Commentary Magazine


Topic: mainstream media

Koch Protesters Call for Clarence Thomas’s Lynching

Ed Morrissey has an excellent roundup of the increasing incivility at the Koch protests. CONTENTIONS previously reported on the use of swastikas at the demonstration, and yesterday a video surfaced of protesters calling for Justice Clarence Thomas to be lynched.

The cameraman in the video asks attendees at the rally what should be done with Thomas after he’s impeached. Here are some of their answers:

Send him “back to the fields.” “String him up.” “Hang him.” “Torture.” One older woman wants his wife Ginny Thomas strung up as well. A younger and more creative woman wants Justice Thomas’ toes chopped off and forced-fed to him. Thomas isn’t the only one to get the necktie treatment; one protester wants Fox News executive Roger Ailes to get hung as well.

Common Cause has released a statement condemning the comments, asserting that the protesters who made them were outliers:

We condemn bigotry and hate speech in every form, even when it comes from those who fancy themselves as our friends.

Anyone who has attended a public event has encountered people whose ideas or acts misrepresented, even embarrassed, the gathering. Every sporting event has its share of “fans” whose boorish behavior on the sidelines makes a mockery of good sportsmanship; every political gathering has a crude sign-painter or epithet-spewing heckler.

Morrissey notes that “this is the exact same point that Tea Party organizers made when the media focused on the outliers (and usually provocateurs) that showed up at their rallies.”

Of course, the one difference is that the mainstream media has barely even touched this story. Can you imagine if this had been a Tea Party rally and protesters were making these same comments about President Obama?

Ed Morrissey has an excellent roundup of the increasing incivility at the Koch protests. CONTENTIONS previously reported on the use of swastikas at the demonstration, and yesterday a video surfaced of protesters calling for Justice Clarence Thomas to be lynched.

The cameraman in the video asks attendees at the rally what should be done with Thomas after he’s impeached. Here are some of their answers:

Send him “back to the fields.” “String him up.” “Hang him.” “Torture.” One older woman wants his wife Ginny Thomas strung up as well. A younger and more creative woman wants Justice Thomas’ toes chopped off and forced-fed to him. Thomas isn’t the only one to get the necktie treatment; one protester wants Fox News executive Roger Ailes to get hung as well.

Common Cause has released a statement condemning the comments, asserting that the protesters who made them were outliers:

We condemn bigotry and hate speech in every form, even when it comes from those who fancy themselves as our friends.

Anyone who has attended a public event has encountered people whose ideas or acts misrepresented, even embarrassed, the gathering. Every sporting event has its share of “fans” whose boorish behavior on the sidelines makes a mockery of good sportsmanship; every political gathering has a crude sign-painter or epithet-spewing heckler.

Morrissey notes that “this is the exact same point that Tea Party organizers made when the media focused on the outliers (and usually provocateurs) that showed up at their rallies.”

Of course, the one difference is that the mainstream media has barely even touched this story. Can you imagine if this had been a Tea Party rally and protesters were making these same comments about President Obama?

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Le Pen’s National Front and the Anti-Zionist Party

Marine Le Pen took over the party leadership of the xenophobic, far-right National Front Party this week. The Wall Street Journal noted that “Ms. Le Pen on Sunday became the party’s second leader since it was formed 38 years ago by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, and immediately promised to oppose immigration and globalization, as well as seize back powers from the European Union.”

The National Front has been, without question, a political force to be reckoned with during election cycles in France. In 2002, it defeated the French Socialists and forced a run-off election with former president Jacques Chirac. French analysts chalked up the dramatic National Front election results to a kind of infantile protest vote against the mainstream parties. In short, a post-adolescent French outburst of political disaffection but not a real flirting with French Vichy-style neo- fascism. Chirac went on to soundly prevail over the National Front.

According to a recent French poll, however, the National Front has secured 12 percent of the electorate’s support. Jean-Marie Le Pen is notorious for his statements that contain elements of Holocaust denial and crudely playing down the severity of the Holocaust, terming it a mere “detail” of history.

One “detail” that the mainstream media did not report on this week is the alliance between the National Front and those Frenchmen and Frenchwomen who loathe Israel and want to abolish the Jewish state. During the 2009 European Union parliamentary elections, the French entertainer and comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala formed the Anti-Zionist Party. He was deadly serious about his party’s aims and  has over the years been engulfed in anti-Semitic scandals.

Dieudonne’s political bedfellow at the time was the National Front. (Le Pen is purportedly the godfather of Dieudonne ‘s daughter.) What unifies Le Pen and Dieudonne, himself the son an immigrant from Cameroon, and figures from the left, such as ex-Communist Alain Soral and former Green Party member Ginette Skandrani, is hatred of Israel. It should also be noted that Yahia Gouasmi, head of the Zahra Center in Paris, which is affiliated with Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran, was a candidate on the Anti-Zionist party.

(Not unrelated: Hezbollah enjoys wide organizational latitude in France. Germany also recognizes Hezbollah as a legal political entity, and there are 900 active members in the Federal Republic.)

In 2009, the Anti-Zionist Party platform called for an end to “Zionist interference in the nation’s public affairs,” as well as a rebuke of “politicians who apologize for Zionism.” The radical anti-Israeli party demands that France “free our state, our government, our institutions from the possession and pressure of Zionist organizations; eradicate all forms of Zionism in the nation” and “prevent enterprises and institutions from contributing to the war efforts of a foreign nation, which does not respect International Law.”

With French President Nicholas Sarkozy faltering in the polls and his Socialist opposition still seen as floundering, a repeat of the National Front’s coup of making it to the second round of the next presidential election is not out of the question. This formal alliance with the Anti-Zionist Party makes such a development even more ominous.

Marine Le Pen took over the party leadership of the xenophobic, far-right National Front Party this week. The Wall Street Journal noted that “Ms. Le Pen on Sunday became the party’s second leader since it was formed 38 years ago by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, and immediately promised to oppose immigration and globalization, as well as seize back powers from the European Union.”

The National Front has been, without question, a political force to be reckoned with during election cycles in France. In 2002, it defeated the French Socialists and forced a run-off election with former president Jacques Chirac. French analysts chalked up the dramatic National Front election results to a kind of infantile protest vote against the mainstream parties. In short, a post-adolescent French outburst of political disaffection but not a real flirting with French Vichy-style neo- fascism. Chirac went on to soundly prevail over the National Front.

According to a recent French poll, however, the National Front has secured 12 percent of the electorate’s support. Jean-Marie Le Pen is notorious for his statements that contain elements of Holocaust denial and crudely playing down the severity of the Holocaust, terming it a mere “detail” of history.

One “detail” that the mainstream media did not report on this week is the alliance between the National Front and those Frenchmen and Frenchwomen who loathe Israel and want to abolish the Jewish state. During the 2009 European Union parliamentary elections, the French entertainer and comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala formed the Anti-Zionist Party. He was deadly serious about his party’s aims and  has over the years been engulfed in anti-Semitic scandals.

Dieudonne’s political bedfellow at the time was the National Front. (Le Pen is purportedly the godfather of Dieudonne ‘s daughter.) What unifies Le Pen and Dieudonne, himself the son an immigrant from Cameroon, and figures from the left, such as ex-Communist Alain Soral and former Green Party member Ginette Skandrani, is hatred of Israel. It should also be noted that Yahia Gouasmi, head of the Zahra Center in Paris, which is affiliated with Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran, was a candidate on the Anti-Zionist party.

(Not unrelated: Hezbollah enjoys wide organizational latitude in France. Germany also recognizes Hezbollah as a legal political entity, and there are 900 active members in the Federal Republic.)

In 2009, the Anti-Zionist Party platform called for an end to “Zionist interference in the nation’s public affairs,” as well as a rebuke of “politicians who apologize for Zionism.” The radical anti-Israeli party demands that France “free our state, our government, our institutions from the possession and pressure of Zionist organizations; eradicate all forms of Zionism in the nation” and “prevent enterprises and institutions from contributing to the war efforts of a foreign nation, which does not respect International Law.”

With French President Nicholas Sarkozy faltering in the polls and his Socialist opposition still seen as floundering, a repeat of the National Front’s coup of making it to the second round of the next presidential election is not out of the question. This formal alliance with the Anti-Zionist Party makes such a development even more ominous.

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Morning Commentary

It looks like Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier misread the judicial system in Haiti. Just days after he mysteriously returned to the country after a 25-year exile, the former Haitian dictator was arrested for corruption, theft of public funds, and human rights abuses that he allegedly committed during his vicious 15-year reign: “Two days after his return to the country he left following a brutal 15-year rule, a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the state prosecutor’s office while he was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president from his father in 1971.”

Time for another article about the futility of the peace process. At Pajamas Media, David Solway is understandably pessimistic that the Palestinian Authority will agree to the conditions necessary for a successful completion of the negotiations, at least at the moment: “Peace in the Middle East is, in any sober analysis, probably and at the very least generations away from accomplishment. Peace may emerge after another thirty or fifty years of grinding exhaustion or a major outbreak of hostilities that leaves the belligerents incapable of pursuing so debilitating a struggle. And this is a best case scenario.”

The media is now wondering why the media covers Palin so obsessively: “And so, to Mr. Douthat’s chicken-and-egg dilemma — which came first: Ms. Palin or the media’s sometimes obsessive coverage of her? — we might want to add a third actor: the audience,” writes Nate Silver. He notes that a Politico poll from last month found that 59 percent of Americans have a strong opinion on Palin, and so any coverage of her is likely to elicit a lot of interest from the general public.

The American Jewish Committee will honor German Chancellor Andrea Merkel’s support for Israel with its Light Unto the Nations Award at a ceremony in Berlin today: “Chancellor Merkel is a true light unto the nations,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “Her outspoken support for the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the values of human freedom and human dignity are hallmarks of Chancellor Merkel’s visionary political leadership.” Former recipients include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

Ricky Gervais’s performance at last weekend’s Golden Globe awards may have been panned by the mainstream media, but it’s also earned him folk-hero status among conservatives. Instead of taking the predictable swipes at people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, Gervais turned the tables by relentlessly ridiculing the Hollywood elite in the audience: “It is an honour to be here in a room full of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet: actors. They’re just better than ordinary people, aren’t they?” If you haven’t seen the videos of his performance yet, they’re worth watching.

It looks like Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier misread the judicial system in Haiti. Just days after he mysteriously returned to the country after a 25-year exile, the former Haitian dictator was arrested for corruption, theft of public funds, and human rights abuses that he allegedly committed during his vicious 15-year reign: “Two days after his return to the country he left following a brutal 15-year rule, a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the state prosecutor’s office while he was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president from his father in 1971.”

Time for another article about the futility of the peace process. At Pajamas Media, David Solway is understandably pessimistic that the Palestinian Authority will agree to the conditions necessary for a successful completion of the negotiations, at least at the moment: “Peace in the Middle East is, in any sober analysis, probably and at the very least generations away from accomplishment. Peace may emerge after another thirty or fifty years of grinding exhaustion or a major outbreak of hostilities that leaves the belligerents incapable of pursuing so debilitating a struggle. And this is a best case scenario.”

The media is now wondering why the media covers Palin so obsessively: “And so, to Mr. Douthat’s chicken-and-egg dilemma — which came first: Ms. Palin or the media’s sometimes obsessive coverage of her? — we might want to add a third actor: the audience,” writes Nate Silver. He notes that a Politico poll from last month found that 59 percent of Americans have a strong opinion on Palin, and so any coverage of her is likely to elicit a lot of interest from the general public.

The American Jewish Committee will honor German Chancellor Andrea Merkel’s support for Israel with its Light Unto the Nations Award at a ceremony in Berlin today: “Chancellor Merkel is a true light unto the nations,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “Her outspoken support for the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the values of human freedom and human dignity are hallmarks of Chancellor Merkel’s visionary political leadership.” Former recipients include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

Ricky Gervais’s performance at last weekend’s Golden Globe awards may have been panned by the mainstream media, but it’s also earned him folk-hero status among conservatives. Instead of taking the predictable swipes at people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, Gervais turned the tables by relentlessly ridiculing the Hollywood elite in the audience: “It is an honour to be here in a room full of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet: actors. They’re just better than ordinary people, aren’t they?” If you haven’t seen the videos of his performance yet, they’re worth watching.

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Was It Time or Bias that Caused the Media to Slant the Story?

Since Daniel Okrent left the post, the men who have served as the public editor of the New York Times haven’t caused much trouble for the journalists they are supposed to be monitoring. That has certainly been true of Arthur Brisbane, the latest to sit in that seat. However, when confronted with a colossal case of journalistic malpractice, even a Brisbane can’t ignore it. Thus, Brisbane was forced to address the fact that, like much of the mainstream media, the Times‘s coverage of the Arizona tragedy led with and assumed that the shooting was the result of conservative incitement, which would lead to serious political repercussions.

Unfortunately, Brisbane’s analysis of the Times coverage ignores the real problems while focusing on the one element that journalists have always had to deal with: time. Brisbane seems to think that the Times’s initial report that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was dead was terrible. It was an error but one that was an understandable result of a chaotic situation. Brisbane is more forgiving of the bigger mistake: “The Times’s day-one coverage in some of its Sunday print editions included a strong focus on the political climate in Arizona and the nation. For some readers — and I share this view to an extent — placing the violence in the broader political context was problematic.”

While he rightly deplores the instinctive decision of both reporters and editors to “frame” the Arizona shooting as an event that was a direct result of conservative dissent against the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, Brisbane still thinks there “were some good reasons to steer the coverage in this direction.” But the only “good reason” he cites is the assumption that any violence directed at a politician must be the result of the fact that a lot of people disagree with her policies.

Brisbane acknowledges that a better focus of the Times coverage would have been one that highlighted the fact that the shooter was mentally ill. Yet he blames the false assumptions that caused the newspaper to “frame” all its coverage around a false belief that this was a political event for which conservatives must pay on the lack of time. But that is no excuse. Journalists never have enough time. But that’s no reason to take an event and shoehorn it into a fabricated story line that is based on the delegitimization of those who espouse political views that the Times opposes. Read More

Since Daniel Okrent left the post, the men who have served as the public editor of the New York Times haven’t caused much trouble for the journalists they are supposed to be monitoring. That has certainly been true of Arthur Brisbane, the latest to sit in that seat. However, when confronted with a colossal case of journalistic malpractice, even a Brisbane can’t ignore it. Thus, Brisbane was forced to address the fact that, like much of the mainstream media, the Times‘s coverage of the Arizona tragedy led with and assumed that the shooting was the result of conservative incitement, which would lead to serious political repercussions.

Unfortunately, Brisbane’s analysis of the Times coverage ignores the real problems while focusing on the one element that journalists have always had to deal with: time. Brisbane seems to think that the Times’s initial report that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was dead was terrible. It was an error but one that was an understandable result of a chaotic situation. Brisbane is more forgiving of the bigger mistake: “The Times’s day-one coverage in some of its Sunday print editions included a strong focus on the political climate in Arizona and the nation. For some readers — and I share this view to an extent — placing the violence in the broader political context was problematic.”

While he rightly deplores the instinctive decision of both reporters and editors to “frame” the Arizona shooting as an event that was a direct result of conservative dissent against the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, Brisbane still thinks there “were some good reasons to steer the coverage in this direction.” But the only “good reason” he cites is the assumption that any violence directed at a politician must be the result of the fact that a lot of people disagree with her policies.

Brisbane acknowledges that a better focus of the Times coverage would have been one that highlighted the fact that the shooter was mentally ill. Yet he blames the false assumptions that caused the newspaper to “frame” all its coverage around a false belief that this was a political event for which conservatives must pay on the lack of time. But that is no excuse. Journalists never have enough time. But that’s no reason to take an event and shoehorn it into a fabricated story line that is based on the delegitimization of those who espouse political views that the Times opposes.

It wasn’t time that caused the editors at the Times and other broadcast media to falsely accuse conservatives of inciting the shooter; it was their own very obvious political bias. Like the pundits who write on the paper’s op-ed page who have continued to link the crime to politics, even after President Obama urged his followers to stop doing so, the paper’s news editors live in a world where conservative opinions simply aren’t legitimate. Indeed, on the same page where Brisbane’s apologia for the paper appears was a column by Frank Rich that again sought to falsely link Palin to the shooting. Rich spoke of the widespread public anger against the Obama administration’s policies as a violent “insurrection” that threatens the rule of law rather than a grassroots movement that led to an overwhelming Republican victory at the polls last November. Like so many other liberals, Rich thinks it doesn’t matter than Jared Loughner was insane. As far as he is concerned, those who oppose the Democrats are still responsible, even though Rich has produced as much “hate” of President Bush and the Republicans as even the most rabid conservative talk-radio hosts have of Obama.

It is noteworthy that Brisbane even bothered to notice how badly his newspaper got the story wrong. But until he addresses the political bias that was the primary cause of that error, accountability at the Times is still not in the cards.

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The Backlash

Mark Halperin, co-author of a very good campaign book, Game Change, is usually a reasonable political reporter. But yesterday he made comments on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that were irresponsible and deeply (and unintentionally) revealing.

In discussing the political reaction to the Tucson massacre, Halperin said: “I just want to single out one thing. I don’t want to over-generalize. But I think the media and the politicians have behaved pretty well so far. The thing I’m most concerned about now is the anger on the right-wing commentariat. On Fox and George Will and other conservatives are in some cases justifiably upset at liberals. But they’re turning this right now, in the last 24 hours, back into the standard operating procedure of ‘all this is war and fodder for content’ rather than trying to bring the country together.”

“Wait a second, Mark,” Joe Scarborough responded. “I think they would say that you have that backwards, that a shooting was turned into fodder to attack conservatives.”

“And I’ve already made that criticism as well,” Halperin said. “They’re right. But rather than seizing on it and turning the other cheek, they’re back at their war stations. And that’s not going to help us.”

Let’s examine Halperin’s arguments in turn.

What’s not going to “bring the country together” is a grotesque effort by some liberals to implicate conservatives in the shooting death of six innocent people. And perhaps if the network Mr. Halperin appears on (MSNBC) and the magazine he writes for (Time) had not allowed, and in some cases advanced, that narrative, conservatives would not have to go “back to their war stations.” (For more, see this.)

Mr. Halperin concedes that conservatives are right in believing that the Tucson shooting was turned into fodder against conservatives. Yet he seems quite untroubled by it all. In fact, he counsels conservatives to “turn the other cheek.” Now isn’t that touching? Conservatives have been on the receiving end of a remarkable slander campaign — and Halperin is most upset that they are responding to it. It’s not advancing the civilized public discourse conversation that Halperin says he wants to have. What he doesn’t seem to grasp — and it really isn’t all that hard to grasp — is that when the left attempts to make conservatives moral accessories to a massacre, it isn’t likely to drain our political dialogue of anger. And the blame for this doesn’t rest with those who are on the receiving end of the slander. Read More

Mark Halperin, co-author of a very good campaign book, Game Change, is usually a reasonable political reporter. But yesterday he made comments on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that were irresponsible and deeply (and unintentionally) revealing.

In discussing the political reaction to the Tucson massacre, Halperin said: “I just want to single out one thing. I don’t want to over-generalize. But I think the media and the politicians have behaved pretty well so far. The thing I’m most concerned about now is the anger on the right-wing commentariat. On Fox and George Will and other conservatives are in some cases justifiably upset at liberals. But they’re turning this right now, in the last 24 hours, back into the standard operating procedure of ‘all this is war and fodder for content’ rather than trying to bring the country together.”

“Wait a second, Mark,” Joe Scarborough responded. “I think they would say that you have that backwards, that a shooting was turned into fodder to attack conservatives.”

“And I’ve already made that criticism as well,” Halperin said. “They’re right. But rather than seizing on it and turning the other cheek, they’re back at their war stations. And that’s not going to help us.”

Let’s examine Halperin’s arguments in turn.

What’s not going to “bring the country together” is a grotesque effort by some liberals to implicate conservatives in the shooting death of six innocent people. And perhaps if the network Mr. Halperin appears on (MSNBC) and the magazine he writes for (Time) had not allowed, and in some cases advanced, that narrative, conservatives would not have to go “back to their war stations.” (For more, see this.)

Mr. Halperin concedes that conservatives are right in believing that the Tucson shooting was turned into fodder against conservatives. Yet he seems quite untroubled by it all. In fact, he counsels conservatives to “turn the other cheek.” Now isn’t that touching? Conservatives have been on the receiving end of a remarkable slander campaign — and Halperin is most upset that they are responding to it. It’s not advancing the civilized public discourse conversation that Halperin says he wants to have. What he doesn’t seem to grasp — and it really isn’t all that hard to grasp — is that when the left attempts to make conservatives moral accessories to a massacre, it isn’t likely to drain our political dialogue of anger. And the blame for this doesn’t rest with those who are on the receiving end of the slander.

What I think we’re seeing in Halperin’s reaction is upset that the rules that once applied in journalism no longer do.

Once upon a time, a libel by liberals, amplified by the press, would have worked. The narrative would have been locked into place. Conservatives could complain about it here and there, but it wouldn’t really matter much (think Reed Irvine). The rise of the “new media,” which is not really so new anymore, has changed all that.

Today there are a variety of outlets — tweets, blogs, websites, conservative talk radio, and cable news, as well as columnists and even a few editorial pages — that are quite able and willing to push back, to deconstruct bad arguments, to point out factual errors, and to change the trajectory of a story.

We’ve seen that with the Tucson massacre. During the first 24 hours, the left, aided by many in the “mainstream media,” argued that the killings were fostered by a political (read: conservative) climate of hate. That was a completely unjustified and bigoted assumption; and in every hour since then, it has been exposed as such. We are now seeing a public backlash against that calumny. It will grow with time.

The quasi-media monopoly was broken some time ago. A relatively few journalists with a strikingly similar ideological disposition are no longer able to dictate the story lines they want. In this case, they desperately wanted to use the Tucson massacre as a way to indict conservatives for their supposed part in creating a “climate of hate.” But this effort is backfiring. The response from conservatives (along with a few reporters and left-leaning commentators) has been swift, comprehensive, sustained, and effective. Liberal-minded journalists see that and are rattled by it. In response, they are making silly arguments that, on reflection, they probably wish they hadn’t made. But those arguments are themselves instructive. Many journalists are lamenting the loss of a world that no longer exists.

Liberals wanted to use the Tucson massacre to smear conservatives. In the end, it will further discredit them and journalism itself. We are seeing, in a somewhat different form, the Dan Rather/National Guard story all over again. And we know how that turned out.

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The Folks Aren’t Buying It

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air summarizes a CBS poll taken to discern Americans’ sentiments on what caused Jared Loughner’s rampage in Tucson. The poll revealed that 57 percent of respondents think the attack had nothing to do with politics. Even among Democrats, the poll found 49 percent agreeing that Loughner’s motives were non-political. Independents saw Loughner as a non-political actor by a margin of 56 to 33 percent.

This result resonates with my anecdotal observations. Since Saturday, I have not met or heard from a single acquaintance who thought Loughner might have acted from political motives, either left-wing or right-wing. People have even gone out of their way to bring it up. The evidence of Loughner’s mental perturbation is too clear — and the information power of the Internet too readily available — for the people to be swayed in great numbers by a concocted, largely counterfactual narrative.

But I am interested in these poll results on another level as well. Like other CONTENTIONS contributors, I’ve been troubled and saddened by the performance of the usual suspects in the old-media punditry and the Democratic Party. Writing about it has hardly seemed worth the time: it would be like shooting fish in a barrel, and others are doing it much better anyway. But because the worlds of media punditry and politics are prominent features of my own mental landscape, I can’t help giving attention to the rhetorical — and ethical — enormities being perpetrated. Feeling the need to deconstruct them item by item is probably common to most political writers.

I wonder, however, if we are taking the mainstream media’s cringe-worthy performance harder than the rest of America is. The results of the CBS poll give off an air of pragmatic, angst-free rejection of the tea-parties-made-him-do-it narrative. The narrative is reaching anyone who consumes news, but there’s no evidence that it is taking hold. Poll respondents concurred with the “political” assessment of Jared Loughner’s attack in the exact proportion perennially occupied by the left’s committed “base” — i.e., 32 percent of total respondents and 42 percent of Democrats. This suggests that the overheated narrative being stoked by irresponsible media pundits might be satisfying to the converted, but it’s not changing any minds at all.

John Steele Gordon pointed out yesterday that in the age of the Internet, those who try disingenuously to alter or misrepresent the public record will be caught out. That has certainly been a factor in the left’s meltdown following the Loughner incident. I think another factor is simply that the people know unseemly histrionics when they see them, and are naturally put off.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air summarizes a CBS poll taken to discern Americans’ sentiments on what caused Jared Loughner’s rampage in Tucson. The poll revealed that 57 percent of respondents think the attack had nothing to do with politics. Even among Democrats, the poll found 49 percent agreeing that Loughner’s motives were non-political. Independents saw Loughner as a non-political actor by a margin of 56 to 33 percent.

This result resonates with my anecdotal observations. Since Saturday, I have not met or heard from a single acquaintance who thought Loughner might have acted from political motives, either left-wing or right-wing. People have even gone out of their way to bring it up. The evidence of Loughner’s mental perturbation is too clear — and the information power of the Internet too readily available — for the people to be swayed in great numbers by a concocted, largely counterfactual narrative.

But I am interested in these poll results on another level as well. Like other CONTENTIONS contributors, I’ve been troubled and saddened by the performance of the usual suspects in the old-media punditry and the Democratic Party. Writing about it has hardly seemed worth the time: it would be like shooting fish in a barrel, and others are doing it much better anyway. But because the worlds of media punditry and politics are prominent features of my own mental landscape, I can’t help giving attention to the rhetorical — and ethical — enormities being perpetrated. Feeling the need to deconstruct them item by item is probably common to most political writers.

I wonder, however, if we are taking the mainstream media’s cringe-worthy performance harder than the rest of America is. The results of the CBS poll give off an air of pragmatic, angst-free rejection of the tea-parties-made-him-do-it narrative. The narrative is reaching anyone who consumes news, but there’s no evidence that it is taking hold. Poll respondents concurred with the “political” assessment of Jared Loughner’s attack in the exact proportion perennially occupied by the left’s committed “base” — i.e., 32 percent of total respondents and 42 percent of Democrats. This suggests that the overheated narrative being stoked by irresponsible media pundits might be satisfying to the converted, but it’s not changing any minds at all.

John Steele Gordon pointed out yesterday that in the age of the Internet, those who try disingenuously to alter or misrepresent the public record will be caught out. That has certainly been a factor in the left’s meltdown following the Loughner incident. I think another factor is simply that the people know unseemly histrionics when they see them, and are naturally put off.

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Is the Right Worse Than the Left?

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric. Read More

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric.

Kinsley is right when he decries hateful rhetoric. But he is not above taking comments out of context to back up his point. For instance, he claims Bill O’Reilly’s reaction to one of his columns consisted of a call by the FOX News host for Kinsley’s head to be cut off. That sounds despicable. But he neglects to mention that what O’Reilly was saying was that Kinsley’s opposition to Guantanamo and other tough anti-terror measures was so obstinate and foolish that perhaps the only thing that might change his mind was for al-Qaeda terrorists to treat him the same way they did Daniel Pearl. That’s pretty harsh, but not the same thing as a call for a beheading.

The cockeyed lesson that liberals seem intent on shoving down the throats of their fellow citizens is that when conservatives talk tough about liberals, it is tantamount to incitement to murder, but that when liberals talk tough about conservatives, it’s just talk, because liberals don’t mean anyone any harm. We have heard a great deal about the way political debate in this country has been debased by violent rhetoric in recent years. But for all of the nastiness of the left about Bush and of the right about Obama, I don’t think any of that has done as much damage to the fabric of democracy as the determination the past few days by the mainstream media and its liberal elites to exploit a crime carried out by a mentally ill person to further their own narrow partisan political agenda.

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The Incitement Double Standard

As the political left seeks to use the Arizona tragedy to tar all conservatives with the brush of the murderer, there is another point to remember here. In the past few years, there have been several shootings and terrorist attacks carried out or attempted by American Muslims who were clearly influenced by extremist Islam.

Yet every time such a crime happens, liberals loudly warn us that an examination of the motives of those who carry out such attacks is beyond the pale, since such ruminations might be prejudicial to Muslims, even if the truth is that those crimes were influenced by Islam.

Caution is always advisable when seeking to associate anyone or anything with a violent crime, even though the links between some of these cases of Muslim terrorism and extreme forms of Islam are fairly clear. Yet today there are no such warnings being sounded in the media cautioning Americans not to attribute the actions of an unstable individual to political movements that actually have nothing to do with his crime. Indeed, far from preemptively warning the public not to jump to conclusions, even within the first 24 hours after the assassination took place, we have already had several instances of the left seeking to link this crime with dissent against the policies of President Obama and his Democratic congressional supporters.

It is curious that many of the same media forums, such as the New York Times, that have repeatedly refused even to report, let alone editorialize, about the links between Islamist beliefs and terror are openly seeking to blame the Arizona attack on the Tea Party or anyone else who has had the temerity to question the president, publishing stories that seek to shift the public’s attention from the murderer to Tea Party activists and Republicans, who have nothing to do with this crime. But so deeply ingrained is liberal bias within our mainstream media that no one there seems to understand that there is a double standard at play here.

As the political left seeks to use the Arizona tragedy to tar all conservatives with the brush of the murderer, there is another point to remember here. In the past few years, there have been several shootings and terrorist attacks carried out or attempted by American Muslims who were clearly influenced by extremist Islam.

Yet every time such a crime happens, liberals loudly warn us that an examination of the motives of those who carry out such attacks is beyond the pale, since such ruminations might be prejudicial to Muslims, even if the truth is that those crimes were influenced by Islam.

Caution is always advisable when seeking to associate anyone or anything with a violent crime, even though the links between some of these cases of Muslim terrorism and extreme forms of Islam are fairly clear. Yet today there are no such warnings being sounded in the media cautioning Americans not to attribute the actions of an unstable individual to political movements that actually have nothing to do with his crime. Indeed, far from preemptively warning the public not to jump to conclusions, even within the first 24 hours after the assassination took place, we have already had several instances of the left seeking to link this crime with dissent against the policies of President Obama and his Democratic congressional supporters.

It is curious that many of the same media forums, such as the New York Times, that have repeatedly refused even to report, let alone editorialize, about the links between Islamist beliefs and terror are openly seeking to blame the Arizona attack on the Tea Party or anyone else who has had the temerity to question the president, publishing stories that seek to shift the public’s attention from the murderer to Tea Party activists and Republicans, who have nothing to do with this crime. But so deeply ingrained is liberal bias within our mainstream media that no one there seems to understand that there is a double standard at play here.

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SPECIAL JANUARY PREVIEW: The WikiLeaks War on America

The indefinable international organization known as WikiLeaks was relatively unknown between its setting up in 2006 and the April 2010 premiere it staged at the National Press Club in Washington of the “Collateral Murder” video—a selection of stolen and decrypted gun-camera footage that purportedly shows the unlawful killing of Iraqi civilians and two Reuters journalists by the crew of a U.S. Army Apache helicopter. Skillfully edited and promoted, and widely accepted by the mainstream media as proof of a U.S. war crime, the video won WikiLeaks fame and praise around the world and made its founder, a 39-year-old Australian named Julian Assange, an international celebrity.

To finish reading this SPECIAL PREVIEW from the JANUARY 2011 issue of COMMENTARY, click here.

To ensure you never miss an issue of COMMENTARY, click here.

The indefinable international organization known as WikiLeaks was relatively unknown between its setting up in 2006 and the April 2010 premiere it staged at the National Press Club in Washington of the “Collateral Murder” video—a selection of stolen and decrypted gun-camera footage that purportedly shows the unlawful killing of Iraqi civilians and two Reuters journalists by the crew of a U.S. Army Apache helicopter. Skillfully edited and promoted, and widely accepted by the mainstream media as proof of a U.S. war crime, the video won WikiLeaks fame and praise around the world and made its founder, a 39-year-old Australian named Julian Assange, an international celebrity.

To finish reading this SPECIAL PREVIEW from the JANUARY 2011 issue of COMMENTARY, click here.

To ensure you never miss an issue of COMMENTARY, click here.

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Palestinians’ UN Gambit Puts Both Israel and Obama on the Spot

The news that the Palestinian Authority is expected to try to use the United Nations Security Council to label any Israeli presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem “illegal” is hardly a surprise to those who have followed the PA’s continuous efforts to evade actual peace negotiations. Having rejected an Israeli offer of an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem in 2008, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas spent the first two years of the Obama administration doing everything possible to avoid actually negotiating with Israel. With even Obama starting to understand that the last thing Abbas wants is to sign a peace accord no matter how generous its terms or where Israel’s borders might be drawn, it’s clear the Palestinian’s goal is not a state but to escalate the diplomatic conflict. That will enable him to compete with Hamas for support among a Palestinian population that has never reconciled itself to peace with a Jewish state. The UN is the perfect forum for such a venture since it is a hotbed of anti-Zionist, as well as anti-Semitic, incitement.

Yet despite the mainstream media’s oft trumpeted claim that settlements are illegal under international law, Israel actually has an excellent case here. As David Phillips of the Northeastern School of Law detailed in COMMENTARY in December 2009, whatever one’s opinion of the wisdom of building in the territories, allegations of its illegality are unfounded in international law. Unfortunately, Israel has never made much of an effort to defend itself on this front. The reasons for this are complicated. A lot of it has to do with the general incompetence of Israeli public relations, but it must also be said that the left-wing political beliefs of many Israeli diplomats who were personally opposed to the settlements also played a role. This has led to a situation in which many Israelis and American supporters of the Jewish state simply accept the charge of illegality since they have rarely been exposed to the compelling arguments to the contrary.

But the real question that is hanging over a potential UN fight over settlements is how the United States will behave. The United States has used its veto in the past to prevent the Security Council from unfairly prejudicing potential peace talks with resolutions that demonized Israel. However, President Obama’s foolish decision to pick a fight with the Israelis over settlements and, in particular, about Jerusalem helped torpedo any hope of fruitful negotiations, because Abbas could not appear to be less tough on Israel than the Americans (he had, after all, negotiated directly with the Israelis without the precondition of the settlement freeze that Obama had insisted on). In recent months, the administration tried to entice the Israelis to agree to yet another settlement-building freeze by promising to veto resolutions like the one the Palestinians may propose, but, as we know, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to put that in writing. In the months ahead, we will see whether Israel will be forced to pay a price for an American veto. But even more ominous is the possibility that Barack Obama will reverse decades of pro-Israel advocacy by U.S. representatives to the UN by abandoning Israel in the coming debate.

The news that the Palestinian Authority is expected to try to use the United Nations Security Council to label any Israeli presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem “illegal” is hardly a surprise to those who have followed the PA’s continuous efforts to evade actual peace negotiations. Having rejected an Israeli offer of an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem in 2008, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas spent the first two years of the Obama administration doing everything possible to avoid actually negotiating with Israel. With even Obama starting to understand that the last thing Abbas wants is to sign a peace accord no matter how generous its terms or where Israel’s borders might be drawn, it’s clear the Palestinian’s goal is not a state but to escalate the diplomatic conflict. That will enable him to compete with Hamas for support among a Palestinian population that has never reconciled itself to peace with a Jewish state. The UN is the perfect forum for such a venture since it is a hotbed of anti-Zionist, as well as anti-Semitic, incitement.

Yet despite the mainstream media’s oft trumpeted claim that settlements are illegal under international law, Israel actually has an excellent case here. As David Phillips of the Northeastern School of Law detailed in COMMENTARY in December 2009, whatever one’s opinion of the wisdom of building in the territories, allegations of its illegality are unfounded in international law. Unfortunately, Israel has never made much of an effort to defend itself on this front. The reasons for this are complicated. A lot of it has to do with the general incompetence of Israeli public relations, but it must also be said that the left-wing political beliefs of many Israeli diplomats who were personally opposed to the settlements also played a role. This has led to a situation in which many Israelis and American supporters of the Jewish state simply accept the charge of illegality since they have rarely been exposed to the compelling arguments to the contrary.

But the real question that is hanging over a potential UN fight over settlements is how the United States will behave. The United States has used its veto in the past to prevent the Security Council from unfairly prejudicing potential peace talks with resolutions that demonized Israel. However, President Obama’s foolish decision to pick a fight with the Israelis over settlements and, in particular, about Jerusalem helped torpedo any hope of fruitful negotiations, because Abbas could not appear to be less tough on Israel than the Americans (he had, after all, negotiated directly with the Israelis without the precondition of the settlement freeze that Obama had insisted on). In recent months, the administration tried to entice the Israelis to agree to yet another settlement-building freeze by promising to veto resolutions like the one the Palestinians may propose, but, as we know, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to put that in writing. In the months ahead, we will see whether Israel will be forced to pay a price for an American veto. But even more ominous is the possibility that Barack Obama will reverse decades of pro-Israel advocacy by U.S. representatives to the UN by abandoning Israel in the coming debate.

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The “Palestinian” Campaign

As Alana Goodman writes today, the Palestinian Authority has announced that 10 European Union nations will be accepting fully accredited Palestinian embassies. I agree that skepticism is in order about the particulars of this claim, but there’s more to the relentless barrage of PA announcements than mere theatrical foot-dragging. The American focus on the peace process has tended to blind us to the fact that a separate campaign is underway to corner Israel and present it with a set of diplomatic faits accomplis. For this separate campaign, the peace process is not the principal vehicle for concerted action.

The campaign has been mounting like a drumbeat in the distance. Saeb Erekat’s newest claim about the 10 EU nations follows the recognition of a Palestinian state earlier this month by members of the Latin American Mercosur union (with three new nations signing up on Sunday). Nations across Europe and the Americas have upgraded the status of Palestinian diplomatic missions in the past year, including the U.S. and France in July, along with others like Spain, Norway, and Portugal.

Ongoing efforts at the UN, meanwhile, were outlined by John Bolton in a widely cited article in October. His concern in writing that article was that a UN resolution establishing an arbitrary Palestinian state was imminent and inevitable unless the U.S. could be relied on to veto it. The threat of such action has not subsided: today the Netanyahu government sent its envoys around the globe “urgent” instructions to oppose UN action on a statehood resolution or a resolution demanding a halt to settlement construction.

That urgency is not misplaced given the statements and actions of the PA itself. Bloggers noted the statement by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in early December that the PA “will not be a prisoner to the restrictions of Oslo” — and pointed out the disadvantages of that posture for the PA. But the advantage of abandoning the Oslo framework is greater for the project Fayyad has his name on: unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state in 2011. This is a serious plan of which Fayyad has spoken for more than a year, and its supporters in the West are exemplified by Thomas Friedman, who can’t say enough good things about “Fayyadism” and the 2011 plan. As an economic approach, “Fayyadism” doesn’t get high marks from all observers; but its political significance is that it poses a date and a question — 2011 and statehood — that require official response. Read More

As Alana Goodman writes today, the Palestinian Authority has announced that 10 European Union nations will be accepting fully accredited Palestinian embassies. I agree that skepticism is in order about the particulars of this claim, but there’s more to the relentless barrage of PA announcements than mere theatrical foot-dragging. The American focus on the peace process has tended to blind us to the fact that a separate campaign is underway to corner Israel and present it with a set of diplomatic faits accomplis. For this separate campaign, the peace process is not the principal vehicle for concerted action.

The campaign has been mounting like a drumbeat in the distance. Saeb Erekat’s newest claim about the 10 EU nations follows the recognition of a Palestinian state earlier this month by members of the Latin American Mercosur union (with three new nations signing up on Sunday). Nations across Europe and the Americas have upgraded the status of Palestinian diplomatic missions in the past year, including the U.S. and France in July, along with others like Spain, Norway, and Portugal.

Ongoing efforts at the UN, meanwhile, were outlined by John Bolton in a widely cited article in October. His concern in writing that article was that a UN resolution establishing an arbitrary Palestinian state was imminent and inevitable unless the U.S. could be relied on to veto it. The threat of such action has not subsided: today the Netanyahu government sent its envoys around the globe “urgent” instructions to oppose UN action on a statehood resolution or a resolution demanding a halt to settlement construction.

That urgency is not misplaced given the statements and actions of the PA itself. Bloggers noted the statement by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in early December that the PA “will not be a prisoner to the restrictions of Oslo” — and pointed out the disadvantages of that posture for the PA. But the advantage of abandoning the Oslo framework is greater for the project Fayyad has his name on: unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state in 2011. This is a serious plan of which Fayyad has spoken for more than a year, and its supporters in the West are exemplified by Thomas Friedman, who can’t say enough good things about “Fayyadism” and the 2011 plan. As an economic approach, “Fayyadism” doesn’t get high marks from all observers; but its political significance is that it poses a date and a question — 2011 and statehood — that require official response.

The 2011 plan is the one to keep an eye on. It has momentum and increasing buy-in, as demonstrated by the flurry of statehood recognitions from Latin America this month. U.S. mainstream media have not generally been presenting a coherent picture to American readers, but from a broader perspective, there is a confluence of events separate from the official peace process. It already appears, from the regional jockeying for Lebanon and the trend of Saudi activity, that nations in the Middle East are trying to position themselves for a decisive shift in the Israel-Palestine dynamic. Now, in a significant “informational” move, Russia’s ITAR-TASS is playing up the discussions of 2011 statehood from the meeting this past weekend of a Russian-government delegation with Salam Fayyad in Israel.

It may be too early to call the official peace process irrelevant or pronounce it dead. But the interest in it from the Palestinian Arabs and other parties in the Middle East is increasingly perfunctory (or cynical). It is becoming clear that there is more than recalcitrance on the Palestinian side; there is an alternative plan, which is being actively promoted. A central virtue of this plan for Fayyadists is that it can work by either of two methods: presenting Israel with a UN-backed fait accompli or alarming Israel into cutting a deal from fear that an imposed resolution would be worse.

John Bolton is right. Everything about this depends on what the U.S. does. America can either avert the 2011 plan’s momentum now or face a crisis decision crafted for us by others sometime next year. Being maneuvered into a UN veto that could set off bombings and riots across the Eastern Hemisphere — and very possibly North America as well — should not be our first choice.

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Radical Islam to Be Investigated: CAIR Cries Foul

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said yesterday that the House Committee on Homeland Security that he will chair in the next Congress will hold hearings on the radicalization of American Islam.

Given the string of terrorist plots in the past few years that can be directly linked to radical Islam, it’s reasonable for the U.S. Congress to devote some time to studying what’s been going on. But, predictably, the group the mainstream media treat as the mouthpiece of American Muslims is screaming bloody murder about the prospect of such hearings. In fact, Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said such hearings will be an “anti-Muslim witch hunt.”

It is true that any congressional hearing, no matter how important the topic or germane the line of questioning might be to public policy, can be an excuse for shameless grandstanding by politicians who know little about the subject matter but are hungry for a good sound bite. But Hooper and CAIR have their own agenda here, and it is far more sinister than that of any of the publicity-hungry members of Congress who participate in such forums.

Founded as a political front for a group that funneled money to the Hamas terrorist group (the Holy Land Foundation, which has since been closed down by the Treasury Department) back in the early 1990s, CAIR poses as a civil-rights group for Arabs and Muslims, but its true purpose is to put a reasonable face on a radical ideology. It rationalizes anti-American and anti-Jewish acts of terror and seeks to demonize Israel and its supporters while falsely portraying American Muslims as the victims of a mythical reign of terror since 9/11. Most insidious is its attempt to deny the very existence of radical Islamism, either here or abroad. Indeed, during a debate in which I participated at Baruch College in New York City last month, a spokesman for CAIR claimed it was racist to even use the word “Islamist” or to dare point out the danger from radical Islam to highlight the way foreign interests in this country have funded mosques in which such radicals have found a platform. Though there has been no backlash against Muslims, CAIR has been successful in manipulating the mainstream media into claims of victimization. Indeed, rather than listen to the evidence of the threat from Muslim radicals, we can expect many in the media to hew to CAIR’s talking points about “witch hunts” in their coverage of King’s hearings.

While Rep. King will have to carefully manage such hearings to prevent his colleagues from hijacking their serious purpose, his main problem will be in combating the successful efforts of CAIR to label any such inquiry as beyond the pale. It will be up to the committee’s staff to assemble the compelling evidence already largely on the public record and focus the public’s attention on the real danger. Otherwise, this initiative will become yet another opportunity for CAIR to stifle discussion on the source of motivation for home-grown Islamist terror.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said yesterday that the House Committee on Homeland Security that he will chair in the next Congress will hold hearings on the radicalization of American Islam.

Given the string of terrorist plots in the past few years that can be directly linked to radical Islam, it’s reasonable for the U.S. Congress to devote some time to studying what’s been going on. But, predictably, the group the mainstream media treat as the mouthpiece of American Muslims is screaming bloody murder about the prospect of such hearings. In fact, Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said such hearings will be an “anti-Muslim witch hunt.”

It is true that any congressional hearing, no matter how important the topic or germane the line of questioning might be to public policy, can be an excuse for shameless grandstanding by politicians who know little about the subject matter but are hungry for a good sound bite. But Hooper and CAIR have their own agenda here, and it is far more sinister than that of any of the publicity-hungry members of Congress who participate in such forums.

Founded as a political front for a group that funneled money to the Hamas terrorist group (the Holy Land Foundation, which has since been closed down by the Treasury Department) back in the early 1990s, CAIR poses as a civil-rights group for Arabs and Muslims, but its true purpose is to put a reasonable face on a radical ideology. It rationalizes anti-American and anti-Jewish acts of terror and seeks to demonize Israel and its supporters while falsely portraying American Muslims as the victims of a mythical reign of terror since 9/11. Most insidious is its attempt to deny the very existence of radical Islamism, either here or abroad. Indeed, during a debate in which I participated at Baruch College in New York City last month, a spokesman for CAIR claimed it was racist to even use the word “Islamist” or to dare point out the danger from radical Islam to highlight the way foreign interests in this country have funded mosques in which such radicals have found a platform. Though there has been no backlash against Muslims, CAIR has been successful in manipulating the mainstream media into claims of victimization. Indeed, rather than listen to the evidence of the threat from Muslim radicals, we can expect many in the media to hew to CAIR’s talking points about “witch hunts” in their coverage of King’s hearings.

While Rep. King will have to carefully manage such hearings to prevent his colleagues from hijacking their serious purpose, his main problem will be in combating the successful efforts of CAIR to label any such inquiry as beyond the pale. It will be up to the committee’s staff to assemble the compelling evidence already largely on the public record and focus the public’s attention on the real danger. Otherwise, this initiative will become yet another opportunity for CAIR to stifle discussion on the source of motivation for home-grown Islamist terror.

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Conservative Complaints About Tax Deal Must Be Heeded by GOP

We’ve spent most of the last week hearing about how the left thinks congressional Republicans rolled President Obama on tax cuts. After Obama’s startling rant about his liberal critics last week at a White House press conference, that embarrassing topic has lost some of its currency in the mainstream media. So today’s topic is the increasing unhappiness on the Tea Party right about the compromise. It’s one thing for Sen. Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin to decry the deal; it’s quite another for Charles Krauthammer to see it as an Obama triumph.

Krauthammer made his negative opinion about the deal known early via Fox News but got little attention, since most of the negative comments about it were coming from liberals who felt betrayed by Obama’s decision not to try to increase taxes on wealthier Americans. But with articles in both the New York Times and the Washington Post today, the possibility of a conservative revolt, as opposed to a liberal one, is finally getting some notice.

Most conservatives were initially so happy about the GOP leadership’s forcing Obama to back down on his opposition to the across-the-board extension of the Bush tax cuts that they didn’t notice what else is included in the deal. As Krauthammer noted on Friday, the compromise includes a lot of things that no foe of big government ought to be willing to stomach, such as more subsidies for boondoggles like ethanol and windmills, as well as extensions of death taxes and a host of other provisions that justify the columnist’s calling it another version of Obama’s failed stimulus. Indeed, as Krauthammer points out, it might well be even more expensive than that disaster, blowing “another near-$1 trillion hole in the budget.”

Though extending the tax cuts was important and cutting payroll taxes is something that every Tea Party sympathizer ought to applaud, this deal may well be remembered as the final act of a profligate Congress whose largesse with taxpayer money will haunt the nation for decades to come.

Krauthammer fears that this second stimulus will help re-elect Obama by pumping up the economy in the next two years, even if it will lead to another disaster after November 2012. Maybe so, but that assumes that, unlike the first stimulus, this act will actually jump-start the economy. No matter how much federal money Obama or the Congress waste, it is unlikely that we will be able to spend our way to prosperity. And if unemployment and growth are still problems in the fall of 2012, no one will look back on this tax deal and think it was the decisive moment when Obama’s victory or defeat was preordained.

Despite the carping from both the right and the left, the compromise deal will probably be passed before the lame-duck Congress slinks out of Washington. But the anger on the right ought to serve as a wake-up call to the GOP leadership that they should not take the Tea Party’s support for granted in the future. The new Congress with more conservatives in the House and the Senate will be a less-hospitable place for the sort of deal in which both sides of the aisle get pet projects funded whether or not they make sense. Despite the applause for groups that preach such compromises (such as the laughable No Labels), that will be a change for the better.

We’ve spent most of the last week hearing about how the left thinks congressional Republicans rolled President Obama on tax cuts. After Obama’s startling rant about his liberal critics last week at a White House press conference, that embarrassing topic has lost some of its currency in the mainstream media. So today’s topic is the increasing unhappiness on the Tea Party right about the compromise. It’s one thing for Sen. Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin to decry the deal; it’s quite another for Charles Krauthammer to see it as an Obama triumph.

Krauthammer made his negative opinion about the deal known early via Fox News but got little attention, since most of the negative comments about it were coming from liberals who felt betrayed by Obama’s decision not to try to increase taxes on wealthier Americans. But with articles in both the New York Times and the Washington Post today, the possibility of a conservative revolt, as opposed to a liberal one, is finally getting some notice.

Most conservatives were initially so happy about the GOP leadership’s forcing Obama to back down on his opposition to the across-the-board extension of the Bush tax cuts that they didn’t notice what else is included in the deal. As Krauthammer noted on Friday, the compromise includes a lot of things that no foe of big government ought to be willing to stomach, such as more subsidies for boondoggles like ethanol and windmills, as well as extensions of death taxes and a host of other provisions that justify the columnist’s calling it another version of Obama’s failed stimulus. Indeed, as Krauthammer points out, it might well be even more expensive than that disaster, blowing “another near-$1 trillion hole in the budget.”

Though extending the tax cuts was important and cutting payroll taxes is something that every Tea Party sympathizer ought to applaud, this deal may well be remembered as the final act of a profligate Congress whose largesse with taxpayer money will haunt the nation for decades to come.

Krauthammer fears that this second stimulus will help re-elect Obama by pumping up the economy in the next two years, even if it will lead to another disaster after November 2012. Maybe so, but that assumes that, unlike the first stimulus, this act will actually jump-start the economy. No matter how much federal money Obama or the Congress waste, it is unlikely that we will be able to spend our way to prosperity. And if unemployment and growth are still problems in the fall of 2012, no one will look back on this tax deal and think it was the decisive moment when Obama’s victory or defeat was preordained.

Despite the carping from both the right and the left, the compromise deal will probably be passed before the lame-duck Congress slinks out of Washington. But the anger on the right ought to serve as a wake-up call to the GOP leadership that they should not take the Tea Party’s support for granted in the future. The new Congress with more conservatives in the House and the Senate will be a less-hospitable place for the sort of deal in which both sides of the aisle get pet projects funded whether or not they make sense. Despite the applause for groups that preach such compromises (such as the laughable No Labels), that will be a change for the better.

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Israel’s Critics Cry About Being Repressed … from Their Usual Soapbox at the New York Times

That the New York Times’s Roger Cohen has a problem with Israel is not exactly a secret. As far as he is concerned, the country’s democratically elected government and the people who elected it don’t measure up to his moral standards. Moreover, he and those who share his views, like writer Peter Beinart, think that any Jewish or non-Jewish friends of Israel who prefer to focus their efforts on continuing to defend Israel against an Arab/Muslim siege and anti-Zionist campaigners who seek to isolate it rather than spend their time flaying it for perceived sins are also not living up to the standards they are setting for them.

Today Cohen weighs in again to tell the sad tale of a liberal American who went to Israel to work for left-wing causes there and claims to have gotten into a scuffle with right-wingers after a demonstration in Tel Aviv during which he and his friends waved signs that said “Zionists Are Not Settlers.” Politics in Israel can be a bit rougher than what we’re used to here in America, but there’s no excuse for violence. It would have been far better for his antagonists to merely point out that Zionists have always been “settlers,” since there would be no state of Israel had not some Jews had the chutzpah to jump-start the rebirth of Jewish life in the Jewish homeland by planting roots in places where Arabs didn’t want them to be. Like, for example, the metropolis of Tel Aviv, where the demonstration took place, which a century ago was nothing but a small annoying Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Arab Jaffa.

But Cohen isn’t content to merely blackguard Israelis or their supporters. In order to put forward his argument in a way in which those who agree with him can be portrayed as victims rather than judgmental critics who don’t understand Israel’s dilemma, he has to claim that their views are being suppressed. Thus, it isn’t enough for him to promote the views of the left-wing lobby J Street or to echo the arguments of Beinart about Israel’s moral failures; he must also claim that the “debate remains stifled.” Read More

That the New York Times’s Roger Cohen has a problem with Israel is not exactly a secret. As far as he is concerned, the country’s democratically elected government and the people who elected it don’t measure up to his moral standards. Moreover, he and those who share his views, like writer Peter Beinart, think that any Jewish or non-Jewish friends of Israel who prefer to focus their efforts on continuing to defend Israel against an Arab/Muslim siege and anti-Zionist campaigners who seek to isolate it rather than spend their time flaying it for perceived sins are also not living up to the standards they are setting for them.

Today Cohen weighs in again to tell the sad tale of a liberal American who went to Israel to work for left-wing causes there and claims to have gotten into a scuffle with right-wingers after a demonstration in Tel Aviv during which he and his friends waved signs that said “Zionists Are Not Settlers.” Politics in Israel can be a bit rougher than what we’re used to here in America, but there’s no excuse for violence. It would have been far better for his antagonists to merely point out that Zionists have always been “settlers,” since there would be no state of Israel had not some Jews had the chutzpah to jump-start the rebirth of Jewish life in the Jewish homeland by planting roots in places where Arabs didn’t want them to be. Like, for example, the metropolis of Tel Aviv, where the demonstration took place, which a century ago was nothing but a small annoying Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Arab Jaffa.

But Cohen isn’t content to merely blackguard Israelis or their supporters. In order to put forward his argument in a way in which those who agree with him can be portrayed as victims rather than judgmental critics who don’t understand Israel’s dilemma, he has to claim that their views are being suppressed. Thus, it isn’t enough for him to promote the views of the left-wing lobby J Street or to echo the arguments of Beinart about Israel’s moral failures; he must also claim that the “debate remains stifled.”

What is his proof? Because left-wingers who tried to disrupt a speech being given by Israel’s prime minster were “dragged out” of the auditorium where Netanyahu was trying to speak in New Orleans. Never mind that if someone tried to do that to President Obama, he’d be arrested. What else? Because one synagogue in Massachusetts decided not to host a J Street leader. Shocking. Want more? Cohen claims that AIPAC, a vast group with across-the-board support from American Jews, won’t debate J Street, a small group largely funded by financier George Soros (though the group spent years inexplicably lying about Soros’s role in propping up this Potemkin organization) that is dedicated to supporting American pressure on Israel. Even worse, the young Jew whose story Cohen tells is getting some negative feedback from friends about his J Street activities. Isn’t that awful?

The truth is, despite promoting itself as the liberal alternative to AIPAC, a stance that ought to make it popular due to the fact that most Jews are liberals, J Street has little grassroots Jewish support. That’s because it has systematically taken stands on Israel’s right to self-defense and the nuclear threat from Iran that strike most Jews as being outside the pro-Israel consensus. But far from being silenced, J Street is the darling of a mainstream media that has consistently promoted it, especially in places where Israel’s supporters have trouble making their voices heard. Like the opinion pages of the New York Times.

But Cohen did get one thing right. He notes in passing that the administration’s latest attempt to pressure Israel failed because “President Barack Obama had virtually no domestic constituency” for his policy. This is absolutely true. The vast majority of Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, support the Jewish state and oppose twisting its arm in this manner. That they hold to this belief despite the constant drumbeat of attacks on Israel, such as those by Cohen, his Times colleague Nicholas Kristof, and Peter Beinart, speaks volumes about how marginal J Street still is.

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So Long — Until Tomorrow

As most all of you know, today is my last day at COMMENTARY. It has been a joy and a source of great pride to work for the publication that I began reading as a teenager and that remains one of the premiere intellectual institutions in America. My writing career began as a lark and has become a passion, the most satisfying and engrossing occupation I could have imagined. The opportunity to write in COMMENTARY’S pages and on this website  — and throw some elbows, take the barbs (from those whom I’m delighted to have enraged), and report what the mainstream media refused to — has allowed me to contribute to the political debate and, along the way, break news. I owe COMMENTARY’s editors, staff, and writers an immense debt of gratitude. I am thankful for the encouragement and fine editorial advice they have provided me, without which I could not have accomplished what I did or have been ready for the next chapter in my career. And as for John’s most generous parting words, I am deeply touched. I hope to be worthy of his praise.

Then there are all of you — the readers. I have received the benefit of my readers’ extraordinary wisdom, occasional corrections and objections, and good humor. (I’ve often thought that many of you should be writing rather than just reading.) And after all, that is what a great magazine is all about — an intellectual community that stimulates, spars, consoles, incites, and makes common cause to promote values and principles that must be defended if they are to survive. I want to thank all of you for the hundreds of e-mails, calls, Facebook entries, and tweets (OK, I finally broke down and got with the 21st century@JRubinBlogger) cheering me as I move to the Washington Post.

At the Post I will launch a new blog, Right Turn (CONTENTIONS readers can get a sneak preview by clicking on the link), where I will continue to report and opine, just as I have for the past three years. Rest assured that I intend to make the most of this extraordinary opportunity. I want all of you to come along for the ride — to read, comment, and debate with the Post readers (respectfully, of course). Together we can explain who we are and what we believe to a wide and diverse audience. I will continue to make CONTENTIONS an integral part of my daily reading, and I hope you will as well. Its writers’ wealth of knowledge and wit are an indispensible part of the national debate.

And to my loved ones: your unflagging support, patience, and confidence in my abilities have sustained me. Without you, none of this would be possible.

As most all of you know, today is my last day at COMMENTARY. It has been a joy and a source of great pride to work for the publication that I began reading as a teenager and that remains one of the premiere intellectual institutions in America. My writing career began as a lark and has become a passion, the most satisfying and engrossing occupation I could have imagined. The opportunity to write in COMMENTARY’S pages and on this website  — and throw some elbows, take the barbs (from those whom I’m delighted to have enraged), and report what the mainstream media refused to — has allowed me to contribute to the political debate and, along the way, break news. I owe COMMENTARY’s editors, staff, and writers an immense debt of gratitude. I am thankful for the encouragement and fine editorial advice they have provided me, without which I could not have accomplished what I did or have been ready for the next chapter in my career. And as for John’s most generous parting words, I am deeply touched. I hope to be worthy of his praise.

Then there are all of you — the readers. I have received the benefit of my readers’ extraordinary wisdom, occasional corrections and objections, and good humor. (I’ve often thought that many of you should be writing rather than just reading.) And after all, that is what a great magazine is all about — an intellectual community that stimulates, spars, consoles, incites, and makes common cause to promote values and principles that must be defended if they are to survive. I want to thank all of you for the hundreds of e-mails, calls, Facebook entries, and tweets (OK, I finally broke down and got with the 21st century@JRubinBlogger) cheering me as I move to the Washington Post.

At the Post I will launch a new blog, Right Turn (CONTENTIONS readers can get a sneak preview by clicking on the link), where I will continue to report and opine, just as I have for the past three years. Rest assured that I intend to make the most of this extraordinary opportunity. I want all of you to come along for the ride — to read, comment, and debate with the Post readers (respectfully, of course). Together we can explain who we are and what we believe to a wide and diverse audience. I will continue to make CONTENTIONS an integral part of my daily reading, and I hope you will as well. Its writers’ wealth of knowledge and wit are an indispensible part of the national debate.

And to my loved ones: your unflagging support, patience, and confidence in my abilities have sustained me. Without you, none of this would be possible.

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WikiLeaks and Consequences

When all is said and done regarding the WikiLeaks diplomatic-cable data dump, two things may be of special note. One is that on the day of the promised dump, WikiLeaks is suffering a massive but relatively low-tech cyber attack. Experts observe that the U.S. government has more sophisticated ways to commit cyber-sabotage; it’s not clear who would be doing this, or why.

The other noteworthy aspect of the event is the topic Max Boot discusses: the complicity of the mainstream media in publicizing the WikiLeaks gambit and creating buzz about it. I certainly agree that the media organizations have behaved as irresponsibly as Max outlines. And it’s worth reflecting, if only briefly, on the ambulance-chasing level to which they seem to have descended in a professional sense.

The New York Times’s top “revelation” from the cables is a case in point. The authors inform us breathlessly that the U.S. has been secretly pressing Pakistan to better secure the high-enriched uranium at a research-reactor complex. But who could be surprised by this? The New York Times itself published an extensive report in 2007 on America’s detailed, hands-on efforts to improve nuclear security in Pakistan. In April 2010, during President Obama’s nuclear-security summit, the Times documented the unique concern among Western leaders with the new research reactors being built in Pakistan. The UN is pressing Pakistan to place the new reactors under IAEA supervision. Nuclear security in Pakistan has been a major topic for pundits and diplomats for quite a while now. The U.S. has made it the focus of a key bilateral project since 9/11. The surprise — especially for faithful readers of the New York Times — would be if America were not actively working to make Pakistan’s high-enriched uranium more secure.

A free press has often meant an adversarial press, and that in itself is not inherently bad. But an adversarial posture is justified by the constructiveness of its goals. There is a noticeably sophomoric element in the mainstream media’s cooperation with WikiLeaks: an indiscriminate enthusiasm for anything that’s being kept secret by the authorities, regardless of its objective value as information. We can only hope that the New York Times editorial staff will eventually make use of its own archives to put today’s uninteresting parade of revelations in context.

I would disagree with Max on one thing. The worth of the latest WikiLeaks dump is greater than zero — and greater even than its value in notifying us about Qaddafi’s voluptuous Ukrainian nurse. Its true value lies in confirming what hawks and conservatives have been saying about global security issues. China’s role in missile transfers from North Korea to Iran; Syria’s determined arming of Hezbollah; Iran’s use of Red Crescent vehicles to deliver weapons to terrorists; Obama’s strong-arming of foreign governments to accept prisoners from Guantanamo — these are things many news organizations are reporting prominently only because they have been made known through a WikiLeaks dump. In the end, WikiLeaks’s most enduring consequences may be the unintended ones.

When all is said and done regarding the WikiLeaks diplomatic-cable data dump, two things may be of special note. One is that on the day of the promised dump, WikiLeaks is suffering a massive but relatively low-tech cyber attack. Experts observe that the U.S. government has more sophisticated ways to commit cyber-sabotage; it’s not clear who would be doing this, or why.

The other noteworthy aspect of the event is the topic Max Boot discusses: the complicity of the mainstream media in publicizing the WikiLeaks gambit and creating buzz about it. I certainly agree that the media organizations have behaved as irresponsibly as Max outlines. And it’s worth reflecting, if only briefly, on the ambulance-chasing level to which they seem to have descended in a professional sense.

The New York Times’s top “revelation” from the cables is a case in point. The authors inform us breathlessly that the U.S. has been secretly pressing Pakistan to better secure the high-enriched uranium at a research-reactor complex. But who could be surprised by this? The New York Times itself published an extensive report in 2007 on America’s detailed, hands-on efforts to improve nuclear security in Pakistan. In April 2010, during President Obama’s nuclear-security summit, the Times documented the unique concern among Western leaders with the new research reactors being built in Pakistan. The UN is pressing Pakistan to place the new reactors under IAEA supervision. Nuclear security in Pakistan has been a major topic for pundits and diplomats for quite a while now. The U.S. has made it the focus of a key bilateral project since 9/11. The surprise — especially for faithful readers of the New York Times — would be if America were not actively working to make Pakistan’s high-enriched uranium more secure.

A free press has often meant an adversarial press, and that in itself is not inherently bad. But an adversarial posture is justified by the constructiveness of its goals. There is a noticeably sophomoric element in the mainstream media’s cooperation with WikiLeaks: an indiscriminate enthusiasm for anything that’s being kept secret by the authorities, regardless of its objective value as information. We can only hope that the New York Times editorial staff will eventually make use of its own archives to put today’s uninteresting parade of revelations in context.

I would disagree with Max on one thing. The worth of the latest WikiLeaks dump is greater than zero — and greater even than its value in notifying us about Qaddafi’s voluptuous Ukrainian nurse. Its true value lies in confirming what hawks and conservatives have been saying about global security issues. China’s role in missile transfers from North Korea to Iran; Syria’s determined arming of Hezbollah; Iran’s use of Red Crescent vehicles to deliver weapons to terrorists; Obama’s strong-arming of foreign governments to accept prisoners from Guantanamo — these are things many news organizations are reporting prominently only because they have been made known through a WikiLeaks dump. In the end, WikiLeaks’s most enduring consequences may be the unintended ones.

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Waiting for Cream to Rise to the Top

Fred Barnes writes:

Why do the potential Republican presidential candidates (with one exception) seem so old, dull, and uninteresting? There are a few simple answers. Most of the candidates are a generation older than most of the new Republican luminaries, compared with whom they are indeed duller and less interesting. At the moment they’re not where the political action is either. They’re not quite irrelevant, but close.

He argues, quite correctly, that at least for the next few months, all eyes will be on Congress:

At this time four years ago, the presidential race was about to take off. But the center of gravity in politics and government has shifted. The big play is now in Congress with Republicans in control of the House and in the statehouses with governors like Jindal, Christie, Perry, and a slew of newcomers like Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, and Rick Scott in Florida. The presidential contest will have to wait.

But implicit in his analysis is the conclusion that the likely contenders don’t match up all that well against the non-candidate Republicans. Part of the issue is generational, as Barnes points out. But there are other problems with the batch of commonly mentioned candidates.

For one thing, they all seem to have been around forever. Yes, in most cases, they’ve been on the national stage for only a couple of years. Mickey Kaus has called it the Feiler Faster Thesis – the omnipresence of media has sped up the pace of coverage and the pace of politics. A year on the national stage is now like five years in the 1990s. We’ve seen so much of many of the likely contenders (e.g., Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee) that they seem tired and old hat. Is there anything either of them could say that would surprise us? Most likely, only a gaffe.

And of course, each of the likely contenders has not simply small flaws but jumbo problems. Republicans are far more self-aware than the mainstream media give them credit for being. A majority of Republican activists and primary voters know that RomneyCare is quite possibly a debilitating issue for Romney. Many Republicans — Tea Partiers included — understand that Sarah Palin has serious issues with independents and is increasingly obsessed with how the media cover her. (One dig against John McCain was that he was thin-skinned; Palin is quickly developing the same reputation.)

The focus of the country will turn both to Congress and to a slew of new governors. And after a few months, Republicans might discover that one or more of the congressional standouts or one of the governors seems fresher and more capable than the retreads currently mulling a race. So I’d suggest that you ignore the likely candidates and watch the performance of people like Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, John Kasich, and Bobby Jindal — the best of the lot may wind up at the top of the presidential contender list.

Fred Barnes writes:

Why do the potential Republican presidential candidates (with one exception) seem so old, dull, and uninteresting? There are a few simple answers. Most of the candidates are a generation older than most of the new Republican luminaries, compared with whom they are indeed duller and less interesting. At the moment they’re not where the political action is either. They’re not quite irrelevant, but close.

He argues, quite correctly, that at least for the next few months, all eyes will be on Congress:

At this time four years ago, the presidential race was about to take off. But the center of gravity in politics and government has shifted. The big play is now in Congress with Republicans in control of the House and in the statehouses with governors like Jindal, Christie, Perry, and a slew of newcomers like Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, and Rick Scott in Florida. The presidential contest will have to wait.

But implicit in his analysis is the conclusion that the likely contenders don’t match up all that well against the non-candidate Republicans. Part of the issue is generational, as Barnes points out. But there are other problems with the batch of commonly mentioned candidates.

For one thing, they all seem to have been around forever. Yes, in most cases, they’ve been on the national stage for only a couple of years. Mickey Kaus has called it the Feiler Faster Thesis – the omnipresence of media has sped up the pace of coverage and the pace of politics. A year on the national stage is now like five years in the 1990s. We’ve seen so much of many of the likely contenders (e.g., Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee) that they seem tired and old hat. Is there anything either of them could say that would surprise us? Most likely, only a gaffe.

And of course, each of the likely contenders has not simply small flaws but jumbo problems. Republicans are far more self-aware than the mainstream media give them credit for being. A majority of Republican activists and primary voters know that RomneyCare is quite possibly a debilitating issue for Romney. Many Republicans — Tea Partiers included — understand that Sarah Palin has serious issues with independents and is increasingly obsessed with how the media cover her. (One dig against John McCain was that he was thin-skinned; Palin is quickly developing the same reputation.)

The focus of the country will turn both to Congress and to a slew of new governors. And after a few months, Republicans might discover that one or more of the congressional standouts or one of the governors seems fresher and more capable than the retreads currently mulling a race. So I’d suggest that you ignore the likely candidates and watch the performance of people like Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, John Kasich, and Bobby Jindal — the best of the lot may wind up at the top of the presidential contender list.

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Business Leaders Aren’t Charmed

Good for them. Business leaders who tried without result to get along with the Obama administration and who only recently piped up about its job-destroying agenda aren’t about to be taken in by a “charm offensive.” This report explains:

After business leaders sunk millions into the midterms to defeat Democrats, a chastened Obama administration is seeking reconciliation with the corporate community.

But after two years of building frustration, the executives say they won’t be won over by another round of private lunches and photo opportunities at the White House. …

“No amount of relationship-building is a substitute for policy,” said Johanna Schneider, executive director for external affairs at the Business Roundtable, which was once one of the administration’s most enduring corporate allies.

“We have to see some concrete policies that will help grow business because everyone’s goal is to grow jobs. This isn’t hocus-pocus. There are concrete steps to take for job growth,” she added.

The mainstream media and Obama spinners (OK, there’s lots of overlap there) exaggerate the importance of grand gestures and underestimate the damage that Obama’s policies have done to the job market. To a degree, it’s all a set-up: Obama is reaching out, so why are those nasty business leaders still ragging on him? It’s because a speech or a lunch has nothing to do with the state of the economy or executives’ hiring plans.

The White House claims to be baffled that employers are so upset. (“Some White House officials, in turn, privately express frustration that the business world seems to give Obama no credit for supporting bailouts of Wall Street and the auto industry as well as an economic stimulus bill that likely spared the country a deeper recession.”) But this is willful blindness. At least I hope it is and there is someone in the White House who understands the cumulative impact of the administration’s tax, spending, and regulatory policies. But they are annoyed that business leaders actually expect policy changes:

Last week, Treasury’s Gene Sperling appeared at a retreat for technology executives. “He expressed a desire to work closely,” said one attendee. “Then, when we brought up the issue of repatriation [the opportunity for corporations to bring overseas earnings back to the U.S. at lower tax rates], he openly showed frustration with us for just bringing the subject up.”

It’s a complaint heard often from the business community. “Access isn’t the issue. The question is: Where is the delivery?” said one corporate representative who, like others, sought anonymity to speak freely.

We’ll see if the business community is less easily spun than American Jewish leaders, who largely fell for the “charm offensive” only to discover that the administration remained just as obsessed over settlements and just as feckless on Iran despite the kind words. For an administration convinced that words matter more than actions, I suspect it is going to get a rude awakening.

Good for them. Business leaders who tried without result to get along with the Obama administration and who only recently piped up about its job-destroying agenda aren’t about to be taken in by a “charm offensive.” This report explains:

After business leaders sunk millions into the midterms to defeat Democrats, a chastened Obama administration is seeking reconciliation with the corporate community.

But after two years of building frustration, the executives say they won’t be won over by another round of private lunches and photo opportunities at the White House. …

“No amount of relationship-building is a substitute for policy,” said Johanna Schneider, executive director for external affairs at the Business Roundtable, which was once one of the administration’s most enduring corporate allies.

“We have to see some concrete policies that will help grow business because everyone’s goal is to grow jobs. This isn’t hocus-pocus. There are concrete steps to take for job growth,” she added.

The mainstream media and Obama spinners (OK, there’s lots of overlap there) exaggerate the importance of grand gestures and underestimate the damage that Obama’s policies have done to the job market. To a degree, it’s all a set-up: Obama is reaching out, so why are those nasty business leaders still ragging on him? It’s because a speech or a lunch has nothing to do with the state of the economy or executives’ hiring plans.

The White House claims to be baffled that employers are so upset. (“Some White House officials, in turn, privately express frustration that the business world seems to give Obama no credit for supporting bailouts of Wall Street and the auto industry as well as an economic stimulus bill that likely spared the country a deeper recession.”) But this is willful blindness. At least I hope it is and there is someone in the White House who understands the cumulative impact of the administration’s tax, spending, and regulatory policies. But they are annoyed that business leaders actually expect policy changes:

Last week, Treasury’s Gene Sperling appeared at a retreat for technology executives. “He expressed a desire to work closely,” said one attendee. “Then, when we brought up the issue of repatriation [the opportunity for corporations to bring overseas earnings back to the U.S. at lower tax rates], he openly showed frustration with us for just bringing the subject up.”

It’s a complaint heard often from the business community. “Access isn’t the issue. The question is: Where is the delivery?” said one corporate representative who, like others, sought anonymity to speak freely.

We’ll see if the business community is less easily spun than American Jewish leaders, who largely fell for the “charm offensive” only to discover that the administration remained just as obsessed over settlements and just as feckless on Iran despite the kind words. For an administration convinced that words matter more than actions, I suspect it is going to get a rude awakening.

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Ben Smith Spills the Beans: Obama’s Middle East Policy Is a Disaster

Ben Smith reveals what nearly every serious Middle East observer already knows: Obama has made things worse, not better, in that volatile region. He reports:

Instead of becoming a heady triumph of his diplomatic skill and special insight, Obama’s peace process is viewed almost universally in Israel as a mistake-riddled fantasy. And far from becoming the transcendent figure in a centuries-old drama, Obama has become just another frustrated player on a hardened Mideast landscape. …

Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders have refused American demands to hold peace talks with the Israelis before the freeze is extended. Talks with Arab states over gestures intended to build Israeli confidence – a key part of Obama’s early plan — have long since been scrapped.

The political peace process to which Obama committed so much energy is considered a failure so far. And in the world’s most pro-American state, the public and its leaders have lost any faith in Obama and – increasingly — even in the notion of a politically negotiated peace.

Obama naturally blames everyone else. But the criticism is biting and personal: it is Obama and his misguided ideology that are at the root of the problem: Read More

Ben Smith reveals what nearly every serious Middle East observer already knows: Obama has made things worse, not better, in that volatile region. He reports:

Instead of becoming a heady triumph of his diplomatic skill and special insight, Obama’s peace process is viewed almost universally in Israel as a mistake-riddled fantasy. And far from becoming the transcendent figure in a centuries-old drama, Obama has become just another frustrated player on a hardened Mideast landscape. …

Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders have refused American demands to hold peace talks with the Israelis before the freeze is extended. Talks with Arab states over gestures intended to build Israeli confidence – a key part of Obama’s early plan — have long since been scrapped.

The political peace process to which Obama committed so much energy is considered a failure so far. And in the world’s most pro-American state, the public and its leaders have lost any faith in Obama and – increasingly — even in the notion of a politically negotiated peace.

Obama naturally blames everyone else. But the criticism is biting and personal: it is Obama and his misguided ideology that are at the root of the problem:

[T]he American president has been diminished, even in an era without active hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians. His demands on the parties appear to shrink each month, with the path to a grand peace settlement narrowing to the vanishing point. The lack of Israeli faith in him and his process has them using the talks to extract more tangible security assurances – the jets. And though America remains beloved, Obama is about as popular here as he is in Oklahoma. A Jerusalem Post poll in May found 9 percent of Israelis consider Obama “pro-Israel,” while 48 percent say he’s “pro-Palestinian.” …

“Israelis really hate Obama’s guts,” said Shmuel Rosner, a columnist for two leading Israeli newspapers. “We used to trust Americans to act like Americans, and this guy is like a European leader.”

Many senior Israeli leaders have concluded that Hillary Clinton and John McCain were right about Obama’s naivete and inexperience.

“The naïve liberals who are at the heart of the administration really believe in all the misconceptions the Palestinians and all their friends all over the world are trying to place,” said Yossi Kuperwasser, a former high-ranking military intelligence officer who is now deputy director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs.

But in some sense, Ben Smith’s account is too generous. It is not merely that Obama has made hash out of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; it is that he has undermined American stature more broadly in the Middle East. Yes, the Israelis and the PA regard him as foolish, but what’s even more important is that so do the Syrians, Saudis, and Iranians. He has wasted time on the non-peace process and in fact exacerbated tensions as the other nations looked on. The aging Sunni leaders regard him with alarm: has he no idea what to do about Iran? The mullahs regard him with contempt: he has already told them that they need not worry about military action.

Obama is right — there is such a thing as linkage, but not in the way he imagined. The progress of the Middle East non-peace talks is irrelevant to the threat of an Iranian nuclear power. But what is highly relevant, and deeply troubling, is the perception of an American administration in over its head, disloyal to friends, and anxious to make a deal at any cost to preserve the patina of competency it is struggling to maintain. And to make matters worse, it’s fair to conclude that beyond the Middle East — in China, Russia, and North Korea — they are learning the same lesson.

One final note. The well-sourced and dead-on report comes from Ben Smith, not the nominal foreign affairs reporter for Politico. This is because the latter, a former Journo-list member, is among the worse and least-informative foreign affairs “reporters” out there. In fact, she’s no more than a scribe for the Obami and the J Street crowd. And that explains why none of the material, widely available to followers of the mainstream media, was ever reported by her. Maybe it’s time to get a full-time person on the foreign affairs beat who actually reports rather than regurgitates the left’s take on American foreign policy.

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Forget “Front-runner”

There is a bizarre obsession with declaring in the fall of 2010 that one candidate or another is the “front-runner” in the GOP presidential primary. Sarah Palin will be the front-runner, the pundits pronounce, because she’s so very popular with the base (but maybe not as popular as the mainstream media imagine). Mitt Romney is the front-runner, we are told, because he is “next in line” and will have loads of money and name recognition. This is all hogwash.

Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” for all of 2007 — and then the race actually started. Romney had tons of money last time, but John McCain’s pauper campaign beat him. (And if anything, Romney is in worse shape this time with the RomneyCare cloud over his head.) It’s daft to talk of front-runners when the candidates aren’t set, we are two years from any votes being cast, and there is such obvious discontent with the most likely contenders.

The 2012 polls mean absolutely nothing at this point, reflecting only current familiarity with the candidates. Bestowing front-runner status on this or that candidate provides reporters and pundits with a way of organizing their storylines (“front-runner stumbles”), but it’s not informative. What would be illuminating is to probe the strengths and weaknesses of each, the source of support (financial and otherwise) each might have, and the potential strategy for each. But, by gosh, that takes a lot of work. So much easier just to debate who the “front-runner” is and ponder whether Palin will run or not.

There is a bizarre obsession with declaring in the fall of 2010 that one candidate or another is the “front-runner” in the GOP presidential primary. Sarah Palin will be the front-runner, the pundits pronounce, because she’s so very popular with the base (but maybe not as popular as the mainstream media imagine). Mitt Romney is the front-runner, we are told, because he is “next in line” and will have loads of money and name recognition. This is all hogwash.

Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” for all of 2007 — and then the race actually started. Romney had tons of money last time, but John McCain’s pauper campaign beat him. (And if anything, Romney is in worse shape this time with the RomneyCare cloud over his head.) It’s daft to talk of front-runners when the candidates aren’t set, we are two years from any votes being cast, and there is such obvious discontent with the most likely contenders.

The 2012 polls mean absolutely nothing at this point, reflecting only current familiarity with the candidates. Bestowing front-runner status on this or that candidate provides reporters and pundits with a way of organizing their storylines (“front-runner stumbles”), but it’s not informative. What would be illuminating is to probe the strengths and weaknesses of each, the source of support (financial and otherwise) each might have, and the potential strategy for each. But, by gosh, that takes a lot of work. So much easier just to debate who the “front-runner” is and ponder whether Palin will run or not.

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