Commentary Magazine


Topic: the LA Times

Even Boxer and Feinstein Get It

Even Boxer and Feinstein get it. Well, sort of. They get the prospect of electoral vulnerability, at least. In the wake of Scott Brown’s victory, the Los Angeles Times’ California Politics column quotes Sen. Barbara Boxer today acknowledging that “every state is now in play, absolutely.”

Boxer, who got 57 percent of the vote in her 2004 reelection campaign, faces California voters this fall. Republicans are encouraged that she showed poorly – for her – in a January Rasmussen poll against the GOP contenders, who include former tech-industry CEO Carly Fiorina. Boxer’s best margin was a 46-40 showing against state legislator Chuck DeVore, but his is the interesting figure: with his name recognition lower than Fiorina’s, the historical pattern would have been for him to get a number no better than the low 30s. DeVore’s 40 signifies that voters are likely turning away from Boxer.

It’s not a given that the California GOP gets it, of course. Republican Tom Campbell, who switched from the gubernatorial race to the Senate race after Scott Brown surged in the Massachusetts polls last week, has probably thrown up a fresh obstacle to party unity in November. Some shaking out of cobwebs will be inevitable this year in a state party that has been remarkably unsuccessful for at least two decades.

But President Obama’s support is slipping significantly among Californians, and their dissatisfaction with the direction of the state and the nation is growing. What Republicans need to learn from Scott Brown’s success is that voters respond to forceful, specific, and positive messages. Jennifer captures this in her comments on the Brown victory speech. GOP candidates probably will not have the looming threat of ObamaCare to run against this fall; the Democrats look likely to back off and postpone that reckoning. Without that crystallizing threat in voters’ minds, the candidates’ positive messages will have to do the heavy lifting.

The 2010 opportunity is unique, however. Dianne Feinstein is California’s other occupant of one of the safest Senate seats in the country, and she demonstrated, in just a few words quoted today by the LA Times, that she misreads what voters want to hear:

People are very unsettled. They are very worried. There is anger. There is angst. … You see high unemployment. …You see anger. … The administration has to see it, and we have to see it. And therefore, everything is jobs and the economy and education.

Contrast that with the passage Jennifer cites from Brown’s speech last night:

Raising taxes, taking over our health care, and giving new rights to terrorists is the agenda of a new establishment in Washington.

In this aspect of the 2010 political environment, it’s Scott Brown who gets it. The American people aren’t writhing in anger and angst, confusedly demanding that government do something about “jobs, economy, and education.” They know exactly what they think is wrong today, and the problem, as Ronald Reagan would have said, is government. Scott Brown’s unvarnished directness has been respectful of voters as thinking citizens. If Republicans take that to heart, they will have an inherent advantage over many long-entrenched Democrats.

Even Boxer and Feinstein get it. Well, sort of. They get the prospect of electoral vulnerability, at least. In the wake of Scott Brown’s victory, the Los Angeles Times’ California Politics column quotes Sen. Barbara Boxer today acknowledging that “every state is now in play, absolutely.”

Boxer, who got 57 percent of the vote in her 2004 reelection campaign, faces California voters this fall. Republicans are encouraged that she showed poorly – for her – in a January Rasmussen poll against the GOP contenders, who include former tech-industry CEO Carly Fiorina. Boxer’s best margin was a 46-40 showing against state legislator Chuck DeVore, but his is the interesting figure: with his name recognition lower than Fiorina’s, the historical pattern would have been for him to get a number no better than the low 30s. DeVore’s 40 signifies that voters are likely turning away from Boxer.

It’s not a given that the California GOP gets it, of course. Republican Tom Campbell, who switched from the gubernatorial race to the Senate race after Scott Brown surged in the Massachusetts polls last week, has probably thrown up a fresh obstacle to party unity in November. Some shaking out of cobwebs will be inevitable this year in a state party that has been remarkably unsuccessful for at least two decades.

But President Obama’s support is slipping significantly among Californians, and their dissatisfaction with the direction of the state and the nation is growing. What Republicans need to learn from Scott Brown’s success is that voters respond to forceful, specific, and positive messages. Jennifer captures this in her comments on the Brown victory speech. GOP candidates probably will not have the looming threat of ObamaCare to run against this fall; the Democrats look likely to back off and postpone that reckoning. Without that crystallizing threat in voters’ minds, the candidates’ positive messages will have to do the heavy lifting.

The 2010 opportunity is unique, however. Dianne Feinstein is California’s other occupant of one of the safest Senate seats in the country, and she demonstrated, in just a few words quoted today by the LA Times, that she misreads what voters want to hear:

People are very unsettled. They are very worried. There is anger. There is angst. … You see high unemployment. …You see anger. … The administration has to see it, and we have to see it. And therefore, everything is jobs and the economy and education.

Contrast that with the passage Jennifer cites from Brown’s speech last night:

Raising taxes, taking over our health care, and giving new rights to terrorists is the agenda of a new establishment in Washington.

In this aspect of the 2010 political environment, it’s Scott Brown who gets it. The American people aren’t writhing in anger and angst, confusedly demanding that government do something about “jobs, economy, and education.” They know exactly what they think is wrong today, and the problem, as Ronald Reagan would have said, is government. Scott Brown’s unvarnished directness has been respectful of voters as thinking citizens. If Republicans take that to heart, they will have an inherent advantage over many long-entrenched Democrats.

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Down the Memory Hole

Imagine, for a moment, that you are the book review editor of a major newspaper, and a book has been written by someone who was a high-level public official deeply involved in what has been the biggest and most controversial story of the past half-decade.

This official has been mentioned in news stories in your paper on hundreds of occasions, your paper’s editorials have regularly railed against him and his colleagues, and your paper’s op-ed columnists have penned an entire oeuvre of scathing indictments of the policies he helped implement. The official, subjected to years of obloquy in your pages, writes an account of his involvement in the story that by any fair estimation is not just detailed and serious, but one of the most important and useful of its kind to date. Do you choose to review the book, or do you simply pretend that it was never written?

The book I’m talking about, of course, is War and Decision, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith’s account of his role in the Iraq war. And it is being subjected to an astonishing and shameful blackout from many of America’s biggest newspapers. Noting the decision of the Washington Post and New York Times not to review the book, Rich Lowry wrote, “Apparently it’s OK to heap every failure in Iraq on Feith’s head, but then to turn around and pretend he’s a figure of no consequence when he writes a book.”

Curiosity got the better of me, so I checked to see whether the book has been reviewed by other large newspapers. The MSM does not disappoint: There has been no mention of War and Decision in USA Today, the LA Times, NY Daily News, Houston Chronicle, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, or Miami Herald. What charming behavior from our nation’s journalism professionals. You would think the book interfered with the preferred narrative or something.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are the book review editor of a major newspaper, and a book has been written by someone who was a high-level public official deeply involved in what has been the biggest and most controversial story of the past half-decade.

This official has been mentioned in news stories in your paper on hundreds of occasions, your paper’s editorials have regularly railed against him and his colleagues, and your paper’s op-ed columnists have penned an entire oeuvre of scathing indictments of the policies he helped implement. The official, subjected to years of obloquy in your pages, writes an account of his involvement in the story that by any fair estimation is not just detailed and serious, but one of the most important and useful of its kind to date. Do you choose to review the book, or do you simply pretend that it was never written?

The book I’m talking about, of course, is War and Decision, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith’s account of his role in the Iraq war. And it is being subjected to an astonishing and shameful blackout from many of America’s biggest newspapers. Noting the decision of the Washington Post and New York Times not to review the book, Rich Lowry wrote, “Apparently it’s OK to heap every failure in Iraq on Feith’s head, but then to turn around and pretend he’s a figure of no consequence when he writes a book.”

Curiosity got the better of me, so I checked to see whether the book has been reviewed by other large newspapers. The MSM does not disappoint: There has been no mention of War and Decision in USA Today, the LA Times, NY Daily News, Houston Chronicle, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, or Miami Herald. What charming behavior from our nation’s journalism professionals. You would think the book interfered with the preferred narrative or something.

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Hillary Couldn’t Say This

Hillary Clinton’s remarks suggesting that Barack Obama has a white voter problem brought howls of protest from Democrats and pundits. What she didn’t say, probably because she is still nominally running for the Democratic nomination in a primary dominated by liberals, is that his race may not be as big a problem as his views. That’s the premise of this Los Angeles Times column, which makes a persuasive case that Obama’s appealing demeanor and the issue of his race have masked a larger, ideological problem.

Senator Claire McCaskill, a prominent Obama supporter, admits: “The key is going to be whether Barack can avoid getting on defense on social ‘wedge’ issues and can stay on the offense on economic issues.” She’s not the only one who thinks Obama may be caught on the wrong side of the ideological divide. The LA Times piece explains:

Obama has “handicaps and potential problems, race being one of them, [but] it’s not the only one,” Pew Center President Andrew Kohut said. “He is perceived as a liberal. He is perceived by many voters as not well grounded on foreign policy and not tough enough . . . and he has a potential problem, distinct from race, of being seen as an elitist, an intellectual.”

Well, that sounds quite a bit like the McCain game plan. Jill Zuckerman reports:

“We’ll make the case that Barack Obama is a wonderful new voice selling old, discredited ideas, including the most massive tax increase since Walter Mondale ran for president,” said Steve Schmidt, a senior McCain adviser. “It’s a combination of weakness, not being ready to be president and not being able to deliver on the things he says he will deliver on.”

So it might have been more accurate for Clinton to have said that Democrats who nominate a left-liberal without foreign policy experience do so at their own peril, though she did try a bit of that with her “3 a.m.” ad. Obama has yet to confront an all-out ideological attack. Such criticism may sound like “old” politics. But all politics, in the end, is about making distinctions and getting voters to choose between candidates’ competing visions.

McCain’s camp appears eager to do just that, perhaps in the town hall formats where they believe their candidate thrives. (Has Obama ever faced questions from a crowd that doesn’t agree with his ideological premises?) How Obama stands up to that line of inquiry will in large part determine, just as much as the unavoidable politics of race, who wins in November.

Hillary Clinton’s remarks suggesting that Barack Obama has a white voter problem brought howls of protest from Democrats and pundits. What she didn’t say, probably because she is still nominally running for the Democratic nomination in a primary dominated by liberals, is that his race may not be as big a problem as his views. That’s the premise of this Los Angeles Times column, which makes a persuasive case that Obama’s appealing demeanor and the issue of his race have masked a larger, ideological problem.

Senator Claire McCaskill, a prominent Obama supporter, admits: “The key is going to be whether Barack can avoid getting on defense on social ‘wedge’ issues and can stay on the offense on economic issues.” She’s not the only one who thinks Obama may be caught on the wrong side of the ideological divide. The LA Times piece explains:

Obama has “handicaps and potential problems, race being one of them, [but] it’s not the only one,” Pew Center President Andrew Kohut said. “He is perceived as a liberal. He is perceived by many voters as not well grounded on foreign policy and not tough enough . . . and he has a potential problem, distinct from race, of being seen as an elitist, an intellectual.”

Well, that sounds quite a bit like the McCain game plan. Jill Zuckerman reports:

“We’ll make the case that Barack Obama is a wonderful new voice selling old, discredited ideas, including the most massive tax increase since Walter Mondale ran for president,” said Steve Schmidt, a senior McCain adviser. “It’s a combination of weakness, not being ready to be president and not being able to deliver on the things he says he will deliver on.”

So it might have been more accurate for Clinton to have said that Democrats who nominate a left-liberal without foreign policy experience do so at their own peril, though she did try a bit of that with her “3 a.m.” ad. Obama has yet to confront an all-out ideological attack. Such criticism may sound like “old” politics. But all politics, in the end, is about making distinctions and getting voters to choose between candidates’ competing visions.

McCain’s camp appears eager to do just that, perhaps in the town hall formats where they believe their candidate thrives. (Has Obama ever faced questions from a crowd that doesn’t agree with his ideological premises?) How Obama stands up to that line of inquiry will in large part determine, just as much as the unavoidable politics of race, who wins in November.

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More on Barstow

Apparently John Podhoretz and I weren’t the only ones underwhelmed by David Barstow’s 7,600-word magnum opus in Sunday’s New York Times. (The piece detailed how the Pentagon tries to woo retired military officers to get out its side of the story in the Iraq War.) According to this Los Angeles Times online article, the article “made minimal ripples”:

The Sunday-morning talk shows ignored the piece. . . . the Pentagon caper likewise seemed a nonstarter in the blogosphere. . . . NBC’s Brian Williams, who’s been known to take a rooting interest in media-industry shopkeeping, didn’t even mention it on his “Daily Nightly” blog.

The LA Times blogger explains this lack of interest by claiming that Americans are used to having their government manipulate the media: “You don’t have to tell John Q. Public that the fix is in; he takes it for granted.” That may be true. But I think it’s also true that most Americans are aware that the MSM have their own spin on the news, and they don’t think it’s wrong for those with a different viewpoint–even if they work at the Department of Defense–to try to get out another side of the story.

For all the angst over “media manipulation,” the reality is that the public isn’t so easily manipulated. Public opinion of the war effort eroded when we were losing the war on the ground. Now that we’re making progress, public support has rebounded. There’s nothing wrong with the Pentagon trying to highlight what it sees as positive news–just as there is nothing wrong with the MSM reporting largely negative news. The body politic will gradually sort it all out.

Apparently John Podhoretz and I weren’t the only ones underwhelmed by David Barstow’s 7,600-word magnum opus in Sunday’s New York Times. (The piece detailed how the Pentagon tries to woo retired military officers to get out its side of the story in the Iraq War.) According to this Los Angeles Times online article, the article “made minimal ripples”:

The Sunday-morning talk shows ignored the piece. . . . the Pentagon caper likewise seemed a nonstarter in the blogosphere. . . . NBC’s Brian Williams, who’s been known to take a rooting interest in media-industry shopkeeping, didn’t even mention it on his “Daily Nightly” blog.

The LA Times blogger explains this lack of interest by claiming that Americans are used to having their government manipulate the media: “You don’t have to tell John Q. Public that the fix is in; he takes it for granted.” That may be true. But I think it’s also true that most Americans are aware that the MSM have their own spin on the news, and they don’t think it’s wrong for those with a different viewpoint–even if they work at the Department of Defense–to try to get out another side of the story.

For all the angst over “media manipulation,” the reality is that the public isn’t so easily manipulated. Public opinion of the war effort eroded when we were losing the war on the ground. Now that we’re making progress, public support has rebounded. There’s nothing wrong with the Pentagon trying to highlight what it sees as positive news–just as there is nothing wrong with the MSM reporting largely negative news. The body politic will gradually sort it all out.

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Carter’s Awkward Moments

Jimmy Carter’s upcoming handshake with Hamas leader Khalid Meshal in Damascus promises to be an incredibly awkward moment. In fact, it will be so awkward that–almost forty-eight hours after the story broke–the Carter Center has yet to confirm the visit (though Hamas has done so giddily). Amidst this dithering, the U.S. foreign policy community has overwhelmingly lambasted the proposed meet-and-greet, while the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Ibrahim Hooper seems to be Carter’s lone supporter in Washington.It’s gotten so bad that even Kofi Annan–who infamously greeted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah during his tenure as UN Secretary General–is distancing himself from Carter, canceling his plans to accompany the former U.S. president to the Middle East.

Rest assured, this awkwardness is here to stay, and will not subside once Carter boards his plane back from Damascus. Rather, it will follow him all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Denver–where the keynote address he will deliver as a former Democratic president will be a chillingly awkward moment for the ultimate presidential nominee. Indeed, without Carter having even addressed the Hamas meeting publicly, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have criticized Carter’s plans through their press offices. For now, Carter’s lack of attachment to either campaign makes this form of distancing acceptable. Yet when Carter addresses a national audience for a full half-hour or so in late August at the convention, the ultimate nominee will have some serious explaining to do–particularly because the nominee’s campaign is largely responsible for drafting speakers, and thus technically responsible for Carter’s time in the limelight.

Naturally, Carter’s visit with Hamas will be most problematic if Obama wins the nomination. As an article in the LA Times noted yesterday, Obama continues to face doubters within the Jewish community, who remain concerned by his longtime relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and question the sincerity of his pro-Israel pronouncements. It is for this reason that Carter’s decision to legitimize Hamas now is most confounding: how can Carter, who has hinted at his support for Obama, put him in such an awkward position?

Jimmy Carter’s upcoming handshake with Hamas leader Khalid Meshal in Damascus promises to be an incredibly awkward moment. In fact, it will be so awkward that–almost forty-eight hours after the story broke–the Carter Center has yet to confirm the visit (though Hamas has done so giddily). Amidst this dithering, the U.S. foreign policy community has overwhelmingly lambasted the proposed meet-and-greet, while the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Ibrahim Hooper seems to be Carter’s lone supporter in Washington.It’s gotten so bad that even Kofi Annan–who infamously greeted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah during his tenure as UN Secretary General–is distancing himself from Carter, canceling his plans to accompany the former U.S. president to the Middle East.

Rest assured, this awkwardness is here to stay, and will not subside once Carter boards his plane back from Damascus. Rather, it will follow him all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Denver–where the keynote address he will deliver as a former Democratic president will be a chillingly awkward moment for the ultimate presidential nominee. Indeed, without Carter having even addressed the Hamas meeting publicly, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have criticized Carter’s plans through their press offices. For now, Carter’s lack of attachment to either campaign makes this form of distancing acceptable. Yet when Carter addresses a national audience for a full half-hour or so in late August at the convention, the ultimate nominee will have some serious explaining to do–particularly because the nominee’s campaign is largely responsible for drafting speakers, and thus technically responsible for Carter’s time in the limelight.

Naturally, Carter’s visit with Hamas will be most problematic if Obama wins the nomination. As an article in the LA Times noted yesterday, Obama continues to face doubters within the Jewish community, who remain concerned by his longtime relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and question the sincerity of his pro-Israel pronouncements. It is for this reason that Carter’s decision to legitimize Hamas now is most confounding: how can Carter, who has hinted at his support for Obama, put him in such an awkward position?

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The Ayatollahs, the CIA, and the LA Times Leak: Part II

Yesterday, I asked whether a leak published on the front page of the Los Angeles Times in 2002 might have had something to do with the recent arrests in Tehran of four Iranian-Americans on espionage charges. What direct evidence can I adduce on this score?

The answer is: none. The evidence is all circumstantial and indirect. But it is highly suggestive nonetheless.

To begin with, Iran has a significant diplomatic and intelligence presence in the United States. The same LA Times piece revealing the CIA program to recruit Iranian émigrés reported that Iranian intelligence was not only active here but that it paid careful attention to the émigré community. The LA Times story was thus, to a near certainty, picked up by Iranian officials; and it is inconceivable that a report detailing a CIA operation with such specificity would not then have been given wide notice inside the Iranian foreign-policy and intelligence establishment.

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Yesterday, I asked whether a leak published on the front page of the Los Angeles Times in 2002 might have had something to do with the recent arrests in Tehran of four Iranian-Americans on espionage charges. What direct evidence can I adduce on this score?

The answer is: none. The evidence is all circumstantial and indirect. But it is highly suggestive nonetheless.

To begin with, Iran has a significant diplomatic and intelligence presence in the United States. The same LA Times piece revealing the CIA program to recruit Iranian émigrés reported that Iranian intelligence was not only active here but that it paid careful attention to the émigré community. The LA Times story was thus, to a near certainty, picked up by Iranian officials; and it is inconceivable that a report detailing a CIA operation with such specificity would not then have been given wide notice inside the Iranian foreign-policy and intelligence establishment.

The Iranian Islamic regime, it is important to bear in mind, has a peculiar relationship to the CIA. One of its founding myths is that the American spy agency was a major force propping up the old regime. After the Shah’s fall, the Islamic revolutionaries were quick to find the hidden hand of the CIA everywhere, and held it responsible for every conceivable ill that befell Iran, from failed crops to the war with Iraq.

The irony, of course, is that the CIA presence in Iran at the time of the revolution was virtually non-existent, and the U.S. government had only the dimmest understanding of the society, including especially the Islamic opposition. It is widely believed that in the intervening years the agency has not succeeded in penetrating the Iranian government. Apart from what can be gleaned from reading Iranian newspapers, the CIA’s picture of the internal political situation is said to be close to blank.

But reality, at least with regard to the condition of American intelligence services, has never exactly been a strong suit of Iran’s theocrats. The arrest of four Iranian-Americans on trumped up charges of espionage is testimony to the ease with which their fantasies merge with their extortionate, hostage-seizing brand of realpolitik.

The two most significant questions that arise from this leak episode concern not them but us. The first concerns the sources in and around the CIA who disclosed the classified Iranian-émigré recruitment program to the LA Times. What could have possibly motivated them? The second concerns the editors of the LA Times. By putting out a story that would inevitably endanger an entire class of Americans already under intense suspicion in the eyes of the ayatollahs, were they subordinating their civic obligations to their journalistic ambitions?

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