Commentary Magazine


Topic: media

Newtown Coverage Not the First Amendment’s Finest Hour

In the wake of the deadly school shooting in Newtown this past week, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding the Second Amendment. There has not, unfortunately, been a reevaluation of the role the First Amendment played in the tragedy.  

The media’s coverage of Newtown from the outset was marred by such complete incompetence that it’s almost impossible to keep track of every incorrect detail that on-air personalities told viewers in the first few hours. Initially, Americans were informed: there were two gunmen and that one was still at large; the shooter was a father of one of the students in the school; the father of the shooter was dead; the shooter was named Ryan, not Adam, Lanza; an entire kindergarten class was unaccounted for; it was kindergarteners, not 1st-graders, that were the primary target; the classroom of the shooter’s mother was targeted, and that was where she died. The shooter’s unconfirmed autism diagnosis was discussed by multiple outlets as a possible contributing factor to the shooting, yet what was never mentioned was that those that fall on the autism spectrum are not any more likely to exhibit planned violent tendencies than the average member of the public. 

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In the wake of the deadly school shooting in Newtown this past week, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding the Second Amendment. There has not, unfortunately, been a reevaluation of the role the First Amendment played in the tragedy.  

The media’s coverage of Newtown from the outset was marred by such complete incompetence that it’s almost impossible to keep track of every incorrect detail that on-air personalities told viewers in the first few hours. Initially, Americans were informed: there were two gunmen and that one was still at large; the shooter was a father of one of the students in the school; the father of the shooter was dead; the shooter was named Ryan, not Adam, Lanza; an entire kindergarten class was unaccounted for; it was kindergarteners, not 1st-graders, that were the primary target; the classroom of the shooter’s mother was targeted, and that was where she died. The shooter’s unconfirmed autism diagnosis was discussed by multiple outlets as a possible contributing factor to the shooting, yet what was never mentioned was that those that fall on the autism spectrum are not any more likely to exhibit planned violent tendencies than the average member of the public. 

After the Aurora shootings, Helen Lewis wrote about how the media had failed to follow the advice of forensic psychologists on how to prevent individuals from trying to “best” the latest tragedy. That advice has clearly not been heeded after this latest mass shooting, either. Since the massacre of 20 children and six adults, the coverage on major news outlets has been unrelenting. Six-year-old witnesses were interviewed, grieving family members have been harassed by the press online, outside their homes and even at religious services. The manner in which the shootings have been covered (24/7, wall-to-wall and sensationalist are adjectives that spring to mind) has been criticized by experts concerned about copycats. 

I’m not suggesting that either of these amendments be repealed or curtailed, the First or the Second. If Americans are sincere about preventing another tragedy like Newtown’s, however, we need to have a serious conversation about how responsibly we can and should be exercising these freedoms. In the medical field doctors are told “first, do no harm.” This is an adage that those in the 24/7 news media need to consider adopting moving forward in order to prevent the damage that was done in Newtown last week from happening again.

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Obama, Romney, and the Ludicrousness of Political Determinism

Eight weeks from today, 140 million people will go to the polls to elect a president. According to the most confidently expressed theories about this election, the result is already determined. It is the operative theory at Romney headquarters that their man is going to win because the economy is so sour, two-thirds of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, and the small number of undecided voters will break for Romney three-to-one and he’ll edge across the finish line in first place.

The Obamans appear to believe that their man is going to win because he was ahead in the polls after the conventions and the candidate ahead after the conventions usually wins (except in 2008, when John McCain was ahead, but whatever). He has a four point lead today in the Real Clear Politics average and, as former George W. Bush pollster (and later political turncoat) Matthew Dowd said today, “A 4 or 5 point lead in this environment is as significant as a 10-12 point lead 15, 20 years ago.” Polls suggest voters like Obama more than Romney; there’s even a data point on one today about whom you would like by your bedside when you are sick, a question the very existence of which indicates we are halfway on the road to Idiocracy. One eager-beaver website has even already declared Romney the loser of the debates.

So here’s my question: Why campaign at all? If it’s all baked in the cake, why will the candidates travel relentlessly, spend hundreds of millions of dollars, and wake up in cold sweats five nights out of six?

Because, of course, it’s not.

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Eight weeks from today, 140 million people will go to the polls to elect a president. According to the most confidently expressed theories about this election, the result is already determined. It is the operative theory at Romney headquarters that their man is going to win because the economy is so sour, two-thirds of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, and the small number of undecided voters will break for Romney three-to-one and he’ll edge across the finish line in first place.

The Obamans appear to believe that their man is going to win because he was ahead in the polls after the conventions and the candidate ahead after the conventions usually wins (except in 2008, when John McCain was ahead, but whatever). He has a four point lead today in the Real Clear Politics average and, as former George W. Bush pollster (and later political turncoat) Matthew Dowd said today, “A 4 or 5 point lead in this environment is as significant as a 10-12 point lead 15, 20 years ago.” Polls suggest voters like Obama more than Romney; there’s even a data point on one today about whom you would like by your bedside when you are sick, a question the very existence of which indicates we are halfway on the road to Idiocracy. One eager-beaver website has even already declared Romney the loser of the debates.

So here’s my question: Why campaign at all? If it’s all baked in the cake, why will the candidates travel relentlessly, spend hundreds of millions of dollars, and wake up in cold sweats five nights out of six?

Because, of course, it’s not.

The problem with all these theories is this kind of determinism serves as crazed comfort to those working on these campaigns when things may be going wrong with their strategy. I suspect that is true of the Romney campaign, which is relying to a strange extent on the presumption that its leader can win without giving people much of a reason to vote for him. I expand on this point in today’s New York Post. Suffice it to say that if the panjandrums in Boston are relying on the voters to make up their own reasons to vote for Romney, they might be on the way to making the biggest political blunder in our lifetimes.

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The Media’s Complicity in the Birther Issue

Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu does a fine job schooling CNN’s Soledad O’Brien over Donald Trump and the so-called birther issue. In saying this, I should point out that I would go further than the Romney campaign in repudiating Trump, who is a noxious figure in American politics. What Trump is doing in calling into question Obama’s citizenship is attempting to delegitimize the president, to argue that his presidency is unconstitutional and that he is alien. Crossing that line damages our political discourse and American politics more broadly.

There’s of course no rulebook one can consult when it comes to the matter of repudiating supporters. It’s a judgment call that has to be done on a case-by-case basis. In the case of Trump, who is a prominent Romney supporter, his attraction to conspiracy theories deserves a strong rebuke. When a political party gives a home to those who peddle in paranoia – a home to self-promotional cranks — it leads to an erosion of credibility.  Romney ought to say so.

With that said, CNN is complicit in this political circus as well. My point isn’t that the issue shouldn’t be covered at all; it is that, as Governor Sununu points out, the network is fixated on Trump and the birther issue. It’s drawn to it like a moth to a flame in a pitch-dark night. Here’s the problem. Bill Maher donated a million dollars to a super PAC supporting President Obama, and to my knowledge Obama hasn’t distanced himself from Maher’s crude attacks on women. Yet CNN seems remarkably indifferent to this story. I wonder why.

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Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu does a fine job schooling CNN’s Soledad O’Brien over Donald Trump and the so-called birther issue. In saying this, I should point out that I would go further than the Romney campaign in repudiating Trump, who is a noxious figure in American politics. What Trump is doing in calling into question Obama’s citizenship is attempting to delegitimize the president, to argue that his presidency is unconstitutional and that he is alien. Crossing that line damages our political discourse and American politics more broadly.

There’s of course no rulebook one can consult when it comes to the matter of repudiating supporters. It’s a judgment call that has to be done on a case-by-case basis. In the case of Trump, who is a prominent Romney supporter, his attraction to conspiracy theories deserves a strong rebuke. When a political party gives a home to those who peddle in paranoia – a home to self-promotional cranks — it leads to an erosion of credibility.  Romney ought to say so.

With that said, CNN is complicit in this political circus as well. My point isn’t that the issue shouldn’t be covered at all; it is that, as Governor Sununu points out, the network is fixated on Trump and the birther issue. It’s drawn to it like a moth to a flame in a pitch-dark night. Here’s the problem. Bill Maher donated a million dollars to a super PAC supporting President Obama, and to my knowledge Obama hasn’t distanced himself from Maher’s crude attacks on women. Yet CNN seems remarkably indifferent to this story. I wonder why.

Beyond that, it’s worth pointing out the media’s tendency to bemoan what it promotes. There are dozens of significant and complicated topics that CNN could explore with care. But it has decided to hyper-focus on Donald Trump and the birther issue. That’s bad enough. But what makes it worse is when some in the media then saddle up on their high horses and lament that lack of seriousness in American politics. They pretend what they most want is a sophisticated and elevated conversation about the weightiest issues facing our nation and the world. They deride politicians for focusing on trivialities, even as they are the ones putting the spotlight on the trivialities and demanding politicians address them.

“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise,” C.S. Lewis wrote. “We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” In our time, Professor Lewis could have added that the press gives a platform to stupid distractions championed by buffoonish figures — and then complains about the low state and childish nature of American politics.

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Media Taking a Break from Bain-Bashing

After the Obama campaign spent the last week attacking Mitt Romney about his Bain Capital record, the Washington Post reports that they seem to be taking a break from the Bain-bashing. Obama’s two new ad spots are both positive – one is on benefits for veterans and the other is on Medicare. It seems to be a response to Democratic concerns that Obama is abandoning his principles by going “negative” (as if his 2008 campaign never got into the mud).

The Bain attacks have been a disaster for the Obama campaign so far, and some of the problems are self-created. For one, there was clearly very little messaging organization between the campaign, surrogates, and Democratic leaders. And as Peter wrote yesterday, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt’s disastrous Anderson Cooper interview also indicates that the campaign was unprepared for basic questions about the hypocrisy of the Bain attack – maybe because they never thought the normally-friendly media would even ask.

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After the Obama campaign spent the last week attacking Mitt Romney about his Bain Capital record, the Washington Post reports that they seem to be taking a break from the Bain-bashing. Obama’s two new ad spots are both positive – one is on benefits for veterans and the other is on Medicare. It seems to be a response to Democratic concerns that Obama is abandoning his principles by going “negative” (as if his 2008 campaign never got into the mud).

The Bain attacks have been a disaster for the Obama campaign so far, and some of the problems are self-created. For one, there was clearly very little messaging organization between the campaign, surrogates, and Democratic leaders. And as Peter wrote yesterday, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt’s disastrous Anderson Cooper interview also indicates that the campaign was unprepared for basic questions about the hypocrisy of the Bain attack – maybe because they never thought the normally-friendly media would even ask.

This was a major miscalculation on Obama’s part. The media isn’t jumping on Romney’s Bain record because most of the stories in the Obama ads are old news. Not only were they covered extensively during Romney’s senatorial and gubernatorial races, but they also received a lot of attention when Newt Gingrich raised the issue during the primaries. The definitive Bain articles have already been written and rewritten, and the arguments from both sides have already been exhausted. New information will undoubtedly come to light at some point, but until that happens this is all reheated news.

The more interesting story is the infighting in the Democratic Party about Obama’s negative campaigning, and the fact that Obama has accepted large donations from Bain executives while attacking the company. The Obama campaign’s mistake was failing to realize this and prepare for it before it was too late.

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Media Bias on Politicians’ Younger Years?

Jonathan wrote about this weak WaPo hit on Mitt Romney earlier today. In some ways, this story actually highlights the difficulty the Obama campaign has had in finding anything scandalous in his past. Biden was a plagiarist. Obama has spoken openly about his drug use. Meanwhile, Romney…cut some kid’s hair as a prank in high school? It’s not very nice, but wasn’t that sort of stunt par for the course in 1960s prep schools?

Anyway, now that Romney has apologized for a practical joke from 48 years ago, the difficult path to healing and redemption can finally begin:

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Jonathan wrote about this weak WaPo hit on Mitt Romney earlier today. In some ways, this story actually highlights the difficulty the Obama campaign has had in finding anything scandalous in his past. Biden was a plagiarist. Obama has spoken openly about his drug use. Meanwhile, Romney…cut some kid’s hair as a prank in high school? It’s not very nice, but wasn’t that sort of stunt par for the course in 1960s prep schools?

Anyway, now that Romney has apologized for a practical joke from 48 years ago, the difficult path to healing and redemption can finally begin:

But probably not. As much as Romney wants to move on, it doesn’t look like the story’s going away yet. Conservatives are calling out WaPo for media bias, a charge that Dave Weigel says has no merit:

Okay, before anyone sputters about media bias, remember that the Post assigned David Maraniss to write probing stories about Barack Obama’s pre-teen and teen days. And he wrote them, starting off on the journey that would conclude with his Obama bio, out next month. There’s just no story of the young Obama hassling a swishy kid.

But the point is that all the (vaguely) worthwhile dirt Maraniss has on Obama is coming out this year, after Obama has had close to a full term to define himself and the stories have less of an impact. Where was the trenchant reporting on him in ’08? Compare today’s Romney story to how Maraniss buried Obama’s drug use (which was already old news anyway) on the last page of his big five-page story on Obama’s younger years in 2008. Not that it mattered, as he broke no new ground on the issue, other than getting some reassuring quotes from Obama’s friends:

Some have suggested that [Obama] exaggerated his drug use in the book to hype the idea that he was on the brink of becoming a junkie; dysfunction and dissolution always sell in memoirs.

But his friends quickly dismissed that notion. “I wouldn’t call it an exaggeration,” Greg Ramos said. Keith Peterson said: “Did I ever party with Barack? Yes, I did. Do I remember specifically? If I did, then I didn’t party with him. Part of the nature of getting high is you don’t remember it 30 minutes later. Punahou was a wealthy school with a lot of kids with disposable income. The drinking age in Hawaii then was 18, so a lot of seniors could buy it legally, which means the parent dynamic was not big. And the other partying materials were prevalent, being in Hawaii. There was a lot of partying that went on. And Barack has been very open about that. Coming from Hawaii, that would have been so easy to expose. If he hadn’t written about it, it would have been a disaster.”

In the scheme of things, Obama’s teenage drug use matters about as much as Romney’s high school pranks – which is to say very little. But the stories were emphasized differently, and that’s the problem.

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Grisly Pics Will Put U.S. Troops in Jeopardy

If we have learned one thing over the years it is that nothing emboldens our enemies and complicates the job of our troops than the release of grisly images, whether of torture at Abu Ghraib or of Marines urinating on a corpse in Afghanistan. The acts themselves are reprehensible and should be punished. But should the photos of what happened then be published in ways that will undoubtedly enflame passions against our troops and place innocent men and women, who had nothing to do with the acts in question, into greater jeopardy?

The Los Angeles Times apparently believes the answer is “yes”; hence its article this morning printing a series of photos of the grisly remains of Taliban suicide bombers taken in 2010 by a few soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division’s Second Brigade. As the article itself, by distinguished war correspondent David Zucchino, notes:

U.S. military officials asked the Times not to publish any of the pictures.

Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the conduct depicted “most certainly does not represent the character and the professionalism of the great majority of our troops in Afghanistan…. Nevertheless, this imagery — more than two years old — now has the potential to indict them all in the minds of local Afghans, inciting violence and perhaps causing needless casualties.”

The risk of needless casualties is especially great because the very battalion responsible for the picture taking is now deployed once again in southern Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the Times decided to publish anyway, explaining its decision as follows: “After careful consideration, we decided that publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfill our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan, including the allegation that the images reflect a breakdown in unit discipline that was endangering U.S. troops.”

I fail to see what public good is served by publishing the pictures. The same news could have been made public by an unillustrated article. Unfortunately, this publication will unfairly sully the conduct of–and quite possibly jeopardize the lives of–U.S. troops who have, on the whole, conformed to the highest standards of conduct, which is more than can be said for their enemies. In this kind of conflict, I might add–pitting  troops of an established democracy defending a nascent democracy against theocratic savages–”impartiality” in news coverage is hardly the highest ideal. American journalists, who routinely embed with American military units, need to give greater concern to protecting those units against needless attacks.

 

If we have learned one thing over the years it is that nothing emboldens our enemies and complicates the job of our troops than the release of grisly images, whether of torture at Abu Ghraib or of Marines urinating on a corpse in Afghanistan. The acts themselves are reprehensible and should be punished. But should the photos of what happened then be published in ways that will undoubtedly enflame passions against our troops and place innocent men and women, who had nothing to do with the acts in question, into greater jeopardy?

The Los Angeles Times apparently believes the answer is “yes”; hence its article this morning printing a series of photos of the grisly remains of Taliban suicide bombers taken in 2010 by a few soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division’s Second Brigade. As the article itself, by distinguished war correspondent David Zucchino, notes:

U.S. military officials asked the Times not to publish any of the pictures.

Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the conduct depicted “most certainly does not represent the character and the professionalism of the great majority of our troops in Afghanistan…. Nevertheless, this imagery — more than two years old — now has the potential to indict them all in the minds of local Afghans, inciting violence and perhaps causing needless casualties.”

The risk of needless casualties is especially great because the very battalion responsible for the picture taking is now deployed once again in southern Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the Times decided to publish anyway, explaining its decision as follows: “After careful consideration, we decided that publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfill our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan, including the allegation that the images reflect a breakdown in unit discipline that was endangering U.S. troops.”

I fail to see what public good is served by publishing the pictures. The same news could have been made public by an unillustrated article. Unfortunately, this publication will unfairly sully the conduct of–and quite possibly jeopardize the lives of–U.S. troops who have, on the whole, conformed to the highest standards of conduct, which is more than can be said for their enemies. In this kind of conflict, I might add–pitting  troops of an established democracy defending a nascent democracy against theocratic savages–”impartiality” in news coverage is hardly the highest ideal. American journalists, who routinely embed with American military units, need to give greater concern to protecting those units against needless attacks.

 

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Common Ground with Barney Frank

In an interview with New York’s Jason Zengerle, Representative Barney Frank said this:

It seems like you’re leaving in large part because of this dysfunctional atmosphere.

I’m 73 years old. I’ve been doing this since October of 1967, and I’ve seen too many people stay here beyond when they should. I don’t have the energy I used to have. I don’t like it anymore, I’m tired, and my nerves are frayed. And I dislike the negativism of the media. I think the media has gotten cynical and negative to a point where it’s unproductive.

Is that a recent development?

It’s been a progressive development, or a regressive development. And I include even Jon Stewart and Colbert in this. The negativism—it hurts liberals, it hurts Democrats. The more government is discredited, the harder it is to get things done. And the media, by constantly harping on the negative and ignoring anything positive, plays a very conservative role substantively.

But isn’t part of that just because the media is expected to be adversarial?

Who expects it to be adversarial? Where did you read that? Did you read that in the First Amendment? Where did you read that the media is expected to be adversarial? It should be skeptical, why adversarial? Adversarial means you’re the enemy. Seriously, where does that come from?

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In an interview with New York’s Jason Zengerle, Representative Barney Frank said this:

It seems like you’re leaving in large part because of this dysfunctional atmosphere.

I’m 73 years old. I’ve been doing this since October of 1967, and I’ve seen too many people stay here beyond when they should. I don’t have the energy I used to have. I don’t like it anymore, I’m tired, and my nerves are frayed. And I dislike the negativism of the media. I think the media has gotten cynical and negative to a point where it’s unproductive.

Is that a recent development?

It’s been a progressive development, or a regressive development. And I include even Jon Stewart and Colbert in this. The negativism—it hurts liberals, it hurts Democrats. The more government is discredited, the harder it is to get things done. And the media, by constantly harping on the negative and ignoring anything positive, plays a very conservative role substantively.

But isn’t part of that just because the media is expected to be adversarial?

Who expects it to be adversarial? Where did you read that? Did you read that in the First Amendment? Where did you read that the media is expected to be adversarial? It should be skeptical, why adversarial? Adversarial means you’re the enemy. Seriously, where does that come from?

Okay, maybe “skeptical” is the better word.

But that’s a very different word. You reflect the attitude: adversarial. And there is nothing in any theory that I have ever seen that says when you report events that you’re supposed to think, I’m the adversary, so that means I want to defeat them, I want to undermine them, I want to discredit them. Why is that the media’s role? But you’ve accurately stated it, and I think it’s a great mistake.

Do you think I just showed my hand there?

No, I don’t think you showed your hand personally. I think you reflected the Weltschmerz.

But you know the old aphorism, “Afflict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted.” I think that’s more what I was trying to get at.

When have you comforted the afflicted? I don’t see that in the media. I don’t see reporting that comforts low-income people or the environment. I think it’s negative about everybody.

But that’s a different problem. It’s the problem of sensationalism: The bad news is the stuff that gets the headlines.

That’s because you choose to give it the headlines.

I would add some amendments to what Representative Frank says. For example, the press, as a general matter, was hardly adversarial when it came to Barack Obama in 2008. As one intellectually honest reporter, Time magazine’s Mark Halperin, put it, “It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage.”

That said, I think Barney Frank is onto something important. There is a kind of corrosive cynicism that exists among journalists specifically and the political class more broadly that is injurious to self-government. There is an eagerness to be drawn to negativism in a way that distorts reality. It’s not as if negative things don’t happen and shouldn’t be covered; it’s that selective coverage can make individuals and institutions out to be cartoon images.

Viewing oneself in an adversarial relationship with those in power also leads to a leakage of trust in our governing institutions, which is (from my viewpoint) problematic. And by concentrating their focus on what goes wrong – on the knaves and fools rather than on competent, low-key lawmakers — journalists create a kind of carnival mirror when it comes to politicians.

Most members of Congress, from both parties, are not jackasses – but you wouldn’t know that from how Congress is covered. And many who cover politics jump with glee on misstatements by politicians, as if a gaffe is more newsworthy than a serious policy address. We all know it’s much easier to comment on something controversial that’s said on “Morning Joe” or “Fox and Friends” than it is to read a CBO report on income inequality or the fiscal consequences of the Affordable Care Act. It’s easier to cover a pastor who is intent on burning a Koran than it is to read the latest research on the success of Head Start.

These aren’t always easy calls. Sometimes the press has to explore controversial events. And I would be among the last people in the world to discourage vigorous debate in politics. Nor should we expect a presidential campaign to resemble a Brookings Institution seminar. My point is that the role of journalists isn’t to focus almost exclusively on what’s controversial, or silly, or uncivilized; or to try to humble and expose the politically powerful. It is to provide a fair-minded appraisal of events and reality (which is what reporters are supposed to do) and to inform and provide perspective on public debates in an intelligent manner (which is what commentators are supposed to do).

I’d add one other observation: Many members of the press tend to promote what they bemoan. For example, they complain about how presidential campaigns focus on trivial matters even as they cannot resist covering trivial stories. (By the end of the Obama v. Romney campaign, for example, let’s see how much attention is paid to Mitt Romney’s dog Seamus and his trip to Canada in car-top carrier v. his Medicare plan.) The press – parts of it, anyway — hyper-focus on provocative statements by media personalities rather than on premium support as an alternative to the current fee-for-service system in health care.

There are of course impressive exceptions to what I’m describing. Many journalists are serious-minded individuals who have a command of issues that is impressive. But somehow the total is less than the sum of the parts. That is, I think, what Barney Frank was trying to say — and in this instance, I concur with the liberal representative from Massachusetts.

 

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Will the Media Be More Fair in ’12 Election?

The White House is still feeling heat from President Obama’s comments suggesting it would be “unprecedented” for the Supreme Court to overturn a law passed by Congress. And much of it has to do with the fact that the media is actually doing its job and calling the president out on his falsehoods:

During robust questioning when [White House Press Secretary Jay] Carney was told at one point that he had mischaracterized what the president had said, the press secretary was forced to repeatedly defend the remarks of his boss as an observation of fact.

“Since the 1930s the Supreme Court has without exception deferred to Congress when it comes to Congress’s authority to pass legislation to regulate matters of national economic importance such as health care, 80 years,” Carney said.

“He did not mean and did not suggest that … it would be unprecedented for the court to rule that a law was unconstitutional. That’s what the Supreme Court is there to do,” Carney said.

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The White House is still feeling heat from President Obama’s comments suggesting it would be “unprecedented” for the Supreme Court to overturn a law passed by Congress. And much of it has to do with the fact that the media is actually doing its job and calling the president out on his falsehoods:

During robust questioning when [White House Press Secretary Jay] Carney was told at one point that he had mischaracterized what the president had said, the press secretary was forced to repeatedly defend the remarks of his boss as an observation of fact.

“Since the 1930s the Supreme Court has without exception deferred to Congress when it comes to Congress’s authority to pass legislation to regulate matters of national economic importance such as health care, 80 years,” Carney said.

“He did not mean and did not suggest that … it would be unprecedented for the court to rule that a law was unconstitutional. That’s what the Supreme Court is there to do,” Carney said.

Take a look at the video to see Carney try to spin the president’s comments as the “reverse of intimidation.” Politifact also checked into Obama’s assertions, and rated them false in a scathing review:

There’s simply no support for the assertion that the law was passed by a “strong majority.” It was passed along party lines in a sharply partisan climate, and the 60 votes in the Senate were the minimum needed to keep Republicans from bottling it up in a filibuster.

But the “unprecedented” idea is more nuanced. It’s without question that the Supreme Court overturning a law passed by Congress — by any margin — is a common and routine occurrence, and by no means without precedent. Volokh gave us a close analogy with the case of Boerne v. Flores, a religious freedom law that glided through Congress but was held unconstitutional by a majority of the court, including two of its liberal justices. …

But we’re taking Obama literally, and that historical perspective was not reflected in his original statement, which is what we’re ruling on. He simply said the law passed with a strong majority and overturning it would be unprecedented. Wrong and wrong. We rate the statement False.

Many have questioned why Obama, a supposed constitutional law scholar, would make comments so obviously inaccurate. I doubt it’s out of ignorance. As a former student of Obama’s pointed out, he didn’t seem concerned about the courts overturning “duly constituted and passed laws” when he was teaching at Chicago.

The reason Obama made these comments might be simpler. He thought he could get away with them. In the past, the media simply hasn’t called him out on the inaccuracies and distortions in his speeches. That changed this week, and may be a sign this presidential election may at least have fairer news coverage than the last.

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Trayvon Martin’s Death Turned Into Media-Driven Circus

In the aftermath of the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are attempting to use the dead 17-year-old to do what they have spent so much of their adult lives doing: dividing America over racial lines. So are some Members of Congress. President Obama’s words have certainly been more subtle and less polarizing than some others. Still Obama, having waded once before into a local law enforcement issue he chose to interpret through a racial lens (the 2009 arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates by a Cambridge police officer), decided he’d speak out on the Martin tragedy – even before the facts are all in and even before an arrest has been made. That is courting trouble. Newt Gingrich fired back with typical restraint, calling the president’s comments “disgraceful.”

MSNBC (among other news outlets) has been obsessing on the story. Film director Spike Lee re-tweeted the wrong address of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who shot Martin, with the result being that an elderly couple in their 70s were forced to flee their home after receiving death threats (Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, liberal but often responsible, takes apart Spike Lee here). And the New Black Panther party has put out a bounty on Zimmerman and called for his capture “dead or alive.”

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In the aftermath of the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are attempting to use the dead 17-year-old to do what they have spent so much of their adult lives doing: dividing America over racial lines. So are some Members of Congress. President Obama’s words have certainly been more subtle and less polarizing than some others. Still Obama, having waded once before into a local law enforcement issue he chose to interpret through a racial lens (the 2009 arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates by a Cambridge police officer), decided he’d speak out on the Martin tragedy – even before the facts are all in and even before an arrest has been made. That is courting trouble. Newt Gingrich fired back with typical restraint, calling the president’s comments “disgraceful.”

MSNBC (among other news outlets) has been obsessing on the story. Film director Spike Lee re-tweeted the wrong address of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who shot Martin, with the result being that an elderly couple in their 70s were forced to flee their home after receiving death threats (Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, liberal but often responsible, takes apart Spike Lee here). And the New Black Panther party has put out a bounty on Zimmerman and called for his capture “dead or alive.”

We don’t know exactly what happened on the night of February 26. But we do know one thing for sure: Trayvon Martin did not deserve to be shot through the chest by a 9 mm handgun that killed him. Whether or not Zimmerman acted maliciously, recklessly, or mistakenly hasn’t been determined. How one views him depends on facts that are still unclear. But one life has been ended and the lives of many other people have been ruined.

We need to allow justice to be done – and justice might well mean the arrest and trial of Zimmerman. At the same time, a decent society would give the parents, family members and friends of those caught up in this nightmare the room to grieve. In days gone by, it would have been viewed as somewhat unseemly to take what ought to be private moments and feelings and have them played out on a public stage; to turn a human tragedy into a PR war. No more. One side wants to conduct a trial by television. The other feels compelled to respond. As a result, Trayvon Martin’s death has been turned into a media-driven circus.

The impulse of those who comprise the political class to reduce every single event in life – including tears and sorrows beyond measure – to partisan political ends isn’t the worst thing in the world. But it’s bad enough. And it needs to stop.

 

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CNN Bias Exposed by Breitbart Video

The much-hyped Andrew Breitbart video of President Obama’s college days we’ve been hearing about didn’t live up to all the talk. It shows Obama embracing and praising a radical Harvard professor when he was at law school, and while it’s an interesting peak into Obama’s younger years, it’s not exactly a bombshell.

But, as Ed Morrissey explains, that’s not the point. “The point of Andrew [Breitbart]’s final project isn’t so much to make Obama’s early radical ties clear; it’s to point out how the media tried to keep them quiet.”

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The much-hyped Andrew Breitbart video of President Obama’s college days we’ve been hearing about didn’t live up to all the talk. It shows Obama embracing and praising a radical Harvard professor when he was at law school, and while it’s an interesting peak into Obama’s younger years, it’s not exactly a bombshell.

But, as Ed Morrissey explains, that’s not the point. “The point of Andrew [Breitbart]’s final project isn’t so much to make Obama’s early radical ties clear; it’s to point out how the media tried to keep them quiet.”

When the mainstream media considers it a major story that Rick Santorum’s wife once dated an abortion provider more than two decades ago, you have to wonder why it didn’t even merit a news brief that Obama is on video hugging and endorsing a radical academic who had some troubling views on white people and Jews – especially when you remember that his association with Jeremiah Wright was a big controversy back in ’08.

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien (unintentionally) made this double standard even clearer today, when she tried to dismiss this as a non-story during a panel with Breitbart editor Joel Pollak. But she underestimated Pollak, and only ended up exposing her own bias and embarrassing her network in the process:

Making Obama’s “radical ties” an election issue is a losing strategy for Republicans, especially because there’s so much to attack him for in terms of his presidential record. But that doesn’t mean the media double standard for covering Republican and Democratic politicians isn’t infuriating. The Breitbart video campaign is aimed at exposing just that, and O’Brien’s comments today helped them along.

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Santorum Should Do This Every Time He’s Asked About Birth Control

BuzzFeed posted this audio clip today under the headline “Santorum Loses His Cool During Interview With Cincinnati Radio Station.” I’m not sure what exactly they’re referring to, because honestly Santorum stays pretty even-keeled throughout the interview. He also does what he should be doing every time he’s asked about his views on birth control: call it out as a ridiculous, media-manufactured issue, and pivot back to attacking President Obama’s record.

Santorum: It’s a bogus issue. It’s just absurd. It’s a legal product, it should remain a legal product. It’s up to people to decide what to do. This is what the national media does. They don’t want us to be able to talk about Barack Obama’s pathetic record on the economy and jobs, so they bring up issues…This is my opinion on my personal faith, and they’re all of a sudden saying ‘Well, he must want to do this with everyone else.’ Well that’s just crazy. This is what the media does. They try to change the subject. I’m not going to let them. We’re going to talk about creating jobs, we’re going to talk about reducing energy prices, and we’re going to focus on what’s important to Americans, as opposed to what the media wants to do, which is to play gotcha politics.

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BuzzFeed posted this audio clip today under the headline “Santorum Loses His Cool During Interview With Cincinnati Radio Station.” I’m not sure what exactly they’re referring to, because honestly Santorum stays pretty even-keeled throughout the interview. He also does what he should be doing every time he’s asked about his views on birth control: call it out as a ridiculous, media-manufactured issue, and pivot back to attacking President Obama’s record.

Santorum: It’s a bogus issue. It’s just absurd. It’s a legal product, it should remain a legal product. It’s up to people to decide what to do. This is what the national media does. They don’t want us to be able to talk about Barack Obama’s pathetic record on the economy and jobs, so they bring up issues…This is my opinion on my personal faith, and they’re all of a sudden saying ‘Well, he must want to do this with everyone else.’ Well that’s just crazy. This is what the media does. They try to change the subject. I’m not going to let them. We’re going to talk about creating jobs, we’re going to talk about reducing energy prices, and we’re going to focus on what’s important to Americans, as opposed to what the media wants to do, which is to play gotcha politics.

Exactly. This is the position Santorum has maintained since the birth control issue was first raised in the race: he’s personally opposed to it, he wouldn’t use it in his own life, but he has no interest in regulating it in the lives of other people and believes birth control should remain a legal product. The media continues to try to divert attention away from economic issues by bringing up the much more sensational contraception debate, and Santorum needs to take a cue from the Newt Gingrich media relations playbook and simply refuse to engage on the subject.

On the other hand, as ridiculous as the media’s obsession with the birth control issue is, it’s hard to have a ton of sympathy for Santorum here. He’s the main reason this has become a campaign issue. If he doesn’t want the government to crack down on birth control use, then the public really never had any need to know his own personal opinions on it. Santorum was the one who shared this part of his private life by writing and speaking about it openly. Notice that Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich aren’t constantly pressed about their own personal views on contraception – that’s not a coincidence. They didn’t bring it up, and Santorum did.

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Media Undermines its Case Against Israel

The media pressure on Israel to refrain from launching a preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities continues apace. The New York Times and Washington Post each have stories dedicated to either downplaying the Iranian threat or exaggerating the costs of attacking Iran, and both stories undermine their arguments.

First, the Times seeks to lay on the guilt with an article titled “U.S. Sees Iran Attacks as Likely if Israel Strikes.” It is a warning to Israel to consider the fact that the U.S. would also be a target of Iranian attacks if the country’s nuclear installations are bombed. But then the reporters seem to make the opposite case:

While a missile retaliation against Israel would be virtually certain, according to these assessments, Iran would also be likely to try to calibrate its response against American targets so as not to give the United States a rationale for taking military action that could permanently cripple Tehran’s nuclear program. “The Iranians have been pretty good masters of escalation control,” said Gen. James E. Cartwright, now retired, who as the top officer at Strategic Command and as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff participated in war games involving both deterrence and retaliation on potential adversaries like Iran.

The Iranian targets, General Cartwright and other American analysts believe, would include petroleum infrastructure in the Persian Gulf, and American troops in Afghanistan, where Iran has been accused of shipping explosives to local insurgent forces.

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The media pressure on Israel to refrain from launching a preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities continues apace. The New York Times and Washington Post each have stories dedicated to either downplaying the Iranian threat or exaggerating the costs of attacking Iran, and both stories undermine their arguments.

First, the Times seeks to lay on the guilt with an article titled “U.S. Sees Iran Attacks as Likely if Israel Strikes.” It is a warning to Israel to consider the fact that the U.S. would also be a target of Iranian attacks if the country’s nuclear installations are bombed. But then the reporters seem to make the opposite case:

While a missile retaliation against Israel would be virtually certain, according to these assessments, Iran would also be likely to try to calibrate its response against American targets so as not to give the United States a rationale for taking military action that could permanently cripple Tehran’s nuclear program. “The Iranians have been pretty good masters of escalation control,” said Gen. James E. Cartwright, now retired, who as the top officer at Strategic Command and as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff participated in war games involving both deterrence and retaliation on potential adversaries like Iran.

The Iranian targets, General Cartwright and other American analysts believe, would include petroleum infrastructure in the Persian Gulf, and American troops in Afghanistan, where Iran has been accused of shipping explosives to local insurgent forces.

That is, Iran may possibly target American troops overseas, which it is already doing. Additionally, the U.S. recently prevented a massive Iranian terrorist operation on U.S. soil, so an attack on the homeland would not be an escalation. And Cartwright’s quote suggests an attack on Iran might have the reverse effect. As does this quote from the story:

Both American and Israeli officials who discussed current thinking on the potential ramifications of an Israeli attack believe that the last thing Iran would want is a full-scale war on its territory…. If Israel did attack, officials said, Iran would be foolhardy, even suicidal, to invite an overpowering retaliation by directly attacking United States military targets — by, for example, unleashing its missiles at American bases on the territory of Persian Gulf allies.

So in fact, an attack on Iran might encourage the Iranians to stand down for fear of inviting more attacks on their soil. The Washington Post story, on the other hand, tries to portray Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the boy who cried wolf. He’s been warning the world of an Iranian nuclear threat for 16 years now, the article notes. Most of the story is armchair psychoanalysis that is almost entirely irrelevant, now that we know Iran has indeed been working toward a nuclear weapon all these years. The article also spends some time ridiculing the notion that Netanyahu, for some strange reason, believes that as prime minister of Israel his job entails the protection and safety of the Jewish people.

But the last two paragraphs of the story are where the action is. Here’s the first:

Aluf Benn, editor-in-chief of the liberal daily Haaretz, who covered Netanyahu for years as the newspaper’s diplomatic correspondent, said the prime minister had succeeded in shifting the diplomatic conversation, after the Obama administration had been focused previously on peace efforts with the Palestinians. Then, Netanyahu’s rhetoric on Iran was seen as an effort to divert attention from Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, which was loudly opposed by Washington.

Leave aside the fact that Netanyahu’s concentration on Iran “was seen as an effort to divert attention from Israeli settlement building” only by extreme partisans on the left who obsess about Jews adding rooms to their homes in West Bank towns that will be part of Israel in any peace agreement anyway. Also leave aside the fact that anyone who thinks that clearly doesn’t take the Iranian threat seriously, and is thus not paying much attention to reality. The claim itself is disputed by the entire article leading up to it. If Netanyahu has been obsessing about the Iranian threat for 16 years, then it long preceded President Obama’s bizarre decision to pick a fight with Netanyahu about settlements.

And here’s the final paragraph:

“He did a very good job of changing the world’s priorities,” Benn said, “and he achieved that by saber-rattling vis-à-vis Iran. The problem is that you can reach a point when the political price of not going to war becomes too much to bear. If the Iranian nuclear program is a Holocaust, then the question becomes: What did you do, Mr. Netanyahu, to prevent it? You have to deliver.”

Here’s a riddle for you: When, in a democracy, does the political price of not doing something become too much to bear? Answer: When the public overwhelmingly supports that action. The ongoing attempt to paint Netanyahu as the leader of some kind of military junta is exactly the sort of thing you expect to hear from a Haaretz editor, but it’s not something that will earn the Washington Post or its reporter much credibility.

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Who’s Despicable? Gingrich or the Media?

Newt Gingrich earned the wild applause of the audience in the hall for last night’s Republican presidential debate when he termed the media’s publicizing his ex-wife’s charges against him as “disgusting.” The tactic may have worked, at least in the short run, especially because Marianne Gingrich’s interview on ABC’s “Nightline” Thursday night didn’t contain much that anyone who had followed the story didn’t already know. Those who suspect the motivation for running the piece on the eve of the South Carolina primary may have been to derail Gingrich may not be far off the mark.

Yet for all of the fact that Gingrich may not suffer any negative consequences from the accusations contained in her interview in the coming days, it must be said that his attempt to turn the tables on his accusers seemed as contrived as ABC’s defense of its decision. Gingrich is a past master at conjuring up a spirit of righteous indignation at the drop of a hat, but given the fact that the issue is the result of his own sleazy behavior and hypocrisy and not any actual wrongdoing by his accusers, his assertion that it is the media that is “despicable” sounded a false note.

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Newt Gingrich earned the wild applause of the audience in the hall for last night’s Republican presidential debate when he termed the media’s publicizing his ex-wife’s charges against him as “disgusting.” The tactic may have worked, at least in the short run, especially because Marianne Gingrich’s interview on ABC’s “Nightline” Thursday night didn’t contain much that anyone who had followed the story didn’t already know. Those who suspect the motivation for running the piece on the eve of the South Carolina primary may have been to derail Gingrich may not be far off the mark.

Yet for all of the fact that Gingrich may not suffer any negative consequences from the accusations contained in her interview in the coming days, it must be said that his attempt to turn the tables on his accusers seemed as contrived as ABC’s defense of its decision. Gingrich is a past master at conjuring up a spirit of righteous indignation at the drop of a hat, but given the fact that the issue is the result of his own sleazy behavior and hypocrisy and not any actual wrongdoing by his accusers, his assertion that it is the media that is “despicable” sounded a false note.

Some observers have rightly noted that we are not electing a moralist or a husband-in-chief but a commander-in-chief, and it is entirely possible a person with flaws would still make a great president. But the issue again here is not just that Gingrich appears to have behaved in a swinish fashion to both of his first two wives but the level of his public hypocrisy about it. He clearly thought and obviously still thinks those who espouse morality and indeed, seek to hold others accountable for their failings as he did President Clinton, need not necessarily practice what they preach.

It would have behooved Gingrich to display some humility when asked about the question and to have simply repeated his standard statement about having caused pain in the past and asked God for forgiveness. But the surly and vindictive Gingrich did not content himself with such an effective and hopefully honest answer. Instead, he sought to scapegoat those who questioned him about his past and even called his ex-wife a liar and illogically asserted that he could prove her words to be false.

This is neither the first nor the last time we will have to deal with the intersection of politics and personal morality. The last time we dealt with this was when Herman Cain was forced to account for the fact that several women had accused him of sexual harassment and one of having had an affair. He, too, tried to turn the tables on the media and also earned some applause for that effort.

At that time I argued that though the discussion was regrettable, I’d still rather live in a country where the press sought to hold politicians accountable for their behavior than one in which journalists chose not, as it used to be the practice, to report about politicians’ peccadilloes. The people have a right to know what kind of person they are being asked to put in the Oval Office. By responding to questions about his past conduct in a manner consistent with the hypocrisy alleged by his ex-wife, Gingrich has provided an unfortunate answer to that query.

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Liberal Slurs of Conservative Motives Par for the Course

Greg Sargent is the liberal blogger for the Washington Post. He recently expressed his barely uncontained fury at Republicans, and Mitt Romney in particular, for daring to impugn Barack Obama’s motives. “Republicans react with bloody screams of outrage whenever Dems suggest that they might be trying to sabotage the recovery in order to harm Obama politically and make it easier for them to recapture the White House,” according to Sargent. “Yet here Romney has now made an even broader charge, arguing that Obama is making policy decisions across the board that he ‘knows’ are ‘counter to the interests of the country,’ including major decisions involving war and  national security.”

Sargent concludes this way: “When Romney falsely claims that Obama apologized for America, insinuates that we should find his values suspect, and implies that we should be vaguely suspicious intentions towards the country [sic], it’s routinely treated a ‘part of the game.’ Now that Romney has taken this line of attack to its ultimate conclusion, I’m not expecting the reaction to be any different.”

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Greg Sargent is the liberal blogger for the Washington Post. He recently expressed his barely uncontained fury at Republicans, and Mitt Romney in particular, for daring to impugn Barack Obama’s motives. “Republicans react with bloody screams of outrage whenever Dems suggest that they might be trying to sabotage the recovery in order to harm Obama politically and make it easier for them to recapture the White House,” according to Sargent. “Yet here Romney has now made an even broader charge, arguing that Obama is making policy decisions across the board that he ‘knows’ are ‘counter to the interests of the country,’ including major decisions involving war and  national security.”

Sargent concludes this way: “When Romney falsely claims that Obama apologized for America, insinuates that we should find his values suspect, and implies that we should be vaguely suspicious intentions towards the country [sic], it’s routinely treated a ‘part of the game.’ Now that Romney has taken this line of attack to its ultimate conclusion, I’m not expecting the reaction to be any different.”

I’ve addressed the issue of political discourse and impugning motives before. And people can link to Sargent’s blog to see the case Romney made for his judgments (including the fact that Obama’s decision to withdraw in September 2012 more than 30,000 troops in the midst of the fighting season in Afghanistan, and made contrary to every military commander’s recommendation, makes no military sense). For now I’ll simply say that Sargent’s outrage appears to be – what shall we say? – highly selective. After all, President Obama makes a point of impugning the motives of Republicans in almost every speech and interview he does these days, including his recent “60 Minutes” interview, in which he said of GOP opposition to his tax proposals: “And I could not get Republicans to go ahead and say, ‘You’re right. We’re gonna put country ahead of party.’” (Obama also takes delight in saying that Republicans are eager to have children with autism and Down syndrome “fend for themselves.”)

This is a common Obama refrain – that unlike our high-minded, unstained, pure-of-heart president, Republicans are putting their party ahead of their country and making major policy decisions they know are counter to the interests of the country. But this charge goes uncommented upon by almost everyone in the press, including Sargent.

How curious.

As for Obama’s charge that Republicans want “dirty air and dirty water,” Sargent betrays the arrogance of reactionary liberalism, which assumes that if one opposes their policies one must expect – indeed they must want — the worst possible outcome. So the only way to a healthy environment is to embrace the regulations that Obama’s administration has implemented; to do anything less means you are wishing destruction upon Earth. I recall similar arguments being made about welfare reform in the 1990s. If you embraced reform, you wanted poor people to suffer. Conservatism was a form of sociopathy. Compassion was synonymous with reactionary liberalism.

In fact, welfare reform, by virtually every objective measure, helped the poor. From the high-water mark of 1994, the national welfare caseload declined by more than 60 percent during the course of a decade. Not only did the numbers of people on welfare plunge, but, in the wake of the 1996 welfare-reform bill, overall poverty, child poverty, black child poverty, and child hunger all decreased, while employment figures for single mothers rose. Welfare reform ranks  among the most successful social reforms of the last 50 years. And yet liberals excoriated conservatives for favoring reform, criticizing not only their policies but their motivations.

And it continues to this day, as Obama demonstrates at almost every political stop. Now that Obama has taken this line of attack to its ultimate conclusion, I’m not expecting Sargent’s reaction to be any different than it has been in the past: support for Obama or complicit silence. I’ll leave it to others to judge what motivations may be driving Greg Sargent.

 

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Denying Palestinian Hate Won’t Bring Peace

Ever since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Americans and Israelis who were trying to make peace in the Middle East have had one insoluble problem: how to explain the fact that Palestinian leaders say one thing to the Western media and quite another to their own people in Arabic. The answer for the peace processers was to either ignore or rationalize the consistent incitement and hatred coming from Palestinian sources lest the truth about their intentions dampen enthusiasm for Israeli concessions or for pressure on the Jewish state to surrender territory.

A counterweight to this inclination to deny the truth about the Palestinians has come from the work of Palestine Media Watch, an organization that was founded in 1996 and since then has produced translations of Arab print and broadcast media. PMW has just published a new book titled Deception: Betraying the Peace Process that is filled with translated quotes of Palestinians from 2010 to 2011. The cumulative effect of the depth of the hatred and delegitimization for Jews and Israel that is mainstream opinion among Palestinians is devastating. But, as an article about the topic in today’s New York Times demonstrates, it is also something many Americans and Israelis have trouble dealing with.

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Ever since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Americans and Israelis who were trying to make peace in the Middle East have had one insoluble problem: how to explain the fact that Palestinian leaders say one thing to the Western media and quite another to their own people in Arabic. The answer for the peace processers was to either ignore or rationalize the consistent incitement and hatred coming from Palestinian sources lest the truth about their intentions dampen enthusiasm for Israeli concessions or for pressure on the Jewish state to surrender territory.

A counterweight to this inclination to deny the truth about the Palestinians has come from the work of Palestine Media Watch, an organization that was founded in 1996 and since then has produced translations of Arab print and broadcast media. PMW has just published a new book titled Deception: Betraying the Peace Process that is filled with translated quotes of Palestinians from 2010 to 2011. The cumulative effect of the depth of the hatred and delegitimization for Jews and Israel that is mainstream opinion among Palestinians is devastating. But, as an article about the topic in today’s New York Times demonstrates, it is also something many Americans and Israelis have trouble dealing with.

The problem for those who wish to portray the Palestinian approach to peace as morally equivalent to that of the Israelis is that the substance of Deception is incontrovertible. The litany of outrage is lengthy. It runs the gamut from Palestinian television’s children programs that inculcate rejection of Israel and support for terror in its audience to the translations of adult programs that regard all of pre-1967 Israel as territory to be liberated from the Jews. Damning quotes from Palestinian Authority officials and official honors for terrorist murderers also demonstrate the unpleasant facts. As the Times reports:

“There is no doubt in my mind that in the mainstream of the Palestinian national movement, Israel is not considered legitimate,” said Shlomo Avineri, an Israeli professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reflecting a widespread sense of disillusionment. “This is the inner truth of the Palestinians,” he said. “They really mean it. It is not what they say on CNN, but it is what they teach their children.”

Yet for some on the left, it is easier to doubt the motives of those behind PMW or to claim Israelis are guilty of similar offenses, even though there isn’t the slightest comparison between the official Palestinian attitude and that of the State of Israel, where peace education is part of the official curriculum in the schools.

Far from being an esoteric issue, ignoring the truth about the Palestinians has consequences. Both the Clinton administration and Israel’s Labor Party governments during the 1990s chose to try and whitewash the Palestinians, and the result was to encourage their intransigence. Only later, after the complete collapse of the process after Yasir Arafat refused an Israeli offer of a Palestinian state at Camp David and answered it with a terror war of attrition, did many in Washington and on the political left start to understand there were consequences. But even now, some of those who condoned this deception don’t seem to get it.

Itamar Rabinovich, a scholar who served as the Rabin government’s ambassador to Washington, told the Times about his decision to try and rationalize Yasir Arafat’s comments in a South African mosque just months after signing the Oslo Accords when he invited Muslims  “to come and to fight and to start the jihad to liberate Jerusalem.” Though Rabinovich acknowledges there has been a failure to build peace on the Palestinian side, he does not back away from his comments at the time that Arafat was merely talking of a spiritual struggle rather than telling his true intentions toward Israel. Yet Rabinovich still seems to deplore efforts to allow the West to see what Palestinians say to each other as the effort of “rightist groups” who seek “ammunition” to derail negotiations.

For those who see the peace process as if it were a religious belief rather than a policy that can be judged by its results, the only possible response to PMW is denial or to cast aspersions on Deception’s authors. But doing so merely serves the purposes of those Palestinians who don’t want peace. What is needed is a sea change in Palestinian political culture that will enable their leaders to build a consensus around the idea of peaceful coexistence with a Jewish state. But that will never happen until the West puts the Palestinians on notice they cannot go on propagating hatred with impunity.

Ignoring or seeking to marginalize the truths that PMW has uncovered will only lead to more bloodshed, not peace.

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Citizens United Protected Free Speech, Not the GOP

The one-year anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision is being treated in some quarters as a Republican triumph. According to this reading, the ruling that invalidated legislation that unconstitutionally attempted to restrict the political speech of groups was strictly a partisan affair. In this version of reality, the upshot of the 2010 election was that Republican and conservative organizations were freed up by the High Court’s spiking of provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill and therefore coasted to victory last November. Thus the spin today is that since the Democrats have no chance of undoing the Court’s decision via legislation, they must now retool their fundraising operations to adjust to the post–Citizens United world.

But this interpretation is entirely fallacious. Conservatives have historically opposed restrictive campaign-finance laws because they believed that attempts to silence political speech, such as the documentary film about Hilary Clinton that was at the heart of Citizens United, was inherently illegitimate. Campaign-finance “reform” laws have never, as their authors claim, eliminated the role of money in politics. But they did play favorites as to which kind of money was legal. Such good laws are good for incumbent politicians because they stifle challengers, and great for media companies, which are free to spout their views about candidates on their editorial pages and, alas, in their news columns as well, while restricting the right of others to purchase the same freedom.

But the main point here is that the focus on Citizens United allows liberals to engage in conspiracy theories about why they lost the last election rather than face up to the fact that the grassroots uprising against the policies of the Obama administration is what accounted for the GOP landslide victory in the congressional elections, not the money that some conservative groups were allowed to spend last year.

While Citizens United overturned regulations that were more likely to handicap conservative pro-business groups rather than liberal ones such as unions, the free flow of money in campaigns doesn’t necessarily mean either side will have an advantage in the future. Just as the Obama campaign broke records in 2008 by harnessing the enthusiasm of liberals, the lack of draconian regulations intended to silence free speech in the future will be no hindrance to the Democrats if they can manage to appear as the party with the answers again. That’s the thing about free speech: it allows the sentiments of the people, whether the pendulum has swung to the left or to the right, to be heard.

The Court’s verdict one year ago will continue to be felt not in terms of who wins the election in 2012 or any other year but in the ability of ordinary Americans to band together to speak out on the issues and the candidates. While at the moment that does not appear to appeal to many Democrats, it is the essence of democracy.

The one-year anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision is being treated in some quarters as a Republican triumph. According to this reading, the ruling that invalidated legislation that unconstitutionally attempted to restrict the political speech of groups was strictly a partisan affair. In this version of reality, the upshot of the 2010 election was that Republican and conservative organizations were freed up by the High Court’s spiking of provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill and therefore coasted to victory last November. Thus the spin today is that since the Democrats have no chance of undoing the Court’s decision via legislation, they must now retool their fundraising operations to adjust to the post–Citizens United world.

But this interpretation is entirely fallacious. Conservatives have historically opposed restrictive campaign-finance laws because they believed that attempts to silence political speech, such as the documentary film about Hilary Clinton that was at the heart of Citizens United, was inherently illegitimate. Campaign-finance “reform” laws have never, as their authors claim, eliminated the role of money in politics. But they did play favorites as to which kind of money was legal. Such good laws are good for incumbent politicians because they stifle challengers, and great for media companies, which are free to spout their views about candidates on their editorial pages and, alas, in their news columns as well, while restricting the right of others to purchase the same freedom.

But the main point here is that the focus on Citizens United allows liberals to engage in conspiracy theories about why they lost the last election rather than face up to the fact that the grassroots uprising against the policies of the Obama administration is what accounted for the GOP landslide victory in the congressional elections, not the money that some conservative groups were allowed to spend last year.

While Citizens United overturned regulations that were more likely to handicap conservative pro-business groups rather than liberal ones such as unions, the free flow of money in campaigns doesn’t necessarily mean either side will have an advantage in the future. Just as the Obama campaign broke records in 2008 by harnessing the enthusiasm of liberals, the lack of draconian regulations intended to silence free speech in the future will be no hindrance to the Democrats if they can manage to appear as the party with the answers again. That’s the thing about free speech: it allows the sentiments of the people, whether the pendulum has swung to the left or to the right, to be heard.

The Court’s verdict one year ago will continue to be felt not in terms of who wins the election in 2012 or any other year but in the ability of ordinary Americans to band together to speak out on the issues and the candidates. While at the moment that does not appear to appeal to many Democrats, it is the essence of democracy.

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Big Labor’s Big Bucks Poured Down the Drain

This report explains:

Armed with as much as $100 million, labor leaders and volunteers are trying to engage union families at home and work, by phone and through the mail. Some undecided voters could get contacted as many as 20 to 30 times. Last week, the AFL-CIO sent 3.5 million pieces of mail that will be augmented by seven million phone calls. AFL-CIO members participated in hundreds of ongoing door-knocking campaigns over the weekend. …

But in this year’s midterm elections, there are signs that union-member households may be less likely to vote for Democrats than they did in the 2006 midterms — if they vote at all.

“There seems to be a lot of apathy out here,” said Debbie Olander, the political liaison for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 in Denver. “People are just disheartened by the whole process.”

There are two points worth noting here. The president and his minions keep grousing about independent expenditures who are giving to conservative candidates. Does any individual or any group on the right come close to $100M? By comparison, Karl Rove’s group Crossroads has raised only $52M. Not chump change, but not in the same ballpark as Big Labor. (And who knows if the $100M includes astroturf events like this weekend’s anemic liberal version of the Glenn Beck rally.)

But meanwhile, Big Labor is having the same problem as Obama — their core supporters are indifferent to the Democrats’ peril and, in fact, receptive to the GOP’s message:

On a scale of one to 10, 54% of union-member households ranked their level of voting interest at nine or 10, compared with 57% of households overall, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll found 55% of union-member households prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress now. In 2006, 68% of union-member households voted for Democrats in the U.S. House, according to a poll conducted by Edison/Mitofsky on behalf of media companies.

Volunteers say the main concern of members have been job creation. …

“When it to comes to rank-and-file employees such as myself, we have our activists and those we can’t mobilize,” said Sylvia Pino, a Safeway grocery clerk who volunteered in the 2008 election. She added that it has been more challenging this year to get out the vote for Democrats.

“These are people that were happy that we got President Obama into office,” she said, “and now they’re upset.”

Maybe if Obama came and screamed at them, excoriating them for sitting on their hands, it would help? No, I don’t suppose it would.

This report explains:

Armed with as much as $100 million, labor leaders and volunteers are trying to engage union families at home and work, by phone and through the mail. Some undecided voters could get contacted as many as 20 to 30 times. Last week, the AFL-CIO sent 3.5 million pieces of mail that will be augmented by seven million phone calls. AFL-CIO members participated in hundreds of ongoing door-knocking campaigns over the weekend. …

But in this year’s midterm elections, there are signs that union-member households may be less likely to vote for Democrats than they did in the 2006 midterms — if they vote at all.

“There seems to be a lot of apathy out here,” said Debbie Olander, the political liaison for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 in Denver. “People are just disheartened by the whole process.”

There are two points worth noting here. The president and his minions keep grousing about independent expenditures who are giving to conservative candidates. Does any individual or any group on the right come close to $100M? By comparison, Karl Rove’s group Crossroads has raised only $52M. Not chump change, but not in the same ballpark as Big Labor. (And who knows if the $100M includes astroturf events like this weekend’s anemic liberal version of the Glenn Beck rally.)

But meanwhile, Big Labor is having the same problem as Obama — their core supporters are indifferent to the Democrats’ peril and, in fact, receptive to the GOP’s message:

On a scale of one to 10, 54% of union-member households ranked their level of voting interest at nine or 10, compared with 57% of households overall, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll found 55% of union-member households prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress now. In 2006, 68% of union-member households voted for Democrats in the U.S. House, according to a poll conducted by Edison/Mitofsky on behalf of media companies.

Volunteers say the main concern of members have been job creation. …

“When it to comes to rank-and-file employees such as myself, we have our activists and those we can’t mobilize,” said Sylvia Pino, a Safeway grocery clerk who volunteered in the 2008 election. She added that it has been more challenging this year to get out the vote for Democrats.

“These are people that were happy that we got President Obama into office,” she said, “and now they’re upset.”

Maybe if Obama came and screamed at them, excoriating them for sitting on their hands, it would help? No, I don’t suppose it would.

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Announcing JAPSL

Is it illegal or unethical to establish an organization and list members who have not chosen to join? I don’t know the answer but intend to find out. Today I am announcing the formation of JAPSL, Journalists Against Press Shield Laws.

JAPSL is badly outnumbered. Almost every media corporation in the country is backing the establishment of a shield law. So too are numerous lobbying organizations that purport to defend the First Amendment. The House of Representatives has already passed a shield-law bill by a bipartisan landslide margin of 398 to 21. The Senate may act on the matter at some point soon.

I am the founding executive director of JAPSL and my arguments against a shield law can be found in Commentary and the Weekly Standard.

According to JAPSL’s bylaws, there are two categories of members: those whom I induct (regular members), and those whom I induct who then object to being inducted (objecting members).

The roster of regular members of JAPSL spans the political spectrum and includes a number of distinguished writers from leading publications. So far, these include:

Jack Shafer of Slate, author of We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Shield Law.

Steven Chapman of the Chicago Tribune, author of The News Media vs. the Innocent.

Anthony Lewis, formerly of the New York Times, author of Freedom For the Thought We Hate.

Walter Pincus, of the Washington Post, who has challenged the idea of a shield law in the Nieman Watchdog.

As of yet, JAPSL has no objecting members. To become a regular or an objecting member, simply post a comment below indicating either your desire to join or your wish to object to being inducted into this vital organization.

Is it illegal or unethical to establish an organization and list members who have not chosen to join? I don’t know the answer but intend to find out. Today I am announcing the formation of JAPSL, Journalists Against Press Shield Laws.

JAPSL is badly outnumbered. Almost every media corporation in the country is backing the establishment of a shield law. So too are numerous lobbying organizations that purport to defend the First Amendment. The House of Representatives has already passed a shield-law bill by a bipartisan landslide margin of 398 to 21. The Senate may act on the matter at some point soon.

I am the founding executive director of JAPSL and my arguments against a shield law can be found in Commentary and the Weekly Standard.

According to JAPSL’s bylaws, there are two categories of members: those whom I induct (regular members), and those whom I induct who then object to being inducted (objecting members).

The roster of regular members of JAPSL spans the political spectrum and includes a number of distinguished writers from leading publications. So far, these include:

Jack Shafer of Slate, author of We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Shield Law.

Steven Chapman of the Chicago Tribune, author of The News Media vs. the Innocent.

Anthony Lewis, formerly of the New York Times, author of Freedom For the Thought We Hate.

Walter Pincus, of the Washington Post, who has challenged the idea of a shield law in the Nieman Watchdog.

As of yet, JAPSL has no objecting members. To become a regular or an objecting member, simply post a comment below indicating either your desire to join or your wish to object to being inducted into this vital organization.

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Taking A Tyrant Out

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim that “we don’t have homosexuals in Iran” should be taken, like his wish to wipe Israel off the map, as a serious expression of his regime’s ambitions. The gay-rights movement in America and the liberal press took his homosexual comments as either a joke or a demonstration of one man’s “intolerance.” This reaction exemplifies the catastrophic implications of the intersection of a nuclear Iran and an American Left that does not take Ahmadinejad seriously. Make no mistake: the Islamic republic has genocidal ambitions, and not only for those Israeli “occupiers.”

If any gay solidarity exists, then one of its key concepts should be defending the countries that permit homosexuals to live and confronting the regimes that do not. But on today’s PlanetOut, which calls itself “the leading global media company exclusively serving the gay community,” the website’s two headlines in bold have been “Lesbian parents just fine” and “The Queer world cup”; Ahmadinejad’s comments are relegated to an Associated Press link. The Human Rights Campaign, America’s “largest national gay civil rights organization,” issued a paragraph-length press release: “Ahmadinejad’s denial that there are gay people in Iran shows the extent to which he devalues the lives of the many citizens his government has and continues to violate.” These are not fighting words.

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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim that “we don’t have homosexuals in Iran” should be taken, like his wish to wipe Israel off the map, as a serious expression of his regime’s ambitions. The gay-rights movement in America and the liberal press took his homosexual comments as either a joke or a demonstration of one man’s “intolerance.” This reaction exemplifies the catastrophic implications of the intersection of a nuclear Iran and an American Left that does not take Ahmadinejad seriously. Make no mistake: the Islamic republic has genocidal ambitions, and not only for those Israeli “occupiers.”

If any gay solidarity exists, then one of its key concepts should be defending the countries that permit homosexuals to live and confronting the regimes that do not. But on today’s PlanetOut, which calls itself “the leading global media company exclusively serving the gay community,” the website’s two headlines in bold have been “Lesbian parents just fine” and “The Queer world cup”; Ahmadinejad’s comments are relegated to an Associated Press link. The Human Rights Campaign, America’s “largest national gay civil rights organization,” issued a paragraph-length press release: “Ahmadinejad’s denial that there are gay people in Iran shows the extent to which he devalues the lives of the many citizens his government has and continues to violate.” These are not fighting words.

Adoption surveys, marriage rights, civil unions—all seem a trifling on a gay agenda when compared with Ahmadinejad’s dream. He must be confronted, and the only realistic plan that might save gay Iranians from Ahmadinejad’s genocidal aims is the Bush Doctrine. Such an approach advocates constitutional democracies in the greater Middle East that are attuned to their people’s most basic needs—which are not exporting terrorism, blaming problems on the Jews, or rounding up homosexuals.

In the Bush Doctrine lies the opportunity for gay men and lesbians in the Muslim world to have the chance at a life in their own landsindeed, the chance to live. It is perplexing that those on the Left can demand marriage rights for homosexuals in America and at the same time so blithely ignore Iran’s gay “unpersons” and the hope that American intervention offers them. Instead, the “progressives” want to lessen our presence in the Middle Easteven though the result will be the peristence of states in which terrorism is tolerated and gay people are not.

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