Commentary Magazine


Topic: the Huffington Post

What Now for Keith Olbermann?

Since Keith Olbermann’s abrupt departure from MSNBC on Friday, there’s been a lot of speculation about where the liberal commentator will go next.

Though it seems clear that Olbermann had been anxious to leave the network for a while — the New York Post reported that he’s wanted out for at least a year — it also sounds like the breakup was mutual, and may have even preempted a firing. Olbermann was notoriously tough to deal with, and with the rise of other liberal stars on the network and a pending change in ownership, it wasn’t much of a loss for MSNBC to let him out of his contract.

Of course, the question is, Where will he go now? As far as liberal-commentary careers go, hosting a nightly show on MSNBC is the peak. You don’t really go up from there.

So far, there have been some interesting predictions. The New York Daily News wonders whether he’ll go back into sports commentary (based on one of his Twitter updates). The Huffington Post and Entertainment Weekly predict that he may change career direction and star in Aaron Sorkin’s new TV series Network.

And the Wrap reports that Olbermann is planning to stake out on his own and build a media outlet similar to the Huffington Post — which sounds far more likely:

With two years left on his $7 million a year contract, Olbermann was seeking a full exit package but he really has his eye on creating his own media empire in the style of Huffington Post, according to the individual. That way, Olbermann would control his own brand and, in his view, potentially earn far more as an owner.

Olbermann already has a high-profile brand as a liberal opinionater, and he might as well take advantage of it. The move also wouldn’t be without precedent. Former and current cable news hosts Glenn Beck and Tucker Carlson have both launched pretty successful media outlets.

Since Keith Olbermann’s abrupt departure from MSNBC on Friday, there’s been a lot of speculation about where the liberal commentator will go next.

Though it seems clear that Olbermann had been anxious to leave the network for a while — the New York Post reported that he’s wanted out for at least a year — it also sounds like the breakup was mutual, and may have even preempted a firing. Olbermann was notoriously tough to deal with, and with the rise of other liberal stars on the network and a pending change in ownership, it wasn’t much of a loss for MSNBC to let him out of his contract.

Of course, the question is, Where will he go now? As far as liberal-commentary careers go, hosting a nightly show on MSNBC is the peak. You don’t really go up from there.

So far, there have been some interesting predictions. The New York Daily News wonders whether he’ll go back into sports commentary (based on one of his Twitter updates). The Huffington Post and Entertainment Weekly predict that he may change career direction and star in Aaron Sorkin’s new TV series Network.

And the Wrap reports that Olbermann is planning to stake out on his own and build a media outlet similar to the Huffington Post — which sounds far more likely:

With two years left on his $7 million a year contract, Olbermann was seeking a full exit package but he really has his eye on creating his own media empire in the style of Huffington Post, according to the individual. That way, Olbermann would control his own brand and, in his view, potentially earn far more as an owner.

Olbermann already has a high-profile brand as a liberal opinionater, and he might as well take advantage of it. The move also wouldn’t be without precedent. Former and current cable news hosts Glenn Beck and Tucker Carlson have both launched pretty successful media outlets.

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Norquist Dodging, Again, on Afghanistan

If Grover Norquist wants U.S. troops to pull out of Afghanistan right now, why doesn’t he just come out and say it?

Last week, at a dinner sponsored by the New America Foundation, Norquist tiptoed around the issue, but “stopped short of personally calling for a rapid withdrawal,” according to the Huffington Post.

Instead he called for a “conversation” on the war, saying that he was “confident about where that conversation would go” — i.e., in the direction of withdrawal.

And in an interview with the Daily Caller today, Norquist again avoided giving a direct answer. “Norquist insisted that he is not calling for America to pull out of the war — at least not yet,” reported the Caller.

“I see enough to say that I think about it, and that’s what I’ve tossed out there,” said Norquist, adding that “I just think we ought to have a conversation.”

Well, nobody is stopping him from having a conversation. In fact, the discussion has been going on for years inside the conservative movement. And, no, it hasn’t led to the conclusion that Norquist “confidently” alluded to but for some reason declined to say outright.

Could it be that Norquist isn’t yet ready to throw his lot in with those on the right who have openly supported withdrawal — Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, Justin Raimondo, for example?

Whatever the reason, it’s a good move on his part. By framing this as a “conversation,” Norquist can shoot out anti-war talking points while refusing to commit himself to a solid position on the issue. After all, he’s just asking questions, right?

If Grover Norquist wants U.S. troops to pull out of Afghanistan right now, why doesn’t he just come out and say it?

Last week, at a dinner sponsored by the New America Foundation, Norquist tiptoed around the issue, but “stopped short of personally calling for a rapid withdrawal,” according to the Huffington Post.

Instead he called for a “conversation” on the war, saying that he was “confident about where that conversation would go” — i.e., in the direction of withdrawal.

And in an interview with the Daily Caller today, Norquist again avoided giving a direct answer. “Norquist insisted that he is not calling for America to pull out of the war — at least not yet,” reported the Caller.

“I see enough to say that I think about it, and that’s what I’ve tossed out there,” said Norquist, adding that “I just think we ought to have a conversation.”

Well, nobody is stopping him from having a conversation. In fact, the discussion has been going on for years inside the conservative movement. And, no, it hasn’t led to the conclusion that Norquist “confidently” alluded to but for some reason declined to say outright.

Could it be that Norquist isn’t yet ready to throw his lot in with those on the right who have openly supported withdrawal — Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, Justin Raimondo, for example?

Whatever the reason, it’s a good move on his part. By framing this as a “conversation,” Norquist can shoot out anti-war talking points while refusing to commit himself to a solid position on the issue. After all, he’s just asking questions, right?

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Loughner’s Conspiracy-Theory Obsession

Byron York has a fascinating analysis of Jared Loughner’s obsession with the conspiracy-theory-themed Internet movie Zeitgeist, which friends say the accused shooter watched continually.

The movie is apparently made up of three parts. The first “debunks” organized religion, which is allegedly used as mind-control for the masses. The second claims that the Sept. 11 attacks were staged, in order to create an excuse to wage “constant global warfare.” And the third part alleges that greedy bankers were behind the Sept. 11 attacks:

The third and final part of the documentary is titled “Don’t Mind the Men Behind the Curtain.” Those men are central bankers and currency manipulators, the “invisible government” that controls our lives.

In the early 20th century, according to “Zeitgeist,” “ruthless banking interests” held a secret meeting to create the Federal Reserve system. The goal, beyond enriching themselves, was to debase American currency and reduce the United States to the “slavery” of ever-increasing debt. Anyone who has even sampled kooky speculations about the Fed will recognize this as very old stuff, repackaged with amateurish digital effects.

This is, indeed, repackaged old stuff. The same paranoid ramblings that have been found in anti-Semitic “New World Order” conspiracy theories for over a century.

And while you’d guess that a film like this would be popular only with the fringes of society, it actually seems to have made inroads as a political movement with some fairly mainstream progressives. The “Zeitgeist Movement,” which was created in 2007 and marketed as a progressive “sustainable living” campaign, had reportedly garnered over 300,000 registered followers as of last March. At the time, Travis Walter Donovan, the associate green editor of the Huffington Post, wrote a laudatory article about the movement that made it sound positively utopian.

According to Donovan, the Zeitgeist Movement promotes a “resource-based economy,” which means that “the world’s resources would be considered as the equal inheritance of all the world’s peoples, and would be managed as efficiently and carefully as possible through focusing on the technological potential of sustainable development.”

Donovan concluded his article with this glowing paragraph:

The members of The Zeitgeist Movement seem to face an intimidating wall of those who decree their goals as unattainable. But with 250 international chapters forming in just one year and the membership count rapidly growing, it’s undeniable that many easily identify with the message. The evidence shows that our current system is leading us on a collision course; our present model of society cannot sustain itself. While some deny this, others ignore it, and there are those who still try to profit off of it. The Zeitgeist Movement highlights that there are individuals who believe in a sustainable future where humanity is not united by religious or political ideology, but by the scientific method, venerated as the savior that can develop a system of human equality, thriving from the cooperation and balance of technology and nature.

So, basically, it’s socialism with a couple of “green” words thrown in. And also that New World Order stuff. Sounds like a safe combination to me.

And since this subject has been so hotly politicized, I just want to add that I’m not accusing the Zeitgeist Movement, progressives, the Huffington Post, or any other group of having any sort of influence on the shooting. Despite the misguided and troubling politics of Zeitgeist, it’s clear that the movement is not one that preaches violence, so it would be unfair and erroneous to blame it for the attack.

Byron York has a fascinating analysis of Jared Loughner’s obsession with the conspiracy-theory-themed Internet movie Zeitgeist, which friends say the accused shooter watched continually.

The movie is apparently made up of three parts. The first “debunks” organized religion, which is allegedly used as mind-control for the masses. The second claims that the Sept. 11 attacks were staged, in order to create an excuse to wage “constant global warfare.” And the third part alleges that greedy bankers were behind the Sept. 11 attacks:

The third and final part of the documentary is titled “Don’t Mind the Men Behind the Curtain.” Those men are central bankers and currency manipulators, the “invisible government” that controls our lives.

In the early 20th century, according to “Zeitgeist,” “ruthless banking interests” held a secret meeting to create the Federal Reserve system. The goal, beyond enriching themselves, was to debase American currency and reduce the United States to the “slavery” of ever-increasing debt. Anyone who has even sampled kooky speculations about the Fed will recognize this as very old stuff, repackaged with amateurish digital effects.

This is, indeed, repackaged old stuff. The same paranoid ramblings that have been found in anti-Semitic “New World Order” conspiracy theories for over a century.

And while you’d guess that a film like this would be popular only with the fringes of society, it actually seems to have made inroads as a political movement with some fairly mainstream progressives. The “Zeitgeist Movement,” which was created in 2007 and marketed as a progressive “sustainable living” campaign, had reportedly garnered over 300,000 registered followers as of last March. At the time, Travis Walter Donovan, the associate green editor of the Huffington Post, wrote a laudatory article about the movement that made it sound positively utopian.

According to Donovan, the Zeitgeist Movement promotes a “resource-based economy,” which means that “the world’s resources would be considered as the equal inheritance of all the world’s peoples, and would be managed as efficiently and carefully as possible through focusing on the technological potential of sustainable development.”

Donovan concluded his article with this glowing paragraph:

The members of The Zeitgeist Movement seem to face an intimidating wall of those who decree their goals as unattainable. But with 250 international chapters forming in just one year and the membership count rapidly growing, it’s undeniable that many easily identify with the message. The evidence shows that our current system is leading us on a collision course; our present model of society cannot sustain itself. While some deny this, others ignore it, and there are those who still try to profit off of it. The Zeitgeist Movement highlights that there are individuals who believe in a sustainable future where humanity is not united by religious or political ideology, but by the scientific method, venerated as the savior that can develop a system of human equality, thriving from the cooperation and balance of technology and nature.

So, basically, it’s socialism with a couple of “green” words thrown in. And also that New World Order stuff. Sounds like a safe combination to me.

And since this subject has been so hotly politicized, I just want to add that I’m not accusing the Zeitgeist Movement, progressives, the Huffington Post, or any other group of having any sort of influence on the shooting. Despite the misguided and troubling politics of Zeitgeist, it’s clear that the movement is not one that preaches violence, so it would be unfair and erroneous to blame it for the attack.

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Lieberman May Drop Out of 2012 Race

The Hartford Courant’s website is reporting that Senator Joseph Lieberman is poised to announce that he won’t run for re-election in 2012. Lieberman will announce his 2012 plans Wednesday in his hometown of Stamford, at an event where he will be surrounded by longtime supporters, adding to speculation that he will speak of the end of his political career in the place where he grew up. The decision not to wait is being linked to the announcement by Susan Bysiewicz, a popular Democrat who has served as Connecticut’s secretary of state and was ruled off the ballot last year for state attorney general by a technicality, that she will run for Lieberman’s seat.

The Courant speculates that the reason Lieberman is not waiting until later in the election cycle to pull out is because he wants to make his statement “while there’s still speculation that he could still win if he chose to run.” Maybe. But the only reason Lieberman is bailing now is because he knows he has no chance to win in 2012.

I wrote last month that indications that Linda McMahon was going to make another try for the Senate in 2012 made a repeat of Lieberman’s 2006 win as an independent virtually impossible because he would need the GOP to more or less not show up the way they did in that race. In response, some readers contended that if Connecticut Democrats nominated an unpopular hard-core left-winger, Lieberman could still squeak through. But given that the Democratic field is already shaping up as one populated by highly electable candidates like Bysiewicz and Rep. Joseph Courtney, who has also indicated interest, this is an extremely unlikely scenario. Sam Stein at the Huffington Post reports that Patty Murray, the new chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has told Lieberman that her group might back him in a primary if he returned to the Democrats. But that seems like an empty promise, since even more Democrats are angry with Lieberman today than they were when he lost his party’s primary in 2006. With party activists in both parties dead set against Lieberman, he has no chance to win either party’s nomination, and if faced with two strong opponents rather than just one, which now seems to be a given, he has no chance to win.

Lieberman has had a remarkable run in elected office. He started out as a stereotypical liberal Democrat when he first ran for the State Senate from New Haven (the young Bill Clinton was a campaign volunteer). Lieberman later became state attorney general and then turned conventional wisdom on its head by running to the right of liberal Republican Lowell Weicker in 1988. Once in office, he became enormously popular, striking a balance between conventionally liberal economic stands while also articulating centrist stands on foreign policy and social issues. Lieberman came within a few hanging chads of becoming vice president in 2000, but the moral tone and foreign policy stands that helped win him that nomination would ultimately alienate him from fellow Democrats. His principled support for the Iraq war was the turning point for him, and it ultimately ensured that he would be the last of the Scoop Jackson Democrats in the U.S. Senate. While he wasn’t always right on all the issues, his is a voice that would, come 2013, be greatly missed.

The Hartford Courant’s website is reporting that Senator Joseph Lieberman is poised to announce that he won’t run for re-election in 2012. Lieberman will announce his 2012 plans Wednesday in his hometown of Stamford, at an event where he will be surrounded by longtime supporters, adding to speculation that he will speak of the end of his political career in the place where he grew up. The decision not to wait is being linked to the announcement by Susan Bysiewicz, a popular Democrat who has served as Connecticut’s secretary of state and was ruled off the ballot last year for state attorney general by a technicality, that she will run for Lieberman’s seat.

The Courant speculates that the reason Lieberman is not waiting until later in the election cycle to pull out is because he wants to make his statement “while there’s still speculation that he could still win if he chose to run.” Maybe. But the only reason Lieberman is bailing now is because he knows he has no chance to win in 2012.

I wrote last month that indications that Linda McMahon was going to make another try for the Senate in 2012 made a repeat of Lieberman’s 2006 win as an independent virtually impossible because he would need the GOP to more or less not show up the way they did in that race. In response, some readers contended that if Connecticut Democrats nominated an unpopular hard-core left-winger, Lieberman could still squeak through. But given that the Democratic field is already shaping up as one populated by highly electable candidates like Bysiewicz and Rep. Joseph Courtney, who has also indicated interest, this is an extremely unlikely scenario. Sam Stein at the Huffington Post reports that Patty Murray, the new chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has told Lieberman that her group might back him in a primary if he returned to the Democrats. But that seems like an empty promise, since even more Democrats are angry with Lieberman today than they were when he lost his party’s primary in 2006. With party activists in both parties dead set against Lieberman, he has no chance to win either party’s nomination, and if faced with two strong opponents rather than just one, which now seems to be a given, he has no chance to win.

Lieberman has had a remarkable run in elected office. He started out as a stereotypical liberal Democrat when he first ran for the State Senate from New Haven (the young Bill Clinton was a campaign volunteer). Lieberman later became state attorney general and then turned conventional wisdom on its head by running to the right of liberal Republican Lowell Weicker in 1988. Once in office, he became enormously popular, striking a balance between conventionally liberal economic stands while also articulating centrist stands on foreign policy and social issues. Lieberman came within a few hanging chads of becoming vice president in 2000, but the moral tone and foreign policy stands that helped win him that nomination would ultimately alienate him from fellow Democrats. His principled support for the Iraq war was the turning point for him, and it ultimately ensured that he would be the last of the Scoop Jackson Democrats in the U.S. Senate. While he wasn’t always right on all the issues, his is a voice that would, come 2013, be greatly missed.

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Morning Commentary

It looks like President Obama has finally found some backbone in his diplomatic spat with Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan president rejected the U.S.’s choice for ambassador to Caracas and dared Obama to cut diplomatic ties with the country. Today Obama responded by kicking the Venezuelan ambassador out of the U.S.

Americans are still displaying a lack of confidence in both political parties, according to a new poll released by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation. While pundits from all parts of the political spectrum have lauded President Obama’s successes during the lame-duck session of Congress, a plurality of Americans remains skeptical about the president’s ability to push his policies, according to the survey. And even though a majority of the public agrees that GOP control of the House will benefit the country, that optimism isn’t necessarily due to increased trust in the Republican Party. Only a quarter believe that the Republicans will do a better job running Congress than the Democrats.

The U.S. State Department has come out strongly against the Palestinian Authority’s newest effort to push through a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, suggesting that the Palestinians may be alienating the best friend they’ve had in the White House for years. However, State Department officials still haven’t commented specifically on whether the U.S. would veto the resolution.

The Huffington Post reported recently that the number of uninsured Americans has soared to “over 50 million.” But is that really the case? At the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey H. Anderson notes that the numbers come from a recent report published by the Census Bureau, which even the bureau has admitted was largely inaccurate: “The Census report also admits within its own pages that recognition of its inaccuracy led to ‘a research project to evaluate why CPS ASEC estimates of the number of people with Medicaid are lower than counts of the number of people enrolled in the program from CMS’ — in other words, to evaluate why the CPS ASEC lists millions of Americans as being uninsured while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which runs Medicaid and keeps the official tally of enrollees, says that these people are on Medicaid.”

Islamists are apparently still having trouble getting over that Danish Mohammed cartoon from six years ago. Five terror suspects were arrested in Denmark and Sweden yesterday for plotting to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper headquarters, which published the cartoon in 2005.

With the rest of the world unwilling to combat the growing problem of Somali pirates, the transitional federal government of Somalia has finally taken the problem into its own hands by creating a paramilitary force to fight piracy. Sources say that the militia is being funded by donors in Muslim countries, including the United Arab Emirates.

Ron Radosh joins the growing ranks of writers criticizing New Yorker editor David Remnick’s hostile rant against Israel last week. Radosh also highlights the insidious anti-Israel sentiment among today’s liberal Jewish intellectuals: “Today’s New York intellectuals are a pale imitation of their ancestors. The original group had a fidelity to the truth, and to bold assertions  they believed to be true, regardless of whom they offended. Today’s group, of which Remnick is most typical, runs to join their fellow leftist herd of no longer independent minds in Britain, assuring them of their loyalty to the influential [among] journalists and opinion makers, and if they are Jewish, making their assurance known by joining in the stampede to dissociate themselves from defense of Israel.” Jonathan Tobin discussed Remnick’s Israel problem in CONTENTIONS on Sunday.

It looks like President Obama has finally found some backbone in his diplomatic spat with Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan president rejected the U.S.’s choice for ambassador to Caracas and dared Obama to cut diplomatic ties with the country. Today Obama responded by kicking the Venezuelan ambassador out of the U.S.

Americans are still displaying a lack of confidence in both political parties, according to a new poll released by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation. While pundits from all parts of the political spectrum have lauded President Obama’s successes during the lame-duck session of Congress, a plurality of Americans remains skeptical about the president’s ability to push his policies, according to the survey. And even though a majority of the public agrees that GOP control of the House will benefit the country, that optimism isn’t necessarily due to increased trust in the Republican Party. Only a quarter believe that the Republicans will do a better job running Congress than the Democrats.

The U.S. State Department has come out strongly against the Palestinian Authority’s newest effort to push through a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, suggesting that the Palestinians may be alienating the best friend they’ve had in the White House for years. However, State Department officials still haven’t commented specifically on whether the U.S. would veto the resolution.

The Huffington Post reported recently that the number of uninsured Americans has soared to “over 50 million.” But is that really the case? At the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey H. Anderson notes that the numbers come from a recent report published by the Census Bureau, which even the bureau has admitted was largely inaccurate: “The Census report also admits within its own pages that recognition of its inaccuracy led to ‘a research project to evaluate why CPS ASEC estimates of the number of people with Medicaid are lower than counts of the number of people enrolled in the program from CMS’ — in other words, to evaluate why the CPS ASEC lists millions of Americans as being uninsured while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which runs Medicaid and keeps the official tally of enrollees, says that these people are on Medicaid.”

Islamists are apparently still having trouble getting over that Danish Mohammed cartoon from six years ago. Five terror suspects were arrested in Denmark and Sweden yesterday for plotting to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper headquarters, which published the cartoon in 2005.

With the rest of the world unwilling to combat the growing problem of Somali pirates, the transitional federal government of Somalia has finally taken the problem into its own hands by creating a paramilitary force to fight piracy. Sources say that the militia is being funded by donors in Muslim countries, including the United Arab Emirates.

Ron Radosh joins the growing ranks of writers criticizing New Yorker editor David Remnick’s hostile rant against Israel last week. Radosh also highlights the insidious anti-Israel sentiment among today’s liberal Jewish intellectuals: “Today’s New York intellectuals are a pale imitation of their ancestors. The original group had a fidelity to the truth, and to bold assertions  they believed to be true, regardless of whom they offended. Today’s group, of which Remnick is most typical, runs to join their fellow leftist herd of no longer independent minds in Britain, assuring them of their loyalty to the influential [among] journalists and opinion makers, and if they are Jewish, making their assurance known by joining in the stampede to dissociate themselves from defense of Israel.” Jonathan Tobin discussed Remnick’s Israel problem in CONTENTIONS on Sunday.

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Operation Win Back Independents

In his interview with Newsweek, President Obama’s top political strategist continues to speak in ways that are both self-pitying and self-delusional. For example, he complains, “We came to office in a time of national emergency and economic crisis and two wars, one of which had no strategy. We didn’t have the luxury of orchestrating the messaging as we would under normal circumstances.” And again: “My regret is that we didn’t have the time and space to roll things out the way we would under normal circumstances.” And again: “There are things I would have liked to have messaged differently.”

All of the mistakes of the first two years of the Obama presidency, you see, were messaging problems. If only they had been able to convey to the witless American people all the glory that The One has made.

There were, however, two things Axelrod said that were noteworthy because of what they foreshadow for the forthcoming year.

When asked how the next campaign message might differ from the first one, Axelrod said, “I know ‘hope’ and ‘change’ have taken a little beating in this political environment. But hope and change are still at the core.” And when asked if the president can find common ground with the Tea Party over deficit reduction and tax reform, Axelrod said, “I think we can find some common ground on fiscal reform, on political reform, and on tax simplification. There are places where we ought to be able to work together and get things done. I think the public expects or at least hopes for that.”

Axelrod often speaks in a way that anticipates the direction the administration is heading. Well before a deal was struck with the GOP, Axelrod told the Huffington Post that the president would consider signing legislation extending the Bush-era tax cuts to high-income earners in America — a statement that caused consternation on the left but that proved accurate. And Axelrod’s lacerating attacks on critics was a signal of the White House’s thinking in the first half of Obama’s term (political opponents were referred to as “enemies”).

Mr. Axelrod and the president seem to finally realize — long after it was obvious — that the scorched-earth rhetoric and governing approach by the administration did tremendous damage to Obama’s most appealing quality: his promise to be a trans-political, post-partisan, turn-the-page, come-let-us-reason-together figure. Read More

In his interview with Newsweek, President Obama’s top political strategist continues to speak in ways that are both self-pitying and self-delusional. For example, he complains, “We came to office in a time of national emergency and economic crisis and two wars, one of which had no strategy. We didn’t have the luxury of orchestrating the messaging as we would under normal circumstances.” And again: “My regret is that we didn’t have the time and space to roll things out the way we would under normal circumstances.” And again: “There are things I would have liked to have messaged differently.”

All of the mistakes of the first two years of the Obama presidency, you see, were messaging problems. If only they had been able to convey to the witless American people all the glory that The One has made.

There were, however, two things Axelrod said that were noteworthy because of what they foreshadow for the forthcoming year.

When asked how the next campaign message might differ from the first one, Axelrod said, “I know ‘hope’ and ‘change’ have taken a little beating in this political environment. But hope and change are still at the core.” And when asked if the president can find common ground with the Tea Party over deficit reduction and tax reform, Axelrod said, “I think we can find some common ground on fiscal reform, on political reform, and on tax simplification. There are places where we ought to be able to work together and get things done. I think the public expects or at least hopes for that.”

Axelrod often speaks in a way that anticipates the direction the administration is heading. Well before a deal was struck with the GOP, Axelrod told the Huffington Post that the president would consider signing legislation extending the Bush-era tax cuts to high-income earners in America — a statement that caused consternation on the left but that proved accurate. And Axelrod’s lacerating attacks on critics was a signal of the White House’s thinking in the first half of Obama’s term (political opponents were referred to as “enemies”).

Mr. Axelrod and the president seem to finally realize — long after it was obvious — that the scorched-earth rhetoric and governing approach by the administration did tremendous damage to Obama’s most appealing quality: his promise to be a trans-political, post-partisan, turn-the-page, come-let-us-reason-together figure.

In the book Game Change, we’re told about focus groups conducted in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids during the election in which the people in groups reacted quite favorably to Obama, to his rhetoric of change and unity, and to his freshness and sense of promise. “We have something special here,” Axelrod said while observing from behind a two-way mirror. “I feel like I’ve been handed a porcelain baby.”

For most of the two years following Obama’s assumption of office, the president took a baseball bat to Mr. Axelrod’s porcelain baby. The effects of that will not be easily undone. But Axelrod clearly understands that Obama, if he’s going to win re-election, needs to win back independents — and he believes the way to do that is to repair the shredded banner of “hope and change.” We’ll see if it succeeds.

As for the Tea Party: a movement that was once portrayed by the president and his team as harboring racist sentiments is now one with which they will seek to find common ground. This is easier to do in theory than in reality, given the stark ideological differences that exist. What the White House clearly wants, however, is to be seen as reaching out, to be perceived as reasonable, pragmatic, centrist. You can bet the State of the Union address, and much that follows, will align with what Axelrod laid out in his Newsweek interview.

Operation Win Back Independents means 2011 will be, in important respects, different from 2010 and 2009. Whether the White House strategy works is an open question. It certainly has a better chance of success than the strategy it followed during the first two years of the Obama presidency. And if the president is serious about his latest makeover, it will be better for the country all the way around.

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Hollywood Irony Watch: Political Fantasist Sorkin Calls Palin a Fake

In the 1990s, liberals weren’t entirely happy with a triangulating and philandering Bill Clinton, but they were able to escape from that reality in a movie written by Aaron Sorkin called The American President, in which Michael Douglas plays a Clinton-like chief executive. The biggest difference between the movie and real life was that the president in the film didn’t have an annoying Hillary-type wife around to cramp his style, since, in the script, she is conveniently dead. That allowed the movie prez to date a hot DC lefty lobbyist played by Annette Bening. In the film, both liberalism and love triumph as the president eschews a Clintonesque pragmatic compromise in order to win back his girlfriend. The film inspired a TV series, The West Wing, also written by Sorkin. That show (which ran from September 1999 to May 2006) depicted the doings of another fictional White House and enabled liberals to escape into a fantasy world in which the George W. Bush administration didn’t exist.

Sorkin is reported to be currently working on adapting a tell-all book about John Edwards for the silver screen, but he took time out from his labors to blog at the Huffington Post about another TV series with heavy political overtones: TLC’s Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

It’s hardly a surprise that a lefty like Sorkin has no use for Palin, but his denunciation of her show was focused primarily on his opinion that its depiction of the former governor as an outdoorswoman was largely fake and also because it showed fish and animals being killed. The TLC channel responded to his accusations by saying that, contrary to Sorkin’s accusation, there was no hair and makeup trailer standing by as Palin shot at a caribou in the wild. But frankly, who cares? All reality shows are to some extent fake, even if the characters are real people rather than fictional characters.

But one needn’t be a fan of Palin to observe that a person who has made a nice living producing politically slanted movies and TV shows — all of which were intended to promote the sort of liberal politics Sorkin likes and to generally trash conservatives — is in no position to cry foul over Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Unlike The American President and The West Wing, Palin’s show doesn’t pretend to be art. It’s just pure Palin and should be judged as such. That makes it a good deal more honest than Sorkin’s more sophisticated productions.

Sorkin’s second accusation is that Palin’s show is, in effect, a politically motivated “snuff film” because (unlike that disclaimer at the end of every movie you see these days) animals were definitely harmed in the making of the show. Now for those of us who don’t number among the 10 percent of Americans who hunt, this may be gruesome stuff. Yet Sorkin goes further and claims there’s no difference between the Great White Huntress Palin and dog killer/quarterback Michael Vick.

Now it is one thing to have moral qualms about hunting animals for sport (despite Palin’s claim in the show that the animals actually have the advantage, I think that would be true only if they had guns and could shoot back). But it is another to damn her as a murderer and to express, as Sorkin does in a sentence replete with profanity, joy over instances of hunters killing each other by accident. After all, approximately 30 million Americans hunt. And a lot of those people are Democrats and others who share Sorkin’s liberal views.

Sorkin claims the caribou that Palin kills in one episode “was the first moose ever murdered for political gain.” Maybe, but it’s funny that Sorkin doesn’t seem to remember the goose that was murdered in a vain attempt to save John Kerry’s candidacy in October 2004. Desperate to establish a sense of authenticity, Kerry bought a hunting license, donned camouflage gear, and, while toting a 12-gauge shotgun, the Democratic presidential candidate traipsed around rural Ohio trying to kill geese and then claimed to have bagged one.

7_23_102104_kerry_huntingI don’t recall Sorkin expressing any public outrage over that incident since its intent was to further a political aim he supported: George W. Bush’s defeat at the polls. All of which goes to show that whatever you may think about Palin or hunting, Sorkin’s hissy fit is mere partisan tripe. Which, come to think of it, is as apt a characterization of his film and TV work as it is of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

In the 1990s, liberals weren’t entirely happy with a triangulating and philandering Bill Clinton, but they were able to escape from that reality in a movie written by Aaron Sorkin called The American President, in which Michael Douglas plays a Clinton-like chief executive. The biggest difference between the movie and real life was that the president in the film didn’t have an annoying Hillary-type wife around to cramp his style, since, in the script, she is conveniently dead. That allowed the movie prez to date a hot DC lefty lobbyist played by Annette Bening. In the film, both liberalism and love triumph as the president eschews a Clintonesque pragmatic compromise in order to win back his girlfriend. The film inspired a TV series, The West Wing, also written by Sorkin. That show (which ran from September 1999 to May 2006) depicted the doings of another fictional White House and enabled liberals to escape into a fantasy world in which the George W. Bush administration didn’t exist.

Sorkin is reported to be currently working on adapting a tell-all book about John Edwards for the silver screen, but he took time out from his labors to blog at the Huffington Post about another TV series with heavy political overtones: TLC’s Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

It’s hardly a surprise that a lefty like Sorkin has no use for Palin, but his denunciation of her show was focused primarily on his opinion that its depiction of the former governor as an outdoorswoman was largely fake and also because it showed fish and animals being killed. The TLC channel responded to his accusations by saying that, contrary to Sorkin’s accusation, there was no hair and makeup trailer standing by as Palin shot at a caribou in the wild. But frankly, who cares? All reality shows are to some extent fake, even if the characters are real people rather than fictional characters.

But one needn’t be a fan of Palin to observe that a person who has made a nice living producing politically slanted movies and TV shows — all of which were intended to promote the sort of liberal politics Sorkin likes and to generally trash conservatives — is in no position to cry foul over Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Unlike The American President and The West Wing, Palin’s show doesn’t pretend to be art. It’s just pure Palin and should be judged as such. That makes it a good deal more honest than Sorkin’s more sophisticated productions.

Sorkin’s second accusation is that Palin’s show is, in effect, a politically motivated “snuff film” because (unlike that disclaimer at the end of every movie you see these days) animals were definitely harmed in the making of the show. Now for those of us who don’t number among the 10 percent of Americans who hunt, this may be gruesome stuff. Yet Sorkin goes further and claims there’s no difference between the Great White Huntress Palin and dog killer/quarterback Michael Vick.

Now it is one thing to have moral qualms about hunting animals for sport (despite Palin’s claim in the show that the animals actually have the advantage, I think that would be true only if they had guns and could shoot back). But it is another to damn her as a murderer and to express, as Sorkin does in a sentence replete with profanity, joy over instances of hunters killing each other by accident. After all, approximately 30 million Americans hunt. And a lot of those people are Democrats and others who share Sorkin’s liberal views.

Sorkin claims the caribou that Palin kills in one episode “was the first moose ever murdered for political gain.” Maybe, but it’s funny that Sorkin doesn’t seem to remember the goose that was murdered in a vain attempt to save John Kerry’s candidacy in October 2004. Desperate to establish a sense of authenticity, Kerry bought a hunting license, donned camouflage gear, and, while toting a 12-gauge shotgun, the Democratic presidential candidate traipsed around rural Ohio trying to kill geese and then claimed to have bagged one.

7_23_102104_kerry_huntingI don’t recall Sorkin expressing any public outrage over that incident since its intent was to further a political aim he supported: George W. Bush’s defeat at the polls. All of which goes to show that whatever you may think about Palin or hunting, Sorkin’s hissy fit is mere partisan tripe. Which, come to think of it, is as apt a characterization of his film and TV work as it is of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

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The Obama Primary Challenger Issue and Why It’s Misunderstood

With angry leftists starting to discuss the possibility of a primary challenge to Barack Obama, the general reaction from serious and clever political observers has been that the idea is a preposterous one. Ed Kilgore on the New Republic‘s website (trans-ideological congratulations, by the way, to TNR’s new editor, Richard Just), my former colleague Jennifer Rubin on the WaPo site, Dave Weigel in Slate, and many others have sensibly pointed out that such a challenge would be doomed. Obama’s approval ratings among Democrats is in the 80s and not much lower among liberals (despite the outrage this week about the tax-cut deal).

The fact that Obama can surely depend on nearly universal support from black Democrats makes a primary challenge even more unlikely, they say. And not only unlikely, but pointless. Rather than achieving the near-win Eugene McCarthy scored in the 1968 Democratic primary in New Hampshire against sitting president LBJ or Pat Buchanan’s getting 38 percent against Bush the Elder in 1992, Weigel suggests that the outcome would be more like the foolish bid by Ohio Republican Rep. John Ashbrook against Richard Nixon in 1972 from the right, when Ashbrook got 9 percent there.

All worth considering. But in Kilgore’s case, the wish is father to the thought; he doesn’t want a challenge and is offering an analysis intended to talk interested Democrats and leftists out of attempting one. Weigel is giving voice to the “Oh, come on” school oft affected by those who spend most of their time thinking about politics and can’t imagine why anybody would make a political move that seems fruitless.

But here’s the thing. An Obama primary challenger wouldn’t be getting in the race to win. Pat Buchanan didn’t think he’d win, and I don’t think Eugene McCarthy thought so either. The question is whether a collection of factors next year — continued weakness in the economy and the fact that we haven’t pulled out of Afghanistan — creates the conditions under which a primary challenge will be staged. The point, which I make in my COMMENTARY article this month, is that one would arise in that instance because, in effect, the dynamic of the American political system would demand it. Read More

With angry leftists starting to discuss the possibility of a primary challenge to Barack Obama, the general reaction from serious and clever political observers has been that the idea is a preposterous one. Ed Kilgore on the New Republic‘s website (trans-ideological congratulations, by the way, to TNR’s new editor, Richard Just), my former colleague Jennifer Rubin on the WaPo site, Dave Weigel in Slate, and many others have sensibly pointed out that such a challenge would be doomed. Obama’s approval ratings among Democrats is in the 80s and not much lower among liberals (despite the outrage this week about the tax-cut deal).

The fact that Obama can surely depend on nearly universal support from black Democrats makes a primary challenge even more unlikely, they say. And not only unlikely, but pointless. Rather than achieving the near-win Eugene McCarthy scored in the 1968 Democratic primary in New Hampshire against sitting president LBJ or Pat Buchanan’s getting 38 percent against Bush the Elder in 1992, Weigel suggests that the outcome would be more like the foolish bid by Ohio Republican Rep. John Ashbrook against Richard Nixon in 1972 from the right, when Ashbrook got 9 percent there.

All worth considering. But in Kilgore’s case, the wish is father to the thought; he doesn’t want a challenge and is offering an analysis intended to talk interested Democrats and leftists out of attempting one. Weigel is giving voice to the “Oh, come on” school oft affected by those who spend most of their time thinking about politics and can’t imagine why anybody would make a political move that seems fruitless.

But here’s the thing. An Obama primary challenger wouldn’t be getting in the race to win. Pat Buchanan didn’t think he’d win, and I don’t think Eugene McCarthy thought so either. The question is whether a collection of factors next year — continued weakness in the economy and the fact that we haven’t pulled out of Afghanistan — creates the conditions under which a primary challenge will be staged. The point, which I make in my COMMENTARY article this month, is that one would arise in that instance because, in effect, the dynamic of the American political system would demand it.

First, presume that, if the status quo remains largely unchanged, Obama’s support will decline somewhat among Democrats and liberals. They won’t like the state of things; he’ll start to smell like a loser and people tend to desert losers; and many will be genuinely angry that his ideological concessions on taxes and war have not improved matters from their perspective. Someone would do it at that point because (and this sounds sentimental, but isn’t) he actually does hear the leftist body politic crying out for someone to represent its views. Protest candidacies are not about victory, which is why Hillary Clinton won’t stage one; they’re about protest.

Also remember that the cost of entry for a protest candidate is far lower than people realize. One would get in to make a showing in New Hampshire, which is not expensive to run in — and a protest candidacy that gets any kind of purchase will, in any case, be able to raise money very fast. (If Christine O’Donnell can raise a few million dollars in three days, so can Russ Feingold under the right circumstances, like the Huffington Post’s pushing his campaign.) The question then would be what kind of showing such a person could make in that one state. As it happens, it might well be built to help a leftist protest candidate.

For one thing, African Americans make up less than 2 percent of the population of New Hampshire. (Remember: Hillary Clinton won here in 2008.) For another, independents can vote in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, which could allow some genuinely angry people to cast protest votes just to send Obama a message, even though such people would probably end up voting Republican in November 2012.

I have no idea whether there will be such a candidate, because I have no idea what things will look like next fall. I do know that if a candidate turns out to be less like Ashbrook and more like Buchanan, Obama will be in serious trouble. (Read my piece to find out more.) Right now, it is as foolish to presume there won’t be one, or to argue that such a candidate would be unable to make a bid damaging to Obama, as it would be to presume one will definitely rise up to challenge him.

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Dems Feel Betrayed by Their Leader

According to Politico:

Relations between President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have never been worse, but it’s a feud that many in the White House quietly welcome.

Obama’s advisers insist he didn’t go out of his way to pick a fight with fellow Democrats when he cut his highly controversial deal with Republicans to temporarily extend all Bush-era tax cuts earlier this week. But if the deal served to distance Obama not only from them but the entire partisan culture of Washington, all the better, they say.

Differentiating Obama from congressional Democrats “was a positive byproduct” of the tax cut deal, a person close to Obama told POLITICO.

“Compared to these guys, the president looks mature and pragmatic,” the official said.

Methinks the Obama White House is engaging in self-delusion again.

For one thing, the president did not look “mature and pragmatic” at yesterday’s press conference. Rather, he looked petulant, agitated, and at some points seething with anger.

For another, the president, in calling both Republicans (“hostage takers”) and Democrats (“sanctimonious”) names, came across as a political hack. He almost sounded like Robert Gibbs. This all cuts against what was once one of Obama’s chief virtues — his coolness and detachment, his steadiness and “first-rate temperament,” and his perceived ability to place himself above petty politics. Mr. Obama — the heir to Lincoln, we were told — now comes across as a mix between a faux populist and a temperamental elitist.

I understand the need for a president to distance himself from his party. But there are ways good and bad, careful and reckless, to do that. Provoking a full-scale uprising among one’s core constituency is never wise.

Beyond all that, Obama has decided to attack and enrage Democrats at precisely the moment he needs them to pass a deal with Republicans on tax cuts. Right now, thanks in good measure to how Obama has handled things, passage of that deal is threatened. “I’m going to argue forcefully for the nonsensicalness and the almost, you know, moral corruptness of that particular policy. … This is beyond politics,” Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) told the Huffington Post on Tuesday. She is speaking for many Democrats at the moment. And if Obama fails in this effort, it will be a crushing political defeat.

Because of that, it’s hard to imagine that Obama won’t eventually get the Democratic votes he needs (probably fewer than four dozen in the House). On the other hand, the Democratic anger directed toward Obama right now is difficult to overstate. They believe they, and their cause, have been betrayed by the president. And a feeling of betrayal among one’s key supporters has a way of undoing a presidency.

According to Politico:

Relations between President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have never been worse, but it’s a feud that many in the White House quietly welcome.

Obama’s advisers insist he didn’t go out of his way to pick a fight with fellow Democrats when he cut his highly controversial deal with Republicans to temporarily extend all Bush-era tax cuts earlier this week. But if the deal served to distance Obama not only from them but the entire partisan culture of Washington, all the better, they say.

Differentiating Obama from congressional Democrats “was a positive byproduct” of the tax cut deal, a person close to Obama told POLITICO.

“Compared to these guys, the president looks mature and pragmatic,” the official said.

Methinks the Obama White House is engaging in self-delusion again.

For one thing, the president did not look “mature and pragmatic” at yesterday’s press conference. Rather, he looked petulant, agitated, and at some points seething with anger.

For another, the president, in calling both Republicans (“hostage takers”) and Democrats (“sanctimonious”) names, came across as a political hack. He almost sounded like Robert Gibbs. This all cuts against what was once one of Obama’s chief virtues — his coolness and detachment, his steadiness and “first-rate temperament,” and his perceived ability to place himself above petty politics. Mr. Obama — the heir to Lincoln, we were told — now comes across as a mix between a faux populist and a temperamental elitist.

I understand the need for a president to distance himself from his party. But there are ways good and bad, careful and reckless, to do that. Provoking a full-scale uprising among one’s core constituency is never wise.

Beyond all that, Obama has decided to attack and enrage Democrats at precisely the moment he needs them to pass a deal with Republicans on tax cuts. Right now, thanks in good measure to how Obama has handled things, passage of that deal is threatened. “I’m going to argue forcefully for the nonsensicalness and the almost, you know, moral corruptness of that particular policy. … This is beyond politics,” Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) told the Huffington Post on Tuesday. She is speaking for many Democrats at the moment. And if Obama fails in this effort, it will be a crushing political defeat.

Because of that, it’s hard to imagine that Obama won’t eventually get the Democratic votes he needs (probably fewer than four dozen in the House). On the other hand, the Democratic anger directed toward Obama right now is difficult to overstate. They believe they, and their cause, have been betrayed by the president. And a feeling of betrayal among one’s key supporters has a way of undoing a presidency.

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A Most Curious Country It Is

Over at the Huffington Post, Sam Stein reports this:

Hoping to build support for the tax-cut deal that the president reached with Congressional Republicans, the White House has begun pressing Hill Democrats with polling data showing that extending the tax rates for the rich is politically popular.

A Senate aide sent over a copy of the email that an administration aide sent to offices on Wednesday morning. In it, the aide touts Gallup polling data showing that “Two-thirds of Americans (66%) favor extending the 2001/2003 tax cuts for all Americans for two years, and an identical number support extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.”

That an administration would promote polling data backing its policy preferences is normally not an astounding revelation. But the private push of the Gallup study struck the Senate aide as depressing if not counter-productive. Even as the president was insisting that he thought an extension of rates for the wealthy is poor economics — “I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I’ve been for years,” Obama said on Tuesday — his aides were privately embracing the idea that extending the Bush tax cuts across the board was politically prudent.

“We are making the argument for them,” said the Senate aide, who sent over the email on condition that it could not be reprinted. “The White House now wants us to defend extending the Bush tax cuts.”

We have officially entered Looking-Glass Land, and a most curious country it is.

Over at the Huffington Post, Sam Stein reports this:

Hoping to build support for the tax-cut deal that the president reached with Congressional Republicans, the White House has begun pressing Hill Democrats with polling data showing that extending the tax rates for the rich is politically popular.

A Senate aide sent over a copy of the email that an administration aide sent to offices on Wednesday morning. In it, the aide touts Gallup polling data showing that “Two-thirds of Americans (66%) favor extending the 2001/2003 tax cuts for all Americans for two years, and an identical number support extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.”

That an administration would promote polling data backing its policy preferences is normally not an astounding revelation. But the private push of the Gallup study struck the Senate aide as depressing if not counter-productive. Even as the president was insisting that he thought an extension of rates for the wealthy is poor economics — “I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I’ve been for years,” Obama said on Tuesday — his aides were privately embracing the idea that extending the Bush tax cuts across the board was politically prudent.

“We are making the argument for them,” said the Senate aide, who sent over the email on condition that it could not be reprinted. “The White House now wants us to defend extending the Bush tax cuts.”

We have officially entered Looking-Glass Land, and a most curious country it is.

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Obama’s Progressives Problem

The split between President Obama and his liberal base continues to widen. Yesterday I wrote about the criticisms directed at the president by the New York Times‘s Paul Krugman. Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, has leveled his own blast in the Huffington Post.

According to Kuttner, “I cannot recall a president who generated so much excitement as a candidate but who turned out to be such a political dud as chief executive.” Like many of his co-ideologists, Kuttner pins much of the blame on Obama’s failure to communicate just how dreadful the GOP is. The president didn’t sufficiently frighten voters enough. Mr. Obama, who during the 2010 campaign referred to his opponents as “enemies,” wasn’t enough of a “fighter.” The losses among seniors was “sheer political malpractice” and “just stupefying.”

Obama is “fast becoming more albatross than ally,” according to Kuttner, who believes the task of progressives is to “step into the leadership vacuum that Obama has left, and fashion a compelling narrative about who and what are destroying America.” He hopes progressives can “move from disillusion to action and offer the kind of political movement and counter-narrative that the President should have been leading.”

Mr. Kuttner’s counsel is wrong on several different levels. The problem Democrats faced was not (as many of us continue to point out) a communications problem; it was a facts-on-the-ground problem, a governing problem. By a wide margin, the public believes the country is on the wrong track and has lost considerable confidence in Obama’s agenda and ability to lead. The president has compounded his problems by incompetence.

But Kuttner is kidding himself if he thinks progressives can create a “counter-narrative” and fill the “leadership vacuum” that Obama has left. For good or ill, the president is the face of a party and, in the case of Obama, a movement (liberalism). So long as he occupies the Oval Office, no compelling counter-narrative is possible. With one exception: a challenge to Obama from the left.

Kuttner doubts such a challenge makes much sense, and I happen to agree with him. But clearly his head is overruling his heart, at least for now. Here’s the thing to watch for, though: the left’s unhappiness with Obama is likely to accelerate rather than decelerate, in part because Obama’s most liberal days as president are behind him and in part because, in Kuttner’s words, “as President Obama gears up for a re-election battle in 2012, the economy is unlikely to be much different than the one that sank the Democrats in 2010.”

If those two conditions are in place, liberal disenchantment with Obama, which is on the rise, will explode. Their hearts will overrule their heads. Progressives will be desperate to detach themselves from Obama. And out of this could emerge a primary challenger. Right now, that’s not a likelihood; but I suspect we’re closer to that point than many people now assume.

The split between President Obama and his liberal base continues to widen. Yesterday I wrote about the criticisms directed at the president by the New York Times‘s Paul Krugman. Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, has leveled his own blast in the Huffington Post.

According to Kuttner, “I cannot recall a president who generated so much excitement as a candidate but who turned out to be such a political dud as chief executive.” Like many of his co-ideologists, Kuttner pins much of the blame on Obama’s failure to communicate just how dreadful the GOP is. The president didn’t sufficiently frighten voters enough. Mr. Obama, who during the 2010 campaign referred to his opponents as “enemies,” wasn’t enough of a “fighter.” The losses among seniors was “sheer political malpractice” and “just stupefying.”

Obama is “fast becoming more albatross than ally,” according to Kuttner, who believes the task of progressives is to “step into the leadership vacuum that Obama has left, and fashion a compelling narrative about who and what are destroying America.” He hopes progressives can “move from disillusion to action and offer the kind of political movement and counter-narrative that the President should have been leading.”

Mr. Kuttner’s counsel is wrong on several different levels. The problem Democrats faced was not (as many of us continue to point out) a communications problem; it was a facts-on-the-ground problem, a governing problem. By a wide margin, the public believes the country is on the wrong track and has lost considerable confidence in Obama’s agenda and ability to lead. The president has compounded his problems by incompetence.

But Kuttner is kidding himself if he thinks progressives can create a “counter-narrative” and fill the “leadership vacuum” that Obama has left. For good or ill, the president is the face of a party and, in the case of Obama, a movement (liberalism). So long as he occupies the Oval Office, no compelling counter-narrative is possible. With one exception: a challenge to Obama from the left.

Kuttner doubts such a challenge makes much sense, and I happen to agree with him. But clearly his head is overruling his heart, at least for now. Here’s the thing to watch for, though: the left’s unhappiness with Obama is likely to accelerate rather than decelerate, in part because Obama’s most liberal days as president are behind him and in part because, in Kuttner’s words, “as President Obama gears up for a re-election battle in 2012, the economy is unlikely to be much different than the one that sank the Democrats in 2010.”

If those two conditions are in place, liberal disenchantment with Obama, which is on the rise, will explode. Their hearts will overrule their heads. Progressives will be desperate to detach themselves from Obama. And out of this could emerge a primary challenger. Right now, that’s not a likelihood; but I suspect we’re closer to that point than many people now assume.

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On Roger Ailes’s Apology

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for comments he made comparing NPR executives to “Nazis.” The ADL accepted the mea culpa pretty quickly (too quickly, some say), but there is still a great deal of criticism of Ailes emanating from the media.

“The ADL has repeatedly placed its alliance with Israel’s supporters over its stated reason for existence, and excused inexcusable instances of bigotry, even anti-Semitism,” wrote Ben Adler at Newsweek. “The most recent example is the league’s quick forgiveness of Ailes.”

Adler is right that Ailes’s comments were off-base. But to call his words anti-Semitic is not just an extreme overreaction; it’s also outrageously unfair. A single foolish statement can’t be examined in a vacuum. Ailes’s consistent public support for Israel is a major indicator of his respect for the Jewish community. In fact, the award he received from the Jewish Community Relations Council in 2005 says just that.

Moreover, Ailes’s initial statement needs to be examined in context. The Fox News chairman said that NPR executives were “of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude.” He didn’t praise Nazism. He didn’t claim that Nazis never existed. He didn’t accuse Jews of running the media, pushing the U.S. into international wars on behalf of Israel, bamboozling non-Jews out of money, or other such nonsense that regularly erupts from the mouths of vicious anti-Semites.

Again, that’s not to say that Ailes’s words were acceptable. The Fox News Channel has a longstanding problem with its use of Nazi comparisons. Glenn Beck has been a repeat offender, likening aspects of the progressive movement to the Third Reich, while Bill O’Reilly has previously described the Huffington Post’s comment policy as “the same exact tactics that the Nazis used.” (Of course, conservatives aren’t alone in these remarks. The political left has also made its fair share of Nazi comparisons.)

But perhaps by apologizing, Ailes is acknowledging that this type of rhetoric is problematic. It will be interesting to see if he also re-evaluates the nature of the comments thrown out so casually by his network’s hosts.

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for comments he made comparing NPR executives to “Nazis.” The ADL accepted the mea culpa pretty quickly (too quickly, some say), but there is still a great deal of criticism of Ailes emanating from the media.

“The ADL has repeatedly placed its alliance with Israel’s supporters over its stated reason for existence, and excused inexcusable instances of bigotry, even anti-Semitism,” wrote Ben Adler at Newsweek. “The most recent example is the league’s quick forgiveness of Ailes.”

Adler is right that Ailes’s comments were off-base. But to call his words anti-Semitic is not just an extreme overreaction; it’s also outrageously unfair. A single foolish statement can’t be examined in a vacuum. Ailes’s consistent public support for Israel is a major indicator of his respect for the Jewish community. In fact, the award he received from the Jewish Community Relations Council in 2005 says just that.

Moreover, Ailes’s initial statement needs to be examined in context. The Fox News chairman said that NPR executives were “of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude.” He didn’t praise Nazism. He didn’t claim that Nazis never existed. He didn’t accuse Jews of running the media, pushing the U.S. into international wars on behalf of Israel, bamboozling non-Jews out of money, or other such nonsense that regularly erupts from the mouths of vicious anti-Semites.

Again, that’s not to say that Ailes’s words were acceptable. The Fox News Channel has a longstanding problem with its use of Nazi comparisons. Glenn Beck has been a repeat offender, likening aspects of the progressive movement to the Third Reich, while Bill O’Reilly has previously described the Huffington Post’s comment policy as “the same exact tactics that the Nazis used.” (Of course, conservatives aren’t alone in these remarks. The political left has also made its fair share of Nazi comparisons.)

But perhaps by apologizing, Ailes is acknowledging that this type of rhetoric is problematic. It will be interesting to see if he also re-evaluates the nature of the comments thrown out so casually by his network’s hosts.

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Should Obama Take Soros’s Threat Seriously?

The billionaire funder of everything left-wing may be the puppet-master source of all evil to Glenn Beck and his fans, but the White House may be thinking of George Soros as more of a pain in the rear end than anything else today. Yesterday Soros spoke to a private session of wealthy lefty donors at the Democracy Alliance, a group that funnels money into various liberal causes. According to Politico, Soros merely declared, “Obama shouldn’t compromise” with the Republicans. But according to the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein, Soros was a bit more blunt than that in his off-the-record remarks. According to Stein, Soros told his audience “We have just lost this election, we need to draw a line. And if this president can’t do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else.”

That sounds like a direct threat that Soros and the rest of the assembled lefty moneybags would fund a primary challenge to Obama unless he toes the line on liberal doctrine. Soros later denied that’s what he meant, but his remarks were a warning shot fired over the presidential bow.

Should Obama take the threat seriously? Soros and the rest of the crew at Democracy Alliance have the financial power to mobilize the leftist grass roots that can make the difference in any Democratic primary. If they can find a credible liberal who had the guts to run to Obama’s left on issues like a demand for an immediate U.S. pullout from Afghanistan (remember, Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination running as an anti-war candidate) or the president’s failure to ram through an even more leftist version of health care, then Obama would be in for a fight. But the idea that we are on the eve of a massive left-wing revolt against Obama in the coming year is probably more a Republican fantasy than anything else.

First, while Obama will never satisfy the hard left, the chances that he will emulate Bill Clinton and shift to the center in 2011 are slim and none. Obama’s arrogant and unrepentant view of the elections make it more likely that he will take Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel’s advice and govern largely by executive fiat in the coming months than he will make nice with the GOP, let alone steal Republicans’ thunder by signing conservative bills and claiming credit for them as Clinton did. Other than Afghanistan, which Obama may defuse as a liberal issue by starting his bugout of the country as promised in 2011, there may not be much room to the president’s left to run on in 2012.

Second, for all the big talk on the left about holding Obama’s feet to the fire and the dangers that a challenge to the incumbent presents for the White House, as John pointed out in his article in the December issue of COMMENTARY, he is still the first African-American president and, as such, has a certain immunity to criticism from Democrats that an ordinary chief executive would not have. The Moveon.org crowd’s influence cannot be underestimated, but the African-American voting bloc is still just as, if not far more, powerful in Democratic primaries. Moreover, the backlash against any white liberal who dares to challenge Obama — a move certain to be characterized by blacks as a stab in the presidential back — may be a greater deterrent to potential candidates than any of Soros’s admonitions directed at Obama. Even a fearless independent such as Russ Feingold would have to think twice about becoming the man most hated by African-Americans.

Thus, while Obama has plenty to worry about in the next two years, especially if the economy does not recover, he still has the whip hand over his party’s left. Despite the unhealthy obsession that some on the right have about the unsavory billionaire, Soros really isn’t the puppet master of the Democratic Party, let alone someone who has the power to manipulate the American political system the way he did some foreign currencies. The man to watch on the left is still Barack Obama, not George Soros.

The billionaire funder of everything left-wing may be the puppet-master source of all evil to Glenn Beck and his fans, but the White House may be thinking of George Soros as more of a pain in the rear end than anything else today. Yesterday Soros spoke to a private session of wealthy lefty donors at the Democracy Alliance, a group that funnels money into various liberal causes. According to Politico, Soros merely declared, “Obama shouldn’t compromise” with the Republicans. But according to the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein, Soros was a bit more blunt than that in his off-the-record remarks. According to Stein, Soros told his audience “We have just lost this election, we need to draw a line. And if this president can’t do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else.”

That sounds like a direct threat that Soros and the rest of the assembled lefty moneybags would fund a primary challenge to Obama unless he toes the line on liberal doctrine. Soros later denied that’s what he meant, but his remarks were a warning shot fired over the presidential bow.

Should Obama take the threat seriously? Soros and the rest of the crew at Democracy Alliance have the financial power to mobilize the leftist grass roots that can make the difference in any Democratic primary. If they can find a credible liberal who had the guts to run to Obama’s left on issues like a demand for an immediate U.S. pullout from Afghanistan (remember, Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination running as an anti-war candidate) or the president’s failure to ram through an even more leftist version of health care, then Obama would be in for a fight. But the idea that we are on the eve of a massive left-wing revolt against Obama in the coming year is probably more a Republican fantasy than anything else.

First, while Obama will never satisfy the hard left, the chances that he will emulate Bill Clinton and shift to the center in 2011 are slim and none. Obama’s arrogant and unrepentant view of the elections make it more likely that he will take Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel’s advice and govern largely by executive fiat in the coming months than he will make nice with the GOP, let alone steal Republicans’ thunder by signing conservative bills and claiming credit for them as Clinton did. Other than Afghanistan, which Obama may defuse as a liberal issue by starting his bugout of the country as promised in 2011, there may not be much room to the president’s left to run on in 2012.

Second, for all the big talk on the left about holding Obama’s feet to the fire and the dangers that a challenge to the incumbent presents for the White House, as John pointed out in his article in the December issue of COMMENTARY, he is still the first African-American president and, as such, has a certain immunity to criticism from Democrats that an ordinary chief executive would not have. The Moveon.org crowd’s influence cannot be underestimated, but the African-American voting bloc is still just as, if not far more, powerful in Democratic primaries. Moreover, the backlash against any white liberal who dares to challenge Obama — a move certain to be characterized by blacks as a stab in the presidential back — may be a greater deterrent to potential candidates than any of Soros’s admonitions directed at Obama. Even a fearless independent such as Russ Feingold would have to think twice about becoming the man most hated by African-Americans.

Thus, while Obama has plenty to worry about in the next two years, especially if the economy does not recover, he still has the whip hand over his party’s left. Despite the unhealthy obsession that some on the right have about the unsavory billionaire, Soros really isn’t the puppet master of the Democratic Party, let alone someone who has the power to manipulate the American political system the way he did some foreign currencies. The man to watch on the left is still Barack Obama, not George Soros.

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Daily Beast Swallows Newsweek

They call it a merger, but let’s not kid ourselves. Tina Brown will be running the show and is sure to offload the remaining deadwood at Newsweek and dispense with its un-navigable website. I sort of imagine Vanity Fair — the East Coast edition. Costumed members of Congress in large group photos by Annie Leibovitz. More slam pieces on Sarah Palin. And, of course, lots and lots of ads. The Daily Beast is editorially eclectic — running from the left-leaning anti-Israel rants of Peter Beinart to the conventional media wisdom of Howard Kurtz to the sharp essays of Mark McKinnon. And, for old times’ sake, she may throw in the conspiracy meanderings of Seymour Hersh, just in case the New Yorker crowd wants to take a peek now and then. So it will certainly be a less dreary and predictable publication than the newer Newsweek or the old Newsweek, for that matter.

Yes, her own politics are predictably left, but she has, at least in this round of her career, not imposed the sort of ideological rigidity that has branded the Huffington Post as the left’s cocoon (where nary a non-liberal opinion can be uttered). But what they say in a Tina Brown publication is much less important than how they say it. And how they dress.

It may not be a better class of journalism, but it will certainly make a splash and might well be commercially viable. Besides, I look forward to all the stories on politicians and their pets and to getting an inside look at the lavish homes of our elected leaders.

They call it a merger, but let’s not kid ourselves. Tina Brown will be running the show and is sure to offload the remaining deadwood at Newsweek and dispense with its un-navigable website. I sort of imagine Vanity Fair — the East Coast edition. Costumed members of Congress in large group photos by Annie Leibovitz. More slam pieces on Sarah Palin. And, of course, lots and lots of ads. The Daily Beast is editorially eclectic — running from the left-leaning anti-Israel rants of Peter Beinart to the conventional media wisdom of Howard Kurtz to the sharp essays of Mark McKinnon. And, for old times’ sake, she may throw in the conspiracy meanderings of Seymour Hersh, just in case the New Yorker crowd wants to take a peek now and then. So it will certainly be a less dreary and predictable publication than the newer Newsweek or the old Newsweek, for that matter.

Yes, her own politics are predictably left, but she has, at least in this round of her career, not imposed the sort of ideological rigidity that has branded the Huffington Post as the left’s cocoon (where nary a non-liberal opinion can be uttered). But what they say in a Tina Brown publication is much less important than how they say it. And how they dress.

It may not be a better class of journalism, but it will certainly make a splash and might well be commercially viable. Besides, I look forward to all the stories on politicians and their pets and to getting an inside look at the lavish homes of our elected leaders.

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Verging on Irrelevancy

When looking for hopeful signs of a move to the center by the Obama administration, observers point to the about-face on the 2011 troop-withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan and to possible acquiescence in extending the Bush tax cuts. But is there progress on the latter front?

The New York Post editors observe:

Meanwhile, in the White House, the left hand seems not to know what the far left hand is doing. Within hours yesterday, senior adviser David Axelrod gave contradictory statements on the question of extending the Bush-era tax cuts. …

We have to deal with the world as we find it,” Axelrod told the Huffington Post. “The world of what it takes to get this done.” He continued: “There are concerns [over multiple temporary extensions for the wealthy], but I don’t want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point.” …

Except, Axelrod then did a 180-degree turn, later telling National Journal: “We’re willing to discuss how we move forward. But we believe that it’s imperative to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, and don’t believe we can afford a permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.”

It’s not hard to understand why “Axelrod [is] talking out of both sides of his face.” The White House doesn’t know what it wants to do and what it can get away with. Message control has broken down, so aides now freelance, trying to push the president in one direction or another. Not only does this create uncertainty for investors, employers, and consumers, but it also suggests that the president is an observer in his own administration.

Like nature, politics abhors a vacuum; with a shrinking presidency, others (advisers, Congress, 2012 contenders, wanna-be primary opponents, etc.) will rush forward to fill the void. After the 1994 midterms, Clinton memorably declared that the president was still relevant — and then proved it to be the case. So Obama had better get out of his funk and decide which direction he wants to go in the next two years. Otherwise, he will become increasingly irrelevant at home and dangerously ineffective overseas.

When looking for hopeful signs of a move to the center by the Obama administration, observers point to the about-face on the 2011 troop-withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan and to possible acquiescence in extending the Bush tax cuts. But is there progress on the latter front?

The New York Post editors observe:

Meanwhile, in the White House, the left hand seems not to know what the far left hand is doing. Within hours yesterday, senior adviser David Axelrod gave contradictory statements on the question of extending the Bush-era tax cuts. …

We have to deal with the world as we find it,” Axelrod told the Huffington Post. “The world of what it takes to get this done.” He continued: “There are concerns [over multiple temporary extensions for the wealthy], but I don’t want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point.” …

Except, Axelrod then did a 180-degree turn, later telling National Journal: “We’re willing to discuss how we move forward. But we believe that it’s imperative to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, and don’t believe we can afford a permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.”

It’s not hard to understand why “Axelrod [is] talking out of both sides of his face.” The White House doesn’t know what it wants to do and what it can get away with. Message control has broken down, so aides now freelance, trying to push the president in one direction or another. Not only does this create uncertainty for investors, employers, and consumers, but it also suggests that the president is an observer in his own administration.

Like nature, politics abhors a vacuum; with a shrinking presidency, others (advisers, Congress, 2012 contenders, wanna-be primary opponents, etc.) will rush forward to fill the void. After the 1994 midterms, Clinton memorably declared that the president was still relevant — and then proved it to be the case. So Obama had better get out of his funk and decide which direction he wants to go in the next two years. Otherwise, he will become increasingly irrelevant at home and dangerously ineffective overseas.

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Do Whatever They Want, but Not on Our Dime

NPR is quite properly on the receiving end of a jumbo backlash over the firing of Juan Williams. As this report details, the listeners’ complaints are pouring in. Moreover:

At least one station wants to distance itself from the firing. In Miami, WLRN general manager John Labonia said he was hearing dozens of complaints from angry citizens and loyal donors. He said one called to cancel a $1,000 pledge. The station’s fundraising drive had already ended when the furor erupted.

“We don’t want that negative halo of NPR’s decision to affect us, so we are making it perfectly clear that we were not part of this decision and we do not agree with it,” Labonia said. “It was a short-sighted and irresponsible decision by NPR.”

Republicans are threatening to cut off funding when Congress returns. NPR is nervous about the impact on the bottom line:

As for NPR’s headquarters operation, federal grants account for less than 2 percent — or $3.3 million — of its $166 million annual budget. It is funded primarily by its affiliates, corporate sponsors and major donors.

In a statement, Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, said federal law gives public broadcasting stations “maximum freedom” from interference in their activities.

NPR’s [spokeswoman Dana Davis] Rehm warned that if Congress cut off funding, “stations across the country would be hurt by that and would have to make up that balance elsewhere. In many places that would be difficult to do.”

She said that threats to cut off funding are “inappropriate” but that NPR takes them seriously and is talking with its member stations. “Stations as a whole are not happy this is happening at this time,” she said. “They’re in a difficult situation.”

How could 2 percent of its budget have such devastating impact? Well, those stations also receive money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But in any event, they’ve got lots of rich liberal donors.

And if it does cause hardship to the radio stations? I guess they’d have to put on programing that listeners actually like. It’s called the free market. With over 500 TV stations as well as satellite and over-the-air radio, why in the world do taxpayers need to pay for left-wing propaganda masquerading as news? Seriously, that’s what the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Fox News’s cable competitors are there for.

NPR is quite properly on the receiving end of a jumbo backlash over the firing of Juan Williams. As this report details, the listeners’ complaints are pouring in. Moreover:

At least one station wants to distance itself from the firing. In Miami, WLRN general manager John Labonia said he was hearing dozens of complaints from angry citizens and loyal donors. He said one called to cancel a $1,000 pledge. The station’s fundraising drive had already ended when the furor erupted.

“We don’t want that negative halo of NPR’s decision to affect us, so we are making it perfectly clear that we were not part of this decision and we do not agree with it,” Labonia said. “It was a short-sighted and irresponsible decision by NPR.”

Republicans are threatening to cut off funding when Congress returns. NPR is nervous about the impact on the bottom line:

As for NPR’s headquarters operation, federal grants account for less than 2 percent — or $3.3 million — of its $166 million annual budget. It is funded primarily by its affiliates, corporate sponsors and major donors.

In a statement, Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, said federal law gives public broadcasting stations “maximum freedom” from interference in their activities.

NPR’s [spokeswoman Dana Davis] Rehm warned that if Congress cut off funding, “stations across the country would be hurt by that and would have to make up that balance elsewhere. In many places that would be difficult to do.”

She said that threats to cut off funding are “inappropriate” but that NPR takes them seriously and is talking with its member stations. “Stations as a whole are not happy this is happening at this time,” she said. “They’re in a difficult situation.”

How could 2 percent of its budget have such devastating impact? Well, those stations also receive money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But in any event, they’ve got lots of rich liberal donors.

And if it does cause hardship to the radio stations? I guess they’d have to put on programing that listeners actually like. It’s called the free market. With over 500 TV stations as well as satellite and over-the-air radio, why in the world do taxpayers need to pay for left-wing propaganda masquerading as news? Seriously, that’s what the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Fox News’s cable competitors are there for.

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Conway Blows Himself Up

Howard Fineman is not exactly a conservative shill. But it is apparent that both he and a slew of Democrats are aghast at Jack Conway’s attack on Rand Paul’s religion. (But the prize for indignant liberal goes to Chris Matthews.) Fineman writes:

Democrats in Kentucky and elsewhere seem ready to bail — perhaps wholesale — on Democrat Jack Conway for his “mocking Christianity” attack on Dr. Rand Paul.

“I wouldn’t have done it,” Rep. John Yarmuth, the popular Louisville Democrat who is also a member of the House leadership, told The Huffington Post. “And it looks like it’s backfiring.” …

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri criticized the ad theme, and other Democrats have privately done so, but open criticism from the politically savvy Yarmuth — on the ballot in Kentucky with Conway — is a sign that the ad is rapidly coming to be regarded as a one-step-too-far move in a year in which nothing seems to be over the line.

The ad is so distasteful that you wonder what in the world Conway and his campaign advisers were thinking. And because it comes from the party that can’t get enough of finger-wagging at us for “religious tolerance,” it makes it virtually impossible for Democrats to defend. What makes it doubly bizarre is that Paul is not without his vulnerabilities, but now the entire “he’s a wacko” attack is undermined. It’s Conway who seems like he’s from a parallel political universe.

This is why politics is so much fun. The ability of candidates and parties to annihilate themselves provides constant amusement, and it reminds us that politics is as much about human fallibility as anything else.

Howard Fineman is not exactly a conservative shill. But it is apparent that both he and a slew of Democrats are aghast at Jack Conway’s attack on Rand Paul’s religion. (But the prize for indignant liberal goes to Chris Matthews.) Fineman writes:

Democrats in Kentucky and elsewhere seem ready to bail — perhaps wholesale — on Democrat Jack Conway for his “mocking Christianity” attack on Dr. Rand Paul.

“I wouldn’t have done it,” Rep. John Yarmuth, the popular Louisville Democrat who is also a member of the House leadership, told The Huffington Post. “And it looks like it’s backfiring.” …

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri criticized the ad theme, and other Democrats have privately done so, but open criticism from the politically savvy Yarmuth — on the ballot in Kentucky with Conway — is a sign that the ad is rapidly coming to be regarded as a one-step-too-far move in a year in which nothing seems to be over the line.

The ad is so distasteful that you wonder what in the world Conway and his campaign advisers were thinking. And because it comes from the party that can’t get enough of finger-wagging at us for “religious tolerance,” it makes it virtually impossible for Democrats to defend. What makes it doubly bizarre is that Paul is not without his vulnerabilities, but now the entire “he’s a wacko” attack is undermined. It’s Conway who seems like he’s from a parallel political universe.

This is why politics is so much fun. The ability of candidates and parties to annihilate themselves provides constant amusement, and it reminds us that politics is as much about human fallibility as anything else.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Nil, Baby, Nil

“Where is the outrage? Where are the millions marching in the streets, where is the round-the-clock roadblock coverage tracking every moment of the crisis?” Such were the questions asked by the Huffington Post’s Peter Daou in late May. And the declarations were no less bracing. “We are at an inflection point, one that will likely determine the fate of our species,” he informed readers. The “planetary emergency” to which he was referring was not, as one may be forgiven for thinking, the appearance of alien spacecraft above civilization’s greatest structural landmarks. Daou’s concerns were grounded in earthly developments. Or, rather, a single earthly development: a pipe broke.

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

“Where is the outrage? Where are the millions marching in the streets, where is the round-the-clock roadblock coverage tracking every moment of the crisis?” Such were the questions asked by the Huffington Post’s Peter Daou in late May. And the declarations were no less bracing. “We are at an inflection point, one that will likely determine the fate of our species,” he informed readers. The “planetary emergency” to which he was referring was not, as one may be forgiven for thinking, the appearance of alien spacecraft above civilization’s greatest structural landmarks. Daou’s concerns were grounded in earthly developments. Or, rather, a single earthly development: a pipe broke.

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

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Fox Dominates Cable News Ratings

According to the Huffington Post, Fox News continued its complete domination of cable-news ratings in July. The network averaged 1.85 million viewers in primetime for the month — more than CNN, MSNBC, and HLN combined. The top 11 rated programs, each with a total of more than a million viewers, belong to Fox News (three programs topped two million viewers). As a point of comparison, no other program on any other cable network was able to draw as many as a million viewers (Hardball with Chris Matthews, for example, was able to draw only a little more than half a million watchers).

The dominance of Fox News is an extraordinary media phenomenon. Roger Ailes is a genius at his profession. And the success of Fox News continues to cause liberals to vent and fume, pout and lash out, whine and act irrationally. Sometimes breaking up a quasi-monopoly will do that to people.

In any event, it’s time for liberals to make their own inner peace with a Fox-dominated cable-news world. If they don’t, they will continue to go around the bend.

According to the Huffington Post, Fox News continued its complete domination of cable-news ratings in July. The network averaged 1.85 million viewers in primetime for the month — more than CNN, MSNBC, and HLN combined. The top 11 rated programs, each with a total of more than a million viewers, belong to Fox News (three programs topped two million viewers). As a point of comparison, no other program on any other cable network was able to draw as many as a million viewers (Hardball with Chris Matthews, for example, was able to draw only a little more than half a million watchers).

The dominance of Fox News is an extraordinary media phenomenon. Roger Ailes is a genius at his profession. And the success of Fox News continues to cause liberals to vent and fume, pout and lash out, whine and act irrationally. Sometimes breaking up a quasi-monopoly will do that to people.

In any event, it’s time for liberals to make their own inner peace with a Fox-dominated cable-news world. If they don’t, they will continue to go around the bend.

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Sestak Can’t Shut Up Critics, Can’t Hide

The Jewish Exponent is not exactly a conservative publication, so its coverage of ECI’s ad and of Joe Sestak’s Israel problem must be of particular concern to the Sestak camp. The report explains:

A new effort to attack U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak’s record on Israel has gone viral. A debate that has long been playing out in the pages of the Jewish Exponent has now made its way to MSNBCs “Morning Joe,” and Web sites such as Politico, The Atlantic, Commentary, the Huffington Post and YouTube. … At the centerpiece of the new campaign against Sestak is a television ad sponsored by a prominent group of Jews and Evangelical Christians calling itself the Emergency Committee for Israel.

The ad, airing in Pennsylvania this week — including during a Phillies game — highlights an appearance he made before a controversial Muslim group in 2007 and criticizes him for signing one congressional letter urging Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza and for not signing another one affirming Israel-U.S. ties. The spot is likely the first strike in what organizers have vowed will be a sustained effort to challenge Democrats and President Barack Obama on policy toward Israel.

The Exponent is not buying Sestak’s defense of his speech to CAIR in 2007: “According to the Anti-Defamation League, CAIR has ‘refused for many years to unequivocally condemn by name Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations.’” Nor does it appear that Sestak will be able to duck the controversy:

“Michael Bronstein, a Philadelphia political consultant and pro-Israel activist who is supporting Sestak, said that the new commercial “is completely different from anything that we have seen before. I suspect it will be effective without an adequate response.” …

For his part, Toomey, through his spokeswoman, told the Exponent: “It’s really unfortunate that Joe Sestak has repeatedly chosen to align himself with the most anti-Israel faction in Congress.”

It is not simply that Sestak gave the speech to a group that often spouts anti-Israel venom. It is that, as the Exponent points out, “Despite repeated calls for Sestak to have canceled before the CAIR speech, and calls for him to admit the appearance was a mistake, he has never backed down.” Even now that CAIR continues to carry water (and censor books) on behalf of radical Islamists and even now that CAIR’s track record is well known (see here and here and here), Sestak has never issued an apology or denounced the group.

You can understand why his lawyer tried to take down the ad. In doing so, however, he’s only called more attention to Sestak’s shabby record.

The Jewish Exponent is not exactly a conservative publication, so its coverage of ECI’s ad and of Joe Sestak’s Israel problem must be of particular concern to the Sestak camp. The report explains:

A new effort to attack U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak’s record on Israel has gone viral. A debate that has long been playing out in the pages of the Jewish Exponent has now made its way to MSNBCs “Morning Joe,” and Web sites such as Politico, The Atlantic, Commentary, the Huffington Post and YouTube. … At the centerpiece of the new campaign against Sestak is a television ad sponsored by a prominent group of Jews and Evangelical Christians calling itself the Emergency Committee for Israel.

The ad, airing in Pennsylvania this week — including during a Phillies game — highlights an appearance he made before a controversial Muslim group in 2007 and criticizes him for signing one congressional letter urging Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza and for not signing another one affirming Israel-U.S. ties. The spot is likely the first strike in what organizers have vowed will be a sustained effort to challenge Democrats and President Barack Obama on policy toward Israel.

The Exponent is not buying Sestak’s defense of his speech to CAIR in 2007: “According to the Anti-Defamation League, CAIR has ‘refused for many years to unequivocally condemn by name Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations.’” Nor does it appear that Sestak will be able to duck the controversy:

“Michael Bronstein, a Philadelphia political consultant and pro-Israel activist who is supporting Sestak, said that the new commercial “is completely different from anything that we have seen before. I suspect it will be effective without an adequate response.” …

For his part, Toomey, through his spokeswoman, told the Exponent: “It’s really unfortunate that Joe Sestak has repeatedly chosen to align himself with the most anti-Israel faction in Congress.”

It is not simply that Sestak gave the speech to a group that often spouts anti-Israel venom. It is that, as the Exponent points out, “Despite repeated calls for Sestak to have canceled before the CAIR speech, and calls for him to admit the appearance was a mistake, he has never backed down.” Even now that CAIR continues to carry water (and censor books) on behalf of radical Islamists and even now that CAIR’s track record is well known (see here and here and here), Sestak has never issued an apology or denounced the group.

You can understand why his lawyer tried to take down the ad. In doing so, however, he’s only called more attention to Sestak’s shabby record.

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