Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tom Bevan

Olbermann Tries to Pass for Sane

What could be more ludicrous than selling Newsweek as an objective news journal? Selling Keith Olbermann as a serious talk-show analyst. His ratings are tumbling, so he’s out to convince people he’s not a raving lunatic. Tom Bevan tells us that Olbermann’s new promos show Olbermann in a whole new light:

Olbermann tells viewers his show is meant to “illuminate” not to “throw off heat” and that it means to “add to your knowledge” of a given subject. Olbermann also tries to take the edge off his “Worst Persons in the World” feature, saying it’s not meant to be a mean-spirited ad hominem thing, but rather an effort to “blow raspberries” at people in the spirit of an old George Carlin joke.

This might itself be a whole other Saturday Night Live skit. But it does suggest that there is only so much mileage to be gotten out of Bush-hating, conservative-bashing, and unhinged vitriol. Come to think of it, the same might be said of the entire Democratic Party and the liberal chattering class. There is a bit of the “dog caught the bus” syndrome — having inveighed against Bush, beaten John McCain, and captured the White House, what is going to lift their spirits now? Apparently not Keith Olbermann.

What could be more ludicrous than selling Newsweek as an objective news journal? Selling Keith Olbermann as a serious talk-show analyst. His ratings are tumbling, so he’s out to convince people he’s not a raving lunatic. Tom Bevan tells us that Olbermann’s new promos show Olbermann in a whole new light:

Olbermann tells viewers his show is meant to “illuminate” not to “throw off heat” and that it means to “add to your knowledge” of a given subject. Olbermann also tries to take the edge off his “Worst Persons in the World” feature, saying it’s not meant to be a mean-spirited ad hominem thing, but rather an effort to “blow raspberries” at people in the spirit of an old George Carlin joke.

This might itself be a whole other Saturday Night Live skit. But it does suggest that there is only so much mileage to be gotten out of Bush-hating, conservative-bashing, and unhinged vitriol. Come to think of it, the same might be said of the entire Democratic Party and the liberal chattering class. There is a bit of the “dog caught the bus” syndrome — having inveighed against Bush, beaten John McCain, and captured the White House, what is going to lift their spirits now? Apparently not Keith Olbermann.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ruth Marcus explains: “So can a chastened Obama regain the lost sense of excitement and opportunity? Eventually, perhaps, but never entirely. The second time is never as thrilling.” Especially when the thrill was based on cotton-candy rhetoric and a blank slate onto which Obama told us we were projecting our hopes and dreams. If there is no there there, then the thrill is not likely to return.

Michael Barone says that if the election were held today, it would be worse for the Democrats than it was 1994 or 2002. He calls it “the makings of an epic party disaster.”

Charles Krauthammer on Obama and the KSM trial: “The president is not going to admit error. He never does. He does in the abstract, but he will never admit he actually makes a human error on anything. So he won’t on this. But he knows what’s going to happen, which is the Congress will rebel on this and it will pull the funding, [and] get him off the hook. And the issue [will] end up behind him even though he doesn’t do it himself.” Noting he never mentioned terrorism in the SOTU, Krauthammer adds: “In fact, because his two decisions — the KSM trial in Manhattan and the granting of Miranda rights to the guy who tried to blow up the airplane — are indefensible.”

Matt Continetti points out that it takes Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make Sen. Carl Levin look wise on national security. Levin says of Pelosi’s idea to apply Obama’s freeze to defense spending: “That’s kind of hard to do in the middle of a war.” But maybe if we hop over the Pentagon fence. And then pole vault in. And then. Yeah, she is Speaker of the House.

Liberals think Rahm Emanual’s kicking the can down the road on health-care reform (“Congress would deal first with jobs, then banking regulation, and then circle back around to health-care reform”) makes no sense. Well, only if you want to stave off an epic party disaster, I suppose.

But at least Obama still has the postgraduate-degree voters according to Gallup: “The support of postgraduates, who tend to be more liberal and Democratic in their political orientation, was important to Obama’s being elected president. Since he has become president, postgraduates have been among his more reliable supporters, backing him at higher levels than do those in other educational groups.” But that poll was taken before the SOTU and Obama flunked his midterm on the campaign-finance-reform law. That might lose him a few points.

Tom Bevan catches Obama sort of admitting that the health-care bills wouldn’t really, absolutely have allowed everyone to keep their existing health plans. Stuff “snuck in,” you see. If there has ever been a president less willing to take responsibility for anything, I’m hard pressed to recall who it was. And no — George W. Bush did admit error on the initial conduct of the Iraq war and on Katrina, so he’s not even in the ballpark of Obama blame-shifting.

Fred Barnes says Obama is trapped: “President Obama’s greatest need is to escape the ideological grip of congressional Democrats and the liberal base of the Democratic party (they’re one and the same). But he either doesn’t recognize this or, as a conventional liberal himself, isn’t so inclined. This self-inflicted difficulty has put Obama in worse political straits than President Clinton faced after the Republican landslide of 1994.” Unlike Clinton, however, Obama seems to lack the flexibility and ideological creativity to get himself out of his self-made jam.

Ruth Marcus explains: “So can a chastened Obama regain the lost sense of excitement and opportunity? Eventually, perhaps, but never entirely. The second time is never as thrilling.” Especially when the thrill was based on cotton-candy rhetoric and a blank slate onto which Obama told us we were projecting our hopes and dreams. If there is no there there, then the thrill is not likely to return.

Michael Barone says that if the election were held today, it would be worse for the Democrats than it was 1994 or 2002. He calls it “the makings of an epic party disaster.”

Charles Krauthammer on Obama and the KSM trial: “The president is not going to admit error. He never does. He does in the abstract, but he will never admit he actually makes a human error on anything. So he won’t on this. But he knows what’s going to happen, which is the Congress will rebel on this and it will pull the funding, [and] get him off the hook. And the issue [will] end up behind him even though he doesn’t do it himself.” Noting he never mentioned terrorism in the SOTU, Krauthammer adds: “In fact, because his two decisions — the KSM trial in Manhattan and the granting of Miranda rights to the guy who tried to blow up the airplane — are indefensible.”

Matt Continetti points out that it takes Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make Sen. Carl Levin look wise on national security. Levin says of Pelosi’s idea to apply Obama’s freeze to defense spending: “That’s kind of hard to do in the middle of a war.” But maybe if we hop over the Pentagon fence. And then pole vault in. And then. Yeah, she is Speaker of the House.

Liberals think Rahm Emanual’s kicking the can down the road on health-care reform (“Congress would deal first with jobs, then banking regulation, and then circle back around to health-care reform”) makes no sense. Well, only if you want to stave off an epic party disaster, I suppose.

But at least Obama still has the postgraduate-degree voters according to Gallup: “The support of postgraduates, who tend to be more liberal and Democratic in their political orientation, was important to Obama’s being elected president. Since he has become president, postgraduates have been among his more reliable supporters, backing him at higher levels than do those in other educational groups.” But that poll was taken before the SOTU and Obama flunked his midterm on the campaign-finance-reform law. That might lose him a few points.

Tom Bevan catches Obama sort of admitting that the health-care bills wouldn’t really, absolutely have allowed everyone to keep their existing health plans. Stuff “snuck in,” you see. If there has ever been a president less willing to take responsibility for anything, I’m hard pressed to recall who it was. And no — George W. Bush did admit error on the initial conduct of the Iraq war and on Katrina, so he’s not even in the ballpark of Obama blame-shifting.

Fred Barnes says Obama is trapped: “President Obama’s greatest need is to escape the ideological grip of congressional Democrats and the liberal base of the Democratic party (they’re one and the same). But he either doesn’t recognize this or, as a conventional liberal himself, isn’t so inclined. This self-inflicted difficulty has put Obama in worse political straits than President Clinton faced after the Republican landslide of 1994.” Unlike Clinton, however, Obama seems to lack the flexibility and ideological creativity to get himself out of his self-made jam.

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C-SPAN vs. the Obami

C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb has asked Congress and the president to keep their word on transparency and let C-SPAN cover the “critical stage of reconciliation between the Chambers.” The answer certainly will be “no.” After all, there is not likely to be an actual conference committee, so cameras would have to follow Reid and Pelosi around as they buttonhole members and offer up more Cornhusker Kickbacks. And that wouldn’t look too good.

Tom Bevan thinks Obama has a problem, given his own explicit promise to televise negotiations:

Today, when asked for the 3rd time whether President Obama believes that the “standard” he set during the campaign for transparency on health care negotiations is being met by the current process (which now appears to include bypassing the formal conference process), White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gave a flaccid but telling response. “I do not believe the American people have lacked for information on what’s in these bills – the political and policy arguments around different people’s positions – I think that’s been well documented,” Gibbs said.

More and more of what comes out of the White House sounds like third-rate talking points. They seem to have grown accustomed to saying  just any old thing and getting away with it. Now, they are being challenged. We’ll see how they respond. That enemies list (e.g., Fox News, Gallup, Rasmussen, Chamber of Commerce) is getting pretty long. But who’s going to believe that C-SPAN can be dismissed as a partisan attack machine? Maybe Obama should stick to a few of his promises — or at least concede that he just doesn’t want to.

C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb has asked Congress and the president to keep their word on transparency and let C-SPAN cover the “critical stage of reconciliation between the Chambers.” The answer certainly will be “no.” After all, there is not likely to be an actual conference committee, so cameras would have to follow Reid and Pelosi around as they buttonhole members and offer up more Cornhusker Kickbacks. And that wouldn’t look too good.

Tom Bevan thinks Obama has a problem, given his own explicit promise to televise negotiations:

Today, when asked for the 3rd time whether President Obama believes that the “standard” he set during the campaign for transparency on health care negotiations is being met by the current process (which now appears to include bypassing the formal conference process), White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gave a flaccid but telling response. “I do not believe the American people have lacked for information on what’s in these bills – the political and policy arguments around different people’s positions – I think that’s been well documented,” Gibbs said.

More and more of what comes out of the White House sounds like third-rate talking points. They seem to have grown accustomed to saying  just any old thing and getting away with it. Now, they are being challenged. We’ll see how they respond. That enemies list (e.g., Fox News, Gallup, Rasmussen, Chamber of Commerce) is getting pretty long. But who’s going to believe that C-SPAN can be dismissed as a partisan attack machine? Maybe Obama should stick to a few of his promises — or at least concede that he just doesn’t want to.

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She’s Not the Real Problem

Janet Napolitano’s the “system worked” remark is going to go down as one of those memorably idiotic statements that for better or worse become forever associated with an official’s name. It will be up there with Dan Quayle’s spelling “potatoe” and Al Haig’s assertion that “I am in control here” (following the shooting of President Ronald Reagan). But of course, hers is worse, because it is more than a personal gaffe. It reveals a fundamental policy cluelessness and sense of denial that we have learned, unfortunately, permeates the entire Obama administration. (She subsequently has tried to say that her words were taken out of context and that, of course, the administration isn’t pleased with how the system worked, but as Tom Bevan rightly points out “Again, the DHS Secretary appears to believe the American public are a bunch of morons.”)

The notion that the “system worked” is being widely ridiculed. This report provides a sample:

“Security failed,” said Doron Bergerbest-Eilon, Israel’s senior-ranking counterterrorism officer from 1997 to 2000 and a former national regulator for aviation security. It is of little comfort that Abdulmutallab was stopped only after he allegedly failed to properly detonate the bomb, instead igniting a fire that alerted fellow passengers, Bergerbest-Eilon said.”The system repeatedly fails to prevent attacks and protect passengers when challenged,” he said, adding that, in the minds of security experts, “for all intents and purposes, Northwest Flight 253 exploded in midair.”

A Georgetown University terrorism  expert added, “This incident was a compound failure of both intelligence and physical security, leaving prevention to the last line of defense — the passengers themselves.” But the smartest observation comes from Ken Dunlap, security director of the International Air Transport Association: “We’ve spent eight years looking for little scissors and toenail clippers. . . Perhaps the emphasis should be looking for bad people.” But that would entail being candid about who the “bad people” are. I would venture a guess that 90 percent of the public would agree with this sentiment:

Jacques Duchesneau, head of Canada’s Air Transport Security Authority from 2002 to 2008, and Bergerbest-Eilon said that instead of trying to push virtually all travelers through similar screening processes, authorities should improve and expand the use of intelligence and behavioral assessments to cull out those deemed to pose the greatest risk, and target improved technology to find them.

While such methods have been “wrongly perceived as racial profiling,” Bergerbest-Eilon said, “past events have taught us that we cannot rely on intelligence alone to thwart major terror attacks.”

Some are calling for Napolitano to resign. Granted that a randomly picked name from the phone book would probably be an improvement, but she is not the problem. The problem comes from the president and the perspective he has instilled in his entire administration. The Obami refuse to adopt a war mentality in the midst of a war on western civilization, and they eschew common-sense efforts to raise the alert on “bad people.” They insist that we treat those we catch after the fact as common criminals and that intelligence operatives behave like cops on the beat, ever-conscious of the legal peril they face if they ruffle the feathers of terrorists who may possess life-saving information. Unless Obama changes his perception and approach to terrorism, the American people may well demand, as Max points out, a more capable commander in chief to conduct the war against Islamic fanatics.

Janet Napolitano’s the “system worked” remark is going to go down as one of those memorably idiotic statements that for better or worse become forever associated with an official’s name. It will be up there with Dan Quayle’s spelling “potatoe” and Al Haig’s assertion that “I am in control here” (following the shooting of President Ronald Reagan). But of course, hers is worse, because it is more than a personal gaffe. It reveals a fundamental policy cluelessness and sense of denial that we have learned, unfortunately, permeates the entire Obama administration. (She subsequently has tried to say that her words were taken out of context and that, of course, the administration isn’t pleased with how the system worked, but as Tom Bevan rightly points out “Again, the DHS Secretary appears to believe the American public are a bunch of morons.”)

The notion that the “system worked” is being widely ridiculed. This report provides a sample:

“Security failed,” said Doron Bergerbest-Eilon, Israel’s senior-ranking counterterrorism officer from 1997 to 2000 and a former national regulator for aviation security. It is of little comfort that Abdulmutallab was stopped only after he allegedly failed to properly detonate the bomb, instead igniting a fire that alerted fellow passengers, Bergerbest-Eilon said.”The system repeatedly fails to prevent attacks and protect passengers when challenged,” he said, adding that, in the minds of security experts, “for all intents and purposes, Northwest Flight 253 exploded in midair.”

A Georgetown University terrorism  expert added, “This incident was a compound failure of both intelligence and physical security, leaving prevention to the last line of defense — the passengers themselves.” But the smartest observation comes from Ken Dunlap, security director of the International Air Transport Association: “We’ve spent eight years looking for little scissors and toenail clippers. . . Perhaps the emphasis should be looking for bad people.” But that would entail being candid about who the “bad people” are. I would venture a guess that 90 percent of the public would agree with this sentiment:

Jacques Duchesneau, head of Canada’s Air Transport Security Authority from 2002 to 2008, and Bergerbest-Eilon said that instead of trying to push virtually all travelers through similar screening processes, authorities should improve and expand the use of intelligence and behavioral assessments to cull out those deemed to pose the greatest risk, and target improved technology to find them.

While such methods have been “wrongly perceived as racial profiling,” Bergerbest-Eilon said, “past events have taught us that we cannot rely on intelligence alone to thwart major terror attacks.”

Some are calling for Napolitano to resign. Granted that a randomly picked name from the phone book would probably be an improvement, but she is not the problem. The problem comes from the president and the perspective he has instilled in his entire administration. The Obami refuse to adopt a war mentality in the midst of a war on western civilization, and they eschew common-sense efforts to raise the alert on “bad people.” They insist that we treat those we catch after the fact as common criminals and that intelligence operatives behave like cops on the beat, ever-conscious of the legal peril they face if they ruffle the feathers of terrorists who may possess life-saving information. Unless Obama changes his perception and approach to terrorism, the American people may well demand, as Max points out, a more capable commander in chief to conduct the war against Islamic fanatics.

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