Ever since the confrontation between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in May of 2011 about the president’s attempt to dictate that the 1967 lines would be the starting point for future Middle East peace negotiations, speculation about the impact of this on the president’s re-election has been intense. Since then, numerous polls have shown it is highly unlikely that Obama would get anywhere close to the 78 percent of the Jewish vote he received in 2008. Republicans are eager to take advantage of this factor in November, much as they did last year when a special election in New York’s 8th congressional district went to the GOP over this issue. But leave it to the New York Times to focus an article on this almost completely on billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
Adelson is the centerpiece of an article on the front page of today’sTimes about an ad campaign undertaken by the Republican Jewish Coalition highlighting the “buyer’s remorse” felt by many Jews who voted for the president four years ago but will not support him again because of his stands on Israel and the state of the economy. That the RJC would be running such ads in battleground states is hardly surprising, especially because the question of the Jewish vote being a possibly decisive factor in the outcome this year has been a matter of discussion for months. Not only did I write about this in the March issue of COMMENTARY, but just yesterday, Reuters also devoted a feature to the way Jewish voters could make the difference in Florida. But for the Times, it’s all about Adelson, who, despite being mentioned in the headline (“Mogul’s Latest Foray Courts Jews for the G.O.P.”) and the caption to a photo showing the ads, is just one of several RJC supporters who helped underwrite their production and distribution. Though liberal Jews quoted in the article are in denial about the president’s problems, and the paper would like to make it appear this is merely the function of a plutocrat’s whim, the reason why the ads are resonating is that a significant percentage of Jewish voters have been disillusioned by the president’s attitude toward Israel.
In the last two decades, as a generation of leftists left this veil of tears, the obituary page of the New York Times has become the last redoubt of Stalin’s American fellow travelers. Sendoffs for Marxist writers and activists have consistently played down their red ties and portrayed them as heroic and stalwart defenders of principle whose past support for mass murderers is a mere detail best forgotten and therefore usually unmentioned. However, the Times’ appreciation of polemicist Alexander Cockburn was a slightly different variation on that theme.
Instead of just playing down Cockburn’s vicious hatred for Israel which opened him up for justified accusations of anti-Semitism, the nation’s newspaper of record also decided to ignore the cause to which the writer had devoted much of his last years: his disagreement with advocates of global warming.
The new Aaron Sorkin series “Newsroom” is getting a pasting from most critics and deservedly so, but it was a media column rather than a television review in today’sNew York Times that went right to the heart of the problem about much of today’s media. David Carr’s piece in the paper’s business section today discussed how Sorkin’s “valentine” to the TV news business seems to be an appeal for the embattled real-life CNN to rise above the battle for ratings and stick to the exalted task of presenting real news rather than low-brow fare and amped-up partisan opinions. But the problem with that premise is much the same as the problem with Sorkin’s show.
As Carr points out, Sorkin cheats on his premise, because his idea of a righteous diet of straight news rather than the partisanship of right-wing Fox News or left-wing MSNBC is a catechism of left-wing advocacy. But CNN’s slide in the ratings that Carr aptly compares to a toboggan ride on a snowy hill is not due to the public’s lack of an appetite for quality news programming. It stems from the same hypocrisy that allows Sorkin and HBO to pretend their liberal show is an expression of centrism. Just as viewers will quickly realize the pretense that the desire of Sorkin’s fictional news anchor Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels) to return network news to the halcyon days of Walter Cronkite is a crock, so too do most Americans understand that most of the hosts on CNN tilt to the left and are disgusted by their pretense of objectivity.
Never let it be said the New York Times is afraid to tackle an unflattering story about President Obama, even if it’s often a delayed reaction. The paper’s political blog The Caucus deigned to notice today that the new biography of the president by David Maraniss uncovered the fact that much of Dreams From My Father, the highly praised Barack Obama autobiography, is either fabricated or exaggerated. The Times’s Michael Shear opines that having its author now sitting in the White House has brought Dreams more scrutiny than its author could have envisioned when he wrote it in 1995. But the problem with contemporary analyses of the questionable personal history in the book is not so much the peril associated with being a famous political author but whether the book provides proof of a pattern of falsehoods and distortions about his past that has been one of the hallmarks of the president’s public career.
The answer to that question is contained near the bottom of the piece in which Shear lets drop that proof of such a pattern was already provided by his own newspaper last year. Though the Times buried the story when it broke and then never followed up or editorialized on the scandal, it was their own reporter Janny Scott whose research on the life of the president’s mother Ann Dunham revealed that the oft-told story of her dying because of the failure of her health insurance company to pay for her cancer treatment was a flat out lie. But while Shear is right that this year’s election will not turn on how Maraniss’s book is received, the unwillingness of the Times and other mainstream publications to call out Obama for writing fiction and calling it autobiography gives us a good indication of how much of an advantage having a quiescent media is for an incumbent president.
The investigation into the leaks about the New York Times’s story on Iranian cyberattacks are just getting under way. Alana discussed the controversy surrounding the picks for prosecutors to examine the case earlier this week and explained why many inside and outside the Beltway are curious about the White House’s role in the leaks:
But the Times’s Iranian cyberattack story was a different beast altogether. From the headline to the Situation Room details, the leaks were clearly a) from top administration officials, and b) intended to make Obama look as good as possible.
The administration, if nothing else, had the ability to put a hold on the Times story and declined to do so. Despite bipartisan intelligence committee anger and frustration about the leaks, Senate Democrats quickly squashed a resolution to appoint a special counsel to investigate.
In Israel, it appears the public’s mind is made up about where the leak originated and how it will affect the already rocky relationship between Israel and the U.S. Latma, a famous Israeli satirical group, just released a video about a fictional pair of secret agents imprisoned and tortured in a secret Iranian prison.
The arrogance of power is such that it may never have occurred to the senior government figures who recently leaked classified information about drone strikes and cyber warfare to the press that there would be any consequences for their actions. The all-too cozy relationship between the Obama administration and mainstream outlets like the New York Times instilled in them the notion that they could plant with impunity any story in the media to boost the president’s reputation. But the anger generated among the public and on both sides of the aisle in Congress by the constant stream of confidential information from the White House and the Pentagon to the front page of the Times has set in motion a series of events that may have consequences that will be felt long after the stories have run. Indeed, even if the president is re-elected, it may be that the effort to puff up his shaky reputation could sink a second term in scandal and prosecutions.
Of course, just how difficult things will get for some of the chatty members of the administration depends a great deal on the special prosecutors picked by Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the leaks after a storm of criticism on the issue forced his hand. As the Times points out today in a story buried on page 20 of their Sunday edition (in contrast to the front page placement of the pieces generated by the leaks in question), prosecuting someone for disclosing classified information can be tricky. But if the two U.S. Attorneys chosen to work on this case are determined to nail someone for this crime, then the odds are some senior administration figures will be going down, even if they are not the ones doing the leaking. The question is whether the Scooter Libby rules will apply.
The White House may have gotten some flattering New York Times scribbles about Obama’s unparalleled machismo on national security, but it sounds like it could soon face an independent investigation into its intelligence leaks as a result. House and Senate intelligence committees from both parties held a press conference this afternoon excoriating the Obama administration for leaking sensitive intelligence to the media and calling for a major crackdown. HuffPo reports:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said she and her fellow lawmakers are not voicing concerns as a way of “finger-pointing at anybody,” including the White House. “What we’re trying to do is say we have a problem and we want to stop that problem,” she said. “We’re not finger-pointing.”
Feinstein, joined by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), promised new legislation to crack down on leaks of classified information, The issue has gained traction since the publication of two front-page New York Times stories last week providing new details about President Barack Obama’s secret terrorist “kill list” and the U.S. government’s cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Sens. John McCain and Saxby Chaimbliss are calling for a Senate probe into whether White House officials leaked details of the cyber warfare program against Iran to the media for political gain. But Senate Democrats are also furious about the leaks, according to The Hill:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, said the leak about the attack on Iran’s nuclear program could “to some extent” provide justification for copycat attacks against the United States.
“This is like an avalanche. It is very detrimental and, candidly, I found it very concerning,” Feinstein said. “There’s no question that this kind of thing hurts our country.”
“A number of those leaks, and others in the last months about drone activities and other activities, are frankly all against national-security interests,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “I think they’re dangerous, damaging, and whoever is doing that is not acting in the interest of the United States of America.”
Yesterday, James Taranto discussed the left’s cultural contempt for middle America. He quotes the American Spectator’sJeffrey Lord, who argued that the Democratic Party’s elite around John F. Kennedy had built up a river of resentment against the non-elite–such as, at the time, Vice President Lyndon Johnson–but that Kennedy served as something of a dam, keeping it in check. Après JFK, le deluge:
Slowly this contempt for the American people spread to institutions that were not government, manifesting itself in a thousand different ways. It infected the media, academe and Hollywood, where stars identified with middle-America like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope and Lucille Ball were eclipsed in the spotlight by leftists like Warren Beatty and Jane Fonda.
This is certainly problematic enough, both for liberalism and the American culture it relentlessly targeted. But it’s also worth pointing out that the corrupting of cultural institutions creates a feedback loop, producing political personalities who feed on the spite and bigotry of the institutions from which they emerged. And this is the feedback loop with which Mitt Romney, as a high-profile Mormon candidate, will have to contend, as Idaho State professor Thomas C. Terry writes in Inside Higher Ed.
The New York Times editorial page has another of its endless series of editorials on “voter intimidation” by those awful Republicans. It seems that conservatives have this strange idea that the voter rolls should only list living people who are eligible to vote. Any attempt to achieve such a list, according to the Times, is an unwarranted burden on the poor and the downtrodden. Even making a voter demonstrate that he is who he says he is by showing the same sort of identification that is needed to board an airplane, enter a major office building (including all federal ones), cash a check, adopt a pet from an animal shelter, or buy several over-the-counter drugs is unacceptable.
The editorial states, “Then, a few weeks ago, the state [of Florida] pressed the Department of Motor Vehicles into comparing the voter rolls to its list of driver’s licenses, which often has out-of-date citizenship information. It came up with nearly 2,700 voters considered suspicious and sent them letters demanding that they produce proof of citizenship within 30 days if they wanted to vote.”
It may be that the Supreme Court’s pending decision on the constitutionality of ObamaCare will render moot the controversy about whether Catholic institutions can be compelled to pay for practices that they oppose on religious grounds. But no matter how the court rules, the impact of the increasingly nasty effort to discredit the church’s effort to defend itself will still be felt. A good example of how liberals are trying to brand the church’s defenders as “partisans” when the opposite is true, came in the editorial in Sunday’s New York Times that branded the lawsuit launched by church institutions as a “stunt.”
The Times argues that the government’s attempt to compel the church to violate its principles was not a violation of its rights and further claims the inadequate “compromise” proposed by the White House should have silenced their concerns. This is an absurd distortion of the facts, but far worse is the way the Times — following the Obama campaign’s playbook — tries to claim that Catholics seek to impose their beliefs on others. Quite the contrary, it is the government fiat that employees at Catholic institutions are provided with free contraception that is the imposition. The point here is not so much to advance the cause of women’s health — the justification advocates of the government’s position seek to use — but to demonize a faith group that has the temerity to stick up for its rights.
Last Monday, Geneive Abdo — who is the director of the Iran program at the Middle East Institute in Washington, and who will never be mistaken for a neocon — described optimism emerging from the P5+1 talks as a “pretense” designed to “buy time to avert a unilateral attack by Israel” and buttress “Obama’s wish to get through the November election.”
Abdo specifically cited statements made by Saeed Jalili, head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, to the effect that Iran’s “national resistance” had put the country on an “irreversible” nuclear path. A few days later Reuters passed along IAEA information indicating Iran has installed 350 new centrifuges at its underground Fordow facility. (In February the IAEA reported that Iran already tripled its output of 20 percent uranium at Fordow, but apparently the Iranians concluded that wasn’t enough.) Perhaps as a kind of exclamation point, Iran also held military maneuvers this week ostensibly aimed at “global arrogance.”
How difficult it must be to be a liberal who has double standards to explain and hypocrisies to defend. Take Bill Keller of the New York Times. Last August the former executive editor of the Times wrote a piece in which he prodded his colleagues in journalism to ask candidates “tougher questions about faith.” If the Republican candidates didn’t answer Keller’s questions, “let’s keep on asking,” Keller said. “Because these are matters too important to take on faith.”
Of course, there was the inconvenient fact that the Times showed a notable lack of interest when it came to Barack Obama’s 20-year relationship with Jeremiah Wright, a minister whose views are racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-American. And for those Times readers who might have forgotten – and given the paucity of coverage by the Times, who could blame them? — the Reverend Wright was referred to by Obama as his “spiritual mentor,” Wright married Barack and Michelle Obama, baptized their children, inspired the title of Obama’s first autobiography.
Yet in 2008, the Times found all of this singularly uninteresting. It looked the other way. Read More
The New York Times’ former reputation as the nation’s objective newspaper of record was always a façade that covered up a persistent liberal bias that skewed its coverage of both politics and the world. But during the eight years that Bill Keller served as executive editor, the Times accelerated its descent into the partisan and hyper-liberal biased reporting and unbalanced opinion pages that we now take for granted as the paper’s calling card. Keller’s liberal prejudices were never a secret while he was the paper’s editor and in his current guise as a weekly opinion columnist, the last veil has dropped. But even now, he can’t seem to give up the pose of being the professional journalist who is too busy getting the story right to inject his politics into the copy.
This is the principal conceit of his latest column in which he commits the unpardonable sin of trying to shoot a fish in a barrel and missing. By taking aim at Rupert Murdoch — the easiest target in the world this week — Keller only manages to call more attention to his own partisanship and hypocrisy. His point is that Murdoch’s creation Fox News and its conservative bias is “America’s poison,” and claims that for all of its flaws, the mainstream media is still far more fair and balanced than the network that uses that phrase to describe itself. But the idea that Fox is any more biased than the Times, let alone NBC, CNN or NPR — the examples he cites of other more objective outlets — is absurd.
For decades, foreign cheerleaders for the Palestinians have sought to portray those fighting against Israel as potential disciples of Gandhi as they seek to portray the Jews as stand-ins for the role of colonial oppressor. But there have always been two main problems with this scenario. The first is the fact that most Palestinians view violence against Israelis as not only a legitimate tactic but also something that is integral to their national identity. The second is that even if they were to adopt a policy of non-violence, the Palestinian goal is not their own state living in peace beside Israel but the end of the Jewish state and its replacement by one in which Arabs will rule.
These obstacles to the creation of a movement of Palestinian Gandhis remain. But that didn’t stop the New York Times from going back to a familiar theme today with a feature by new Israel bureau chief Jodi Rudoren in which a hunger strike by some security prisoners is used as a launching point for a discussion about a possible change in tactics by the Palestinians. Since, as she notes, the peace process is “stalled” and “internal Palestinian politics adrift,” activists hope to use “the hunger strike as a potential catalyst to bring an Arab Spring-style uprising to the West Bank.” But the question Rudoren fails to ask is what do the hunger strikers or their supporters think will come from what they hope will be a new intifada? Do they see it as a path to a Palestinian state or something else? If the goal is a state, then they need not bother with non-violent resistance or violence. What they need to do is to instruct their leaders to negotiate with Israel. Read More
In the latest in a series of New York Times front-page features on U.S. policy toward Iran based on anonymous sources within the administration, the newspaper proclaimed today the chances of armed conflict with the Islamist state had markedly declined. The unnamed American officials did no more than state the obvious when they noted that the current diplomatic process initiated this month in Istanbul which will recommence in Baghdad after a long break in late May has made it less likely that anyone would attack Iran anytime soon. However, presenting this conclusion as an objective analysis begs the point. The reason why “the temperature has cooled,” as one anonymous Obama administration put it, is not because the West is any closer to actually persuading the Iranians to desist from their nuclear ambitions. Rather, it is the result of policies that have no larger goal than to ensure that there will be no confrontation over the nuclear issue during the president’s campaign.
None of the factors the administration officials put forward as evidence of a cooling of tensions give much hope of securing a non-nuclear Iran. The sanctions, diplomacy and the encouragement of dissent within Israel against the Netanyahu government aren’t likely to convince the Iranians they have no choice but to give up. Though the sanctions are taking their toll on the Iranian economy, that hasn’t stopped Iran’s nuclear program, and its Islamist leadership have every confidence they can outfox Obama and his partners in the P5+1 talks as they have in the past without giving up anything valuable. These factors all have a more immediate goal: rendering any attack on Iran out of the question, and thus enabling the president to face the voters without either a huge spike in oil prices or another Middle East conflict.
Reading the New York Times account of an interview with Benny Gantz, the chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Force, that was first published inHaaretz is like a children’s game of “telephone.” What Gantz actually said wasn’t reflected in the misleading headline of the Israeli newspaper. That headline, rather than the actual content of the piece, was repeated in the Times article, so what comes out in America’s so-called newspaper of record had more to do with the editorial agenda of the press than the reality of Israel’s security dilemma.
The Haaretz headline was an attention-grabber: “IDF Chief to Haaretz: I do not believe Iran will decide to develop nuclear weapons.” Yet nowhere in the piece was there a quote that matched this startling assertion that was repeated in the Times headline that read: “Israeli Army Chief Says He Believes Iran Won’t Build a Bomb.” What Gantz tells Haaretz is that while the Iranians are actively working on a nuclear program, they have yet to activate the final stage of the project that would convert the material to a nuclear bomb. This is no revelation, as not even the most alarmist account of Iran’s efforts has stated that this final stage has been reached. Nor did Gantz express a belief that Iran wouldn’t build a bomb. Rather, he said the Iranians would do it only if they felt themselves “invulnerable.” He said he thought the ayatollahs were “rational,” but added that a weapon in their hands would be “dangerous.”
So while the tone of Gantz’s interview was not as sharp as the statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the substance isn’t very different. Which makes the claims made by the Times and the misleading headline in Haaretz a transparent attempt to portray a stark division within the councils of Israel’s leaders where there may be none.
The mainstream media’s liberal bias long ago ceased to be a matter of debate. Other than the conservative strongholds of talk radio and Fox News, few pundits even bother to argue anymore that the overwhelming majority of their platforms tilt to the left. But that still doesn’t stop some of them from trying to deny the obvious. A prime example comes today from the normally sober Howard Kurtz, who writes in the Daily Beast to claim that President Obama has received more unfavorable press coverage than the Republican candidates during the recent GOP nomination contest.
Kurtz bases his assertion on a study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism that analyzed the positive and negative treatment of the president and the candidates in the press during the last few months. But the main takeaway from their data is not so much that the press was filled with Obama-bashing — a result that was generated mostly by the fact that all the GOP candidates were critical of the president — but that his normally adoring press corps covered him more like a candidate than a commander-in-chief. That might have more to do with the fact that Obama has been spent more time in the last year playing the partisan than governing. A more insightful conclusion about the press and Obama came from an unlikely source — Arthur Brisbane, the public editor of the New York Times – who wrote yesterday to call out his own paper for their fawning and biased coverage of the president.
For the last several months, liberal journalists have been plugging the idea that the United States is enjoying an economic recovery after the slow down of the past few years and that President Obama deserved the credit for rescuing the nation from its troubles. Evidence for that upswing was slight but, to be fair, Americans could be forgiven for viewing the debate about the state of the country from a “been down so long looks like up to me,” perspective. But one of the leading exponents of this thesis may be about to give up on their crusade to persuade us that everything is just fine and getting better every day. The New York Times published a front-page story intended to let its readers down gently as they confront a worsening economic picture in 2012.
The piece, titled “Rising Fears That Recovery May Once More Be Faltering,” is something of a cold shower to Times readers who have been fed a steady diet of features this year intended to prove that the recession is over and the country is on the rebound after a long spell of miseries that could be blamed on George W. Bush. As the Times reports:
Some of the same spoilers that interrupted the recovery in 2010 and 2011 have emerged again, raising fears that the winter’s economic strength might dissipate in the spring.
In recent weeks, European bond yields have started climbing. In the United States and elsewhere, high oil prices have sapped spending power. American employers remain skittish about hiring new workers, and new claims for unemployment insurance have risen. And stocks have declined.
A common feature of the competitive political news industry is the high volume of overpromising headlines. A good example is today’s Politico feature, headlined “GOP to Mitt: Own your Mormonism.” The story, however, says no such thing.
What we have instead is an array of quotes indicating that Romney talking more about his Mormonism would be detrimental to his prospects or that it would be irrelevant. We never quite get to the argument about how to sell Romney’s religion to the public. Now that Romney seems finally to be his party’s nominee, writes Politico, “many Republicans think that the standoffish candidate actually needs to embrace his Mormonism publicly to open a window into his life.” But where are these promised “many Republicans”?