Commentary Magazine


Topic: media mavens

RE: Shut Up, the Islamists Explained

Islamists have been mighty successful in propounding a Big Lie: America is a nation beset by Islamophobes. If anything, the religious bigotry problem both in America and in Europe is one of vicious anti-Semitism, which has become mainstream and even fashionable.

Unlike the concocted Islamophobia — based on hysteria over a single whacked-out pastor and legitimate objections to a mosque at Ground Zero — there is plenty of evidence that anti-Semitism enjoys newfound popularity. Time magazine feels confident that its “Jews only care about money” cover story will hit a chord with the public. European officials suffer no ostracism for hurling epithets at Jews speaking up in defense of the Israel. The Turkish foreign minister talks about a “final solution” and no one bats an eye. Now a new and important film, Crossing the Line, documents the prevalence of not simply anti-Israel activism but also violent anti-Semitism on college campuses. (A five-minute clip is chilling viewing.)

But the chattering class and the media mavens aren’t much concerned with all that. To the contrary, CAIR’s darling Helen Thomas operated comfortably in the Washington press corps until she erred by speaking candidly to a rabbi with a video camera. And while Mayor Bloomberg tells us to hush up about the mosque, and the left blogosphere shouts “bigots” at New Yorkers who’d like the mosque moved, the impresarios of political correctness are mute when a journalist is forced into hiding by Islamic radicals. The Washington Examiner‘s editors explain:

Last week, the Seattle Weekly announced that Molly Norris, its editorial cartoonist, had “gone ghost.” Put another way, she went into hiding. The FBI told her she had to because otherwise it couldn’t protect her against death threats from Muslims she’d angered. Earlier this year, Norris started “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” to protest radical Muslims’ violently stifling freedom of speech and conscience. Incredibly, her plight has drawn precious little media attention, even though it is infinitely more newsworthy than, say, a fundamentalist preacher in Florida threatening to burn Qurans.

When The Examiner asked the American Society of News Editors for a statement on the issue, none was forthcoming. This despite the fact that the first sentence of ASNE’s Web site describes its mission as supporting “the First Amendment at home and free speech around the world.” We got a similar response from the Society of Professional Journalists, despite its dedication “to the perpetuation of the free press as the cornerstone of our nation and liberty.”

From the New York Times to TNR (which I had hoped under the headline “Atonement” was going to come clean on misguided support for the “pro-Zionist” candidate Barack Obama, who turned out to be anything but), journalists fall over themselves to apologize for affronts to Muslims.

But then, what can we expect when the president proclaims himself Explainer in Chief on behalf of Islam, chants in Cairo the trope of Palestinian exploitation, and dispatches his advisers to pronounce that opposition to the Ground Zero mosque is reminiscent of European anti-Semitism in the 1930s?

What started out as a widespread effort to delegitimize Israel has now morphed into a war on defenders of Israel and critics of Islamic radicals. So far they are winning the war — with the help of liberal American elites.

Islamists have been mighty successful in propounding a Big Lie: America is a nation beset by Islamophobes. If anything, the religious bigotry problem both in America and in Europe is one of vicious anti-Semitism, which has become mainstream and even fashionable.

Unlike the concocted Islamophobia — based on hysteria over a single whacked-out pastor and legitimate objections to a mosque at Ground Zero — there is plenty of evidence that anti-Semitism enjoys newfound popularity. Time magazine feels confident that its “Jews only care about money” cover story will hit a chord with the public. European officials suffer no ostracism for hurling epithets at Jews speaking up in defense of the Israel. The Turkish foreign minister talks about a “final solution” and no one bats an eye. Now a new and important film, Crossing the Line, documents the prevalence of not simply anti-Israel activism but also violent anti-Semitism on college campuses. (A five-minute clip is chilling viewing.)

But the chattering class and the media mavens aren’t much concerned with all that. To the contrary, CAIR’s darling Helen Thomas operated comfortably in the Washington press corps until she erred by speaking candidly to a rabbi with a video camera. And while Mayor Bloomberg tells us to hush up about the mosque, and the left blogosphere shouts “bigots” at New Yorkers who’d like the mosque moved, the impresarios of political correctness are mute when a journalist is forced into hiding by Islamic radicals. The Washington Examiner‘s editors explain:

Last week, the Seattle Weekly announced that Molly Norris, its editorial cartoonist, had “gone ghost.” Put another way, she went into hiding. The FBI told her she had to because otherwise it couldn’t protect her against death threats from Muslims she’d angered. Earlier this year, Norris started “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” to protest radical Muslims’ violently stifling freedom of speech and conscience. Incredibly, her plight has drawn precious little media attention, even though it is infinitely more newsworthy than, say, a fundamentalist preacher in Florida threatening to burn Qurans.

When The Examiner asked the American Society of News Editors for a statement on the issue, none was forthcoming. This despite the fact that the first sentence of ASNE’s Web site describes its mission as supporting “the First Amendment at home and free speech around the world.” We got a similar response from the Society of Professional Journalists, despite its dedication “to the perpetuation of the free press as the cornerstone of our nation and liberty.”

From the New York Times to TNR (which I had hoped under the headline “Atonement” was going to come clean on misguided support for the “pro-Zionist” candidate Barack Obama, who turned out to be anything but), journalists fall over themselves to apologize for affronts to Muslims.

But then, what can we expect when the president proclaims himself Explainer in Chief on behalf of Islam, chants in Cairo the trope of Palestinian exploitation, and dispatches his advisers to pronounce that opposition to the Ground Zero mosque is reminiscent of European anti-Semitism in the 1930s?

What started out as a widespread effort to delegitimize Israel has now morphed into a war on defenders of Israel and critics of Islamic radicals. So far they are winning the war — with the help of liberal American elites.

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Brilliant No More

How many times has a pundit or Democrat gushed over Obama’s “brilliant” mind? As conservatives pointed out to the swooners on the left, there was very little evidence of it — no inventive Third Wave philosophy of governance in his pre-presidential career, no significant legislative or intellectual achievement — other than writing a self-promoting and somewhat fictional account of himself — and actually very poor people skills (Maureen Dowd has only now figured out that he is thin-skinned and emotionally robotic). But it was heresy to suggest that he was a conventional liberal thinker, less interesting than Bill Clinton and less rigorous than Ronald Reagan.

Now that his presidency is in dire straits, perhaps the mainstream media are more receptive to that perspective. As Noemie Emery writes, to the extent that he was/is “brilliant,” it’s in the mundane task of running meetings:

He does seem a genius at chairing a forum, as at the “nuclear summit” in April, where the Washington Post claimed that he shone as a teacher, “calling on leaders to speak, embellish, oppose, and offer alternatives,” coaxing consensus and forging agreements among 45 countries at hand. The problem was that the value of these things was limited, as the attending countries weren’t menacing anyone, while Iran and Korea, who were not in attendance, went on happily building their bombs. He isn’t a sphinx, he’s a seminar leader who’s out of his element. And more and more out of his depth.

And honestly, he’s not that great at running meetings. His Afghanistan-war seminars dragged on. His health-care summit bombed when Rep. Paul Ryan and others stymied him with facts and figures.

Now that Obama’s policies and political standing are faltering, the media mavens are puzzled, as Emery notes. How can it be that he’s failing when he’s so smart? It never dawns on them that they confused slickness with smarts and urbanity with insight.

Whether it is Obama or Elena Kagan, it’s rather easy to impress the chattering class — an Ivy League degree, poise before the cameras, verbal acuity, and disdain for conservative ideas usually do it. It matters not what these figures have produced (legal opinions, legislation, etc.) but with whom they circulate and where they’ve studied. To a great degree, social elitism has replaced meritocracy as the left’s yardstick.

Unfortunately for Obama, he will be judged by what he does, not how he looks doing it. And frankly, his polish and charisma (conservatives never saw the latter, but others did) are crumbling under the pressure to finally produce something (jobs, a responsible budget, a plan for disarming Iran). There is a reason, as Emery points out, that no president has been “a blogger, a pundit, an editor of the New Yorker, or a writer for Vanity Fair.” It turns out that the rationale for the media’s lovefest — he’s just like me, but better! — was not relevant to the presidency.

How many times has a pundit or Democrat gushed over Obama’s “brilliant” mind? As conservatives pointed out to the swooners on the left, there was very little evidence of it — no inventive Third Wave philosophy of governance in his pre-presidential career, no significant legislative or intellectual achievement — other than writing a self-promoting and somewhat fictional account of himself — and actually very poor people skills (Maureen Dowd has only now figured out that he is thin-skinned and emotionally robotic). But it was heresy to suggest that he was a conventional liberal thinker, less interesting than Bill Clinton and less rigorous than Ronald Reagan.

Now that his presidency is in dire straits, perhaps the mainstream media are more receptive to that perspective. As Noemie Emery writes, to the extent that he was/is “brilliant,” it’s in the mundane task of running meetings:

He does seem a genius at chairing a forum, as at the “nuclear summit” in April, where the Washington Post claimed that he shone as a teacher, “calling on leaders to speak, embellish, oppose, and offer alternatives,” coaxing consensus and forging agreements among 45 countries at hand. The problem was that the value of these things was limited, as the attending countries weren’t menacing anyone, while Iran and Korea, who were not in attendance, went on happily building their bombs. He isn’t a sphinx, he’s a seminar leader who’s out of his element. And more and more out of his depth.

And honestly, he’s not that great at running meetings. His Afghanistan-war seminars dragged on. His health-care summit bombed when Rep. Paul Ryan and others stymied him with facts and figures.

Now that Obama’s policies and political standing are faltering, the media mavens are puzzled, as Emery notes. How can it be that he’s failing when he’s so smart? It never dawns on them that they confused slickness with smarts and urbanity with insight.

Whether it is Obama or Elena Kagan, it’s rather easy to impress the chattering class — an Ivy League degree, poise before the cameras, verbal acuity, and disdain for conservative ideas usually do it. It matters not what these figures have produced (legal opinions, legislation, etc.) but with whom they circulate and where they’ve studied. To a great degree, social elitism has replaced meritocracy as the left’s yardstick.

Unfortunately for Obama, he will be judged by what he does, not how he looks doing it. And frankly, his polish and charisma (conservatives never saw the latter, but others did) are crumbling under the pressure to finally produce something (jobs, a responsible budget, a plan for disarming Iran). There is a reason, as Emery points out, that no president has been “a blogger, a pundit, an editor of the New Yorker, or a writer for Vanity Fair.” It turns out that the rationale for the media’s lovefest — he’s just like me, but better! — was not relevant to the presidency.

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Media Clueless on the Tea Parties — Still

Noemie Emery traces the media coverage of the tea parties:

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

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

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

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

Noemie Emery traces the media coverage of the tea parties:

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

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

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

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

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Brooks Struggles to Figure Out What Went Wrong

David Brooks is on a search to find out how it was that we elected such a “moderate” president and wound up with the worst of big government liberalism and a polarized electorate. He seems stumped as he explores these questions in what can only be described as evasive phrasing:

The country had just elected a man who vowed to move past the old polarities, who valued discussion and who clearly had some sympathy with both the Burkean and Hamiltonian impulses. He staffed his administration with brilliant pragmatists whose views overlapped with mine, who differed only in that they have more faith in technocratic planning.

Yet things have not worked out for those of us in the broad middle. Politics is more polarized than ever. The two parties have drifted further to the extremes. The center is drained and depressed.

What happened?

History happened. The administration came into power at a time of economic crisis. This led it, in the first bloom of self-confidence, to attempt many big projects all at once. Each of these projects may have been defensible in isolation, but in combination they created the impression of a federal onslaught.

History happened? Oh, let’s see if we can’t be more precise than that. “As government grew [by itself? did someone grow it?], the antigovernment right mobilized. This produced the Tea Party Movement — a characteristically raw but authentically American revolt led by members of the yeoman enterprising class.” History happened and government grew. (Like magic!) And now Brooks is disappointed.

Brooks writes that the Democratic party did this and that, that opposition grew, and that we wound up in the big- vs. little-government debate. What’s missing from this autopilot version of politics? Hmm … could it be Obama, the moderate fellow, who did the government-growing?

I have a rule of thumb: when a writer, especially a good one, excessively uses evasive or convoluted rhetoric, he is hiding something. Let’s try this: Obama, a very liberal politician, was smart enough to know he couldn’t win the presidency as a hard leftist. He posed as a moderate. New York Times columnists sung his praises. Pundits assured us that he was beyond ideology, a sort of philosopher-king with very neat pants. He got into office. He governed from the far Left. The president signed bill after bill, spending money we didn’t have and running up the debt. Obama insisted on a mammoth health-care bill the country hated. He egged Congress on to pass it. Meanwhile, the country recoiled. They hired a moderate on advice of pundits and media mavens and got a far-Left liberal, a ton of debt, an expanded federal government, and a slew of new taxes.

How’s that?

The bottom line: history doesn’t just “happen.” Presidents make choices. Pundits make miscalculations. Voters exact revenge. It’s not that complicated — if you are honest about who did what to whom.

David Brooks is on a search to find out how it was that we elected such a “moderate” president and wound up with the worst of big government liberalism and a polarized electorate. He seems stumped as he explores these questions in what can only be described as evasive phrasing:

The country had just elected a man who vowed to move past the old polarities, who valued discussion and who clearly had some sympathy with both the Burkean and Hamiltonian impulses. He staffed his administration with brilliant pragmatists whose views overlapped with mine, who differed only in that they have more faith in technocratic planning.

Yet things have not worked out for those of us in the broad middle. Politics is more polarized than ever. The two parties have drifted further to the extremes. The center is drained and depressed.

What happened?

History happened. The administration came into power at a time of economic crisis. This led it, in the first bloom of self-confidence, to attempt many big projects all at once. Each of these projects may have been defensible in isolation, but in combination they created the impression of a federal onslaught.

History happened? Oh, let’s see if we can’t be more precise than that. “As government grew [by itself? did someone grow it?], the antigovernment right mobilized. This produced the Tea Party Movement — a characteristically raw but authentically American revolt led by members of the yeoman enterprising class.” History happened and government grew. (Like magic!) And now Brooks is disappointed.

Brooks writes that the Democratic party did this and that, that opposition grew, and that we wound up in the big- vs. little-government debate. What’s missing from this autopilot version of politics? Hmm … could it be Obama, the moderate fellow, who did the government-growing?

I have a rule of thumb: when a writer, especially a good one, excessively uses evasive or convoluted rhetoric, he is hiding something. Let’s try this: Obama, a very liberal politician, was smart enough to know he couldn’t win the presidency as a hard leftist. He posed as a moderate. New York Times columnists sung his praises. Pundits assured us that he was beyond ideology, a sort of philosopher-king with very neat pants. He got into office. He governed from the far Left. The president signed bill after bill, spending money we didn’t have and running up the debt. Obama insisted on a mammoth health-care bill the country hated. He egged Congress on to pass it. Meanwhile, the country recoiled. They hired a moderate on advice of pundits and media mavens and got a far-Left liberal, a ton of debt, an expanded federal government, and a slew of new taxes.

How’s that?

The bottom line: history doesn’t just “happen.” Presidents make choices. Pundits make miscalculations. Voters exact revenge. It’s not that complicated — if you are honest about who did what to whom.

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A World of Difference

Throughout the campaign and much of the first year of Obama’s presidency, the media mavens who saw in Obama the perfect exemplar of themselves — urban and urbane, credentialed, culturally hip, and sufficiently disdainful of American exceptionalism — told us that Obama may have lacked experience, but he excelled in temperament and in judgment. Now it seems that isn’t so at all.

Since it’s not so cool to be seen engaging in Obama boosterism, some of the fawners are fessing up: Obama’s supposedly superior temperament wasn’t so superior. Mark Halperin (co-author of Game Change) explains:

What once seemed a refreshing confidence and placid control in Obama — his staff adopted the catch phrase ‘never too high, never too low’ to describe their boss’ temperament – – now, two years later, often translates as a detachment from the daily concerns of the American public. … A year after his inauguration, many Americans still complain they find him too remote, too removed. They want to see him show a little anger or passion when talking about lost jobs, the limping economy and terrorist threats. Obama’s tendency to rely on a small cluster of advisers has hurt him too.

The press went to the mat for Obama, yet now we learn that even during the campaign, there were signals that he lacked some important presidential qualities:

Yet there were signs along the way that Obama’s reserved demeanor might be a liability as well as an advantage. During the interminable series of Democratic debates beginning in April 2007, Obama’s professorial tone and discursive drift made him seem weak and windy. Razor-sharp Clinton bested him nearly every time.

At the height of the primary season, when Obama remarked at a fund-raiser in San Francisco that struggling small-towners in Pennsylvania and the Midwest “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them,” he came across as elitist and cold, unconcerned with the real lives of real people.

This is as much an indictment of Obama as of the sycophantic press that raised nary a critical word during the campaign and instead spent its investigative energies and venom on Sarah Palin (who turned out to be more in sync with the electorate on health-care reform, climate change, and anti-terrorism policy than the suave sophisticate whom the press raved about). As Halperin sheepishly concedes:

Perhaps the President needs a political upheaval to shake him up – something like what happened in September 2008, after Sarah Palin made her dramatic debut on the Republican ticket. The usually unflappable Obama suddenly found himself unbalanced in the face of a plain-speaking, instantly popular adversary. … But with his health care plan on the rocks the sudden emergence of another Republican supernova, Sen.-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who has connected with voters through optimism, defiance and cheer — and who could serve as a bellwether for 2010 and 2012 — Obama may finally be forced to take heed and make some changes himself.

So far, we see no sign of Obama taking much of anything to heart. But this time, the same members of the media may not be so forgiving. They really don’t want to be played for fools twice.

Throughout the campaign and much of the first year of Obama’s presidency, the media mavens who saw in Obama the perfect exemplar of themselves — urban and urbane, credentialed, culturally hip, and sufficiently disdainful of American exceptionalism — told us that Obama may have lacked experience, but he excelled in temperament and in judgment. Now it seems that isn’t so at all.

Since it’s not so cool to be seen engaging in Obama boosterism, some of the fawners are fessing up: Obama’s supposedly superior temperament wasn’t so superior. Mark Halperin (co-author of Game Change) explains:

What once seemed a refreshing confidence and placid control in Obama — his staff adopted the catch phrase ‘never too high, never too low’ to describe their boss’ temperament – – now, two years later, often translates as a detachment from the daily concerns of the American public. … A year after his inauguration, many Americans still complain they find him too remote, too removed. They want to see him show a little anger or passion when talking about lost jobs, the limping economy and terrorist threats. Obama’s tendency to rely on a small cluster of advisers has hurt him too.

The press went to the mat for Obama, yet now we learn that even during the campaign, there were signals that he lacked some important presidential qualities:

Yet there were signs along the way that Obama’s reserved demeanor might be a liability as well as an advantage. During the interminable series of Democratic debates beginning in April 2007, Obama’s professorial tone and discursive drift made him seem weak and windy. Razor-sharp Clinton bested him nearly every time.

At the height of the primary season, when Obama remarked at a fund-raiser in San Francisco that struggling small-towners in Pennsylvania and the Midwest “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them,” he came across as elitist and cold, unconcerned with the real lives of real people.

This is as much an indictment of Obama as of the sycophantic press that raised nary a critical word during the campaign and instead spent its investigative energies and venom on Sarah Palin (who turned out to be more in sync with the electorate on health-care reform, climate change, and anti-terrorism policy than the suave sophisticate whom the press raved about). As Halperin sheepishly concedes:

Perhaps the President needs a political upheaval to shake him up – something like what happened in September 2008, after Sarah Palin made her dramatic debut on the Republican ticket. The usually unflappable Obama suddenly found himself unbalanced in the face of a plain-speaking, instantly popular adversary. … But with his health care plan on the rocks the sudden emergence of another Republican supernova, Sen.-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who has connected with voters through optimism, defiance and cheer — and who could serve as a bellwether for 2010 and 2012 — Obama may finally be forced to take heed and make some changes himself.

So far, we see no sign of Obama taking much of anything to heart. But this time, the same members of the media may not be so forgiving. They really don’t want to be played for fools twice.

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Time for Change

If you think we’ve been tough on Obama around here, take a look at Mort Zuckerman’s blast at Obama in his piece entitled “He’s Done Everything Wrong”:

He’s misjudged the character of the country in his whole approach. There’s the saying, “It’s the economy, stupid.” He didn’t get it. He was determined somehow or other to adopt a whole new agenda. He didn’t address the main issue.

This health-care plan is going to be a fiscal disaster for the country. Most of the country wanted to deal with costs, not expansion of coverage. This is going to raise costs dramatically.

In the campaign, he said he would change politics as usual. He did change them. It’s now worse than it was. I’ve now seen the kind of buying off of politicians that I’ve never seen before. It’s politically corrupt and it’s starting at the top. It’s revolting.

The corruption he is referring to is the Cash for Cloture deals, of course. (“Five states got deals on health care—one of them was Harry Reid’s. It is disgusting, just disgusting.”) He doesn’t like the union deal on Cadillac health plans either. Then there’s Obama’s inability to connect with voters — a combination of overexposure and remoteness. (Hard to pull off, I know.) Okay, he’s didn’t do everything wrong — just the “major things.” Read More

If you think we’ve been tough on Obama around here, take a look at Mort Zuckerman’s blast at Obama in his piece entitled “He’s Done Everything Wrong”:

He’s misjudged the character of the country in his whole approach. There’s the saying, “It’s the economy, stupid.” He didn’t get it. He was determined somehow or other to adopt a whole new agenda. He didn’t address the main issue.

This health-care plan is going to be a fiscal disaster for the country. Most of the country wanted to deal with costs, not expansion of coverage. This is going to raise costs dramatically.

In the campaign, he said he would change politics as usual. He did change them. It’s now worse than it was. I’ve now seen the kind of buying off of politicians that I’ve never seen before. It’s politically corrupt and it’s starting at the top. It’s revolting.

The corruption he is referring to is the Cash for Cloture deals, of course. (“Five states got deals on health care—one of them was Harry Reid’s. It is disgusting, just disgusting.”) He doesn’t like the union deal on Cadillac health plans either. Then there’s Obama’s inability to connect with voters — a combination of overexposure and remoteness. (Hard to pull off, I know.) Okay, he’s didn’t do everything wrong — just the “major things.”

Zuckerman doesn’t bother detailing the long list of foreign-policy screwups — the failed Middle East gambit, dumping on our allies in the Czech Republic and Poland, frittering away a year on “engaging” Iran, the appallingly disengaged reaction to three domestic Islamic jihadist attacks, etc. Zuckerman gives Obama credit for “improving our image” in the world, but then explains:

Let me tell you what a major leader said to me recently. “We are convinced,” he said, “that he is not strong enough to confront his enemy. We are concerned,” he said “that he is not strong to support his friends.”

And Zuckerman warns that, at this rate, Obama will be a one-term president and “succeed” only in reviving the GOP.

Aside from the helpful catalog of Obama’s blunders, Zuckerman captures the amazement and disappointment that much of the chattering class must be experiencing. Their political messiah has been revealed as not only human but as a rather incompetent and foolish one. The political superstar has become a Jimmy Carter-esque figure from whom members of his party will now have to distance themselves to survive.

Conservatives shake their heads in disbelief that the media mavens are shocked, shocked to find that Obama is less than meets the eye. They snicker that only now is there some recognition that Obama was adept at winning but lacks both a reasonable governing philosophy and the executive skills to excel in the job. Conservatives spent an entire election trying to point out Obama’s lack of experience and his leftist bent. They warned and researched and sounded the alarm. But the media spinners, like so many Americans, wanted to believe that Obama was a politician like no other and that they had latched onto a superhuman figure of extraordinary political skill. They were wrong.

So what happens now? The choice, we hear, is between doubling-down or reversing course. But there are also the competency and connectivity issues. How does Obama suddenly learn to govern and take back the reins from the Reid-Pelosi machine? (And really, what’s the point if he hands it to the Emanuel-Axelrod machine?) And then how does he transform his personality? It’s quite an uphill climb, and it’s tempting to write him off and to declare game, set, and match. But other presidents have come back and revived their presidencies; this one just has a deeper hole (dug more swiftly) out of which to climb.

It starts, however, with the humility to realize that this is not the Republicans’ fault, or Chris Christie’s or Bob McDonnell’s or Martha Coakley’s doing. It’s not even attributable to those Tea Party protesters (they’re the effect, not the cause, of the president’s political troubles). The fault is Obama’s. Whether he publicly confesses that fact or not, he’ll have to act like it is.

Ironically, all that mumbo-jumbo about “change” finally has some concrete meaning. Little did Obama imagine that to rescue his presidency, he’d have to change himself, not the country.

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The Presidency Is Not a Debating Society

Politico reports:

The general election presidential debates can elect a candidate or send one home. So, it was standing room only at Café Milano as politicos gathered to watch the transfer of power from long-time Commission on Presidential Debates Democratic Co-Chairman Paul Kirk to former Clinton White House press secretary Mike McCurry.“We’ve got to make [the debates] more relevant so that young people enjoy watching them; that’s what we’re going to be working on between now and 2012,” McCurry told POLITICO Monday.

I’ve got a better idea: get rid of the debates. They not only aren’t relevant to young voters; they really aren’t relevant to the job of being president. Like well-prepped standardized test takers, most politicians can get through one of these things after the practice rounds, the coaches, and a healthy amount of memorization. But the ability to get off one-liners, repeat pabulum on cue, and answer any question with the same prearranged answers isn’t really the sort of thing that makes for great leadership or effective presidents.

Moreover, the debates perpetuate the myth that verbal acuity is the most prized quality in a president. It doesn’t hurt, but is it more important that executive prowess, a well-grounded appreciation of America’s role in the world, and a basic understanding of market economics? We’ve spent the past year learning that the answer is an emphatic no.

But the debates have become rituals of campaigns, as indispensable as the convention balloon drop and the suspense surrounding the selection of the VP. So I really don’t think they’re going to disappear entirely. But I think the angst about how to get more voters to watch is pointless. (Debates already get big TV audiences.) We’d do better to think long and hard about why we’ve let the media mavens and political consultants convince us that this is an effective way to assess presidential candidates.

Politico reports:

The general election presidential debates can elect a candidate or send one home. So, it was standing room only at Café Milano as politicos gathered to watch the transfer of power from long-time Commission on Presidential Debates Democratic Co-Chairman Paul Kirk to former Clinton White House press secretary Mike McCurry.“We’ve got to make [the debates] more relevant so that young people enjoy watching them; that’s what we’re going to be working on between now and 2012,” McCurry told POLITICO Monday.

I’ve got a better idea: get rid of the debates. They not only aren’t relevant to young voters; they really aren’t relevant to the job of being president. Like well-prepped standardized test takers, most politicians can get through one of these things after the practice rounds, the coaches, and a healthy amount of memorization. But the ability to get off one-liners, repeat pabulum on cue, and answer any question with the same prearranged answers isn’t really the sort of thing that makes for great leadership or effective presidents.

Moreover, the debates perpetuate the myth that verbal acuity is the most prized quality in a president. It doesn’t hurt, but is it more important that executive prowess, a well-grounded appreciation of America’s role in the world, and a basic understanding of market economics? We’ve spent the past year learning that the answer is an emphatic no.

But the debates have become rituals of campaigns, as indispensable as the convention balloon drop and the suspense surrounding the selection of the VP. So I really don’t think they’re going to disappear entirely. But I think the angst about how to get more voters to watch is pointless. (Debates already get big TV audiences.) We’d do better to think long and hard about why we’ve let the media mavens and political consultants convince us that this is an effective way to assess presidential candidates.

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Fessing Up

Now the confessions come in from multiple sources: the media has been in the tank for Barack Obama. (Chris Matthews lets on that it may not be “official” MSNBC policy to back Obama, but we should know they have their hearts in the “right” place.) Oh, and they hate Hillary Clinton too. Salon‘s reporter tells us:

They were swooning. I was at a speech, I remember it, I will write about it some day, in Manchester, and every, the biggest names in our business were there, and they were, they could repeat some of his speech lines to one another. It was like a Bruce Springsteen concert where the fans sing along. And, you know, I respected it to some extent. He’s a towering political figure. Of our generation, he’s probably the best politician, he’s inspiring. And, reporters, white reporters, black reporters, reporters of every race, we want to get beyond racism in America. So, he was, he was inspiring, I understood it, they’re humans, they responded. The downside though is that they hate, hate Hillary Clinton, most of them. Hate is not too strong a word.

I know it’s shocking to learn there is bias in the media. But what is surprising is that any felt obligation to go along with the pretense–the canard that they have not been in Obama’s corner–is gone. Now, it would be unfair to say every member of the mainstream media and every outlet has been equally at fault here. ABC certainly did its part to re-establish journalistic integrity by running a tough, informative, and ultimately impactful debate. And in the Bizarro World of politics we now inhabit, Hillary Clinton will attest to her fair treatment by Fox.

Still, one wonders how much longer both the media mavens and the public at large will take this kind of “analysis” seriously. It’s one thing to get almost everything wrong (e.g. McCain was dead, Hillary was inevitable in 2007, Obama was golden in February 2008). It’s quite another for people “in the club” to admit openly that they weren’t much interested in being objective.

Why the confessions? Aside from guilty consciences, it may be an effort to get back in the good graces of the candidate most affected by their favorite-playing (and one who might just survive to enact revenge): Hillary Clinton. Good luck with that!

Now the confessions come in from multiple sources: the media has been in the tank for Barack Obama. (Chris Matthews lets on that it may not be “official” MSNBC policy to back Obama, but we should know they have their hearts in the “right” place.) Oh, and they hate Hillary Clinton too. Salon‘s reporter tells us:

They were swooning. I was at a speech, I remember it, I will write about it some day, in Manchester, and every, the biggest names in our business were there, and they were, they could repeat some of his speech lines to one another. It was like a Bruce Springsteen concert where the fans sing along. And, you know, I respected it to some extent. He’s a towering political figure. Of our generation, he’s probably the best politician, he’s inspiring. And, reporters, white reporters, black reporters, reporters of every race, we want to get beyond racism in America. So, he was, he was inspiring, I understood it, they’re humans, they responded. The downside though is that they hate, hate Hillary Clinton, most of them. Hate is not too strong a word.

I know it’s shocking to learn there is bias in the media. But what is surprising is that any felt obligation to go along with the pretense–the canard that they have not been in Obama’s corner–is gone. Now, it would be unfair to say every member of the mainstream media and every outlet has been equally at fault here. ABC certainly did its part to re-establish journalistic integrity by running a tough, informative, and ultimately impactful debate. And in the Bizarro World of politics we now inhabit, Hillary Clinton will attest to her fair treatment by Fox.

Still, one wonders how much longer both the media mavens and the public at large will take this kind of “analysis” seriously. It’s one thing to get almost everything wrong (e.g. McCain was dead, Hillary was inevitable in 2007, Obama was golden in February 2008). It’s quite another for people “in the club” to admit openly that they weren’t much interested in being objective.

Why the confessions? Aside from guilty consciences, it may be an effort to get back in the good graces of the candidate most affected by their favorite-playing (and one who might just survive to enact revenge): Hillary Clinton. Good luck with that!

Read Less




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