuff, and what does his continued attendance say about him? It simply isn’t possible to wish it all away and hope voters don’t notice.

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McCain Really Must Be The Nominee

The New York Times came out with its Drudge-previewed piece about John McCain’s alleged dealings with a female lobbyist, and the McCain campaign immediately and strongly responded. Others (here, here, here and here) have already remarked on the thinly sourced allegations (and mutual denial) of his personal relationship with the lobbyist and questioned how far the story will go, since the Times dutifully reported aides’ statements that no inappropriate legislative action was taken. (Remarkably, the Times’ online reader comments suggest a high dose of skepticism about the sourcing and value of the story.)

Aside from the obvious question about the timing of the story and whether The New Republic stampeded the Times (Otherwise why run it now? What changed since the Drudge leak in December?), this raises the possibility that the story will perversely help McCain with certain elements in the conservative base that have long complained McCain has been too cozy with liberal media. (Many conservative pundits, of course, heaped scorn on McCain when the very same Times endorsed him.) If mutual antagonism toward the New York Times and the prospect of an ultra-liberal opponent can’t bring McCain and the conservative base together, I suppose nothing will.

The New York Times came out with its Drudge-previewed piece about John McCain’s alleged dealings with a female lobbyist, and the McCain campaign immediately and strongly responded. Others (here, here, here and here) have already remarked on the thinly sourced allegations (and mutual denial) of his personal relationship with the lobbyist and questioned how far the story will go, since the Times dutifully reported aides’ statements that no inappropriate legislative action was taken. (Remarkably, the Times’ online reader comments suggest a high dose of skepticism about the sourcing and value of the story.)

Aside from the obvious question about the timing of the story and whether The New Republic stampeded the Times (Otherwise why run it now? What changed since the Drudge leak in December?), this raises the possibility that the story will perversely help McCain with certain elements in the conservative base that have long complained McCain has been too cozy with liberal media. (Many conservative pundits, of course, heaped scorn on McCain when the very same Times endorsed him.) If mutual antagonism toward the New York Times and the prospect of an ultra-liberal opponent can’t bring McCain and the conservative base together, I suppose nothing will.

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Not The Expected Disaster

As Peter’s report on Iraq concilliation makes clear, there is a reasonable chance to achieve a good outcome in Iraq. The political ramifications of this should not be underestimated. Last night, Tim Russert gleefully attempted to force the GOP contenders to acknowledge that the Iraq war was not a mistake. This attempt to extract an “admission against interest” looks differently in light of the reality of events in Iraq and the turn in public opinion as conditions on the ground improve. Who will have the worst of it in November if there’s a McCain-Hillary match up: the candidate who voted for the war but then lost nerve and wants to pull the plug or the candidate who struggled mightily to rescue a decent result for America? (If the opponent is Obama the divide is similary striking, minus the hypocritical backtracking.) That, plus the belated recognition by the Democratic establishment and liberal media of the toxicity of the Clintons’ brand of politics, leaves open the possibility that 2008 may not be the Republican debacle so many expected.

As Peter’s report on Iraq concilliation makes clear, there is a reasonable chance to achieve a good outcome in Iraq. The political ramifications of this should not be underestimated. Last night, Tim Russert gleefully attempted to force the GOP contenders to acknowledge that the Iraq war was not a mistake. This attempt to extract an “admission against interest” looks differently in light of the reality of events in Iraq and the turn in public opinion as conditions on the ground improve. Who will have the worst of it in November if there’s a McCain-Hillary match up: the candidate who voted for the war but then lost nerve and wants to pull the plug or the candidate who struggled mightily to rescue a decent result for America? (If the opponent is Obama the divide is similary striking, minus the hypocritical backtracking.) That, plus the belated recognition by the Democratic establishment and liberal media of the toxicity of the Clintons’ brand of politics, leaves open the possibility that 2008 may not be the Republican debacle so many expected.

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Behind The Scenes

In a debate as dull as last night’s, the best part was the e-mail stream pouring in from the campaigns. From the Rudy camp, we got word that the New York Times had endorsed McCain. Score one for the McCain rivals arguing that he’s too friendly with the liberal media and not conservative enough. Then we got this homage to the Kerry windsurfing ad from the McCain camp. Next came the oppo from two camps indicating that, despite his denial, McCain really had said that he knows less about economics than foreign policy and that he still needs “to be educated.” Does any of this matter? The McCain ad is cute and may get some play, and the NYT endorsement will provide fodder for Romney. However, in a debate this inconsequential, the chatter about the debate certainly won’t make many headlines. The most interesting incident last night may have been McCain’s closing praise of Rudy, a gentle way of suggesting to the voters McCain is trying to scoop up that you can admire Rudy and still not vote for him. If he can pull more of the voters away from Rudy, his competitor for moderate and national security voters, McCain will have gone a long way toward securing a win.

In a debate as dull as last night’s, the best part was the e-mail stream pouring in from the campaigns. From the Rudy camp, we got word that the New York Times had endorsed McCain. Score one for the McCain rivals arguing that he’s too friendly with the liberal media and not conservative enough. Then we got this homage to the Kerry windsurfing ad from the McCain camp. Next came the oppo from two camps indicating that, despite his denial, McCain really had said that he knows less about economics than foreign policy and that he still needs “to be educated.” Does any of this matter? The McCain ad is cute and may get some play, and the NYT endorsement will provide fodder for Romney. However, in a debate this inconsequential, the chatter about the debate certainly won’t make many headlines. The most interesting incident last night may have been McCain’s closing praise of Rudy, a gentle way of suggesting to the voters McCain is trying to scoop up that you can admire Rudy and still not vote for him. If he can pull more of the voters away from Rudy, his competitor for moderate and national security voters, McCain will have gone a long way toward securing a win.

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