Commentary Magazine


Topic: Rupert Murdoch

Hateful Cartoon Merited Murdoch Apology

The fallout from the controversy over the publication by London’s Sunday Times of an anti-Semitic cartoon on Holocaust Memorial Day has generated a debate of sorts about where the line must be drawn between fair–if offensive–comment about Israel and blatant Jew-hatred. Predictably, some on the left have piped up to say there was nothing wrong with depicting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as a villainous murderer dripping with the blood of Arab victims that he was cementing into what we are supposed to think was his country’s security fence. One British defender of artist Gerald Scarfe claimed it was OK to draw Netanyahu in this way since previous cartoons had also roughed up Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Behind most of the complaints about the outrage expressed by many Jewish journalists and organizations is the usual attitude in which Jews are told to stop being so sensitive and just shut up and let the world say what it wants about Israel.

Fortunately, Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the Sunday Times, isn’t listening to those voices and yesterday issued an apology on Twitter:

Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times. Nevertheless, we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.

Murdoch deserves credit for stepping up and putting the issue in its proper perspective. But before the dust settles the arguments put forward by Scarfe’s defenders need to be refuted in more detail. There is nothing wrong with criticizing Netanyahu any more than there would be with sniping at any other politician. But the symbolism of Scarfe’s cartoon as well as its timing reflected a disturbing willingness not merely to validate lies about Israeli policies but to portray the country as a heartless murderer of Arabs.

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The fallout from the controversy over the publication by London’s Sunday Times of an anti-Semitic cartoon on Holocaust Memorial Day has generated a debate of sorts about where the line must be drawn between fair–if offensive–comment about Israel and blatant Jew-hatred. Predictably, some on the left have piped up to say there was nothing wrong with depicting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as a villainous murderer dripping with the blood of Arab victims that he was cementing into what we are supposed to think was his country’s security fence. One British defender of artist Gerald Scarfe claimed it was OK to draw Netanyahu in this way since previous cartoons had also roughed up Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Behind most of the complaints about the outrage expressed by many Jewish journalists and organizations is the usual attitude in which Jews are told to stop being so sensitive and just shut up and let the world say what it wants about Israel.

Fortunately, Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the Sunday Times, isn’t listening to those voices and yesterday issued an apology on Twitter:

Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times. Nevertheless, we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.

Murdoch deserves credit for stepping up and putting the issue in its proper perspective. But before the dust settles the arguments put forward by Scarfe’s defenders need to be refuted in more detail. There is nothing wrong with criticizing Netanyahu any more than there would be with sniping at any other politician. But the symbolism of Scarfe’s cartoon as well as its timing reflected a disturbing willingness not merely to validate lies about Israeli policies but to portray the country as a heartless murderer of Arabs.

Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer claims Scarfe is innocent of the charge of anti-Semitism because the drawing of Netanyahu contains no Jewish symbols like a Star of David, so the offensive libel should be seen as only aimed at the prime minister and not the Jewish state or the Jewish people. Pfeffer also claims not to see any Holocaust imagery.

But the Netanyahu of the cartoon is not a generic political bad guy. He is a hook-nosed killer with blood dripping from his hands. This is straight out of the traditional playbook of Julius Streicher’s Nazi propaganda in which Jews were shown as horrifying defilers of innocent non-Jews. And while Netanyahu’s politics are fair game for comment, the idea of demonizing the security fence as a way by which Israelis are killing Arabs is particularly offensive since it is a clear allusion to the walled ghettos where Nazis killed Jews–a conclusion that most readers picking up the cartoon on Holocaust Memorial Day were hard-pressed to avoid. Nor does Pfeffer’s observation that the dead Palestinians in the cartoon were not children remove the stigma of the blood libel from the cartoon. One of the victims was clearly an adolescent, but blood libels were not only about killing gentile children but about Jews enjoying spilling any non-Jewish blood, a myth this drawing reinforces. To argue that showing Israel’s prime minister spilling the blood of Arabs has nothing to do with libels against his country or people is to make a distinction without a difference. In this case, Netanyahu is just a surrogate for traditional tropes of anti-Semitism.

Moreover, attempts to portray the fence as a crime against Palestinians is particularly hateful. As the editors at the Times surely knew, it was built to keep Arab murderers from slaughtering Jews in suicide bombings, not to facilitate attacks on Palestinians. This trick of trying to pretend that Jewish self-defense is really an act of murder is of a piece with the entire genre of slurs that seek to paint Israel as a new version of Nazi Germany. Like Streicher’s filth, the purpose of such attacks is to relieve anti-Semites of any guilt about their hatred for Jews.

Lastly, the idea that Scarfe should get a pass for smearing Netanyahu because he has also attacked Assad is a further indictment of the mindset of the artist and his defenders. Such a false equivalence seems almost too foolish to need to take down, but let’s point out a few obvious differences between the two men.

The first is that Assad is a dictator who has spent the last two years murdering tens of thousands of his own people in an attempt to hold onto absolute power in Syria. That his father did the same sorts of things during a bloody 30-plus-year reign of terror is no defense of his son’s behavior. Netanyahu is the elected leader of a democracy charged with the defense of his nation against terrorists who are sworn to destroy Israel and to slaughter its people. That sort of moral equivalence isn’t merely wrong-headed, it is a product of the effort to delegitimize Israel and to whitewash those who truly do wish to carry on Hitler’s murderous legacy.

The Scarfe cartoon is troubling not just because of its timing but because it betrays a willingness to smear Israel with the symbols of anti-Semitic invective which have become commonplace among the Jewish state’s European detractors. It merited Murdoch’s apology. But more than that, it ought to cause those who cheered its disgusting imagery and defended its artists to think twice about how European elites have been co-opted into defending and echoing the anti-Semitic myths about Jews and Israel that have become commonplace throughout the Muslim and Arab worlds.

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Liberals and False Charges of Anti-Semitism

The notion that Jewish opponents of Israel are self-hating or anti-Semitic is the kind of thing we are used to hearing from the right. But recently it has become a theme increasingly heard from the Jewish left. Back in January, the Forward’s Gal Beckerman asserted the preposterous notion that Newt Gingrich, a longtime and ardent supporter of Israel and Jewish causes, was making a “dog whistle” argument to anti-Semites because he spoke about the philosophy and influence of left-wing activist Saul Alinsky. Now Peter Beinart has gotten into the act with his rants about Rupert Murdoch’s criticisms of Jews who publish newspapers that are hostile to Israel. I wrote on Sunday about Beinart’s argument with Murdoch that falsely asserts that what he — and pro-Israel activists — wants is for Jewish journalists and publishers to abandon their integrity for Israel’s sake when what they really want is just the opposite: for Jews in the media as well as everybody else to stop going in the tank for Israel’s foes.

Beinart has now doubled down on this argument in a new piece posted at the Daily Beast. He criticizes my piece on the subject, as well as an insightful contribution from the New York Sun that recalled the troubled history of the New York Times’s Jewish owners and their hostility to Zionism and reporting about the Holocaust. Though he begins his piece by asserting that he doesn’t believe Murdoch to be an anti-Semite, he spends the rest of the article contradicting himself and attempting to prove just that. He concludes by writing:

I don’t think anti-Semitism is widespread on the American right, any more than it is widespread on the American left. But when expressed, it should be publicly condemned. Whether it masks itself as hostility to Israel or support for Israel should make no difference at all.

In other words, Murdoch is an anti-Semite who is covering up his hate for Jews by supporting the Jewish state against its critics. While Beinart wonders why conservatives are bothering to defend Murdoch, a better question would be to ask why he is resorting to such convoluted and contradictory arguments? The answer is, of course, that Beinart’s real problem with Murdoch isn’t the patently false charge of anti-Semitism but the fact that he’s critical of publications that attack Israel.

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The notion that Jewish opponents of Israel are self-hating or anti-Semitic is the kind of thing we are used to hearing from the right. But recently it has become a theme increasingly heard from the Jewish left. Back in January, the Forward’s Gal Beckerman asserted the preposterous notion that Newt Gingrich, a longtime and ardent supporter of Israel and Jewish causes, was making a “dog whistle” argument to anti-Semites because he spoke about the philosophy and influence of left-wing activist Saul Alinsky. Now Peter Beinart has gotten into the act with his rants about Rupert Murdoch’s criticisms of Jews who publish newspapers that are hostile to Israel. I wrote on Sunday about Beinart’s argument with Murdoch that falsely asserts that what he — and pro-Israel activists — wants is for Jewish journalists and publishers to abandon their integrity for Israel’s sake when what they really want is just the opposite: for Jews in the media as well as everybody else to stop going in the tank for Israel’s foes.

Beinart has now doubled down on this argument in a new piece posted at the Daily Beast. He criticizes my piece on the subject, as well as an insightful contribution from the New York Sun that recalled the troubled history of the New York Times’s Jewish owners and their hostility to Zionism and reporting about the Holocaust. Though he begins his piece by asserting that he doesn’t believe Murdoch to be an anti-Semite, he spends the rest of the article contradicting himself and attempting to prove just that. He concludes by writing:

I don’t think anti-Semitism is widespread on the American right, any more than it is widespread on the American left. But when expressed, it should be publicly condemned. Whether it masks itself as hostility to Israel or support for Israel should make no difference at all.

In other words, Murdoch is an anti-Semite who is covering up his hate for Jews by supporting the Jewish state against its critics. While Beinart wonders why conservatives are bothering to defend Murdoch, a better question would be to ask why he is resorting to such convoluted and contradictory arguments? The answer is, of course, that Beinart’s real problem with Murdoch isn’t the patently false charge of anti-Semitism but the fact that he’s critical of publications that attack Israel.

Let’s get one thing cleared up. The idea that it is anti-Semitic for a Jew or non-Jew to note that some Jewish-owned publications have a history of being uncomfortable with Jewish subjects and especially Israel is simply absurd. The history of the New York Times on this subject is well documented. To assert that Murdoch’s tweet, ill-considered as it was, was evidence of either latent or overt anti-Semitism is the worst kind of slur and is exactly the sort of thing that would send Beinart over the edge if a right-winger said it about someone on the left.

Beinart also says that it is “nuts” for anyone to speak of the New York Times as being consistently critical of Israel. It is true that the Times supports Israel’s right to exist. But it has spent the last few decades blaming it for all the problems of the Middle East and blasting its measures of self-defense. Not all of its reporting is biased, but enough of it has been tilted against Israel to make it clear that most of what it presents as news, especially on its front page, amount to nothing more than thinly veiled op-eds. Its opinion pages are also disproportionately skewed against pro-Israel voices.

Since Beinart is himself a consistent critic of Israel, it’s little wonder that he thinks there’s nothing wrong with this, but to claim that those who disagree are crazy says more about his own bias than that of anyone else. As I wrote, Murdoch would have done better to have avoided mentioning the Jewish owners of publications like the Times since the phrase is problematic and it’s far from clear that the current generation in charge there even considers themselves to be Jews.

But the real issue here isn’t whether or not the Times is biased against Israel. It’s whether it’s OK to label political opponents of the left, like Murdoch, as anti-Semitic even though he has a long record of philo-Semitism and support for Israel.

The reason why some conservatives have pushed back against this smear is not so much for Murdoch’s sake — the media mogul can take care of himself — but because the goal of the Jewish left is to brand all conservatives as closet Jew-haters. Doing so appeals to many Jews since it confirms their liberal political prejudices as well as conjures up memories of the past when the right in this country really was anti-Semitic while in our own day, and contrary to Beinart’s false moral equivalence, it is the left that is the natural home for many anti-Zionists and Jew-haters.

One should be careful about labeling people anti-Semites. There is a difference between someone who is merely critical of Israel like Beinart and, for example, liberal church groups that seek to promote BDS measures or to cut off military aid to the Jewish state and make common ground with open Jew-haters to promote this cause. Unfortunately that is a distinction that liberals like Beinart are prepared to ignore in order to score bogus political points against easy targets like Murdoch.

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Mainstream Media’s Pose of Fairness is the Real Poison in American Journalism

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.

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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.

The only evidence he gives for what he considers the obvious superiority of the non-Fox liberal media is that the Times Sunday Magazine once published an even-handed profile of Rush Limbaugh by Zev Chafets. He says such a fair-minded piece about Nancy Pelosi would never have run on Fox. He also thinks it is terrible that Fox News head Roger Ailes didn’t cooperate with a liberal trying to write his biography and that it takes a dim view of employees who leak material in order to embarrass the company.

The problem with this argument is that the Chafets profile is merely the exception that proves the rule at the Times. While there are occasional instances of fairness, they merely highlight the paper’s typical unfairness to anyone or any group that it opposes. The comparison is also ridiculous because most of Fox’s programming is the moral equivalent to the Times’ editorial and op-ed pages. There the analogy between the two is almost exact. Liberal voices are a distinct minority on Fox but no more so than genuine conservatives at the Times.

If anything, a comparison of the airtime that Fox devotes to straight news coverage to the Times’ news pages is actually quite flattering to the former. While Fox’s news hounds may not be perfectly objective one wonders if they have ever committed any journalistic sin so blatant as the Times’ decision just this past Friday to run a front page news feature on racism directed at President Obama in Ohio whose only possible point was to try to rally liberals around the incumbent lest hate triumph. Nor can I recall Fox’s news operation ever doing anything as despicable or lacking in ethics as Keller’s decision to publish a major expose of John McCain’s personal life at the height of the 2008 presidential campaign that lacked any proof of the wrongdoing the piece insinuated.

Even after all these years, Keller and other liberals still don’t understand why Fox is popular. Along with conservative talk radio, it was created to balance the obvious bias of a mainstream media that pretended it had no bias. Audiences despise the pretense and appreciate Fox’s straightforward point of view. That’s why, as I wrote this past week, CNN, whose dishonesty about its liberal bias is as obvious as that of the Times, is the loser in the cable rating wars.

No one should fault Keller for his liberalism. It is his pretense of fairness that is galling. His claims about Fox’s faults can be just as easily directed at the Times. The real poison at the heart of American journalism isn’t Fox, it’s the mainstream media’s false front of objectivity.

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Is a Government Entitled to Say Who is Fit to Run a Media Company?

The hacking scandal at the British newspapers owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch has transfixed the English press in the last year and become a major political issue. So it’s not surprising that the parliamentary committee tasked with investigating the matter would seek to heap opprobrium on Murdoch for the various sins committed by his employees in the cause of digging up dirt on the famous and not so famous who became the subject of notoriety. If laws were broken then, as would be the case in the United States, the chips must fall were they may and the guilty brought to book. But the committee’s published conclusions about the scandal went beyond that. In its report, the committee stated that Murdoch was “not a fit person” to run an international media conglomerate.

Murdoch is an easy person to dislike. His unparalleled success in publishing and broadcast media is unprecedented and widely envied. He is identified (not always correctly) with the political right and therefore is considered an enemy of all that is good by the political left, especially those in the media who dislike his visionary decision to create outlets where the traditional liberal consensus will not predominate. But even if one were to agree with those who think his influence on the industry pernicious and his politics odious, how can anyone, especially in the media, regard the attempt by some in the British parliament to determine who can and who cannot own a media company?

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The hacking scandal at the British newspapers owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch has transfixed the English press in the last year and become a major political issue. So it’s not surprising that the parliamentary committee tasked with investigating the matter would seek to heap opprobrium on Murdoch for the various sins committed by his employees in the cause of digging up dirt on the famous and not so famous who became the subject of notoriety. If laws were broken then, as would be the case in the United States, the chips must fall were they may and the guilty brought to book. But the committee’s published conclusions about the scandal went beyond that. In its report, the committee stated that Murdoch was “not a fit person” to run an international media conglomerate.

Murdoch is an easy person to dislike. His unparalleled success in publishing and broadcast media is unprecedented and widely envied. He is identified (not always correctly) with the political right and therefore is considered an enemy of all that is good by the political left, especially those in the media who dislike his visionary decision to create outlets where the traditional liberal consensus will not predominate. But even if one were to agree with those who think his influence on the industry pernicious and his politics odious, how can anyone, especially in the media, regard the attempt by some in the British parliament to determine who can and who cannot own a media company?

In making such a statement, the narrow majority of the committee that voted to approve the report (It passed by a vote of 6-4 with Labor and Liberal Democrat members voting in favor and Conservatives opposed), have taken this issue beyond any wrongdoing committed at the now-shuttered News of the World owned by Murdoch’s News Corporation. Though the leaders of the company may have failed to act to stop illegal wiretapping and other scurrilous practices, for a government committee to seek to force Murdoch to leave his position at the top of the company he founded is an abuse of power that is no less sinister than anything Murdoch may have done or not done.

The implications of this statement go beyond a mere committee report. Blowback from the scandal forced the Murdoch family to withdraw a bid for control of a satellite broadcast outlet. And by seeking to tie British Prime Minister David Cameron’s government to the scandal, it’s clear that there is more at work here than a disturbing case of media misbehavior. The goal of much of the left-wing media from the start of this scandal has not been to focus on what were once quite common if arguably criminal actions undertaken by tabloid press outlets that would stop at nothing to get gossip or news about celebrities or those involved in crimes that interested the public. Rather, the objective from the start has been to get Murdoch and to drive him out of the media.

Whatever crimes were committed or mistakes made at his company, it is fairly obvious that Murdoch knows what he is doing in the media business. If the day comes when he, his family or other members of his management team are no longer capable of doing their jobs, we assume that, as in the rest of the real world not controlled by politicians, they will either be forced out by stockholders or driven out of the business by more successful competitors. That is the essence of free enterprise and an open marketplace.

But as much as the public is entitled to be outraged at the News of the World’s misbehavior, the idea that the British parliament or any group of politicians can attempt to determine how private companies operate is abhorrent. It speaks to a desire by many on the left to control the media and to restrict freedom of speech to those who agree with them rather than their opponents. That totalitarian impulse is at the heart of the Murdoch lynch mob. Any journalist, be they on the left or the right, should regard this tendency with horror and utterly condemn it.

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The Nixonian Paranoia of David Brock

Reading the Daily Caller’s stellar investigative series into Media Matters, the organization begins to sound less like a left-wing media watchdog and more like a drug cartel in the days before the feds close in. There are armed bodyguards, fears of sniper assassins, enemy lists and talk of sending private eyes to follow around high-profile adversaries. All this at a non-profit organization.

It’s no wonder Media Matters’ head David Brock comes off as an unhinged paranoid in the story. When you stake your career on dirty tricks and smear tactics, you start expecting everyone else is out to do the same to you. As the Caller reports, Media Matters was apparently so obsessed with digging up dirt on Fox News it considered hiring detectives to track its employees. To Brock, the declaration that his organization was at “war with Fox News” wasn’t hyperbole – his personal assistant reportedly carried a Glock to prove it.

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Reading the Daily Caller’s stellar investigative series into Media Matters, the organization begins to sound less like a left-wing media watchdog and more like a drug cartel in the days before the feds close in. There are armed bodyguards, fears of sniper assassins, enemy lists and talk of sending private eyes to follow around high-profile adversaries. All this at a non-profit organization.

It’s no wonder Media Matters’ head David Brock comes off as an unhinged paranoid in the story. When you stake your career on dirty tricks and smear tactics, you start expecting everyone else is out to do the same to you. As the Caller reports, Media Matters was apparently so obsessed with digging up dirt on Fox News it considered hiring detectives to track its employees. To Brock, the declaration that his organization was at “war with Fox News” wasn’t hyperbole – his personal assistant reportedly carried a Glock to prove it.

But behind the colorful detail, there’s also a serious story about media manipulation. In one memo obtained by the Caller, a top Media Matters staffer writes about its plan to turn the Murdoch phone-hacking scandal into major U.S. news:

In at least two places, the memo makes suggestions that in retrospect look like prescient predictions. The first concerns Rupert Murdoch: “Murdoch’s problems in the U.K. (hacking the cell phones of prominent Brits) are hardly known to U.S. news consumers. We should do our best to bring embarrassing Murdoch news to the attention of his U.S. audience.” The effort appears to have succeeded.

The phone-hacking scandal did start catching on in the U.S., thanks in part to reporting campaigns launched by two prominent and respected nonprofit investigative journalism outlets: Pro Publica and the Center for Public Integrity. Note that both organizations have received extensive funding from George Soros, who also funds Media Matters. Was there any coordination between the three groups? At the very least, this raises questions about the independence of non-profit investigative reporting outlets.

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Holocaust Scholar Quoted in Anti-Glenn Beck Letter Criticizes the Campaign

A Holocaust scholar quoted in the Jewish Funds for Justice’s anti–Glenn Beck letter has criticized the group’s campaign as one-sided and political.

Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, is the fourth person or organization cited in the letter who has questioned the political motives of the anti-Beck campaign. The Jewish Funds for Justice letter, published as a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal and the Jewish Daily Forward last week, called on Fox News to sanction Beck because of his use of “Holocaust imagery.”

“I don’t disagree with the thrust of JFSJ’s ad,” wrote Lipstadt in a column in the Forward yesterday. “That said, I do worry that it is a distortion to focus solely on the conservative end of the political spectrum.”

While still maintaining that Beck’s comments about the Holocaust crossed the line, Lipstadt noted that, in recent years, some of the most offensive Holocaust rhetoric has come from the political left:

During his term in office, President George W. Bush was frequently compared to Hitler. A 2006 New York Times ad from a group called the World Can’t Wait, signed by a number of prominent leftists (as well as five Democratic members of Congress), cited a litany of complaints about the Bush administration’s policies and concluded: “People look at all this and think of Hitler — and rightly so.” British playwright and Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, who signed onto the ad, went to so far as to call the Bush administration “more dangerous than Nazi Germany.” (emphasis added)

Similarly, references to Israelis as “Nazis” and claims that Israel is committing genocide abound in left-wing discourse. Because of their ubiquity, we have almost become inured to the horror of such comparisons.

“Is this about principle, or is it about politics?” asked Lipstadt. “Is this about anti-Semitism, or about Rupert Murdoch?”

The Anti-Defamation League, the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, and COMMENTARY were also quoted in the Jewish Funds for Justice letter and have all since clarified that they are not associated with the campaign. However, as noted yesterday, Jewish Funds for Justice is continuing to collect signatures for the letter on its website.

A Holocaust scholar quoted in the Jewish Funds for Justice’s anti–Glenn Beck letter has criticized the group’s campaign as one-sided and political.

Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, is the fourth person or organization cited in the letter who has questioned the political motives of the anti-Beck campaign. The Jewish Funds for Justice letter, published as a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal and the Jewish Daily Forward last week, called on Fox News to sanction Beck because of his use of “Holocaust imagery.”

“I don’t disagree with the thrust of JFSJ’s ad,” wrote Lipstadt in a column in the Forward yesterday. “That said, I do worry that it is a distortion to focus solely on the conservative end of the political spectrum.”

While still maintaining that Beck’s comments about the Holocaust crossed the line, Lipstadt noted that, in recent years, some of the most offensive Holocaust rhetoric has come from the political left:

During his term in office, President George W. Bush was frequently compared to Hitler. A 2006 New York Times ad from a group called the World Can’t Wait, signed by a number of prominent leftists (as well as five Democratic members of Congress), cited a litany of complaints about the Bush administration’s policies and concluded: “People look at all this and think of Hitler — and rightly so.” British playwright and Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, who signed onto the ad, went to so far as to call the Bush administration “more dangerous than Nazi Germany.” (emphasis added)

Similarly, references to Israelis as “Nazis” and claims that Israel is committing genocide abound in left-wing discourse. Because of their ubiquity, we have almost become inured to the horror of such comparisons.

“Is this about principle, or is it about politics?” asked Lipstadt. “Is this about anti-Semitism, or about Rupert Murdoch?”

The Anti-Defamation League, the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, and COMMENTARY were also quoted in the Jewish Funds for Justice letter and have all since clarified that they are not associated with the campaign. However, as noted yesterday, Jewish Funds for Justice is continuing to collect signatures for the letter on its website.

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Jewish Groups Denounce Anti–Glenn Beck Letter

Last week, Jewish Funds for Justice published an open letter in the Wall Street Journal calling on Fox News to sanction Glenn Beck for his “use of Holocaust and Nazi images.” But now the JTA is reporting that two groups cited as critics of Beck in the letter — the Anti-Defamation League and the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors — have clarified that they want nothing to do with the campaign:

“I want to make it clear, for the record, that I do not support this misguided campaign against Fox News, even though my name was used,” Foxman said in a letter published Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal.

“At a time when Holocaust denial is rampant in much of the Arab world, where anti-Semitism remains a serious concern, and where the Iranian leader has openly declared his desire to ‘wipe Israel off the map,’ surely there are greater enemies and threats to the Jewish people than the pro-Israel stalwarts Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and Glenn Beck,” Foxman’s letter concluded.

In another letter appearing the same day, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, vice president of the American Gathering, said that [American Gathering vice president Elan] Steinberg “has no more right than I do to speak in the name of the survivors on this topic.” He added that “in my 30 years of participation in large-scale annual commemorations, I have yet to meet a survivor who expressed support for Mr. Soros.”

In the letter, COMMENTARY was also cited as criticizing Beck’s comments about George Soros’s behavior during the Holocaust. And while Beck’s statements may have been tasteless, Jonathan noted last week that the Jewish Funds for Justice’s campaign certainly doesn’t represent COMMENTARY’s position on the issue.

In fact, three out of four groups that Jewish Funds for Justice quoted in its letter have felt the need to point out their objections to the anti-Beck drive. But despite this fact, the Jewish Funds for Justice’s website is continuing to accept signatures for the letter, which still includes the quotes from the ADL, the American Gathering, and COMMENTARY.

Last week, Jewish Funds for Justice published an open letter in the Wall Street Journal calling on Fox News to sanction Glenn Beck for his “use of Holocaust and Nazi images.” But now the JTA is reporting that two groups cited as critics of Beck in the letter — the Anti-Defamation League and the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors — have clarified that they want nothing to do with the campaign:

“I want to make it clear, for the record, that I do not support this misguided campaign against Fox News, even though my name was used,” Foxman said in a letter published Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal.

“At a time when Holocaust denial is rampant in much of the Arab world, where anti-Semitism remains a serious concern, and where the Iranian leader has openly declared his desire to ‘wipe Israel off the map,’ surely there are greater enemies and threats to the Jewish people than the pro-Israel stalwarts Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and Glenn Beck,” Foxman’s letter concluded.

In another letter appearing the same day, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, vice president of the American Gathering, said that [American Gathering vice president Elan] Steinberg “has no more right than I do to speak in the name of the survivors on this topic.” He added that “in my 30 years of participation in large-scale annual commemorations, I have yet to meet a survivor who expressed support for Mr. Soros.”

In the letter, COMMENTARY was also cited as criticizing Beck’s comments about George Soros’s behavior during the Holocaust. And while Beck’s statements may have been tasteless, Jonathan noted last week that the Jewish Funds for Justice’s campaign certainly doesn’t represent COMMENTARY’s position on the issue.

In fact, three out of four groups that Jewish Funds for Justice quoted in its letter have felt the need to point out their objections to the anti-Beck drive. But despite this fact, the Jewish Funds for Justice’s website is continuing to accept signatures for the letter, which still includes the quotes from the ADL, the American Gathering, and COMMENTARY.

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Soros-Funded Jewish Group Calls for Fox to Sanction Glenn Beck

In the Wall Street Journal this morning, an organization called Jewish Funds for Justice sent an open letter to Rupert Murdoch asking him to sanction Fox News host Glenn Beck for using “Holocaust and Nazi images” on his show:

We respectfully request that Glenn Beck be sanctioned by Fox News for his completely unacceptable attacks on a survivor of the Holocaust and Roger Ailes apologize for his dismissive remarks about rabbis’ sensitivity to how the Holocaust is used on the air.

Jewish Funds for Justice was referring to an episode of Beck’s show that looked into left-wing philanthropist George Soros’s actions as a child during the Holocaust. As Jonathan wrote at the time, Beck’s portrayal of Soros as a teenage Nazi collaborator was inappropriate and unnecessary.

But as wrong as Beck’s Holocaust references were, the intentions of this open letter are questionable, to say the least. First, Jewish Funds for Justice is actually funded by Soros, which makes the group’s campaign appear to be more of a personal vendetta than anything else.

It’s also interesting that Soros and his organizations have suddenly become so sensitive to anti-Semitism. That’s certainly a new development.

Anti-Semitism and Holocaust imagery didn’t seem to bother Soros back in 2004, when his organization MoveOn.org aired a video comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, which the ADL rightly denounced as “vile and outrageous.”

And it was Soros who apologized back in 2003 for anti-Semite Mahathir Mohamad, who said he understood why people believe that “Jews rule the world by proxy.”

Soros has also blamed anti-Semitism on U.S. and Israeli policy. “There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that,” he said, adding that if “we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish.” Soros has also funded anti-Israel groups, including J Street.

And of all the people in recent months who have used Holocaust or anti-Semitic rhetoric — including Helen Thomas, Oliver Stone, and Rep. Steve Cohen — it’s telling that Jewish Funds for Justice has come out only against Glenn Beck, especially since Beck’s statements were far less offensive than those of the others.

The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Jewish Funds for Justice has no real interest in combating anti-Semitism — unless, of course, it helps the group’s political goal of demonizing conservatives.

And if that’s the case, then this letter is far more offensive than anything Beck has ever said on his show. Anti-Semitism is a serious charge, and throwing it around based on a political motive isn’t just counterproductive; it’s dangerous.

In the Wall Street Journal this morning, an organization called Jewish Funds for Justice sent an open letter to Rupert Murdoch asking him to sanction Fox News host Glenn Beck for using “Holocaust and Nazi images” on his show:

We respectfully request that Glenn Beck be sanctioned by Fox News for his completely unacceptable attacks on a survivor of the Holocaust and Roger Ailes apologize for his dismissive remarks about rabbis’ sensitivity to how the Holocaust is used on the air.

Jewish Funds for Justice was referring to an episode of Beck’s show that looked into left-wing philanthropist George Soros’s actions as a child during the Holocaust. As Jonathan wrote at the time, Beck’s portrayal of Soros as a teenage Nazi collaborator was inappropriate and unnecessary.

But as wrong as Beck’s Holocaust references were, the intentions of this open letter are questionable, to say the least. First, Jewish Funds for Justice is actually funded by Soros, which makes the group’s campaign appear to be more of a personal vendetta than anything else.

It’s also interesting that Soros and his organizations have suddenly become so sensitive to anti-Semitism. That’s certainly a new development.

Anti-Semitism and Holocaust imagery didn’t seem to bother Soros back in 2004, when his organization MoveOn.org aired a video comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, which the ADL rightly denounced as “vile and outrageous.”

And it was Soros who apologized back in 2003 for anti-Semite Mahathir Mohamad, who said he understood why people believe that “Jews rule the world by proxy.”

Soros has also blamed anti-Semitism on U.S. and Israeli policy. “There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that,” he said, adding that if “we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish.” Soros has also funded anti-Israel groups, including J Street.

And of all the people in recent months who have used Holocaust or anti-Semitic rhetoric — including Helen Thomas, Oliver Stone, and Rep. Steve Cohen — it’s telling that Jewish Funds for Justice has come out only against Glenn Beck, especially since Beck’s statements were far less offensive than those of the others.

The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Jewish Funds for Justice has no real interest in combating anti-Semitism — unless, of course, it helps the group’s political goal of demonizing conservatives.

And if that’s the case, then this letter is far more offensive than anything Beck has ever said on his show. Anti-Semitism is a serious charge, and throwing it around based on a political motive isn’t just counterproductive; it’s dangerous.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Who knew coconuts were so dangerous?

Who knew Obama’s speech to India’s parliament would be so historic? “This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls. Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama. ‘We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact,’ an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.”

Who knew it was all about the failure to deliver on jobs, jobs, jobs? Nancy Pelosi, for one: “Nine and a half percent unemployment damaged the majority. … What made a difference in the election is the fact that they said we are spending money, and where are the jobs?” Precisely.

Who knew? Obama has an ego problem, according to Politico. Next up: Obama is a liberal.

Who knew writing books about yourself wasn’t adequate preparation for the presidency? “He came across as a young man in a grown-up’s game—impressive but not presidential. A politician but not a leader, managing American policy at home and American power abroad with disturbing amateurishness. Indeed, there was a growing perception of the inability to run the machinery of government and to find the right people to manage it. A man who was once seen as a talented and even charismatic rhetorician is now seen as lacking real experience or even the ability to stop America’s decline. ‘Yes we can,’ he once said, but now America asks, ‘Can he?'”

Who knew Olbermann was even a “journalist”? This, from Richard Benedetto, is dead on: “Is Keith Olbermann a hypocrite? It is always hypocritical to criticize others for something you are doing yourself. But that point aside, let’s stop pretending that TV talking heads such as Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, O’Reilly et. al. are journalists, and therefore must adhere to traditional journalism standards. They are not journalists. They are ideological partisans who take sides in political debate.” (Who do we think leaked the donation records — archrival Matthews?)

Who knew Obama had “accomplished” so much? “Last, April Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak disregarded appeals from the Obama administration and violated his own public promises by renewing the ‘emergency law’ that for decades has allowed security forces to prevent public demonstrations, break up political meetings, close media outlets and arrest opposition activists without charge. When the administration protested, Egyptian officials assured it that the law henceforth would be applied only in terrorism and drug cases. The White House cited that pledge in a recent summary of its human rights accomplishments.”

Who knew Nancy Pelosi had such good friends on the right? Bill Kristol: “Now there are those, of a churlish disposition, who would note that Speaker Pelosi has presided over the largest loss of House seats by a party in a midterm election in 62 years. There are second-guessers who would question her strategy and tactics on the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care. There are Democrats tempted by the superficial attraction of a new face as leader of their party in the House. There are Democrats in swing districts who are tempted by the prospect of their party following a more moderate path. … We urge Democrats to reject all such considerations and counsels. We urge the remaining House Democrats to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader. … For the good of the republic (and the GOP), House Democrats in the 112th Congress need to march further down the path they blazed in the 111th Congress.” And Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters — you hang in there and fight to the bitter end!

Who knew 2010 was the easy part? “Witness the announcement this morning by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) that he was forming an exploratory committee to look at a run against Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2012. … Democrats must defend 23 seats while there are just 10 GOP seats up for grabs. And, it’s not just raw numbers that make the cycle daunting for Democrats — it’s where the races are taking place. In addition to Nelson, who represents a state where President Obama won just 42 percent in 2008, Democrats will have to defend seats in Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, Montana and Virginia — not exactly the friendliest of states for their side at the moment.”

Who knew there was someone who could top Michael Bloomberg? “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was taken aback by President Obama’s arrogance, Rupert Murdoch said in an interview with an Australian outlet. Bloomberg described his conversation with Obama as ‘verbal ping-pong,’ Murdoch told the Australian Financial Review, and said he had a ‘pleasant’ day golfing on Martha’s Vineyard with the president. He came back and said, ‘I never met in my life such an arrogant man,’ Murdoch said.”

Who knew coconuts were so dangerous?

Who knew Obama’s speech to India’s parliament would be so historic? “This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls. Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama. ‘We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact,’ an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.”

Who knew it was all about the failure to deliver on jobs, jobs, jobs? Nancy Pelosi, for one: “Nine and a half percent unemployment damaged the majority. … What made a difference in the election is the fact that they said we are spending money, and where are the jobs?” Precisely.

Who knew? Obama has an ego problem, according to Politico. Next up: Obama is a liberal.

Who knew writing books about yourself wasn’t adequate preparation for the presidency? “He came across as a young man in a grown-up’s game—impressive but not presidential. A politician but not a leader, managing American policy at home and American power abroad with disturbing amateurishness. Indeed, there was a growing perception of the inability to run the machinery of government and to find the right people to manage it. A man who was once seen as a talented and even charismatic rhetorician is now seen as lacking real experience or even the ability to stop America’s decline. ‘Yes we can,’ he once said, but now America asks, ‘Can he?'”

Who knew Olbermann was even a “journalist”? This, from Richard Benedetto, is dead on: “Is Keith Olbermann a hypocrite? It is always hypocritical to criticize others for something you are doing yourself. But that point aside, let’s stop pretending that TV talking heads such as Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, O’Reilly et. al. are journalists, and therefore must adhere to traditional journalism standards. They are not journalists. They are ideological partisans who take sides in political debate.” (Who do we think leaked the donation records — archrival Matthews?)

Who knew Obama had “accomplished” so much? “Last, April Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak disregarded appeals from the Obama administration and violated his own public promises by renewing the ‘emergency law’ that for decades has allowed security forces to prevent public demonstrations, break up political meetings, close media outlets and arrest opposition activists without charge. When the administration protested, Egyptian officials assured it that the law henceforth would be applied only in terrorism and drug cases. The White House cited that pledge in a recent summary of its human rights accomplishments.”

Who knew Nancy Pelosi had such good friends on the right? Bill Kristol: “Now there are those, of a churlish disposition, who would note that Speaker Pelosi has presided over the largest loss of House seats by a party in a midterm election in 62 years. There are second-guessers who would question her strategy and tactics on the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care. There are Democrats tempted by the superficial attraction of a new face as leader of their party in the House. There are Democrats in swing districts who are tempted by the prospect of their party following a more moderate path. … We urge Democrats to reject all such considerations and counsels. We urge the remaining House Democrats to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader. … For the good of the republic (and the GOP), House Democrats in the 112th Congress need to march further down the path they blazed in the 111th Congress.” And Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters — you hang in there and fight to the bitter end!

Who knew 2010 was the easy part? “Witness the announcement this morning by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) that he was forming an exploratory committee to look at a run against Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2012. … Democrats must defend 23 seats while there are just 10 GOP seats up for grabs. And, it’s not just raw numbers that make the cycle daunting for Democrats — it’s where the races are taking place. In addition to Nelson, who represents a state where President Obama won just 42 percent in 2008, Democrats will have to defend seats in Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, Montana and Virginia — not exactly the friendliest of states for their side at the moment.”

Who knew there was someone who could top Michael Bloomberg? “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was taken aback by President Obama’s arrogance, Rupert Murdoch said in an interview with an Australian outlet. Bloomberg described his conversation with Obama as ‘verbal ping-pong,’ Murdoch told the Australian Financial Review, and said he had a ‘pleasant’ day golfing on Martha’s Vineyard with the president. He came back and said, ‘I never met in my life such an arrogant man,’ Murdoch said.”

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The Chronically Unserious Dana Milbank

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: ‘The Aim Is to Make Israel a Pariah’

Last night, Rupert Murdoch gave an extraordinary speech at an Anti-Defamation League dinner in which he revealed, yet again, that he is a true and selfless friend of the Jewish people and of Israel. Here is the text:

You [the ADL] were founded a century ago against the backdrop of something we cannot imagine in America today:  the conviction and then lynching of an innocent Jew. In the century since then, you have fought anti-Semitism wherever you have found it.  You have championed equal treatment for all races and creeds.  And you have held America to her founding promise. So successful have you been, a few years ago some people were beginning to say, “maybe we don’t need an ADL anymore.” That is a much harder argument to make these days. Now, there’s not a single person in this room who needs a lecture on the evil of anti-Semitism.  My own perspective is simple:  We live in a world where there is an ongoing war against the Jews.  For the first decades after Israel’s founding, this war was conventional in nature.  The goal was straightforward:  to use military force to overrun Israel.  Well before the Berlin Wall came down, that approach had clearly failed. …

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Last night, Rupert Murdoch gave an extraordinary speech at an Anti-Defamation League dinner in which he revealed, yet again, that he is a true and selfless friend of the Jewish people and of Israel. Here is the text:

You [the ADL] were founded a century ago against the backdrop of something we cannot imagine in America today:  the conviction and then lynching of an innocent Jew. In the century since then, you have fought anti-Semitism wherever you have found it.  You have championed equal treatment for all races and creeds.  And you have held America to her founding promise. So successful have you been, a few years ago some people were beginning to say, “maybe we don’t need an ADL anymore.” That is a much harder argument to make these days. Now, there’s not a single person in this room who needs a lecture on the evil of anti-Semitism.  My own perspective is simple:  We live in a world where there is an ongoing war against the Jews.  For the first decades after Israel’s founding, this war was conventional in nature.  The goal was straightforward:  to use military force to overrun Israel.  Well before the Berlin Wall came down, that approach had clearly failed. …

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Another Plagiarist at the New York Times

What could be worse for the Gray Lady than yet another plagiarist? They have had their cheating problems, of course. Jayson Blair fabricated stories. Maureen Dowd fabricated excuses. And now they have another. To make matters worse, their archrival, the irritatingly successful Wall Street Journal (owned by the dark prince of conservative media, Rupert Murdoch), ratted out the New York Times phony:

On Friday, Feb. 12, Robert Thomson, the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal wrote Times executive editor Bill Keller to inform him of “apparent plagiarism in The New York Times.”

In the letter, Mr. Thomson cites six examples of material where he believes Times reporter Zachery Kouwe plagiarized Journal reporter Amir Efrati from a story that was published on Feb. 5.

The Times fessed up, but avoided the “P” word:

In a number of business articles in The Times over the past year, and in posts on the DealBook blog on NYTimes.com, a Times reporter appears to have improperly appropriated wording and passages published by other news organizations.

The reporter, Zachery Kouwe, reused language from The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and other sources without attribution or acknowledgment.

The Times concedes that this is a serious matter and says cryptically that it “remains under investigation.” But why should anything happen to the literary kleptomaniac, Kouwe? Nothing happened to Dowd. She came up with a silly excuse that not even Clark Hoyt would buy. She’s still there, churning out (up?) bile twice a week. And then there is the ongoing question as to how such august publications as the Times, the Washington Post, and the New Republic attract the likes of Blair, Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass, and their ilk. It seems as though between the fakes and the “avoiding the news that’s bad for the Left” problem, these outfits have a bit of a quality-control issue.

In any case, Mr. Kouwe, I think, has a handy argument in his favor should he be fired: why is Dowd still there if plagiarism is such a big deal at the Times?

What could be worse for the Gray Lady than yet another plagiarist? They have had their cheating problems, of course. Jayson Blair fabricated stories. Maureen Dowd fabricated excuses. And now they have another. To make matters worse, their archrival, the irritatingly successful Wall Street Journal (owned by the dark prince of conservative media, Rupert Murdoch), ratted out the New York Times phony:

On Friday, Feb. 12, Robert Thomson, the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal wrote Times executive editor Bill Keller to inform him of “apparent plagiarism in The New York Times.”

In the letter, Mr. Thomson cites six examples of material where he believes Times reporter Zachery Kouwe plagiarized Journal reporter Amir Efrati from a story that was published on Feb. 5.

The Times fessed up, but avoided the “P” word:

In a number of business articles in The Times over the past year, and in posts on the DealBook blog on NYTimes.com, a Times reporter appears to have improperly appropriated wording and passages published by other news organizations.

The reporter, Zachery Kouwe, reused language from The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and other sources without attribution or acknowledgment.

The Times concedes that this is a serious matter and says cryptically that it “remains under investigation.” But why should anything happen to the literary kleptomaniac, Kouwe? Nothing happened to Dowd. She came up with a silly excuse that not even Clark Hoyt would buy. She’s still there, churning out (up?) bile twice a week. And then there is the ongoing question as to how such august publications as the Times, the Washington Post, and the New Republic attract the likes of Blair, Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass, and their ilk. It seems as though between the fakes and the “avoiding the news that’s bad for the Left” problem, these outfits have a bit of a quality-control issue.

In any case, Mr. Kouwe, I think, has a handy argument in his favor should he be fired: why is Dowd still there if plagiarism is such a big deal at the Times?

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Coming In at No. 1

Keith Olbermann, the bloviating sportscaster turned bloviating chat show host (or is that redundant?), paid me a signal honor by making me the No. 1 story last night on his list of the “headlines breaking in the administration’s 50 running scandals.” What did I do to deserve this honor? I’ll let Keith explain:

And number one: We got ya, coming and going-gate. Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, one of administration’s consulting dumb asses who got us into the quagmire of Iraq, and is now pushing hard for a twin disaster in Iran. In an online debate yesterday, he insisted that the surge has worked because, quoting, “civilian deaths were down more than 80 percent, U.S. deaths down more than 60 percent between December of 2006 and March of 2008.”

But it appears he wrote for Rupert Murdoch’s “Wall Street Journal” on Monday, in that, Max Boot claimed that in the huge jump in American fatalities last month, 54, the most lost since last August. It, quote, “could be a sign that tough combat is under way that will lead to the enemy’s defeat and the creation of a more peaceful environment in the future. Unfortunate as the latest deaths are, they are in all likelihood, a sign of things getting worse before they get better.”

And there it is in all its beautiful elliptical, symmetrical, asinine Bushian glory. If fewer Americans die in Iraq, that’s because the surge is working. If more Americans die in Iraq, that’s also because the surge is working. And if the surge is working the troops have to stay longer to solidify its gains, and if the surge isn’t working, the troops have to stay longer to make sure it starts working.

And the point of the war in Iraq is to make sure there is a war in Iraq.

Aside from some invective uniquely his own, Olbermann’s attack was lifted almost word for word from a posting on Think Progress, the website of the Center for American Progress, a left-wing attack machine masquerading as a think tank.

I realize that both Olbermann and the Think Progress bloggers are interested in scoring points regardless of the facts. But I’m still having trouble grasping the supposed contradiction between saying that things are getting better because the long-term trend has been a reduction in casualties, while admitting that things are temporarily worse because of a short-term spike in casualties.

In my piece I went on to point out that sometimes an increase in casualties precedes a military victory. That’s what happened last year, when Olbermann and the Center for American Progress were writing off the surge as a failure before it had begun. You would think they might have learned something from that experience. But I guess not. I could think of a two-word term to describe their mindset (the first word starts with a “d,” the second with an “a”) but, hey, I don’t want to stoop to their level.

Keith Olbermann, the bloviating sportscaster turned bloviating chat show host (or is that redundant?), paid me a signal honor by making me the No. 1 story last night on his list of the “headlines breaking in the administration’s 50 running scandals.” What did I do to deserve this honor? I’ll let Keith explain:

And number one: We got ya, coming and going-gate. Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, one of administration’s consulting dumb asses who got us into the quagmire of Iraq, and is now pushing hard for a twin disaster in Iran. In an online debate yesterday, he insisted that the surge has worked because, quoting, “civilian deaths were down more than 80 percent, U.S. deaths down more than 60 percent between December of 2006 and March of 2008.”

But it appears he wrote for Rupert Murdoch’s “Wall Street Journal” on Monday, in that, Max Boot claimed that in the huge jump in American fatalities last month, 54, the most lost since last August. It, quote, “could be a sign that tough combat is under way that will lead to the enemy’s defeat and the creation of a more peaceful environment in the future. Unfortunate as the latest deaths are, they are in all likelihood, a sign of things getting worse before they get better.”

And there it is in all its beautiful elliptical, symmetrical, asinine Bushian glory. If fewer Americans die in Iraq, that’s because the surge is working. If more Americans die in Iraq, that’s also because the surge is working. And if the surge is working the troops have to stay longer to solidify its gains, and if the surge isn’t working, the troops have to stay longer to make sure it starts working.

And the point of the war in Iraq is to make sure there is a war in Iraq.

Aside from some invective uniquely his own, Olbermann’s attack was lifted almost word for word from a posting on Think Progress, the website of the Center for American Progress, a left-wing attack machine masquerading as a think tank.

I realize that both Olbermann and the Think Progress bloggers are interested in scoring points regardless of the facts. But I’m still having trouble grasping the supposed contradiction between saying that things are getting better because the long-term trend has been a reduction in casualties, while admitting that things are temporarily worse because of a short-term spike in casualties.

In my piece I went on to point out that sometimes an increase in casualties precedes a military victory. That’s what happened last year, when Olbermann and the Center for American Progress were writing off the surge as a failure before it had begun. You would think they might have learned something from that experience. But I guess not. I could think of a two-word term to describe their mindset (the first word starts with a “d,” the second with an “a”) but, hey, I don’t want to stoop to their level.

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Moveon, Kos – R.I.P.

In the monomaniacal world of moveon.org and the Daily Kos, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have committed an unforgivable sin. By appearing on Fox News the Democrats have proven themselves unserious in the apocalyptically serious fight against Rupert Murdoch’s quest for world domination.

Back when Obama was the unflappable boy wonder of the Left, the Kos crowd was savoring the accumulated days (771) that the I’ll-talk-to-Tehran candidate had abstained from talking to America’s most watched news source.

Why does the far Left so despise Fox, anyway? Here’s “San Francisco’s alternative online daily” with some much needed clarity:

To understand why bloggers are so upset about Fox News’ co-sponsorship [of a since-cancelled Democratic debate] , look at how the station hosted a Democratic presidential debate last time around in 2003. During its live coverage, the Fox News graphic – as well as a banner over the stage – titled the event “Democrat Candidate Presidential Debate,” a right-wing epithet made famous most recently in George Bush’s State of the Union Address.

It doesn’t matter how many times you re-read that; it still makes no sense. Nevertheless, the Nevada debate was cancelled when the state’s Democrats caved-in to the paranoid anti-Fox campaign. Silencing open debate was the far-Left blogosphere’s crowning achievement—and the beginning of a nightmare for Democrats. With moveon.org and the Daily Kos actually being paid the respect of Democratic representatives, Hillary, Obama, and John Edwards had to maneuver gingerly around a daily barrage of whacko agit-prop that now bore the unofficial imprimatur of the Democratic Party.

Last fall, moveon.org ran the ridiculous “General Betray Us” ad, and serious Democrats began to distance themselves. But Obama’s appearance on Fox News this past Sunday was the real beginning of the end. At the very same time that Kos bloggers were melting down about Obama’s interview, the media lit-up with reports that Hillary was going on Bill O’Reilly. The Dems had moved on. The fact that Hillary thrived under O’Reilly’s cross-examination only serves to further the long-overdue marginalization of these histrionic and poisonous organizations. Their stranglehold is no more.

In the monomaniacal world of moveon.org and the Daily Kos, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have committed an unforgivable sin. By appearing on Fox News the Democrats have proven themselves unserious in the apocalyptically serious fight against Rupert Murdoch’s quest for world domination.

Back when Obama was the unflappable boy wonder of the Left, the Kos crowd was savoring the accumulated days (771) that the I’ll-talk-to-Tehran candidate had abstained from talking to America’s most watched news source.

Why does the far Left so despise Fox, anyway? Here’s “San Francisco’s alternative online daily” with some much needed clarity:

To understand why bloggers are so upset about Fox News’ co-sponsorship [of a since-cancelled Democratic debate] , look at how the station hosted a Democratic presidential debate last time around in 2003. During its live coverage, the Fox News graphic – as well as a banner over the stage – titled the event “Democrat Candidate Presidential Debate,” a right-wing epithet made famous most recently in George Bush’s State of the Union Address.

It doesn’t matter how many times you re-read that; it still makes no sense. Nevertheless, the Nevada debate was cancelled when the state’s Democrats caved-in to the paranoid anti-Fox campaign. Silencing open debate was the far-Left blogosphere’s crowning achievement—and the beginning of a nightmare for Democrats. With moveon.org and the Daily Kos actually being paid the respect of Democratic representatives, Hillary, Obama, and John Edwards had to maneuver gingerly around a daily barrage of whacko agit-prop that now bore the unofficial imprimatur of the Democratic Party.

Last fall, moveon.org ran the ridiculous “General Betray Us” ad, and serious Democrats began to distance themselves. But Obama’s appearance on Fox News this past Sunday was the real beginning of the end. At the very same time that Kos bloggers were melting down about Obama’s interview, the media lit-up with reports that Hillary was going on Bill O’Reilly. The Dems had moved on. The fact that Hillary thrived under O’Reilly’s cross-examination only serves to further the long-overdue marginalization of these histrionic and poisonous organizations. Their stranglehold is no more.

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Quite Possibly the Dumbest Study Ever

The Project for Excellence in Journalism, which is itself neither a project nor excellent nor journalism, has just released a study examining the difference in the Wall Street Journal‘s front page between the way it was before Rupert Murdoch bought it and now, four months after he assumed control. After deep deliberation and careful analysis, they find it is different. There are more stories, they are less focused on business and more focused on general news, and they are often shorter. Every single person, among the two million people who buy the Wall Street Journal every day, could have told you that.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism, which is itself neither a project nor excellent nor journalism, has just released a study examining the difference in the Wall Street Journal‘s front page between the way it was before Rupert Murdoch bought it and now, four months after he assumed control. After deep deliberation and careful analysis, they find it is different. There are more stories, they are less focused on business and more focused on general news, and they are often shorter. Every single person, among the two million people who buy the Wall Street Journal every day, could have told you that.

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Streisand in Jerusalem

Israeli President Shimon Peres has announced the impressive list of luminaries who will attend the upcoming conference celebrating Israel’s 60th birthday. They include George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Mikhail Gorbachev, Henry Kissinger, Rupert Murdoch, Vaclav Havel, Alan Dershowitz, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid.

While these VIP’s will highlight Israel’s many successes in a variety of sectors, the conference will also pay respect to the challenges that Israel has yet to overcome. At least this is how I’m interpreting the invitation of Barbra Streisand, whose rendition of Avinu Malkeinu promises to be a low point in Israel’s cultural history.

So, here’s to a more hopeful Israeli future–which, in my book, means inviting an 82-year-old Bob Dylan to play Hava Negila at the 75th celebration. (Frankly, even Bill Clinton returning for a repeat performance of “Imagine” might be an improvement.)

Israeli President Shimon Peres has announced the impressive list of luminaries who will attend the upcoming conference celebrating Israel’s 60th birthday. They include George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Mikhail Gorbachev, Henry Kissinger, Rupert Murdoch, Vaclav Havel, Alan Dershowitz, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid.

While these VIP’s will highlight Israel’s many successes in a variety of sectors, the conference will also pay respect to the challenges that Israel has yet to overcome. At least this is how I’m interpreting the invitation of Barbra Streisand, whose rendition of Avinu Malkeinu promises to be a low point in Israel’s cultural history.

So, here’s to a more hopeful Israeli future–which, in my book, means inviting an 82-year-old Bob Dylan to play Hava Negila at the 75th celebration. (Frankly, even Bill Clinton returning for a repeat performance of “Imagine” might be an improvement.)

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Steeling for Obama’s Loss

Paul Waldman, an employee of David Brock’s Media Matters for America, has written a somewhat overwrought piece for The American Prospect, darkly warning that conservatives are only now beginning to unravel their long-planned “hate-based campaign against Obama.” They will, according to Waldman, “wage a campaign appealing to the ugliest prejudices, the most craven fears, the most vile hatreds.” Waldman would have us believe that Jeremiah Wright is the creation of Rupert Murdoch, and that any questions about his ties to Barack Obama are de facto evidence of racism.

But Wright is, apparently just the beginning of the conservative assault on Obama:

He’s not the unthreatening black man, he’s the scary black man. He’s Al Sharpton, he’s Malcom X, he’s Huey Newton. He’ll throw grievance in your face, make you feel guilty, and who knows, maybe kill you and rape your wife.

Yes, you read that correctly. Come November, should Barack Obama be the Democratic nominee, expect to see advertisements scaring white housewives into thinking that Barack Obama will kill their husbands and rape them.

Now, it’s unlikely that even the most craven of right-wing dirty tricksters would employ such low tactics. But some people have tried to smear Obama this way, as Waldman conspicuously neglects to mention. And those people were the Clintons. (I guess they must be really, really deep-cover agents of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Or something.)

In Waldman’s essay you can already see how the left wing of the Democratic party will react should Barack Obama not win the presidency. There won’t be any discussion of his policies or his abilities as a campaigner. There won’t be a crisis of self-questioning on the part of his supporters. There will, however, be thoughtlessly-hurled accusations of racism. And plenty of them.

Paul Waldman, an employee of David Brock’s Media Matters for America, has written a somewhat overwrought piece for The American Prospect, darkly warning that conservatives are only now beginning to unravel their long-planned “hate-based campaign against Obama.” They will, according to Waldman, “wage a campaign appealing to the ugliest prejudices, the most craven fears, the most vile hatreds.” Waldman would have us believe that Jeremiah Wright is the creation of Rupert Murdoch, and that any questions about his ties to Barack Obama are de facto evidence of racism.

But Wright is, apparently just the beginning of the conservative assault on Obama:

He’s not the unthreatening black man, he’s the scary black man. He’s Al Sharpton, he’s Malcom X, he’s Huey Newton. He’ll throw grievance in your face, make you feel guilty, and who knows, maybe kill you and rape your wife.

Yes, you read that correctly. Come November, should Barack Obama be the Democratic nominee, expect to see advertisements scaring white housewives into thinking that Barack Obama will kill their husbands and rape them.

Now, it’s unlikely that even the most craven of right-wing dirty tricksters would employ such low tactics. But some people have tried to smear Obama this way, as Waldman conspicuously neglects to mention. And those people were the Clintons. (I guess they must be really, really deep-cover agents of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Or something.)

In Waldman’s essay you can already see how the left wing of the Democratic party will react should Barack Obama not win the presidency. There won’t be any discussion of his policies or his abilities as a campaigner. There won’t be a crisis of self-questioning on the part of his supporters. There will, however, be thoughtlessly-hurled accusations of racism. And plenty of them.

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Never a Dull Moment Over at the New York Post

My former place of employ, the New York Post, has endorsed Barack Obama in the New York Democratic primary over Hillary Clinton. So much for the dozens, even hundreds, of stories speculating that the paper’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, had made some kind of side deal secret arrangement to back Mrs. C. If I had a nickel for every reporter’s call asking me about that when I worked there, I would have at least 45 cents by now. An excerpt:

Obama represents a fresh start.

His opponent, and her husband, stand for déjà vu all over again – a return to the opportunistic, scandal-scarred, morally muddled years of the almost infinitely self-indulgent Clinton co-presidency.

Does America really want to go through all that once again?

It will – if Sen. Clinton becomes president.

That much has become painfully apparent.

Bill Clinton’s thuggishly self-centered campaign antics conjure so many bad, sad memories that it’s hard to know where to begin.

Suffice it to say that his Peck’s-Bad-Boy smirk – the Clinton trademark – wore thin a very long time ago.

Far more to the point, Sen. Clinton could have reined him in at any time. But she chose not to – which tells the nation all it needs to know about what a Clinton II presidency would be like.

Now, Obama is not without flaws….

 

My former place of employ, the New York Post, has endorsed Barack Obama in the New York Democratic primary over Hillary Clinton. So much for the dozens, even hundreds, of stories speculating that the paper’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, had made some kind of side deal secret arrangement to back Mrs. C. If I had a nickel for every reporter’s call asking me about that when I worked there, I would have at least 45 cents by now. An excerpt:

Obama represents a fresh start.

His opponent, and her husband, stand for déjà vu all over again – a return to the opportunistic, scandal-scarred, morally muddled years of the almost infinitely self-indulgent Clinton co-presidency.

Does America really want to go through all that once again?

It will – if Sen. Clinton becomes president.

That much has become painfully apparent.

Bill Clinton’s thuggishly self-centered campaign antics conjure so many bad, sad memories that it’s hard to know where to begin.

Suffice it to say that his Peck’s-Bad-Boy smirk – the Clinton trademark – wore thin a very long time ago.

Far more to the point, Sen. Clinton could have reined him in at any time. But she chose not to – which tells the nation all it needs to know about what a Clinton II presidency would be like.

Now, Obama is not without flaws….

 

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Sawdust or Bill Kristol?

Among my various regular household duties, sorting bottles, paper, metal, and other forms of refuse, as mandated by local recycling law, is irksome, especially because I suspect that all these form of garbage end up in the same dump. But of such daily chores, none is more bothersome than reading the editorials of the New York Times. It’s not so much that I disagree with them — which I almost always do — but the fact that they are almost always dead on the page. Apodictic, sententious, grim are three words that consistently come to mind; these editorial masterpieces are to reading as sawdust is to eating.

Now that the paper is locked in a competition with Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, either the Times will have to get rid of the sawdust or they will continue to lose this portion of the game to an editorial-page operation that is nothing but lively and full of high good humor. Already, the Times’s op-ed page — as opposed to the editorial page — seems to have gotten the message. How else are we to read the decision to give prime real estate — a weekly column — to Bill Kristol, a dreaded neoconservative, and the editor of the Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard?

That decision has provoked howls of outrage from free-thinking liberals who appear exceedingly anxious to avoid hearing the views of anyone with whom they might disagree. One of the more notable contributions to this choir of conformity is Clark Hoyt, the Times’s “public editor” or ombudsman. This past Sunday he wrote a column calling the decision to appoint Kristol a mistake. The headline was He May Be Unwelcome, but We’ll Survive. Hoyt’s is the kind of thinking that might ensure that the Times will not survive. Keep up the good work Hoyt!

I take a closer look at Hoyt’s argument today in Bill Kristol: Enemy of the People, over at realclearpolitics.

Among my various regular household duties, sorting bottles, paper, metal, and other forms of refuse, as mandated by local recycling law, is irksome, especially because I suspect that all these form of garbage end up in the same dump. But of such daily chores, none is more bothersome than reading the editorials of the New York Times. It’s not so much that I disagree with them — which I almost always do — but the fact that they are almost always dead on the page. Apodictic, sententious, grim are three words that consistently come to mind; these editorial masterpieces are to reading as sawdust is to eating.

Now that the paper is locked in a competition with Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, either the Times will have to get rid of the sawdust or they will continue to lose this portion of the game to an editorial-page operation that is nothing but lively and full of high good humor. Already, the Times’s op-ed page — as opposed to the editorial page — seems to have gotten the message. How else are we to read the decision to give prime real estate — a weekly column — to Bill Kristol, a dreaded neoconservative, and the editor of the Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard?

That decision has provoked howls of outrage from free-thinking liberals who appear exceedingly anxious to avoid hearing the views of anyone with whom they might disagree. One of the more notable contributions to this choir of conformity is Clark Hoyt, the Times’s “public editor” or ombudsman. This past Sunday he wrote a column calling the decision to appoint Kristol a mistake. The headline was He May Be Unwelcome, but We’ll Survive. Hoyt’s is the kind of thinking that might ensure that the Times will not survive. Keep up the good work Hoyt!

I take a closer look at Hoyt’s argument today in Bill Kristol: Enemy of the People, over at realclearpolitics.

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“A Failure of Imagination”

James Schlesinger, a former director of the CIA, makes a critical observation about the Iran National Intelligence Estimate in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today. The intelligence community, burned by the presence of speculation in some of its previous NIEs, stuck to the “hard facts” this time around. “Many in the intelligence community,” he writes, “embrace this as a return to virtue”:

Yet in itself it has severe drawbacks. As in this case, reading the key judgments may now require something akin to Cliffs Notes listing other relevant events and considerations that may be necessary in interpreting an Estimate limited to the hard evidence.

Exclusive reliance on hard evidence not infrequently results in deliberately blinding oneself to the most obvious explanation of what has occurred. The classic example of this failing occurred during the Vietnam War, when intelligence analysts stubbornly refused to accept that enemy supplies were pouring through Sihanoukville ostensibly on the grounds that there was no hard evidence. (Actually, there was an agent’s report that revealed the activity, but it was dismissed as insufficient.) Intelligence based on hard evidence requires supplementation by other forms of intelligence.

“Failures of imagination,” to which the 9-11 Commission referred, can come in a variety of modes.

Reading the entire op-ed requires a paid subscription to the Wall Street Journal site, which is a pity, since it is by far the liveliest and most informative editorial page going. For the sake of informing public opinion and avoiding future “failures of imagination,” let’s hope that reports are accurate that the new owner of the newspaper, Rupert Murdoch, plans to reverse course and offer content for free.

James Schlesinger, a former director of the CIA, makes a critical observation about the Iran National Intelligence Estimate in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today. The intelligence community, burned by the presence of speculation in some of its previous NIEs, stuck to the “hard facts” this time around. “Many in the intelligence community,” he writes, “embrace this as a return to virtue”:

Yet in itself it has severe drawbacks. As in this case, reading the key judgments may now require something akin to Cliffs Notes listing other relevant events and considerations that may be necessary in interpreting an Estimate limited to the hard evidence.

Exclusive reliance on hard evidence not infrequently results in deliberately blinding oneself to the most obvious explanation of what has occurred. The classic example of this failing occurred during the Vietnam War, when intelligence analysts stubbornly refused to accept that enemy supplies were pouring through Sihanoukville ostensibly on the grounds that there was no hard evidence. (Actually, there was an agent’s report that revealed the activity, but it was dismissed as insufficient.) Intelligence based on hard evidence requires supplementation by other forms of intelligence.

“Failures of imagination,” to which the 9-11 Commission referred, can come in a variety of modes.

Reading the entire op-ed requires a paid subscription to the Wall Street Journal site, which is a pity, since it is by far the liveliest and most informative editorial page going. For the sake of informing public opinion and avoiding future “failures of imagination,” let’s hope that reports are accurate that the new owner of the newspaper, Rupert Murdoch, plans to reverse course and offer content for free.

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