Commentary Magazine


Topic: media bias

On Abortion, It’s Liberals vs. Public Opinion

If pro-abortion activist Wendy Davis was seeking to move the polls on public attitudes toward abortion and her own political fortunes, she seems to have succeeded–though surely not in the direction she intended. After Davis’s media blitz, Texas voters still made clear they’d vote against her for governor. And now the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll confirms what has been the case all along: Davis and the Democrats hold extremist views on abortion.

The Post reports: “By a margin of 56 to 27 percent, more Americans say they’d prefer to impose limits on abortions after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy rather than the 24-week mark established under current law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.” That 20-week mark was the subject of the restrictive abortion bill that Davis worked so hard to stop in Texas–though the Texas bill also sought to upgrade health facilities for women, which Davis also strenuously opposed.

The media, which tends to be far more pro-abortion than the rest of the country, has tried to cloak that extremism with spin. In the case of Davis’s poll numbers, they were forced to argue that “Wendy Davis won’t be the next governor but could help Democrats win the larger political war.” In the writeup of the new abortion poll, the Post adds:

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If pro-abortion activist Wendy Davis was seeking to move the polls on public attitudes toward abortion and her own political fortunes, she seems to have succeeded–though surely not in the direction she intended. After Davis’s media blitz, Texas voters still made clear they’d vote against her for governor. And now the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll confirms what has been the case all along: Davis and the Democrats hold extremist views on abortion.

The Post reports: “By a margin of 56 to 27 percent, more Americans say they’d prefer to impose limits on abortions after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy rather than the 24-week mark established under current law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.” That 20-week mark was the subject of the restrictive abortion bill that Davis worked so hard to stop in Texas–though the Texas bill also sought to upgrade health facilities for women, which Davis also strenuously opposed.

The media, which tends to be far more pro-abortion than the rest of the country, has tried to cloak that extremism with spin. In the case of Davis’s poll numbers, they were forced to argue that “Wendy Davis won’t be the next governor but could help Democrats win the larger political war.” In the writeup of the new abortion poll, the Post adds:

More broadly, overall support for legal abortion remains stable, with 55 percent saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 41 percent say it should be illegal in most or all cases. That finding is similar to a 2012 Post-ABC poll and surveys in recent years.

Pro-abortion activists may see that as a silver lining, but it’s not much out of step with the rest of the poll. Most abortions take place before the 20-week mark, which means a bill restricting abortion after that point would still mean abortion in most cases would be left in place. An additional ten percent of respondents didn’t think the 20-week restrictions would go far enough, making the Wendy Davis Democrats true outliers in public opinion.

The real silver lining for the left, if there is one, would be this part of the poll:

By more than a 2 to 1 margin — 66 to 30 percent — Americans say they prefer that abortion laws be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution, rather than a state-by-state approach. This applies to both hardcore abortion rights supporters and opponents: 73 percent of those who say abortion should always be legal want a national rule, as do 72 percent of those who say it should be illegal in all cases.

A majority of Americans want a national abortion standard subject to Supreme Court approval of its constitutionality. This is where the left has some success. When American voters disapprove of liberal culture-war stands, the courts can often be counted on to legislate from the bench, especially when pressured by the administration and the media to get in line. The high court has already established precedent inventing a right to abort children in the Constitution, so getting national law to conform with popular opinion would be an uphill slog.

The other interesting aspect of the poll is the support for abortion, or opposition to the abortion facility regulations, that didn’t come from the self-identified liberal end of the spectrum:

Meanwhile a Columbus, Ohio, resident who asked that he only be identified by his first name, Robert, and described himself as “a conservative Republican” who backs abortion rights, said he did not understand why politicians were seeking to rewrite the nation’s abortion laws.

“I would really prefer that government focus on fiscal issues, and stay out of the social issues,” he said.

And Milo Shield, a professor at Augsburg College who lives in Prescott, Wis., said he also supports abortion access without restrictions until the 24th week of pregnancy. He questioned Wisconsin’s new law requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors, which Planned Parenthood said could shutter two of its four clinics in the state.

“There doesn’t seem to be data about whether it makes a difference to have a doctor present or hospital admitting privileges,” said Shield, who considers himself a libertarian and does not affiliate with either party. “I don’t know what Wisconsin’s rationale was. It’s like creationism — it’s shrouded in science, but not science-based.”

The second commenter here identifies as a libertarian, and the earlier comment was from a “conservative Republican” who expressed a fairly libertarian attitude by telling the government to focus on fiscal issues “and stay out of the social issues.” The libertarian approval of unrestricted abortion is something I find baffling. The science is pretty clear: the unborn child is the same human person before and after birth. Any policy approach that gives some people less value and fewer rights than others doesn’t strike me as particularly “libertarian.”

But it does get at a point encountered often in political discussions: people just aren’t that comfortable talking about abortion, at least to the extent they are usually comfortable talking about, say, taxes. The media plays a role in this, casting opposition to abortion as part of a “war on women,” a shameful smear that is simply not supported by the polling but which is intended to foreclose debate precisely because Americans side with conservatives on this issue more than Democrats, and certainly more than abortion absolutists on the left.

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Helen Thomas and Bias in the Press

Longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas is being celebrated today as a trailblazer who showed the way for young female reporters and the avatar for tough-minded journalism. Thomas deserves great credit for making her way against the odds in a man’s world before becoming a fixture as the dean of the White House press corps and a leading member of the once-all male Gridiron Club. Doing so required grit, tenacity, and the kind of work ethic that enabled her to beat out many of her colleagues and win her a place among the elites of the Washington press corps. But even the most laudatory discussion of Thomas’s career must mention its end when she was forced to resign from her last post for an anti-Semitic outburst. In order to maintain the story line of Thomas as trailblazer, obituaries like the front-page article in today’s New York Times, and appreciations like the one in the Daily Beast by Eleanor Clift, must treat it as something that does not detract from her significance or an understandable expression of legitimate opinion that showed she didn’t care what others thought.

But an honest assessment of her legacy requires us to do more than make a token acknowledgement of the “get the hell out of Palestine” statement while lionizing her as a symbol of equal rights for women. Thomas’s prejudice was not a minor flaw. It was a symptom not only of her Jew-hatred but also of a style of journalism that was brutally partisan and confrontational. We want reporters to be tough and relentless in the pursuit of good stories and truth. Yet anyone who watched her use her perch in the front row in the White House press room as if it were a platform for political opposition to administrations whose policies she didn’t like must understand that, along with her symbolic importance, we must also give Thomas her share of the credit for the creation of an ugly spirit of partisanship that characterizes much of the press.

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Longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas is being celebrated today as a trailblazer who showed the way for young female reporters and the avatar for tough-minded journalism. Thomas deserves great credit for making her way against the odds in a man’s world before becoming a fixture as the dean of the White House press corps and a leading member of the once-all male Gridiron Club. Doing so required grit, tenacity, and the kind of work ethic that enabled her to beat out many of her colleagues and win her a place among the elites of the Washington press corps. But even the most laudatory discussion of Thomas’s career must mention its end when she was forced to resign from her last post for an anti-Semitic outburst. In order to maintain the story line of Thomas as trailblazer, obituaries like the front-page article in today’s New York Times, and appreciations like the one in the Daily Beast by Eleanor Clift, must treat it as something that does not detract from her significance or an understandable expression of legitimate opinion that showed she didn’t care what others thought.

But an honest assessment of her legacy requires us to do more than make a token acknowledgement of the “get the hell out of Palestine” statement while lionizing her as a symbol of equal rights for women. Thomas’s prejudice was not a minor flaw. It was a symptom not only of her Jew-hatred but also of a style of journalism that was brutally partisan and confrontational. We want reporters to be tough and relentless in the pursuit of good stories and truth. Yet anyone who watched her use her perch in the front row in the White House press room as if it were a platform for political opposition to administrations whose policies she didn’t like must understand that, along with her symbolic importance, we must also give Thomas her share of the credit for the creation of an ugly spirit of partisanship that characterizes much of the press.

As for Thomas’s line about throwing the Jews out of Palestine, the attempts to soften its impact by her friends still fall flat. The reporter wasn’t talking about Jewish settlers in the West Bank. She was referring to all six million Israeli Jews who, she thought, ought to go back where they supposedly belonged, to Germany and Poland. We are supposed to give her a pass for that because she was either elderly at the time or because she was the child of Lebanese immigrants, who brought their prejudices against Jews with them. Though she subsequently attempted to weasel her way out of the dustup with a statement that expressed her wish for peace, it was clear that she thought such a peace ought to be based on Israel’s eradication. This wasn’t so much, as the Times wrote, an “offhand remark” as it reflected a deep-seated hatred for Israel and its Jewish population that had characterized much of her reporting and writing throughout her career. That her fans are willing to regard this as not germane to the main story about her achievements is to be expected. But let’s ask ourselves how her stature would be affected if her offhand remarks, even in her dotage, had been aimed at African-Americans, rather than Israelis? Rationalizing or minimizing her prejudices for the sake of preserving Thomas’s reputation is intellectually indefensible.

Many people grew to like Thomas specifically because of her unrelenting hostility to the George W. Bush administration and her open opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those stances are seen by some as either prescient or praiseworthy these days, but even if you shared her political position, it’s important to understand that her use of her front-row seat in the White House briefing room to promote those positions represented a disturbing breakdown in civility as well as the way the press views itself.

Thomas made no secret of the fact that she felt the mainstream press gave too much leeway to Bush in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But her decision to fight her own war against the war on terror from inside the White House wasn’t quite the responsible position that many of her backers pretend it to be. Thomas’s point wasn’t so much based on skepticism about whether Saddam Hussein really did possess, as every Western intelligence agency thought he did, weapons of mass destruction as it was on the idea that Islamist terrorists and their allies had legitimate grievances against the United States and the West. In her view, American attempts to defend against these threats or Israeli efforts to protect their people against a bloody terrorist offensive were the real problems.

Moreover, as much as the press needs to always be on guard against a tendency to be played by the president (something that has been crystal clear during most of Barack Obama’s presidency, as much of the mainstream media served as his unpaid cheerleaders), Thomas illustrated the pitfalls of the opposite trend. At times, Thomas appeared to be acting as if she thought the role of the press was to be the mouthpiece for Bush’s detractors. In doing so, she undermined her own shaky credibility more than she cut the president down to size.

Journalists should recognize that Thomas helped paved the way for subsequent generations of women in the working press. But we should also understand that the negative lessons of her career are as instructive as the positive ones. Helen Thomas may have been a pathfinder for women, but her prejudices and poor judgment are textbook examples of how journalists should not behave.

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The Media’s Irresponsible Reaction to the Zimmerman Verdict

Monday’s New York Times editorial on the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman is a sorry piece of work.

The editorial board says that the case is all about race: “ask any black man, up to and including President Obama, and he will tell you a few stories that sound eerily like what happened that rainy winter night in Sanford, Fla.”

I have no reason to doubt that most black men in America have a true story to tell about being unjustly suspected of wrongdoing. But the story of race in America has never cast Hispanics like George Zimmerman in a leading role. And we still don’t know what happened that night. My guess is that the stories to which the Times refers foreclose the possibility that the storyteller knocked down the unjustly suspicious person and slammed his head repeatedly into the concrete. Yet the prosecutors never came close to discrediting that part of Zimmerman’s story, much less proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman committed second degree murder or manslaughter.

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Monday’s New York Times editorial on the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman is a sorry piece of work.

The editorial board says that the case is all about race: “ask any black man, up to and including President Obama, and he will tell you a few stories that sound eerily like what happened that rainy winter night in Sanford, Fla.”

I have no reason to doubt that most black men in America have a true story to tell about being unjustly suspected of wrongdoing. But the story of race in America has never cast Hispanics like George Zimmerman in a leading role. And we still don’t know what happened that night. My guess is that the stories to which the Times refers foreclose the possibility that the storyteller knocked down the unjustly suspicious person and slammed his head repeatedly into the concrete. Yet the prosecutors never came close to discrediting that part of Zimmerman’s story, much less proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman committed second degree murder or manslaughter.

From the beginning, politicians have attempted to turn State of Florida v. Zimmerman into an advertisement. The Times has now joined in. The case proves that it was “sanguine” of the Supreme Court to say that things have changed dramatically in America since 1965. Shelby v. Holder may be open to criticism, but is the Times really on record as proposing that race relations have not changed dramatically since 1965? And are they really on record proposing George Zimmerman as an exemplar of Southern white racism?

The Times, like the rest of us, does not know much about George Zimmerman. But the editorial board feels free to discount the testimony of neighbors and its own story on the FBI’s “wide-ranging investigation,” which “found a man not prone to violence or prejudice and who moved easily between racial and ethnic groups — a ‘decent guy,’ ‘a good human being.’” Never mind all that. What is “most frightening is that there are many people with guns who are like George Zimmerman” (my emphasis). And of course, the “Justice Department is right to continue its investigation into whether George Zimmerman may still be prosecuted under federal civil rights laws.”

And like many commentators, the Times insists on treating the case as an indictment of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, even though the defense did not invoke it during the trial. To repeat, the prosecution was never able to cast serious doubt on Zimmerman’s contention that, at the time of the shooting, he was pinned to the ground and had had his head slammed into the ground repeatedly. Under such circumstances, there is no state in the union in which there is a “duty to retreat.”

The prosecution was more successful casting doubt on Zimmerman’s denial that he set out to follow Martin that night. But even if it could be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman followed Martin, the rest of the story, in which Martin becomes the aggressor, breaks Zimmerman’s nose, bashes his head into the concrete, and reaches for Zimmerman’s gun, would be sufficient to make out a case for self-defense not just in Florida but in any state.

That is not to say that Zimmerman’s story is true, that every jury would have acquitted Zimmerman, that it is as hard to prove self-defense in Florida as it is elsewhere, or that Zimmerman bears no responsibility for Martin’s death. But it is disingenuous to make State of Florida v. Zimmerman a commentary on recent Supreme Court decisions or on gun control. The Times even says that what may well have been a case of justified self-defense “should be as troubling as . . . mass killings” like Columbine and Sandy Hook. While I understand that day-to-day killings and policies to prevent them deserve as much or more attention than rare mass murders receive, the Times has no way of knowing whether it was fortunate or unfortunate that Zimmerman was armed.

Now that the case is over, Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Martin family, compares Martin’s case to that of Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist deliberately shot in the back outside his home by a member of a White Citizen’s Council. While no one expects the Martin family to accept George Zimmerman’s acquittal, it is up to observers like the New York Times editorial board to attend to the cases that the defense and prosecution put on, to take account of how little we know about what happened between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, and to resist the urge to turn the living or the dead into cartoon heroes and villains in a story about civil rights.

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Luke Russert, Journalist and Advocate

A new survey by the Pew Forum shows that Americans continue to hold the military in high regard, with more than three-quarters of U.S. adults (78 percent) saying that members of the armed services contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being.

At the same time, compared with the ratings four years ago, journalists have dropped the most in public esteem. The share of the public saying that journalists contribute a lot to society is down 10 percentage points, from 38 percent in 2009 to 28 percent in 2013. The drop is particularly pronounced among women (down 17 points). The decline in the perceived contribution of journalists cuts across partisan leanings, age and education level. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents as well as Republicans and Republican-leaning independents all are less likely to say journalists contribute a lot to society’s well-being today (down 8 points among Republicans/leaning Republicans and 10 points among Democrats/leaning Democrats).

I believe the public’s views toward both institutions–the military and the media–are warranted. And I suspect that public esteem for the press will continue to drop if there are more episodes like this one (h/t National Review Online) from NBC’s Capitol Hill correspondent Luke Russert.

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A new survey by the Pew Forum shows that Americans continue to hold the military in high regard, with more than three-quarters of U.S. adults (78 percent) saying that members of the armed services contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being.

At the same time, compared with the ratings four years ago, journalists have dropped the most in public esteem. The share of the public saying that journalists contribute a lot to society is down 10 percentage points, from 38 percent in 2009 to 28 percent in 2013. The drop is particularly pronounced among women (down 17 points). The decline in the perceived contribution of journalists cuts across partisan leanings, age and education level. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents as well as Republicans and Republican-leaning independents all are less likely to say journalists contribute a lot to society’s well-being today (down 8 points among Republicans/leaning Republicans and 10 points among Democrats/leaning Democrats).

I believe the public’s views toward both institutions–the military and the media–are warranted. And I suspect that public esteem for the press will continue to drop if there are more episodes like this one (h/t National Review Online) from NBC’s Capitol Hill correspondent Luke Russert.

Mr. Russert’s question was delivered in the form of commentary that was both tendentious and arrogant. For example, Russert decided to establish a premise before his question, telling Boehner, “it’s well known you guys got your rear ends handed to you in the Latino community in the 2012 election.” He made opposition to a pathway to citizenship seem unreasonable, saying, “Do you not risk putting Republicans at a disadvantage with the fastest-growing electoral voting group for another generation?” And as Boehner was attempting to move on after answering the question, Russert continued to press ahead, wondering if the GOP “brand” would be hurt with Hispanics and make it impossible to win future national elections with a party comprised of “all white folks.” It’s not simply what Russert said; it’s also the tone with which he said it. I say all this as someone who is actually somewhat sympathetic to the view being advocated by Russert.

(What Russert said was also ignorant, referring to Marco Rubio as the “presumptive 2016 nominee” for the Republican Party. Senator Rubio may or may not run for president, and he may or may not win. But it’s silly to state that he’s the “presumptive” nominee at this stage.)

Speaker Boehner responded to Russert’s questions by stating, “I didn’t know this was an opinion show.” But increasingly these days to be a journalist means to be an advocate. Why else do so many journalists get into the profession in the first place, if not to advance an ideology and a political agenda without having to go through the hassle of winning elections?

There’s certainly a place for opinion shows in journalism, but Russert is supposed to be a correspondent, not a person advocating a particular point of view. Yet increasingly that distinction is lost on journalists and young progressives like Luke Russert. His profession is suffering, and should suffer, as a result.

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Media Help America Misunderstand Egypt

Americans are frequently accused of being clueless about the Middle East. But given the nonsense they’re fed by the so-called “serious” mainstream media, cluelessness is virtually inevitable.

Take, for instance, the explanation of last week’s Egyptian coup offered by a star columnist for one of America’s premier newspapers: According to the New York Times’s Roger Cohen, it was about the ousted government’s failure to satisfy the following cravings: “personal empowerment, a demand to join the modern world, and live in an open society under the rule of law rather than the rule of despotic whim.” And on what does he base this conclusion? He quotes exactly two people–the director of Human Rights Watch’s Cairo office and former International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohamed ElBaradei. In other words, two members of the same liberal elite to which Cohen belongs–but which is highly unrepresentative of most of the estimated 14 million demonstrators who thronged Egypt’s streets last Sunday.

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Americans are frequently accused of being clueless about the Middle East. But given the nonsense they’re fed by the so-called “serious” mainstream media, cluelessness is virtually inevitable.

Take, for instance, the explanation of last week’s Egyptian coup offered by a star columnist for one of America’s premier newspapers: According to the New York Times’s Roger Cohen, it was about the ousted government’s failure to satisfy the following cravings: “personal empowerment, a demand to join the modern world, and live in an open society under the rule of law rather than the rule of despotic whim.” And on what does he base this conclusion? He quotes exactly two people–the director of Human Rights Watch’s Cairo office and former International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohamed ElBaradei. In other words, two members of the same liberal elite to which Cohen belongs–but which is highly unrepresentative of most of the estimated 14 million demonstrators who thronged Egypt’s streets last Sunday.

Reporters who spoke to those demonstrators, like Haaretz’s anonymous (presumably for his/her own protection) correspondent in Cairo, got a very different picture. “There’s no construction in Egypt and no company is hiring workers,” complained an unemployed engineer. A small boat owner said he could no longer feed his children because the falloff in tourism had killed his livelihood, which was taking tourists on Nile cruises. A Cairo street vendor who voted for the Muslim Brotherhood last year said bluntly, “The city is dead. Dead. No work. No food.” As columnist David P. Goldman (aka Spengler) noted, “It is not that hard to get 14 million people into the streets if there is nothing to eat at home.”

This is not a minor misunderstanding. If you think last week’s revolution was primarily a revolt against the Muslim Brotherhood’s undemocratic behavior, then you’ll think the West’s main goal should be “supporting the Egyptian people in their aspirations to democracy and inclusive governance,” as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton put it last week–for instance, by helping them draft a new and improved constitution. But if you realize that the revolution was primarily about economic distress, then you’ll understand the West’s main goals should be arranging short-term aid and pushing long-term economic reforms needed to stabilize the economy–because without economic improvement, even the best constitution won’t prevent another coup next year. Desperate people can’t afford to wait for the next election to bring about policy changes.

I’ve written before about how journalists’ tendency to talk almost exclusively with their counterparts abroad–i.e. members of the liberal elite–leads to gross misunderstanding of the countries they’re ostensibly enlightening their readers about. And the inevitable outcome is bad policymaking: It’s not possible to craft intelligent policy based on erroneous information.

But since the mainstream media isn’t going to change, policymakers urgently need to develop their own sources of information rather than relying so heavily on the media to understand foreign countries. As COMMENTARY’s Michael Rubin has frequently argued, ordering diplomats to spend less time hobnobbing with the liberal elite and more time learning what everyone else thinks might be a good place to start.

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Obama’s Sycophants in the Press (Continued)

Question: When is a politician’s flip-flops treated as if they are the result of a philosophical evolution by a modern-day Socrates? Answer: When the elite media is covering Barack Obama.

As evidence for this assertion, I would cite this Washington Post story by Philip Rucker and Juliet Eilperin. In a piece about Obama’s shift on counter-terrorism policies, we’re told, in a story with the headline “A philosophical shift in policy on surveillance,” this: “The former constitutional law professor — who rose to prominence in part by attacking what he called the government’s post-Sept. 11 encroachment on civil liberties — has undergone a philosophical evolution, arriving at what he now considers the right balance between national security prerogatives and personal privacy.”

In case you didn’t notice, dear reader, Mr. Obama didn’t simply experience an evolution; it was a philosophical evolution. It all sounds so downright thoughtful, well considered, and intellectual. We’re also told in the headline on the jump page of the story that “Obama strives for a pragmatic approach.”

Of course he does.

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Question: When is a politician’s flip-flops treated as if they are the result of a philosophical evolution by a modern-day Socrates? Answer: When the elite media is covering Barack Obama.

As evidence for this assertion, I would cite this Washington Post story by Philip Rucker and Juliet Eilperin. In a piece about Obama’s shift on counter-terrorism policies, we’re told, in a story with the headline “A philosophical shift in policy on surveillance,” this: “The former constitutional law professor — who rose to prominence in part by attacking what he called the government’s post-Sept. 11 encroachment on civil liberties — has undergone a philosophical evolution, arriving at what he now considers the right balance between national security prerogatives and personal privacy.”

In case you didn’t notice, dear reader, Mr. Obama didn’t simply experience an evolution; it was a philosophical evolution. It all sounds so downright thoughtful, well considered, and intellectual. We’re also told in the headline on the jump page of the story that “Obama strives for a pragmatic approach.”

Of course he does.

Something similar occurred with Obama’s position on same sex-marriage (SSM). In the 1990s, as a state legislator, he supported it. Then, when running for the U.S. Senate in 2004, he opposed it, including on grounds that it violated his Christian beliefs. Obama also said he opposed same sex-marriage in the 2008 presidential election. Once he became president, however, he indicated he was rethinking his position–and by 2012, Obama endorsed same-sex marriages, arguing that his Christian faith helped dictate his decision. And how did the press report Obama’s shift? Here’s a headline from ABC News: “Obama’s Evolution On Gay Marriage.”

If mere mortal politicians–or at least mere conservative politicians–did what Obama does, they would be accused of being unprincipled and crafting their positions on important public matters based on which way the political winds were blowing (which was certainly the case for Obama on SSM). But the elite media, still enchanted with Mr. Obama, are determined to portray him as our modern-day Greek philosopher–a deeply pragmatic, empirical, and non-ideological truth seeker who has the ability to “grow” in office and rethink his positions.

We’re supposed to come away from stories like the Post’s grateful for having as our chief executive a man of such intellectual detachment and off-the-charts intelligence. For my part, I came away from the story once again reminded of how, when it comes to Barack Obama, many journalists are simply courtiers, and will be until the day he leaves office.

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Jake Tapper, Journalist

I’ve had some critical things to say about the elite media, particularly for their soft–and sometimes outright worshipful–coverage of Barack Obama. But there are impressive exceptions, one of whom is Jake Tapper of CNN.

Anyone who followed his work at ABC News, where he was its White House correspondent, and now at CNN, where he hosts his own show, cannot help but be impressed by his professional integrity. Mr. Tapper is tough-minded but not mean-spirited toward those in power, regardless of their party affiliation. And he actually uses his platform to inform viewers.

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I’ve had some critical things to say about the elite media, particularly for their soft–and sometimes outright worshipful–coverage of Barack Obama. But there are impressive exceptions, one of whom is Jake Tapper of CNN.

Anyone who followed his work at ABC News, where he was its White House correspondent, and now at CNN, where he hosts his own show, cannot help but be impressed by his professional integrity. Mr. Tapper is tough-minded but not mean-spirited toward those in power, regardless of their party affiliation. And he actually uses his platform to inform viewers.

One example is the timeline of the Department of Justice’s investigation of Fox News’s James Rosen that Tapper discussed with Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker, which you can watch here. It’s not earth shattering and it’s not advocacy journalism. It is instead straightforward, factual, and helpful, putting an important story in context. Which these days means it’s rare and welcome.

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An Absurd Attack on Birthright, Sheldon Adelson, and Jewish Identity

Several years ago, a spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office visited U.S. chapters of the Jewish Federations of North America to talk to American Jews about their relationship to Israel. In a press avail, I had asked him what was Israel’s single greatest need from Diaspora Jewry. His response, which is always the response to that question, was: them. That is, what Israel wanted most from American Jews was for American Jews to move to Israel. Aliyah is the lifeblood of the Jewish state, as Israeli officials commonly and persistently phrase it.

Immigration has been a great economic and cultural blessing to the State of Israel. And so has tourism from abroad, which generates billions a year in revenue, much of which helps pay the salaries of workers at the lower end of the economic spectrum who work in industries that depend on tourism to survive. American Jews’ engagement with and connection to Israel is thus vital to maintain, not only for economic reasons but also to ensure international support for Israel and push back against the Jewish state’s isolation.

All of which makes this op-ed in Haaretz among the most asinine, self-defeating columns in recent memory–an impressive feat, since the competition for such distinction in Haaretz alone is vigorous.

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Several years ago, a spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office visited U.S. chapters of the Jewish Federations of North America to talk to American Jews about their relationship to Israel. In a press avail, I had asked him what was Israel’s single greatest need from Diaspora Jewry. His response, which is always the response to that question, was: them. That is, what Israel wanted most from American Jews was for American Jews to move to Israel. Aliyah is the lifeblood of the Jewish state, as Israeli officials commonly and persistently phrase it.

Immigration has been a great economic and cultural blessing to the State of Israel. And so has tourism from abroad, which generates billions a year in revenue, much of which helps pay the salaries of workers at the lower end of the economic spectrum who work in industries that depend on tourism to survive. American Jews’ engagement with and connection to Israel is thus vital to maintain, not only for economic reasons but also to ensure international support for Israel and push back against the Jewish state’s isolation.

All of which makes this op-ed in Haaretz among the most asinine, self-defeating columns in recent memory–an impressive feat, since the competition for such distinction in Haaretz alone is vigorous.

There are few things that bother the Western press more than wealthy people and national or religious pride. So you can imagine the outrage when Sheldon Adelson, the wealthy Jewish philanthropist and funder of Birthright Israel, a program to provide trips to Israel for young Jews, met with Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid to request that Israel not slash funding for the program. Haaretz’s Itay Ziv fumes:

As the finance minister sees matters, there is nothing political about a decision to allocate NIS 150 million for a showcase project whose direct beneficiaries are citizens of a different country, most of them financially well-off. Even if the elderly had to pay a fee of NIS 35 per month for a caregiver to finance it — a measure that will bring millions of shekels into the state coffers — or cut back special aid to local authorities in the Druze and Circassian sectors by almost half, saving the state about NIS 30.6 million, or imposing any other cutback on the financially weak, minorities and others who cannot arrange a meeting with the finance minister any time they please to free up the tens of millions of shekels that the Birthright program needs so badly. For Lapid, it’s not political — even if it means giving a foreign billionaire who meddles in local politics on a daily basis anything he wants, no strings attached.

This is a pretty good example of how to get everything about a subject exactly wrong. As the Jewish Week reports, a recent survey of non-Orthodox Birthright alumni at least six years after the trip showed that participants are 42 percent more likely to feel “very much” connected to Israel and “Nearly 30 percent of participants have returned to Israel on subsequent trips, with 2 percent currently living there.” Birthright’s influence should not be oversold, but it’s pretty clear the program moves the needle in the right direction on virtually any issue of import to Israel’s relationship with the Diaspora.

Ziv’s opinion of the individual winners and losers on this issue also seems mistaken. Very often budgeting is viewed as a zero-sum game, but that’s a simplistic misunderstanding of the complex process of how each ministry and department’s allocations are earmarked each year. It also doesn’t take into account the fact that the employment benefits of Israeli immigration and tourism accrue to hotel workers, tour guides, food service workers, etc.

And Ziv may have access to information I don’t, but I’m not quite sure how he concludes that “most of” the program’s “direct beneficiaries” are “financially well-off.” I know many Birthright alumni (though I never went on the trip myself), none of whom is wealthy–nor did Birthright even inquire about such things when they applied. That does not appear to have changed; financial background is not included among the eligibility criteria. It also defies logic, since those who want to travel to Israel but cannot otherwise afford it would be naturally drawn to Birthright.

But it’s possible I’m giving too much credit to Ziv. At the end of his column, he declares Israel’s decision to continue funding Birthright to be “an act whose purpose is to take from the poor and give to a foreign billionaire”–something Ziv cannot possibly believe, since it is so obviously untrue. Lapid may be new to the Finance Ministry, but he clearly understands economics better than his loathsome critics in the leftist media.

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Obama’s Courtiers at the New York Times

In a New York Times story about how President Obama is seeking a path forward beyond his troubles, we’re told this: “In the last few days, the administration appears to have stopped the bleeding. The release of internal e-mails on Benghazi largely confirmed the White House’s account.”

No it hasn’t.

The original White House account was that the White House and the State Department made only minor, stylistic changes to the Benghazi talking points. That claim was utterly untrue. In addition, the president, the secretary of state, the president’s press secretary, and the ambassador to the United Nations all blamed the lethal attacks on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi on an anti-Muslim YouTube video, a claim that was false and never even appeared in the talking points. And the early (correct) talking point references to Islamic terrorist attacks and Ansar al-Sharia were removed, which is one reason why then-CIA director David Petraeus concluded he’d just as soon not use them.

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In a New York Times story about how President Obama is seeking a path forward beyond his troubles, we’re told this: “In the last few days, the administration appears to have stopped the bleeding. The release of internal e-mails on Benghazi largely confirmed the White House’s account.”

No it hasn’t.

The original White House account was that the White House and the State Department made only minor, stylistic changes to the Benghazi talking points. That claim was utterly untrue. In addition, the president, the secretary of state, the president’s press secretary, and the ambassador to the United Nations all blamed the lethal attacks on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi on an anti-Muslim YouTube video, a claim that was false and never even appeared in the talking points. And the early (correct) talking point references to Islamic terrorist attacks and Ansar al-Sharia were removed, which is one reason why then-CIA director David Petraeus concluded he’d just as soon not use them.

To add insult to injury, the White House continues to deny its role in the deception. For example, Mr. Carney continues to stand by his statement made last November that the White House and the State Department “have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two, of these two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’.” He does so despite documents that prove he is wrong. It doesn’t matter. For the Obama White House, we’re in the “Who do you believe, me or your lying eyes?” phase. For the Times to therefore conclude that the internal e-mails on Benghazi “largely confirmed the White House’s account” is largely ludicrous and transparently incorrect.

It’s yet one more example of the Times specifically, and the elite press more broadly, parroting White House claims that are misleading and which no Republican administration could ever hope to get away with.

Based on the last 10 days, some journalists have turned on the president in the short run. But most of them will revert back to their pattern of the last four-plus years. Which is to say they will once again settle into their role as courtiers for the Obama White House. There is no other plausible explanation for why so many journalists continue to downplay or even misrepresent the Benghazi scandal. They are determined to make this story go away.

Whether or not that happens is an open question. What is not in dispute, however, is that the American people were systematically misled by the president and his top advisers. And journalists with integrity would say so.

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Why the al-Dura Blood Libel Still Matters

Nearly 13 years ago, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak journeyed to Camp David to end the conflict with the Palestinians. With the approval of President Clinton, he offered Yasir Arafat an independent Palestinian state in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza and in part of Jerusalem. Arafat said no. A couple of months later, the Palestinians put an exclamation mark on that refusal by launching the terrorist offensive that came to be known as the second intifada. Yet in spite of the fact that it was the Palestinians who had rejected peace and who were engaging in terror attacks on Israeli targets that would cost more than 1,000 Israeli lives, they were still portrayed in much of the Western media as the victims. While the process that brought about this perplexing reversal was complex, one particular incident became the symbol of this vicious distortion: the Muhammad al-Dura affair.

The story promoted at the time by the Palestinian propaganda machine was that Israeli army fire killed a small boy while he and his father were seeking shelter from fighting near a Gaza checkpoint. Film footage provided by French TV made this tragedy an international cause célèbre and an official Israeli apology reinforced the Palestinian narrative and helped turn al-Dura into the poster child for Israeli beastliness and their own suffering. Yet soon doubts began to surface about the veracity of the claim of Israeli responsibility and the discrepancies and falsehoods in the Palestinian narrative were exposed in various Western outlets. Over the years, the initial story has been debunked in a variety of places. A German documentary proved that the shots that killed the boy could not have come from Israeli positions and French gadfly Phillipe Karsenty, who pointed out the original report was false, was sued in the courts by prominent journalist Charles Enderlin (who had broadcast the initial lie) but ultimately vindicated. Now it appears the Israeli government has finally caught up to the problem and issued what may be a definitive report that comes to the harshest possible conclusion about the al-Dura myth. As Haaretz reports:

Thirteen years after an exchange of fire in Gaza appeared to have resulted in the death of a Palestinian boy at the start of the second intifada, an Israeli investigative panel has found “there are many indications” that Mohammed al-Dura and his father, Jamal, “were never hit by gunfire” – neither Israeli nor Palestinian – after all.

The national panel of inquiry further claims that contrary to the famed report carried by the France 2 television network on the day of the incident, September 30, 2000, 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura appears to be alive at the end of the complete footage captured of the event.

The response to this report is predictable. The Muslim and Arab world will reject any investigation into it that will not accept their narrative. But more troubling will be the answer from many in the West and even in Israel who will ask why anyone should bother with such an old story. We should, they will assert, care about how to end the conflict, not who killed al-Dura. For Israel or its friends to spend any time on this issue is a diversion of effort from the peace process that will only anger Palestinians who will say that any argument about the incident demonstrates insensitivity, even if the facts are correct. But anyone who doubts the importance of debunking what has become a new version of the old Jewish blood libel is the one who is wrong.

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Nearly 13 years ago, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak journeyed to Camp David to end the conflict with the Palestinians. With the approval of President Clinton, he offered Yasir Arafat an independent Palestinian state in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza and in part of Jerusalem. Arafat said no. A couple of months later, the Palestinians put an exclamation mark on that refusal by launching the terrorist offensive that came to be known as the second intifada. Yet in spite of the fact that it was the Palestinians who had rejected peace and who were engaging in terror attacks on Israeli targets that would cost more than 1,000 Israeli lives, they were still portrayed in much of the Western media as the victims. While the process that brought about this perplexing reversal was complex, one particular incident became the symbol of this vicious distortion: the Muhammad al-Dura affair.

The story promoted at the time by the Palestinian propaganda machine was that Israeli army fire killed a small boy while he and his father were seeking shelter from fighting near a Gaza checkpoint. Film footage provided by French TV made this tragedy an international cause célèbre and an official Israeli apology reinforced the Palestinian narrative and helped turn al-Dura into the poster child for Israeli beastliness and their own suffering. Yet soon doubts began to surface about the veracity of the claim of Israeli responsibility and the discrepancies and falsehoods in the Palestinian narrative were exposed in various Western outlets. Over the years, the initial story has been debunked in a variety of places. A German documentary proved that the shots that killed the boy could not have come from Israeli positions and French gadfly Phillipe Karsenty, who pointed out the original report was false, was sued in the courts by prominent journalist Charles Enderlin (who had broadcast the initial lie) but ultimately vindicated. Now it appears the Israeli government has finally caught up to the problem and issued what may be a definitive report that comes to the harshest possible conclusion about the al-Dura myth. As Haaretz reports:

Thirteen years after an exchange of fire in Gaza appeared to have resulted in the death of a Palestinian boy at the start of the second intifada, an Israeli investigative panel has found “there are many indications” that Mohammed al-Dura and his father, Jamal, “were never hit by gunfire” – neither Israeli nor Palestinian – after all.

The national panel of inquiry further claims that contrary to the famed report carried by the France 2 television network on the day of the incident, September 30, 2000, 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura appears to be alive at the end of the complete footage captured of the event.

The response to this report is predictable. The Muslim and Arab world will reject any investigation into it that will not accept their narrative. But more troubling will be the answer from many in the West and even in Israel who will ask why anyone should bother with such an old story. We should, they will assert, care about how to end the conflict, not who killed al-Dura. For Israel or its friends to spend any time on this issue is a diversion of effort from the peace process that will only anger Palestinians who will say that any argument about the incident demonstrates insensitivity, even if the facts are correct. But anyone who doubts the importance of debunking what has become a new version of the old Jewish blood libel is the one who is wrong.

There have been many good accounts of this affair, including this piece by Nidra Poller published in COMMENTARY in September 2005. I’ve also written about it on our blog several times, including this piece from last year about the French court case. Yet even before those were published one of the first Western accounts of the al-Dura affair got to the heart of this problem. James Fallows’s June 2003 article in the Atlantic, “Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura?” pointed out not just the fact that there was good reason to doubt the initial version of the story but that the facts wouldn’t change anyone’s mind because of the iconic status of the photo allegedly depicting the boy and his father. Indeed, he seemed to suggest in a deconstructionist spirit that objective truth was itself impossible since both sides sought to create their own facts in order to prove they were right.

Fallows had a point about the intractable nature of this debate. But the problem here is that the lie about al-Dura isn’t peripheral to the widespread misperceptions about the overall conflict. If, as I wrote last month, a mainstream media figure like CNN and Time magazine’s Fareed Zakaria can assert that Israel has never offered peace to the Palestinians, and get away with it, there is something profoundly wrong with the way our culture has accepted Palestinian lies as either reasonable assertions or even truths. It’s not just that the Israelis didn’t kill al-Dura; it’s that the fault for the continuation of the conflict at the moment in history when he was supposedly slain rests almost completely on the people who have elevated him to sainthood and used his mythical spilled blood to justify boycotts of Israel.

This story matters not because the truth can help undermine efforts to isolate Israel. It’s important because so long as the Arab and Muslim world clings to its blood libels all talk about peace is futile. The “Pallywood” productions, of which the al-Dura hoax is the most prominent, haven’t just deceived the West. They’ve also reinforced the Palestinian myths about themselves. As such, they’ve done more real damage to the prospects of peace than any Israeli settlement. Unless and until the Palestinians give up their campaign of incitement against Israelis and Jews and stop seeking to depict this conflict as one in which they are only the victims of a violent Zionist plot, there is no hope for any solution, let alone the two-state solution most in Israel and the West believe in. 

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The Times Joins the Six-Penny Press

An addendum, if I may, to Peter’s excellent dissection of the New York Times editorial page and Jonathan’s equally excellent dissection of the Times’s journalistically astonishing story on the IRS this morning and, especially, its even more astonishing headline. It should be noted that the Times has, apparently, decided to jettison 180 years of newspaper history and revert to the journalism of the six-penny press that flourished in this country in the early days of the Republic.

To see what I mean, just compare the Times’s egregiously and unabashedly slanted story on this hot-button political issue to today’s story in the Washington Post, which is hardly a wholly-owned subsidiary of the far right. The latter’s headline is, “IRS targeted groups critical of government, documents from agency show.” The Post’s editorial opinion can be summed up in one word, finding the IRS action, “appalling.”

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An addendum, if I may, to Peter’s excellent dissection of the New York Times editorial page and Jonathan’s equally excellent dissection of the Times’s journalistically astonishing story on the IRS this morning and, especially, its even more astonishing headline. It should be noted that the Times has, apparently, decided to jettison 180 years of newspaper history and revert to the journalism of the six-penny press that flourished in this country in the early days of the Republic.

To see what I mean, just compare the Times’s egregiously and unabashedly slanted story on this hot-button political issue to today’s story in the Washington Post, which is hardly a wholly-owned subsidiary of the far right. The latter’s headline is, “IRS targeted groups critical of government, documents from agency show.” The Post’s editorial opinion can be summed up in one word, finding the IRS action, “appalling.”

In the early days, newspapers were all unabashedly partisan and, usually, funded by the political parties whose causes they espoused. They were little more than editorial pages surrounded by a few pages of highly tendentious news. That is what the Times has become, at least with regard to domestic political news. Even the Times’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, writes regarding the IRS story, “Many on the right . . . do not think they can get a fair shake from The Times. This coverage won’t do anything to dispel that belief.”

But the six-penny press disappeared beginning in 1835, when a grumpy, disheveled, (and extremely cross-eyed) journalist named James Gordon Bennett founded the New York Herald and changed journalism forever. Although he was a Democrat, his paper was not. Instead of telling his readers what he thought they ought to know, he told them what he thought they wanted to know: the news of the world that was beyond their immediate ken. And he told it straight, keeping his opinions to the editorial page.

His journalistic innovations were almost endless. He was the first to print, in a general circulation newspaper, a weather report, stock tables, sports news, society gossip, and crimes (the bloodier the better, to be sure). His was the first out-of-town newspaper to have correspondents in Washington, making him the founder of the Washington press corps. He was the first to have correspondents in foreign capitals. He even coined the word leak in its journalistic sense.

The Herald was an immediate success and would have the largest circulation of any American newspaper for much of the 19th century. Later newspapers such as the New York Tribune (founded in 1841) and the New York Times (1851) necessarily modeled themselves after the Herald.

And the Times used that model to become, unquestionably, the greatest newsgathering organization in the world, with the Pulitzer Prizes to prove it. In many ways it still is. But not, these days, when it comes to any story touching on American politics. With politics, like the old six-penny press before the revolution in journalism wrought by Bennett and the Herald, it now is merely a conveyor of the party line, a preacher to the choir, its political content not to be trusted by honest men.

That is an American tragedy.

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All the Banality That’s Fit to Print

I rarely read editorials by the New York Times anymore, not because they’re liberal (Michael Kinsley is liberal and worth reading) but because they’re banal. I was reminded of this when I actually did read a recent Times editorial, in this case one titled “The Republicans’ Benghazi Obsession.”

The editorial is worth referencing only to make a broader point, which is the dangers that can happen to journalists when they begin to view themselves as on a team rather than as individuals dedicated to unearthing truth (the role of reporters) or deepening the public’s understanding of issues (the role of commentators). I spoke about this issue during the last few minutes of my interview on NPR’s program On Point.

What often happens is ideology trumps detached judgment. So in the case of the Times, a cover-up by the Obama administration is characterized as nothing more than a GOP obsession. A false account of a lethal attack on an American diplomatic outpost given by the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, the U.N. ambassador, and the president’s press secretary? Not a problem. Because the point isn’t to find out the truth, let alone speak “truth to power.” It’s to be a fierce advocate for a fixed ideology. 

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I rarely read editorials by the New York Times anymore, not because they’re liberal (Michael Kinsley is liberal and worth reading) but because they’re banal. I was reminded of this when I actually did read a recent Times editorial, in this case one titled “The Republicans’ Benghazi Obsession.”

The editorial is worth referencing only to make a broader point, which is the dangers that can happen to journalists when they begin to view themselves as on a team rather than as individuals dedicated to unearthing truth (the role of reporters) or deepening the public’s understanding of issues (the role of commentators). I spoke about this issue during the last few minutes of my interview on NPR’s program On Point.

What often happens is ideology trumps detached judgment. So in the case of the Times, a cover-up by the Obama administration is characterized as nothing more than a GOP obsession. A false account of a lethal attack on an American diplomatic outpost given by the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, the U.N. ambassador, and the president’s press secretary? Not a problem. Because the point isn’t to find out the truth, let alone speak “truth to power.” It’s to be a fierce advocate for a fixed ideology. 

The mindset is transparent: One’s “team” is under attack and it must be defended at all costs. The editorial writers for the Times, for example, are not engaged in a journalistic enterprise. They are engaged in an ideological one. Their role isn’t to enlighten the public; it’s to be a weapon in a partisan war.

This isn’t a crime. And I’d certainly grant you that good arguments can be made by partisans. My point is that readers simply need to understand that the Times has a self-selected role to play: use facts–and if necessary manipulate facts–in order to serve their client (the Obama administration) and their cause (liberalism). So if the same events had occurred during the presidency of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan instead of Barack Obama, they would trigger a feeding frenzy. But because this cover-up is occurring under a liberal president, the offenses need to be systematically ignored or underplayed–or better yet, turned on Republicans.

Now this phenomenon isn’t confined merely to those on the left. Both sides engage in it. And the truth is that none of us is perfectly detached and capable of viewing things from Olympian heights. We all bring to events certain biases, a particular cast of mind, a certain angle at which we view things. The question, I think, is where we find ourselves on the continuum, how willing we are to hold our own side to account, and the degree to which people can trust our interpretation of events. How much do we attempt to push back, if at all, against our ideological predilections in order to ascertain the reality of things? 

The English essayist William Hazlitt once said of Burke that he “enriched every subject to which he applied himself, and new subjects were only the occasions of calling forth fresh powers of mind which had not been before exerted.”

In this regard, as in so many other regards, the Times is thoroughly un-Burkean. Its editorial writers produce polemics rather than reasoned arguments–and they do so in the most hackneyed way imaginable. To be rigidly dogmatic is bad enough; to be shallow and boring in the process mightily compounds the error.

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Newseum Puts Journalists at Risk by Honoring Terrorists

There were many lessons about the double-standards to which the world subjects Israel that were illuminated by the reaction to the deaths of two Hamas members posing as journalists during November’s hostilities in Gaza. Alana Goodman had covered the controversy extensively for COMMENTARY, criticizing New York Times scribe David Carr for not only pushing the line that the men were merely journalists caught up in the line of fire but then, when corrected, refusing to retract the story. Instead, he defended himself by saying that other organizations also referred to the Hamas men as journalists.

I noted in a follow-up that one such organization, Reporters Without Borders, penalized Israel in its annual survey of media freedom for killing the Hamasniks. One lesson in all this was the bias and unconscionably low standards of both the press and activist organizations that cover Israel. But another–and very important–lesson was this: Allowing terrorists to masquerade as journalists and then celebrating their “work” in war zones will almost surely put all journalists at much greater risk by blurring the lines that should keep them safe and treating terrorists as media martyrs. And it would be difficult to argue with the use of the term “martyr” here after Daniel Halper’s scoop yesterday that the two Hamasniks are being honored as such–by the Newseum:

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There were many lessons about the double-standards to which the world subjects Israel that were illuminated by the reaction to the deaths of two Hamas members posing as journalists during November’s hostilities in Gaza. Alana Goodman had covered the controversy extensively for COMMENTARY, criticizing New York Times scribe David Carr for not only pushing the line that the men were merely journalists caught up in the line of fire but then, when corrected, refusing to retract the story. Instead, he defended himself by saying that other organizations also referred to the Hamas men as journalists.

I noted in a follow-up that one such organization, Reporters Without Borders, penalized Israel in its annual survey of media freedom for killing the Hamasniks. One lesson in all this was the bias and unconscionably low standards of both the press and activist organizations that cover Israel. But another–and very important–lesson was this: Allowing terrorists to masquerade as journalists and then celebrating their “work” in war zones will almost surely put all journalists at much greater risk by blurring the lines that should keep them safe and treating terrorists as media martyrs. And it would be difficult to argue with the use of the term “martyr” here after Daniel Halper’s scoop yesterday that the two Hamasniks are being honored as such–by the Newseum:

The Newseum, a museum in Washington, D.C. that chronicles the news industry, plans to add two dead terrorists to its “Journalists Memorial.”  The announcement to include these terrorists on the memorial, which “pays tribute to reporters, photographers and broadcasters who have died reporting the news,” was made on the Newseum’s website.

The terrorists the Newseum plans to honor are former members of the terrorist group Hamas, Mahmoud Al-Kumi and Hussam Salama.

This kind of event manages to be both appalling and unsurprising. Appalling, because the Newseum should not be in the habit of honoring terrorists, and doing so will only further encourage the Palestinian tradition of doing the same. Unsurprising, because the Newseum is, at its heart, a florid love letter from the media to itself; a towering monument built to house an ego that has already far outgrown it; an anachronistic altar to flatter, please and serve the god of self.

And most of all, the journalists of the Western world refuse to draw the line between partisan and press because they themselves crossed that line so long ago they wouldn’t know how to truly tell the difference. They may go into the war zone with a camera mounted on their shoulder instead of a rocket launcher, but they increasingly refuse to pretend their mission isn’t also the defeat of one side at the hands of the other.

All of which helps explain the Newseum’s reaction to the outrage engendered by their decision. Buzzfeed reported today that the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where I was a national security fellow in 2011, was strongly considering moving its annual conference, which had originally been planned for the Newseum, to another location. The framing of the story is just as interesting. Buzzfeed begins the piece: “A pro-Israel think tank in Washington is so concerned over the Newseum’s honoring of two slain Palestinian journalists with links to Hamas that they may consider pulling their annual policy summit from the venue.”

It’s telling that objecting to honoring terrorists makes one “pro-Israel”; I’m guessing outside of the media most Americans would consider that an American value statement as well. FDD President Cliff May explained this to Buzzfeed “in a follow-up email,” which suggests, amazingly, that it needed clearing up. In any event, the Newseum defended itself in a statement to the Free Beacon:

“Hussam Salama and Mahmoud Al-Kumi were cameramen in a car clearly marked ‘TV,’” Newseum spokesman Scott Williams told the Free Beacon via email. “The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers all consider these men journalists killed in the line duty.”

Got that? The letters “TV” appeared on the car, so they were clearly journalists. Let’s think through the implications. In 2006, during Israel’s counteroffensive against Hezbollah in South Lebanon, members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards used ambulances to smuggle weapons and fighters to Hezbollah to kill Israelis. Do we consider them civilian doctors?

The Newseum says that the men killed were identified by NGOs and the media as journalists. The truth, then, is based not on what is said but on who says it. Independent corroboration, fact-checking, diligent investigation–actions that were once considered basic journalism were found by the Western media to be harmful to their cause and discarded, replaced by an appeal to their own authority. And the increased danger this puts on journalists in war zones doesn’t appear to have crossed their minds.

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Netanyahu Won’t Get Credit for Freeze

The narrative of the Middle East peace process according to the international media has pretty much been set in stone for the last 17 years since the first time Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister of Israel: the “hard line” leader’s intransigence is the primary obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. Ever since then, we have been endlessly told that his ideology has prevented the Jewish state from making efforts to negotiate with the Palestinians. The fact that Netanyahu signed peace deals during his first term and has called for a two-state solution that would allow for an independent state for Palestinians, and even froze building in the West Bank to entice Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table, hasn’t altered this. Nor will the prime minister’s latest attempt to bend over backwards to accommodate the Obama administration.

According to Haaretz, “senior Israeli officials” are confirming that Netanyahu “promised U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ‘to rein in’ construction of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem until mid-June.” In doing so, Netanyahu will be depriving the Palestinian Authority of its standard excuse for not returning to peace talks four and a half years after fleeing them in the wake of Ehud Olmert’s offer of a state that included parts of Jerusalem as well as almost all of the West Bank. But don’t expect anyone in the liberal Western media that treats Netanyahu like a piñata to give him credit for playing ball with Kerry’s hubristic effort to achieve a deal that has eluded all of his predecessors. Even worse, this very far-reaching concession is unlikely to coax the leaders of Fatah, let alone the Hamas terrorists who rule the independent state in all but name that exists in Gaza, to negotiate.

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The narrative of the Middle East peace process according to the international media has pretty much been set in stone for the last 17 years since the first time Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister of Israel: the “hard line” leader’s intransigence is the primary obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. Ever since then, we have been endlessly told that his ideology has prevented the Jewish state from making efforts to negotiate with the Palestinians. The fact that Netanyahu signed peace deals during his first term and has called for a two-state solution that would allow for an independent state for Palestinians, and even froze building in the West Bank to entice Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table, hasn’t altered this. Nor will the prime minister’s latest attempt to bend over backwards to accommodate the Obama administration.

According to Haaretz, “senior Israeli officials” are confirming that Netanyahu “promised U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ‘to rein in’ construction of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem until mid-June.” In doing so, Netanyahu will be depriving the Palestinian Authority of its standard excuse for not returning to peace talks four and a half years after fleeing them in the wake of Ehud Olmert’s offer of a state that included parts of Jerusalem as well as almost all of the West Bank. But don’t expect anyone in the liberal Western media that treats Netanyahu like a piñata to give him credit for playing ball with Kerry’s hubristic effort to achieve a deal that has eluded all of his predecessors. Even worse, this very far-reaching concession is unlikely to coax the leaders of Fatah, let alone the Hamas terrorists who rule the independent state in all but name that exists in Gaza, to negotiate.

Let’s understand that by even informally freezing building in Jerusalem as well as the West Bank, Netanyahu is tacitly agreeing to a measure that undermines Israel’s very legitimate legal claims in these areas. The freeze, which will not prevent Arabs from building in these areas during this time, is an indication that the prime minister accepts the right of Americans to dictate, even for a short period and for symbolic purposes, where Jews may live in their ancient homeland. While Netanyahu’s futile 2010 freeze was only in the West Bank, this appears to include parts of Jerusalem. As such, it is a very significant measure that ought, along with his recent reaffirmation of his support for “two states for two peoples,” convince both the Palestinians and the world that he is ready to deal if they are prepared to talk.

Understandably, the move has already generated considerable pushback from the Jewish right with even, as Haaretz reports, members of Netanyahu’s own government saying that he has gone too far. But the problem that this episode illustrates is not just that the prevailing narrative about Netanyahu is false but that his latest attempt to give the administration the room it says it needs to promote peace will boomerang against him when it inevitably fails.

That Abbas won’t bite on Obama and Kerry’s invitation for direct peace talks without preconditions is almost a certainty that Netanyahu’s quiet acceptance of a very important precondition won’t alter. The political culture of Palestinian society still regards any deal that would recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn as impossible. Nor can Abbas give up on the Palestinian “right of return” and definitively end the conflict and survive. Even if he wanted to do so, the threat of Hamas means that he can’t.

Thus when June comes and goes and there are no negotiations and no prospect of any in the foreseeable future, Netanyahu will understandably lift the quiet freeze and allow building in areas that Israel would keep even in the event of a peace deal. But once he does so, the Palestinians will scream bloody murder about his “provocation” and pretend that this is the real obstacle to talks, secure in the knowledge that most of the international media would revert to their “hard line” Netanyahu narrative and echo their lies.

Would Netanyahu and Israel be better off skipping this farce by not making this concession? Maybe. But Netanyahu understands that his job is to keep the U.S.-Israel alliance intact and must harbor the hope that after four years of being stiffed by the Palestinians, President Obama will understand who the real obstacles are. Hopes such as these spring eternal, but like those he may have about the press changing its tune about him, that’s probably not a realistic scenario.

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“Explanations” of Islamic Jew-Hatred Reveal Media’s Own Prejudices

The Islamic world’s rampant Jew-hatred, as I noted last week, is often simply ignored by the journalists and academics who should be bringing it to public attention. But no less troubling is the fact that on the rare occasions when they do report it, they frequently try to explain it away. These “explanations” offer little insight into the actual sources of Muslim Jew-hatred. But they offer a very disturbing insight into opinion leaders’ motives in concealing this hatred.

A good example is an article published by the New York Times in January that described two cases in which Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi made virulently anti-Semitic remarks. In one, he said Egyptians should “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred” for Jews and Zionists; in another, he described Zionists as “these bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”

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The Islamic world’s rampant Jew-hatred, as I noted last week, is often simply ignored by the journalists and academics who should be bringing it to public attention. But no less troubling is the fact that on the rare occasions when they do report it, they frequently try to explain it away. These “explanations” offer little insight into the actual sources of Muslim Jew-hatred. But they offer a very disturbing insight into opinion leaders’ motives in concealing this hatred.

A good example is an article published by the New York Times in January that described two cases in which Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi made virulently anti-Semitic remarks. In one, he said Egyptians should “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred” for Jews and Zionists; in another, he described Zionists as “these bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”

Both of these statements, wrote reporter David Kirkpatrick, “date back to 2010, when anti-Israeli sentiment was running high after a three-week conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza the previous year.”

The obvious implication for readers who don’t have the dates of every Mideast war at their fingertips is that the conflict probably took place in late 2009, while Morsi’s comments were made in early 2010; hence these were anguished outbursts made in the first raw throes of grief–a time when nobody should be judged too harshly for violent language. Kirkpatrick even strengthened that impression by erroneously dating both speeches to “early 2010,” when in fact, as a subsequent correction noted, one was made in September of that year.

But even without this error, the implication is ridiculous, because the aforementioned conflict ended in January 2009–which Kirkpatrick, as the Times’s Cairo bureau chief, should certainly have known. In other words, these speeches were made at least a full year after the war ended, and in one case, almost two years later. Thus, far from reflecting the first raw throes of grief, they were the deliberate product of more than a year’s reflection. As such, either they genuinely represented the deepest beliefs of the man who is now Egypt’s president, or they were cynically calculated to appeal to Morsi’s audience–an equally disturbing possibility.

Far more disturbing than what this says about Egyptian prejudices, however, is what it says about those of Kirkpatrick and his editors at the Times–because neither he nor they evidently saw any problem in “explaining” Morsi’s vile anti-Semitism on the grounds that he was still overset by grief (“anti-Israel sentiment was running high”) over a war that ended more than a year earlier. In short, like too many other journalists, Kirkpatrick and his editors are convinced the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all evil in the Middle East, and push that theory on their readers.

Unfortunately, this theory isn’t supported by the facts: As one Egyptian cleric helpfully explained, Jews “aren’t our enemies because they occupy Palestine; they would be our enemies even if they had not occupied anything.” And if readers were made aware of the true extent of Islamic Jew-hatred, they might well figure that out for themselves.

One can’t help suspecting that this is precisely why many journalists prefer to let this hatred go unreported: Facts that don’t fit their pet theory of Israel’s guilt are better left unmentioned.

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The Difference Between Newtown and Boston

One crime was committed by a person motivated by no cause or political interest and driven only by personal demons. Another crime was committed by two people whose actions were clearly driven by their religious and political beliefs. Under these circumstances, which of these terrible tragedies do you think would be considered an incident that could only be properly understood as something that ought to spur the nation to specific political actions?

If you answered the latter, you clearly know nothing about our political culture.

The former is, of course, the Newtown massacre in which a crazed, lone gunman murdered 20 1st-graders and six teachers at a Connecticut elementary school. The latter is the Boston Marathon bombing that took the lives of three spectators and wounded nearly 200, to which the toll of one police officer murdered and another wounded during the manhunt for the terrorists must be added. Though the first was a random act of personal madness and the second was just the latest in a long string of terrorist acts motivated by Islamist hatred for the West and America, there has never been any doubt about which of the two our chattering classes would consider as having undeniable political consequences and which would be treated as an unknowable crime about which intelligent persons ought not to think too deeply.

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One crime was committed by a person motivated by no cause or political interest and driven only by personal demons. Another crime was committed by two people whose actions were clearly driven by their religious and political beliefs. Under these circumstances, which of these terrible tragedies do you think would be considered an incident that could only be properly understood as something that ought to spur the nation to specific political actions?

If you answered the latter, you clearly know nothing about our political culture.

The former is, of course, the Newtown massacre in which a crazed, lone gunman murdered 20 1st-graders and six teachers at a Connecticut elementary school. The latter is the Boston Marathon bombing that took the lives of three spectators and wounded nearly 200, to which the toll of one police officer murdered and another wounded during the manhunt for the terrorists must be added. Though the first was a random act of personal madness and the second was just the latest in a long string of terrorist acts motivated by Islamist hatred for the West and America, there has never been any doubt about which of the two our chattering classes would consider as having undeniable political consequences and which would be treated as an unknowable crime about which intelligent persons ought not to think too deeply.

We can debate the rights and wrongs of restrictions on gun ownership or calls for more background checks. But the desire to use public grief about Newtown to push for passage of these measures was not rooted in any direct connection between the crime and legislation. Yet almost immediately Newtown was treated as an event with obvious political consequences. Indeed, the desire by gun rights advocates to speak of the issue outside of the context of Newtown was treated as both inherently illegitimate and morally obtuse.

But the reaction to Boston has been very different. Once it became apparent that the perpetrators were “white Americans”—in the memorable phrase employed by Salon.com—but could not be connected to the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh or any other conservative faction or cause, most liberals have taken it as their duty to squelch any effort to draw the sort of conclusions to which they had almost universally rushed when blood was shed in Newtown. Many in our chattering classes who thought it was patently obvious that the actions of a lunatic should be blamed on the weapons he employed in Connecticut seem deathly afraid of what will happen if we discuss the actual motives of the Boston terrorists.

Why?

Because while they consider anything fair game if it can help restrict gun ownership, they are just as eager to avoid any conclusion that might cause Americans to link terrorists with the religious ideology that led them to kill. For them the fear that this will lead to a general wave of prejudice against all Muslims justifies treating a crime that can only be properly understood in the context of the general struggle against radical Islam as if it were as motiveless as Newtown.

In the last week we have been offered all sorts of explanation for the behavior of the Tsarnaev brothers except the obvious answer. Talking heads on MSNBC and elsewhere have condemned any effort to focus on political Islam in spite of the growing body of evidence that points to their faith as being the cause of their decision to commit mayhem. Even a normally sober commentator such as the New York Times’s Frank Bruni sought to downplay the religious angle, preferring to diffuse our outrage as well as our comprehension of the event and the many other attacks carried out by adherents of radical Islam:

Terrorism isn’t a scourge we Americans alone endure, and it’s seldom about any one thing, or any two things.

Our insistence on patterns and commonalities and some kind of understanding assumes coherence to the massacres, rationality. But the difference between the aimless, alienated young men who do not plant bombs or open fire on unsuspecting crowds — which is the vast majority of them — and those who do is less likely to be some discrete radicalization process that we can diagram and eradicate than a dose, sometimes a heavy one, of pure madness. And there’s no easy antidote to that. No amulet against it.

Bruni is right that there’s no magic bullet or counter-terrorist tactic that will ensure terrorists won’t succeed. He’s also right to shoot down, as he rightly does, those on the far left who have sought to “connect the dots” between American foreign policy (Iraq, Afghanistan and support for Israel) and treat them as justified blowback in which Americans are reaping what they have sown. But while such reactions are despicable, they are largely confined to the fever swamps of our national life.

Far more destructive is this mystifying impulse to look away from the war Islamists have been waging on the West for a generation. While the “radicalization process” to which he refers is not uniform, there is a clear pattern here. The roots of the atrocity in Boston are in the beliefs of radical imams who have helped guide young Muslims to violence around the globe.

To point this out is not an indictment of all Muslims, the majority of whom in this country are loyal, hardworking and peaceful citizens. But the myths about a post-9/11 backlash against Muslims that the media has helped foster—and which continue to be unconnected to any actual evidence of a wave of a prejudice or violence—has led to a situation where some think it better to ignore the evidence about the Tsarnaevs or to focus on peripheral details—such as Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s failed boxing career—than to address the real problem. The fear of Islamophobia is so great that it has spawned a different kind of backlash in which any mention of Islam in this context is wrongly treated as an indication of prejudice.

The contrast between the political exploitation of Newtown and the way in which the same media outlets have gone out of their way to avoid drawing the obvious conclusions about Boston could not be greater. In one case, the media helped orchestrate a national discussion in which hyper-emotional rhetoric about the fallen drove a political agenda. In the other, they are seeking to ensure that no conclusions—even those that are self-evident—be drawn under any circumstances.

Gun control advocates claim that new laws—even those seemingly unconnected to the circumstances of Newtown—are worth it if it will save even one life. That’s debatable, but the same venues that have promoted that view seem averse to any discussion of political Islam, even though it is obvious that more intelligence efforts aimed at routing out radical Islamists and scrutiny of venues and websites where they gather might save even more lives. In the universe of the liberal media, promoting fear of future Newtowns is legitimate and even necessary, but thinking about how to stop future terror attacks apparently is not if it leads us to think about the Islamist threat.

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Bush’s “Decency” Was Always There, but Where Was the Media’s?

As the 2012 presidential election drew to a close, Mitt Romney made the rounds in the important state of Pennsylvania with a closing message: “The president has run a strong campaign, I believe he is a good man and wish him well, and his family well. He is a good father and has been a good example of a good father, but it is time for a new direction. It is a time for a better tomorrow.” Barack Obama is a good man and a good father–this was central to Romney’s campaign theme. As the liberal Mother Jones noted a month prior to Election Day: “Romney’s schtick has been an almost sorrowful acknowledgment that Obama is a good man, an honorable man, but in over his head.”

Romney delivered that message consistently. There may have been plenty of arrant nonsense about Obama’s eligibility from the fever swamps of the right and shameless self-promoters like Donald Trump, but the man who wanted to be president showed the man who is currently president the respect of the office. That is strikingly different from how the Democratic Party’s grandees treated George W. Bush, of course. John Kerry joked about assassinating Bush. Al Gore screamed wild-eyed that Bush “betrayed this country!” Obama himself traded in all sorts of conspiracy theories about Iraq, including the claim that the Iraq War was launched to distract the country from “a rise in the poverty rate.”

I don’t recount this to use the opening of the Bush library today to re-litigate the left’s Bush derangement syndrome–that’s all in the public record. But amid all the recollections and reconsiderations of the Bush presidency today, one in particular caught my attention. The mainstream press coverage of the Bush presidency was not a sober record of history as it developed but rather a daily expression of the Kerry-Gore-Obama attitude toward the president. Yet it’s possible to think that Kerry, Gore, and Obama were being cynical; perhaps they didn’t really believe all the things they said about Bush. But what if the reporters who covered the Bush presidency believed their own propaganda? In what serves as a stinging self-indictment, two Politico writers–both formerly of the Washington Post and one currently the editor in chief of Politico–today have filed a story titled “What we’ve learned about George W. Bush since he left town.”

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As the 2012 presidential election drew to a close, Mitt Romney made the rounds in the important state of Pennsylvania with a closing message: “The president has run a strong campaign, I believe he is a good man and wish him well, and his family well. He is a good father and has been a good example of a good father, but it is time for a new direction. It is a time for a better tomorrow.” Barack Obama is a good man and a good father–this was central to Romney’s campaign theme. As the liberal Mother Jones noted a month prior to Election Day: “Romney’s schtick has been an almost sorrowful acknowledgment that Obama is a good man, an honorable man, but in over his head.”

Romney delivered that message consistently. There may have been plenty of arrant nonsense about Obama’s eligibility from the fever swamps of the right and shameless self-promoters like Donald Trump, but the man who wanted to be president showed the man who is currently president the respect of the office. That is strikingly different from how the Democratic Party’s grandees treated George W. Bush, of course. John Kerry joked about assassinating Bush. Al Gore screamed wild-eyed that Bush “betrayed this country!” Obama himself traded in all sorts of conspiracy theories about Iraq, including the claim that the Iraq War was launched to distract the country from “a rise in the poverty rate.”

I don’t recount this to use the opening of the Bush library today to re-litigate the left’s Bush derangement syndrome–that’s all in the public record. But amid all the recollections and reconsiderations of the Bush presidency today, one in particular caught my attention. The mainstream press coverage of the Bush presidency was not a sober record of history as it developed but rather a daily expression of the Kerry-Gore-Obama attitude toward the president. Yet it’s possible to think that Kerry, Gore, and Obama were being cynical; perhaps they didn’t really believe all the things they said about Bush. But what if the reporters who covered the Bush presidency believed their own propaganda? In what serves as a stinging self-indictment, two Politico writers–both formerly of the Washington Post and one currently the editor in chief of Politico–today have filed a story titled “What we’ve learned about George W. Bush since he left town.”

Here is the fourth item on the list, and an explanation:

• Bush is a personally decent fellow

When he ran for president in 2000, the notion that Bush was on balance a likable guy — if not uniformly respected for his intelligence or preparation for the presidency — was widely assumed.

By 2009, his divisive policies and defiant political style had been so polarizing for so long that much of Bush’s personality and values had become obscured by a toxic cloud.

Since leaving office, he has avoided partisan politics and taken up painting. Several pieces of his art have ended up online, including a self-portrait of him in the shower.

Yes, two veteran political reporters actually wrote this. They never thought much of the former president while he was in office, but then, a few years later, they saw a painting. And you have to love their explanation for why they didn’t think Bush was a “decent fellow” earlier: “much of Bush’s personality and values had become obscured by a toxic cloud.”

And what was that toxic cloud? That would be the political reporting. So we have our answer: the press believed their own miserable propaganda. “Just remember,” George Costanza tells Jerry Seinfeld, “it’s not a lie if you believe it.” It is of course a lie that Bush wasn’t a thoroughly decent person throughout his presidency, so it was crucial for liberals and the press to believe it.

It’s not as though Bush’s obvious decency wasn’t visible to reporters. Ron Fournier, now with National Journal, had covered the Bush presidency, and a couple of days ago wrote about the decency he saw in Bush. The whole thing is worth reading, but one key takeaway, as Fournier gives example after example, is how Bush’s sense of personal decency was clear as day to anyone who interacted with him.

So yes, there was plenty of absurdity coming from the right and leveled at President Obama, and history will not look kindly on the disrespect and indignity of making the president feel compelled to show his birth certificate. Plenty of the attacks on Bill Clinton were–or should have been–out of bounds too. But ask yourself this: can you picture John McCain screaming at the top of his lungs that Barack Obama is a traitor to the country he leads, or jokingly suggesting he should assassinate Obama? And can you imagine political reporters writing four years after Obama leaves office that they never knew he was a personally decent man?

I hope you cannot imagine those things, but that is the reality that George W. Bush endured and absorbed with grace, good humor, unrequited compassion, and above all, yes, personal decency.

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Marathons and Media Bias in the West Bank

When the news broke last week that Israel had prevented Gazan runners from participating in the West Bank’s first marathon, my initial reaction was to wonder why Israel had done something so stupid. Granted, Gaza is an enemy quasi-state that routinely launches rockets at Israel, and most countries don’t let enemy nationals enter or transit their territory; hence Israel’s refusal to allow Gazans to do so (aside from humanitarian cases like the many Gazans treated in Israeli hospitals) is usually perfectly justified. But exceptions are routinely made for international sporting events; that’s why Israel rightly objects when its own athletes are barred from international tournaments in Arab countries. Hence this ban, which was reported worldwide, could only hurt Israel’s image.

But it turns out Israel was perfectly justified in barring the Gaza athletes–because the marathon’s Palestinian organizers had barred Israeli participants. Clearly, no country should be expected to facilitate an “international” event that bars its own athletes from participating. That this justification was absent from last week’s news reports thus speaks volumes about both the incompetence of Israel’s public relations and the biases of international reporting on Israel.

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When the news broke last week that Israel had prevented Gazan runners from participating in the West Bank’s first marathon, my initial reaction was to wonder why Israel had done something so stupid. Granted, Gaza is an enemy quasi-state that routinely launches rockets at Israel, and most countries don’t let enemy nationals enter or transit their territory; hence Israel’s refusal to allow Gazans to do so (aside from humanitarian cases like the many Gazans treated in Israeli hospitals) is usually perfectly justified. But exceptions are routinely made for international sporting events; that’s why Israel rightly objects when its own athletes are barred from international tournaments in Arab countries. Hence this ban, which was reported worldwide, could only hurt Israel’s image.

But it turns out Israel was perfectly justified in barring the Gaza athletes–because the marathon’s Palestinian organizers had barred Israeli participants. Clearly, no country should be expected to facilitate an “international” event that bars its own athletes from participating. That this justification was absent from last week’s news reports thus speaks volumes about both the incompetence of Israel’s public relations and the biases of international reporting on Israel.

The Palestinians’ hypocrisy on the issue was hardly subtle. Samia al-Wazir, spokeswoman for the Palestinian Olympic Committee, protested the ban on Gaza athletes by declaring, “The Israelis should look at this purely as a sporting event. It has nothing to do with politics.” Yet Palestinian Olympic Committee member Itidal Abdul-Ghani subsequently told an Israeli paper that “Israelis weren’t welcome to join the marathon while their military occupies Palestinian lands.” Needless to say, it can’t be “purely a sporting event” where Gazan athletes are concerned but a political protest where Israeli athletes are concerned; it’s one or the other. And once the Palestinians chose to make it political by barring Israeli athletes, Israel was completely justified in returning the favor by barring Gazan athletes.

Yet instead of making this point, which any fair-minded person could understand, Israeli spokesmen simply repeated the usual platitudes: that Gaza is ruled by a terrorist organization, and Gazans are therefore permitted to enter or transit Israel “only in exceptional humanitarian cases.” As noted, that’s a perfectly valid argument in most cases–but not in the case of an international sporting event, and not when a much more compelling argument was available.

Israel’s incompetence, however, doesn’t excuse the international media’s decision to report only the ban on Gazans, and not the ban on Israelis. By any objective standard, the latter was actually more newsworthy. After all, Hamas-run Gaza is openly at war with Israel, but the Palestinian Authority is supposedly Israel’s “peace partner.” Shunning one’s “peace partner” is surely more noteworthy than shunning an enemy. Yet only the Israeli media deemed it worth mentioning.

Perhaps the problem was that reporting the ban on Israelis would have spoiled the neat “Israel as villain” plotline. After all, the race’s main sponsor was a Danish nonprofit. And it’s hard to paint Israel as the Grinch who stole the marathon from would-be runners when enlightened Europeans were complicit in the same crime–with far less justification.

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Where Is the Promised Coverage of the Gosnell Trial?

The few straight news reporters covering the Kermit Gosnell case have all seemingly come to the same conclusion: It’s one of, if not the most, gripping trials they have ever witnessed. Last week, an uproar started by blogger Mollie Hemingway led many mainstream outlets to justify their non-coverage of the case and the trial. Some, including Slate‘s Dave Weigel, admitted that at least part of the reason for the lack of coverage is a pro-choice bias among most reporters who were dissuaded from an obviously newsworthy trial by the way this particular case undermines pro-abortion absolutism.

The Washington Post‘s Sarah Kliff initially told Hemingway that she would not be covering the trial because it was a local crime story, off her beat as a national healthcare reporter. Hemingway, in response, produced a tally of all of the other “local crime stories” that Kliff deemed appropriate to cover, including the 2009 murder of abortionist George Tiller. After the crush of attention the New York Times and the Washington Post both agreed to send reporters to the trial and the media, who have been few in number throughout the trial thus far, reported on the presence of these mainstream reporters among their ranks. 

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The few straight news reporters covering the Kermit Gosnell case have all seemingly come to the same conclusion: It’s one of, if not the most, gripping trials they have ever witnessed. Last week, an uproar started by blogger Mollie Hemingway led many mainstream outlets to justify their non-coverage of the case and the trial. Some, including Slate‘s Dave Weigel, admitted that at least part of the reason for the lack of coverage is a pro-choice bias among most reporters who were dissuaded from an obviously newsworthy trial by the way this particular case undermines pro-abortion absolutism.

The Washington Post‘s Sarah Kliff initially told Hemingway that she would not be covering the trial because it was a local crime story, off her beat as a national healthcare reporter. Hemingway, in response, produced a tally of all of the other “local crime stories” that Kliff deemed appropriate to cover, including the 2009 murder of abortionist George Tiller. After the crush of attention the New York Times and the Washington Post both agreed to send reporters to the trial and the media, who have been few in number throughout the trial thus far, reported on the presence of these mainstream reporters among their ranks. 

Two days ago on Hot Air Ed Morrissey posted a guest blog from a documentarian, Phelim McAleer, who decided to spend a few days in the media benches while visiting Philadelphia. McAleer told Hot Air readers:

I have covered the troubles in Northern Ireland and child trafficking in Indonesia and Romania. I have never come across a more sensational case. There is plenty of meat for the tabloid or the “serious” journalist. That they have mostly ignored it is part of the reason their industry is in decline.

McAleer discussed how few in number his fellow reporters were (just three locals) and how, despite the fact that this is likely one of the largest mass murders in American history, his notes on the trial will be one of the only records of the case outside of court documents. Yesterday, more news emerged on the trial’s progress. A local Philadelphia paper describes the theatrics between the prosecution, defense and the trial judge: 

“Based on the totality of the evidence . . . you cannot testify to anyone that this fetus was born alive?” Gosnell lawyer Jack McMahon asked Medical Examiner Sam Gulino.

“No I cannot,” replied Gulino.

Then Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron flipped around McMahon’s question: “Can you think of any reason why the neck was severed if that baby was not born alive?”

Again, Gulino agreed. McMahon tried to salvage his first answer, only to be interrupted by Cameron.

McMahon exploded in anger, but was topped by Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart.

“Mr. McMahon, behave yourself!” yelled Minehart. “Act like a lawyer.”

Lawyers and judges exploding in anger is something seen often on crime shows like Law & Order but which McAleer claims is, in real-life courtrooms, exceedingly rare. The testimony that followed helps explain why tensions have run high over the course of the trial: the details are horrific. Yesterday’s evidence centered on the dozens of human remains stored at the clinic, sometimes overflowing the toilets, complete with horrifying photographic evidence. The family of the adult victim, a 41-year-old woman, wept in the stands today listening to testimony. All of these details appeared yesterday in the local Philadelphia media.

After the media bias uproar started by Hemingway, which gained momentum on Thursday night, Americans were promised coverage of the trial, finally. So where is it? Reporting on the lack of media attention doesn’t count. The Post‘s Kliff has written a summary of the case for her readers, posted yesterday, who before then were completely unaware of the case if the Post is their only source of news. Late last night the Post‘s reporter on scene filed a story about the only adult victim Gosnell is on trial for murdering, a survivor of camps in Nepal which ran on page A2 of today’s edition of the paper. There was little mention of Gosnell’s alleged infant victims, but still, it’s a start. Where are the cable news stories and where are the dispatches on the graphic and gripping details from this week’s testimony from other national reporters on scene? 

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The Lethal Logic Behind the Abortion Rights Movement

Kirsten Powers wrote a powerful piece in USA Today on the murder trial of Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. (The 72-year-old Gosnell is charged with killing a woman patient and seven babies.) 

By all accounts Gosnell was a butcher of newborn, or about to be born, babies. The specifics are gruesome but probably necessary to comprehend the level of depravity we’re talking about. So here we go.

This account comes to us courtesy of delawareonline.com (h/t Allahpundit): 

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Kirsten Powers wrote a powerful piece in USA Today on the murder trial of Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. (The 72-year-old Gosnell is charged with killing a woman patient and seven babies.) 

By all accounts Gosnell was a butcher of newborn, or about to be born, babies. The specifics are gruesome but probably necessary to comprehend the level of depravity we’re talking about. So here we go.

This account comes to us courtesy of delawareonline.com (h/t Allahpundit): 

A Delaware woman who worked for Kermit Gosnell testified Tuesday that she was called back to a room at his abortion clinic in Philadelphia where the bodies of aborted babies were kept on a shelf to hear one screaming amid the bodies of aborted babies kept on a shelf….

“I can’t describe it. It sounded like a little alien,” [Sherry] West said, telling the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge and jury that the body of the child was about 18 to 24 inches long and was one of the largest babies she had seen delivered during abortion procedures at the Women’s Medical Society clinic….

West, who said she called aborted babies “specimens” because “it was easier to deal with mentally,” said a co-worker had called her back to the room that night because she did not know what to do. West said the baby’s eyes and mouth were not yet completely formed and it was lying on a glass tray on a shelf and she told the co-worker to call Gosnell and fled the room.

She later made it clear that she called it “a baby” in her testimony “because that is what it is.”

And this from NBC Philadelphia:

An unlicensed medical school graduate delivered graphic testimony about the chaos at a Philadelphia clinic where he helped perform late-term abortions.

Stephen Massof described how he snipped the spinal cords of babies, calling it, “literally a beheading. It is separating the brain from the body.” He testified that at times, when women were given medicine to speed up their deliveries, “it would rain fetuses. Fetuses and blood all over the place.”

About all this I wanted to make several points, the first of which is that this is the kind of brutality many people in the pro-life movement warned was at the end of the lethal logic behind the abortion rights movement. If we accept–and in some quarters, celebrate–abortion as a modern emancipation, you end up with people like Kermit Gosnell, who view an unborn child that has been targeted for abortion as marked for death even after birth. And before you dismiss Gosnell’s views as rare among those who champion abortion rights, consider the views of representatives of Planned Parenthood, an organization which (a) receives $500 million in government subsidies and (b) is the most conspicuous abortion rights group in America.

As George Will tells it:

Recently in Florida, Alisa LaPolt Snow, representing Florida Planned Parenthood organizations, testified against a bill that would require abortionists to provide medical care to babies who survive attempted abortions. Snow was asked: “If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?” Snow replied: “We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family and the physician.” She added, “That decision should be between the patient and the health care provider.” To this, a Florida legislator responded: “I think that at that point the patient would be the child struggling on a table. Wouldn’t you agree?”

As I said, there is a lethal logic at work here. 

In light of this, perhaps it’s worth reconsidering how absurd it is to portray those who oppose abortions as waging an imaginary “war on women” while ignoring the very real war on the unborn and the newborn.

Which brings us, finally, to the matter of media bias. As Powers points out, the elite press obsessed over Rush Limbaugh’s reference to Sandra Fluke as a “slut”–a comment for which Limbaugh apologized–while they have paid almost no attention to the Gosnell trial. Perhaps it’s because the Limbaugh story allowed many journalists to zero in on someone they loathe while the Gosnell story poses a terribly inconvenient challenge to their sanitized, settled views on abortion. It complicates matters immensely when you have to make room in this discussion for the baby who suffers a severed neck before being aborted, doesn’t it? 

My guess is most journalists (and most people who consider themselves pro-choice) would not feel comfortable defending what Dr. Gosnell did, even if they can’t articulate where exactly (or why exactly) a line should be drawn that separates a woman’s right to choose and a baby’s right to live. Rather, I suspect they are avoiding the story because it demonstrates an undeniable fact: abortion is an act of violence against an unborn child.

It isn’t easy to defend such things. So why not just ignore them? Because that’s what journalists are supposed to do. Isn’t it?

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