Reason's Hit and Run has a short blog entry about coverage of the healthcare "town hall" meetings in the L. A. Times. It draws attention to a ridiculous quote from a Berkeley prof. who is also a Democratic advisor:
"I think it is very hard because [Democrats] don't have the message machine the Republicans do," said George Lakoff, a UC Berkeley linguistics professor who has advised some Democrats on how to sharpen their message. "The Democrats still believe in Enlightenment reason: If you just tell people the truth, they will come to the right conclusion."
Let there be no doubt where this MSNBC host stands. These demonstrators don't really care about deficits or taxes or constitutionally suspect government overreach. It's all about a black man in the White House.
And they say conservatives hold simplistic views about the world. Enjoy!
Holy cow! Arlo Guthrie is a Republican!
Next time I'm down at Alice's Restaurant, I'll plan to have the home-made meatloaf. I understand it's actually a metaphor for capital gains tax cuts.
I didn't watch Sarah Palin's farewell address the other day, and, beyond a few reports about her parting shots at the media, read little about it. I didn't realize until I watched Conan O'Brien on Monday night that Palin wove a bit of poetry into her speech.
Reasonable people will disagree whether Palin has a future in national politics, but there can be no doubt that poetry jamming is best left to the professionals.
Republicans are speaking hopefully of a health care "Waterloo" and the President of the United States is plaintively urging recalcitrant Democrats to vote on a proposal or risk making Obama a lame duck six months into his term. If you haven't seen the National Journal's story from the other day, here is the takeaway quote:
"Let's just lay everything on the table," (Republican Senator Chuck) Grassley (R-Iowa) said. "A Democrat congressman last week told me after a conversation with the president that the president had trouble in the House of Representatives, and it wasn't going to pass if there weren't some changes made ... and the president says, 'You're going to destroy my presidency.' "
It's tempting to read too much into Obama's slowing momentum. As Chad the Elder put it on Twitter, "If Obama is turned back on health care it won't be his Waterloo, but perhaps it will be his Battle of Britain." Historical analogies can get mighty silly, mighty quick.
Mr Obama is clearly not the socialist of Republican demonology, but he is trying to extend federal control over two huge chunks of the economy — energy and health care — so fast that lawmakers do not have time to read the bills before voting on them. Perhaps he is hurrying to get the job done before his polls weaken any further. In six months, his approval rating has fallen from 63% to 56% while his disapproval rating has nearly doubled, from 20% to 39%. Independent voters are having second thoughts. And his policies are less popular than he is. Support for his health-care reforms has slipped from 57% to 49% since April.
All presidential candidates promise more than they can possibly deliver. This sets them up for failure. But because the Obama cult has stoked expectations among its devotees to such unprecedented heights, he is especially likely to disappoint. Mr Healy predicts that he will end up as a failed president, and “possibly the least popular of the modern era”. It is up to Mr Obama to prove him wrong.
The Economist wants Obama's agenda to prevails, but rightly worries it will not. The tide appears to be turning. When Obama fails -- as all presidents do -- there will be a great deal of crowing from the GOP (which, in reality, has little to crow about) and much bitterness and vows of recriminations from the Democrats. But the lesson is an old one: Put your faith not in princes.
Or mere politicians.
Here's David Brooks, in the New York Times Tuesday, on the Democrats' suicide march:
Machiavelli said a leader should be feared as well as loved. Obama is loved by the Democratic chairmen, but he is not feared. On health care, Obama has emphasized cost control. The chairmen flouted his priorities because they don’t fear him. On cap and trade, Obama campaigned against giving away pollution offsets. The chairmen wrote their bill to do precisely that because they don’t fear him. On taxes, Obama promised that top tax rates would not go above Clinton-era levels. The chairmen flouted that promise because they don’t fear him.
Machiavelli, in fact, said that it is very rare for a leader to be both feared and loved. "Anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved,” he wrote. I don't know that Obama understands Machiavelli any better than Brooks does, but I do know that the policies that Obama is acceding to -- he has proposed very little substance, in fact -- will be the ruin of us all.
You know what? Walter Cronkite wasn't so great.
I know, I know, we're all supposed to be beating our breasts about Cronkite's passing and lamenting how TV news was never the same after he retired and damnit, they just don't make journalists like they used to anymore. And at first, I was tempted to join in the nostalgia: My first memories of news -- such as they are -- are memories of Cronkite, intoning in a baritone staccato how many days had passed since Americans had been taken hostage in Iran.
But you know what? Walter Cronkite really wasn't that great.
To understand why he wasn't so great, though, you've got to understand what lots of folks are lamenting this week: A bygone era of TV journalism that never really existed. Here's a typical -- and typically misguided -- rant from litblogger Edward Champion:
In Cronkite’s time, it was the journalist’s job to question everything, provide dependable veracity, and present vital information for the public to consider. But today’s anchormen and editors are more concerned about money. When there’s a mortgage and a college tuition to pay off, the “journalist” knows damn well where his bread is buttered.
Right. And here's Salon's Glenn Greenwald:
So, too, with the death of Walter Cronkite. Tellingly, his most celebrated and significant moment -- Greg Mitchell says "this broadcast would help save many thousands of lives, U.S. and Vietnamese, perhaps even a million" -- was when he stood up and announced that Americans shouldn't trust the statements being made about the war by the U.S. Government and military, and that the specific claims they were making were almost certainly false. In other words, Cronkite's best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do -- directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed.
You know what shouldn't be believed? Extravagant claims about how some journalists used to do things the right way. Because you know what? Walter Cronkite wasn't that great.
1. He was crushingly dull. Everybody remembers -- or has seen the old videos -- of Cronkite's coverage of the Kennedy assassination, or the moon landing, the the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination. But any monkey can anchor a disaster and come away looking like a gray eminence. Look at what Hurricane Katrina did for Anderson Cooper's career.
The truth is, the assassinations and other calamities spanned just a few days of Cronkite's anchoring career. More often, a day in the news looked something like this in March 1977:
Blah, blah, blah. If you can get five minutes into this 10-minute video without being bored to tears, you're a better human than I am. Lament Uncle Walter all you want, kids: There's no way you'd sit through this stuff long enough to make him the most-trusted man in America these days. To the extent that Cronkite had influence, it's because Americans had only two other TV news options at the time -- ABC and NBC. No CNN, no FOX, nothing like that. People watched Walter Cronkite because there was nothing else to do before the good shows came on.
2. He was a sellout. Never mind the cigarette commercials he did -- and botched. Never mind that he co-hosted the CBS Morning News with a puppet. A lion puppet, to be precise, Named Charlemagne. We will chalk these small embarrassments to the early days of television working its kinks out.
Cast that stuff aside, though, and the truth is that Walter Cronkite -- his op-edding against the Vietnam War notwithstanding -- didn't exactly speak truth to power. He courted it. Check out these excerpts from his first half-hour nightly newscast for CBS:
There's no other way to say it: He's palling around with Kennedy. So, Mr. President, there's this little civil rights problem down in Alabama. How's that going to affect your re-election? It's country-clubby horse-race journalism, the kind of stuff people like Glenn Greenwald say they hate unless it's viewed through the hazy light of 45-year-old memories.
Oh, and check Cronkite's smirk when he quotes Castro accusing the CIA of fomenting instability in Cuba. Because the CIA never would've done that, right? Right?
3. He didn't really make a big difference. This speaks to, as Greenwald says, Cronkite's most celebrated act: Opining against American involvement in Vietnam. The anecdote that LBJ watched the broadcast and despaired: "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."
Only the war went on seven more years. Most of the Americans who would die in Vietnam died after the Tet Offensive, and after Cronkite's pronouncement. That's not Cronkite's fault, of course, but the telling of his story makes it sound like Walter Cronkite pushed the Vietnam War to its end. It didn't.
Truth is, most of the journalists who dug up the truth about American involvement in Vietnam were newspaper and wire guys. David Halberstam of the New York Times was challenging Army generals in Saigon in 1963 while Cronkite was playing grab-ass with Kennedy in Hyannisport. The Pentagon Papers, which revealed the doubts America's own leadership had about the enterprise, appeared in the Times and the Washington Post. These reporters didn't need to take a trip to Vietnam, come back and make a celebrated speech. They laid out the facts, pointed out the discrepancies between the official story and the truth, and they did it for years and years and years.
Which leads me to the last point.
4. At end of the day he was a TV guy. Cronkite was, in the end, the grandfather of everything that Jon Stewart makes fun of every night. There's no other way to say it.
The truth is, there's never been a golden age of journalism. Oh, maybe for about six months in 1974 when Woodward and Bernstein were on a hot streak. But that's about it. And it never existed for TV journalism. TV is good at wowing us, after all -- good at showing us the Reagan assassination attempt, or the Kennedy assassination, or the space shuttle blowing up. It's not so great at explaining how or why those things occur. Walter Cronkite was ringmaster for many of those memorable moments -- which is why we remember him -- but for the most part, that's all he was. Anybody who says different is peddling ideological malarkey to make their own points about what the media needs to be.
And that's the way it is.
James Lileks, writing in Sunday's New York Post, urges Americans to refrain from criticizing Vice President Joe Biden. "(A)pplaud his palaver, and hope for more. Biden's 'gaffes' are anything but -- they're simply what the administration is really thinking."
Here's David Warren, writing on the liberal media, Sarah Palin, and the great Red-Blue divide:
We are going to have a war, next door in the U.S.A. -- a war between two world views that have become very nearly mutually incomprehensible. One might almost say that it was quietly declared on the op-ed of the Washington Post Tuesday.
We've been talking about a "culture war" for more than 30 years now. Warren is suggesting something more, which I imagine will not play out in the pages of newspapers or in snarky blog posts between, say, the Daily Kos and National Review Online. I hope he's wrong. I suspect he probably is. The vast majority of Americans are indifferent to politics, after all.
But, then again, the vast majority of Americans didn't fight in the Revolutionary War, either.
Also: Barack Obama is the most articulate U.S. president since Abraham Lincoln. And Vice President Joe Biden, Obama said last year, is "a leader who understood the rising costs confronting working people and will always put their dreams first." Finally, for God's sake, don't ever forget that Sarah Palin is a drooling idiot.
With that throat-clearing out of the way, here is what Biden said today about the economy and health care:
“Well, people when I say that look at me and say, ‘What are you talking about? You’re telling me we have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt? The answer is yes, I’m telling you.”
First, tell that to my creditors. Or yours. Hell, tell that to the Chinese!
Second, the Democrats botched the stimulus and they're going to botch health care. Big time. That, presumably, is what Biden was actually talking about -- stimulating growth in a persistently sluggish economy, bringing heath care costs under control, not averting bankruptcy generally. Who knows? Now, that isn't to say we should throw more money down the rat hole. But it's something to ponder when you try to assess the way this administration has taken ownership of the economy.
Finally... one heartbeat away from the presidency, people! One heartbeat away!
(Update: Speaking of drooling idiots, I screwed this up when I posted it. I've added links delving into the health care angle, which was the point of Biden's remarks.)
John Mellencamp is all about speaking truth to power when a mean old economic royalist occupies the White House. But as Pam Meister at Big Hollywood observes, put his guy in charge and all of a sudden he turns into a Herbert Marcuse acolyte.
Here's Mellencamp in an interview with Country Music Television on the First Amendment-as-collective right:
"I don’t think people fought and gave their lives so that some guy can sit in his bedroom and be mean. I don’t think that’s what freedom of speech is,” he continued. “Freedom of speech is really about assembly — for us to collectively have an idea. We want to get our point of view out so we can assemble and I can appoint you to be the spokesman. That’s freedom of speech — to be able to collectively speak for a sector of people. But somehow it’s turned into ‘I can be an a****** whenever I feel like, say whatever I like, be disrespectful to people and not be courteous.’ It’s not good for our society. Not being courteous is not really freedom of speech. . . .
There is a lot of discourteous speech out there, no question about it. (As an aside, but sort of on point: As much as I love the reader comments on newspaper sites, I wonder if the Wall Street Journal's recent decision to open its Web pages to reader comments will hurt the brand in some way over the long term. Look upon the comments to Peggy Noonan's column and despair.)
John Mellencamp is, of course, is free to say the stupidest things about what freedom of speech should or should not be. What I find funny is the presumptuousness of it all. Mellencamp clearly considers himself one of those appointed spokesmen. Oh, I suppose he speaks for a certain segment of the population with a certain point of view. But, like Professor Marcuse, he seems to have little or no regard for people speaking for what he would consider the repressive "status quo."
(In the Salon story I linked to above, he says: " most people who are Republicans, they're not rich enough to be Republicans! I don't get it." No, he doesn't.)
Freedom is simply too messy... too inequitable. For Mellencamp, in a perverse way it's pink houses for me but not for thee. Well, he can keep his pink house and his goofy, collective ideal of freedom. That ain't my America.
Update: Julie Ponzi at NoLeftTurns expounds cleverly on my comments. Key paragraph:
In Mellencamp’s America, the "home of the free" with its little pink houses would be for a freedom of speech that is more a kind of General Will voiced by the anointed tongues of a select group of American royalty. Jack and Diane needn’t trouble their little heads with worrying about the big questions. They can busy themselves with Diane’s Bobbie Brooks slacks till it "hurts so good," make a public spectacle of themselves while they’re at it, call THAT freedom of speech, and content themselves with their imagined moral courage. But if they dare to voice vigorous opposition to something like Cap and Trade and, in the course of that expression, utter an ungracious opinion about the anointed--an opinion that according to Mellencamp qualifies Jack and Diane as "a-holes" THAT will be too much because, "[n]ot being courteous is not really freedom of speech" according to the scholars at the Mellencamp School of the First Amendment.
Julie also makes some thoughtful points about civility in the public discourse. Please read the whole thing.
Joel's call for an apology to the First Woman Speaker of the House TM is perhaps premature. The "significant actions" that the CIA concealed may not have been "actions" at all. From Friday's Wall Street Journal:
As political spectacles go, one would be hard pressed to find anything as ridiculous as the Washington Romper Room now starring Congressional Democrats and the CIA. If only the consequences weren't potentially so damaging for national security.
The latest episode comes courtesy of Silvestre Reyes, Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. In a letter leaked to the press on Wednesday, he claims the agency "misled" Congress about its activities after 9/11. Recall that this all started when Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted the CIA failed to brief her in 2002 about aggressive interrogations during her time on Intelligence earlier this decade. CIA Director Leon Panetta in May said the agency didn't, as policy or practice, "mislead Congress." Briefing notes from the time showed Mrs. Pelosi was told and didn't object to waterboarding. The CIA this week felt compelled to issue another denial in response to the Reyes letter.
Mr. Panetta must feel burned. After the Pelosi blow-up, he has tried to repair relations with his own party's Congressional leaders, and last month he reached out to the Intelligence Committee. On June 24, in a classified hearing, Mr. Panetta produced so-called new information about CIA counterterrorism efforts in the months after the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. We're told that he informed the Members that the agency had considered, then abandoned, a major covert antiterror program. (Our sources wouldn't say what it was.) Bush-era CIA officials didn't tell Congress because it never got off the ground. But this is the "at least one case" Mr. Reyes claims his committee was "lied to" about in the Bush years.
Ah, lovely. Another urination contest between the politicians at the Central Intelligence Agency and the politicians in the legislative branch. Part of me hopes that, as with the antagonists in the Iran-Iraq War, both sides lose. The Journal editorial goes on to criticize the Democratic-controlled Congress for trying to shackle the CIA and the executive branch. That's another discussion for another time. The more salient point is, we still don't know what "significant actions" the CIA may or may not have concealed from Congress. But we do know that Nancy Pelosi can't get her story straight.
I was quite upset when I heard the news that the press wouldn't have Sarah Palin to kick around anymore — raging, essentially, that "the bastards finally did it." They drove a good person out of politics. Joel can attest to the heat of my anger, as we had a passionate back and forth about it on Facebook.
I've since cooled considerably, especially after hearing Palin's rather limp and contradictory exit presser on the Friday of Independence Day weekend. Though Palin rightly listed her many accomplishments in just two years as governor of Alaska, she said "serving her people is the greatest honor I could imagine," yet quits before her term is up. After rightly noting that a lot of her energy has been spent fighting off entirely frivolous "ethics" lawsuits — not to mention the half-million dollars she has to raise to pay off legal bills after going a perfect 15 for 15 in the ethics complaints — Palin said:
Life is too short to compromise time and resources... it may be tempting and more comfortable to just keep your head down, plod along, and appease those who demand: "Sit down and shut up", but that's the worthless, easy path; that's a quitter's way out.
I can understand that one may believe that life is too short, especially when raising a family, to fight off the fleas trying to bite you to death with a thousand bites. And I applaud her defiance in saying that she will not "sit down and shut up." But when one is quitting the governorship of Alaska ... that's not the best time to talk about "a quitter's way out."
And here was the most troubling and puzzling of passages — and the hardest for this Palin supporter to defend:
And so as I thought about this announcement that I wouldn't run for re-election and what it means for Alaska, I thought about how much fun some governors have as lame ducks... travel around the state, to the Lower 48 (maybe), overseas on international trade - as so many politicians do. And then I thought - that's what's wrong - many just accept that lame duck status, hit the road, draw the paycheck, and "milk it". I'm not putting Alaska through that - I promised efficiencies and effectiveness! ? That's not how I am wired. I am not wired to operate under the same old "politics as usual." I promised that four years ago - and I meant it.
It's not what is best for Alaska.
Here's a thought. Assuming Palin would have won a re-election bid in 2010, what's to stop her from choosing to pass up the "fun" of trips to the Lower 48 and overseas junkets dressed up as promoting international trade for Alaska? Palin speaks as if was she re-elected, she'd have no choice but to "milk it." That's absurd. It reveals that Palin's speech was not crafted by a professional political hack, but was a first-and-only draft — written by her with a lot of ad-libs, including the lame rhetorical crutch of "politics as usual."
But, she is kind of right on that last point. "Politics as usual" in today's America would mean Palin toughing it out — doing whatever it takes to cling to power. Palin left a lot of mystery as to what her future plans are. Run against Lisa Murkowski for senate in 2010, thus slaying the Murkowski dynasty for good? Running for president in 2012 or 2016 or even 2020 when she will be younger than Hillary when she thought she'd extend the Clinton dynasty to the White House? So if Palin's planning a bigger political future, she's going to travel an unconventional road to get there.
All that said, however, I titled this post "Sarah Palin and the price of politics" for a reason. No politician has paid so dear a price (and so quickly) for daring to step onto the national stage as Sarah Palin has. I'm sure, at times (and in due time) she'll look back at the way she was treated by the press and the popular culture as a badge of honor — though that is a meager booby prize when considering how her family was treated. But, more likely, considering her abrupt exit, she's thinking along the lines of what Ross Douthat wrote in The New York Times yesterday as his lead sentence: She should have said no:
(READ MORE BY CLICKING ON "READ MORE" BELOW.)
One line of thinking on Sarah Palin's departure holds that she is abandoning the governor's office to pursue the presidency or, less ambitiously, a U.S. Senate seat. If that is what Palin's camp is thinking, they're nuts. Another line suggests that she's abandoning politics to pursue a more ordinary life. Reihan Salam argues at Forbes.com that "Palin's collapse represents the end of a certain kind of politics. If the culture war really is ending, culture warriors like Palin will fade from the scene."
I'm not sure the culture war is ending; I'd say, rather, the battle space is shifting and the battle lines are altering. But in general, I think Salam is on to something.
Update: Daniel Larison offers an excellent summation of the entire Palin phenomenon, with which I concur for the most part. I like this in particular:
Palin was never as threatening to the left nor as wonderful for the right as both sides imagined. Her resignation will prove to be a good thing for her, her family and Alaska. Her tenure as governor has been so lackluster that it might be fair to say that Palin never demonstrated her worthiness for the office so much as in her departing from it.
Never has a major political candidate been so poorly served by her own supporters. To quote that Russian proverb again, “The yes-man is your enemy, but your friend will argue with you.” Palin was surrounded and cheered on by almost nothing but yes-men, because once anyone tried to offer any kind of criticism that person seemed to become persona non grata in her circle and in the wider conservative world pretty quickly. That is why a reasonable column offering advice and encouragement to Palin could be met by so much insane fury from so many of her supporters. It will be very difficult to explain to later generations what it was that the Palinites saw in her that made them so fervent and enthusiastic. The Palin enthusiasm of 2008 will not end up making much sense a few years from now. At least the excitement about a Jack Kemp presidential campaign after 1996 was based in a record with some accomplishments in it.
If Sarah Palin wants to be president, she has a funny way of going about it.
Palin's announcement Friday that she would not seek re-election in Alaska and would, rather, step down from the Alaska governor's office on July 26, did not sound like the words of a self-assured stateswoman. "I have given my reasons candidly and truthfully," she said. "I do not want to disappoint anyone with my decision; all I can ask is that you trust me with this decision."
Sorry, not nearly candid, truthful, or good enough coming from a politician with less than one term as governor of a small (however important) state on her resumé. Not if she has the White House in her sights.
Ken Thomas at No Left Turns tries to find some good sense in Palin's move:
Derided by the conventional wisdom (just see the front pages of any paper) as "bizarre," Governor Palin’s decision to resign is yet another sign of her determination to make herself the most credible challenger to Obama in 2012. Modifying Machiavelli’s advice, she will likely encircle Washington as a prelude to occupying it; one can imagine her rallying the red portions in both red and blue states. As much as I admire her character and cleverness, I hope it will be accompanied by a deeper prudence--the wisdom of serpents accompanying the innocence of doves.
I disagree. Most Americans, unacquainted with the wisdom of Machiavelli, won't see Palin's move as anything other than impulsive and "bizarre." Although Alaska's governor insisted that she explained her reasons why, I'm not sure that her explanation was adequate to the moment. She sounds crazy to me -- and not in the "just-crazy-enough-to-work" sense of crazy.
I was favorable to Palin's candidacy in the fall, but not overly enthusiastic about it. I was happy to defend her against some of the dumber charges of her critics. But also I thought National Review anointed her prematurely, and I doubt that today's announcement ends the media circus surrounding Palin and her family. Not if, in fact, she really does plan to run for president and not, as some rumors suggest, get out of politics altogether.
For what it's worth, I liked Philip Klein's take over at the American Spectator:
(T)o all but her most loyal supporters, today's bizarre press conference made her look brittle -- like a person who couldn't take the heat and was buckling in the face of attacks. Today's move is perfectly understandable if she wants to give up politics and protect her family from the blistering assaults of the media and her political oppenents. Maybe this news -- odd within the political realm -- actually makes her a pretty normal person by real world standards. But normal people do not get elected president.
Klein's colleague, Quin Hillyer, is much less charitable:
Sarah Palin's resignation is an appalling dereliction of duty and a highly cynical move to set herself up for a presidental run for which she is manifestly unqualified.
I have written the same thing about other politicians who resigned their offices mid-term without any scandal or family crisis necessitating it: It is an absolute dereliction of duty to quit mid-term. When you run for office, you are making a promise to your constituents to serve out your term (unless you get elected to higher office or have one of the aforementioned compelling reasons not to do so). To do otherwise is, in effect, to break your word. It is a sign of a lack of integrity.
I think there is a kernel or two of truth in Hillyer's analysis as well, although I wonder if Americans' memories are long enough to hold Palin's abrupt departure against her. But the old knock against Palin still holds: She's inexperienced, unpolished and, as today's announcement suggests, lacks sound judgment. It doesn't matter that the current president managed to win the Oval Office with a thin record of achievement -- if anything, as we're seeing Obama stumble through his initial months, the onus of experience should be even greater on future presidential aspirants.
Steve Hayward at the Corner ponders Palin's move and mentions a historical parallel. "Some folks have mentioned Nixon, rehabilitating himself in the 1960s, and skipping the 1964 election." The difference between Richard Nixon and Sarah Palin is the depth and breadth of experience possessed by the former. Nixon was a congressman, a senator, and a two-term vice-president when he lost the presidency in a close fight with John Kennedy in 1960 and then appeared to self-immolate in the 1962 California governor's race.
It was after his crushing defeat at the hands of Pat Brown that Nixon delivered one of his more famous and openly bitter public utterances: "I leave you gentlemen now and you will write it. You will interpret it. That's your right. But as I leave you I want you to know — just think how much you're going to be missing. You won't have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference and it will be one in which I have welcomed the opportunity to test wits with you."
Nixon proved himself wrong. Palin's statement today was nothing like Nixon's, and maybe she'll engineer a Nixonesque comeback, going from the depths of defeat to the pinnacle of power in a matter of years even after everyone has written her off. Sarah Palin asks us to "trust" her, which is a request people should rarely indulge in a politician. For good and for ill, Sarah "the Barracuda" doesn't seem all that Nixonian.
Sarah Palin's abrupt departure from Alaska's governor's office may not bode well for her political future.
Richard Nixon told reporters in 1962 that they wouldn't have him to kick around anymore. That turned out not to be true. Could the same be said for Sarah Palin?
Quote of today — that is, aside from John Adams' historical quote about how the world should never forget July 2.
Hey, remember when a plastic turkey held by a president was worth its own investigative news stories? Those were the days.
Posted here because Twitter has its limitations.
Joel and I spoke with John Temple, the former editor and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News and the man who hired us to moderate RedBlueAmerica.com, about the future of the news media. Temple, who has turned to blogging with gusto, recently wrote a provocative 10-part series on what he would do to revive newspapers' flagging fortunes.
Temple is as provocative in the interview as he is on the blog. "If you're not adding value you shouldn't do it in print," he told us. "Because there's no way you're going to be reporting the news in print, unless you're the one making the news." Among the other questions we tackle in this edition:
• Is it enough for newspapers to merely be newspapers?
• What shouldn't local newspapers be covering?
• Is the crisis that's affecting media organizations merely the result of dumb business decisions?
• What did the glorious failure of RedBlueAmerica teach us?
Music heard in this podcast:
• Excerpts from Ferde Grofe's "Tabloid Suite," including "Run of the News," "Going to Press," and "Sob Sister."
So says Ross Douthat. He's right about the monkeys. We matter plenty -- even if a dozen people know it. He's only partly right about Mark Helprin's new manifesto, though. Which part? Well, read the review and draw your own conclusions. (The link is to the Kindle edition of the book, by the way.)
There's been a lot of talk in recent days -- much of it on Andrew Sullivan's blog -- about how invaluable Twitter has been in enabing Iran's protesters to communicate with each other and send news of their situation to the outside word. There's something to it; heck, even the Obama Administration intervened with Twitter to defer some maintenance so the revolution wouldn't end with a "fail whale." Matt Yglesias and Jack Shafer have useful counterarguments to all this: Twitter is a good communications device, but it won't help a revolution succeed if the regime decides to start using guns.
What's interesting to me, though, is the way Twitter has made consuming foreign news a truly interactive affair for the American audience. In the last 24 hours or so, I've seen tons of people "green" their Twitter avatar in support of the demonstrators. Many have used the #iranelection and #cnnfail hashtags to help facilitate -- they think -- communication or call media to account for its failures of coverage. Many Twitterers even changed their location to Tehran in order to try to throw the regime's snoops off the track of real Iranians.
What does all this mean? I have no idea.
But 20 years ago this summer, millions of Americans sat at home on their couches and watched the Tianenmen Square protests and massacre. We felt it deeply. But aside from watching the news and perhaps writing a letter to the editor about our anger, there wasn't much we did or could do.
American Twitterers, meanwhile, have made a personal investment in the Iranian protests. It's not a huge investment -- Americans aren't risking anything with their support of the protests -- but it is real. Perhaps it's a fad that will soon be forgotten; that wouldn't surprise me. But it might also augur a new grassroots American engagement in the world that his simply never been possible until this moment. The possibilities are fascinating.
Something that looks like a revolution -- maybe, maybe not -- has been taking place in Iran this weekend, but you wouldn't have known it by watching cable news. While Iranians were marching in the streets, CNN was re-airing an old Larry King interview with the guys from American Chopper. The result? #cnnfail became one of the top trends on Twitter Saturday night, and deservedly so.
Worse than CNN's lame coverage of Iran has been its lame defense of its coverage. Howard Kurtz -- the Washington Post media critic and host of the network's Reliable Sources show -- has been defending CNN on his Facebook page. And I've found myself so irritated by his defenses that, in a rarity for me, I've been arguing right back.
It started Sunday morning with this post from Kurtz:
Howard Kurtz: On Reliable, Gregg Doyel calls Twitter the "teenybopperification" of news. Guess he doesn't know most users are older and (presumably) wiser.
Joel Mathis at 11:56am June 14: But... Twitter seems to be more on top of the Iran developments than CNN. Have you seen the #cnnfail trends on Twitter? It seems like a bad day for anybody on the network to mock Twitter's approach to news.
Kurtz, a few hours later:
Howard Kurtz: I'm not getting the argument that CNN fell short on Iran. Christiane Amanpour has been there and the net has devoted hours to the story.
Howard Kurtz: In fact, CNN stayed with Ahmadinejad's endless rant this morning long after the other cables broke away.
Other commenters pointed out that the King interview and reruns of Campbell Brown's show dominated CNN's Saturday programming in America, not breaking news in a country critical to U.S. security in the Middle East. Meanwhile, CNN International viewers were getting breaking coverage of the Iran situation. I posted another response to Kurtz:
Joel Mathis at 1:00pm June 14: Due respect, Howard, that's kind of lame. CNN missed most of what was happening in the streets -- but hey, at least they spent extra time broadcasting Iran's "official" version? That actually makes the network look worse, not better.
So, Kurtz started to backtrack.
Howard Kurtz: Maybe CNN should have taken CNNi feed last evening. But it was middle of the night in Iran, and even journalists have to rest sometimes.
Joel Mathis at 4:53pm June 14: Howard: I hope I'm not coming across as one of these people who nag you constantly. Not my aim.
But Iranians were on their rooftops at 4 am - their time - chanting "Allahu Ackbar!" in protest. You're telling me that journalists had to go to bed when the country itself was awake with protest? I'm not a CNN hater. But this might be a good case for CNN to say: "You know what? We kind of fell down on the job of reporting the most important news story of the weekend. Mistakes happen, but we'll work to prevent a repeat." I would respect that. It's difficult to respect the defenses being offered on CNN's behalf.
And I say that with sincere respect
Another commenter challenged me:
Don Jones: Joel, just curious...what kind of "first hand bureau" reporting by the other 24 Hour News Networks have you seen? And by that I mean not showing the same video loops of rioting taken from Iranian TV or Al Arabia (now banned for a week) or video pulled off the internet...but real life first hand (meaning they shot it, did "stand ups" with demonstrators, talked to opposition politicians) Middle East Bureau reporting.
And my final thoughts, for now:
Joel Mathis at 5:52pm June 14: Don: I haven't seen better from the other news networks. They've all failed, frankly, but it's no laurel to CNN if it failed a little bit less than its competitors.
And we're in the 21st century: Aggregation happens. It would be nice to get more bureau reporting from Teheran, but a good fallback is to do what Andrew Sullivan has spent the last 48 hours doing and collecting information and analysis -- including video, TV's lifeblood -- and kept his readers pretty well abreast of developments. CNN makes a big deal about reading blogs on air and using "citizen journalists" through its IReport program. It seems like they could apply those lessons to a big important news story like this.
John Ziegler has made his return to Los Angeles talk radio, and he got a good "get" on his second day Tuesday as a host from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KGIL: Gov. Sarah Palin.
You can listen to Ziegler's interview with Gov. Palin here.
Near the end, Ziegler asked Gov. Palin how it's like when she "flies commercial." My sister-in-law works for Alaska Airlines and can vouch for how well she treats everyone who recognizes her when she travels.
Sarah Palin is (by all public accounts) a regular person, an outstanding governor, a great national political voice for less government in our lives (it's in the Alaska blood), and the target of the most vicious personal attacks on a politician in the shortest amount of time in our history. She gets it from all sides: The "comedians," the media, the political opposition, the bloggers, and even snobby Republicans.
Yet she handles it all with grace. She may not be the future of a Republican restoration, but the contenders could learn a lot from her.
No partisan point to make, really, about this dispatch from the Agence France-Presse. Although I'm morbidly curious whether past presidents employed a taster in their security entourages. I wonder if it's a Secret Service agent who draws the short straw or a full-time employee with a job description and everything? And what does the position pay?
John Hinderaker at Powerline alerts us to a quote by long-time MSM potentate and "Newsweek" pooh-bah Evan Thomas' comments on Obama-crazy MSNBC's "Hardball" about Obama's latest trip into the breezy fields of the international community.
THOMAS: ... Obama is 'we are above that now.' We're not just parochial, we're not just chauvinistic, we're not just provincial. We stand for something - I mean in a way Obama's standing above the country, above - above the world, he's sort of God. He's-
THOMAS: He's going to bring all different sides together.
Good Lord! Or, should that be Good Obama! ... blessings be upon him. Standing "above ... (gulp ... gasp ... wipe forehead to fend off the vapors ... ) above the world!" saying ... well ... America sucks. Some "god." And I love that "yeah" from Chris Matthews. I'm surprised he could utter an intelligible word with his lips around Obama's ...
Sorry about that. Evil, sinful thoughts! Must pray and repent to The One for forgiveness. Now, where did I leave my Obama iconography ... Oh yeah ... here it is ...
This is all getting just a little out of hand on the left/MSM. As much as I admired Reagan, and still do, Reaganites didn't worship him and consider him "sort of God." Maybe it's because many on the left largely reject God and organized religion? Gotta latch on to something, eh? Organize something else to fill the void? This obsessive adulation of Obama is starting to defy any other rational explanation.
Yes. Newsweek has shed its decades-long objective pretenses and "rebooted" itself as a partisan, liberal magazine. It is no longer a serious magazine. But I defy anyone to find a quote in National Review as sycophantic, and just ... well, creepy as Evan Thomas' comment. This is beyond Beatlemania wailing and panty peeing. It's something else — something that should be a international embarrassment to an American press corps that likes to think of itself as the best — or at least the most important — in the world.
Can't wait for that issue of NR to hit my mailbox.
(HT to the original source: Newsbusters, where you can see Evan Thomas utter that nonsense for yourself. I can't bear to embed the video.)
Remember the hullaballoo about Mark Levin? We had a bit of a back-and-forth about it here. Well, our discussion was nothing compared to what went down at The American Scene, The Other McCain, Rod Dreher's blog, and the Riehl World View, among other places. The right-on-right fight has gotten so strange that dogs and cats have actually started moving into Georgetown studio apartments together.
Today, James Poulos does a fine, high-minded job making sense of it all at First Things' Postmodern Conservative blog.
Bottom line: "(A)ll these people, as political commentators, are ultimately useless without virtuous politicians, at all levels of government, virtuous both as politicians and as human beings. Casting the conservative debate in terms of puerility vs. effeminacy... will lead Republicans away from that lodestar and into the ditch."
Well worth reading.
(P.S. If you haven't checked out First Things' Web site lately, you should. With Spengler, Poulos and the PoMo cons, Wesley Smith, and the Anchoress all blogging there now, the post-Neuhaus First Things is really thriving.)
Via Ed Morrissey at Hot Air and Mark Tapscott at the Washington Examiner comes scrutiny of a curious blog post from Norman Eisen, special counsel to President Obama for ethics and government reform. Eisen discusses some proposed changes in lobbying rules aimed at limiting "special interest influence" on the way stimulus dollars are spent.
Tapscott reads censorious intent in Eisen's post: "A new White House policy on permissible lobbying on economic recovery and stimulus projects has taken a decidedly anti-First Amendment turn," Tapscott writes. "It's a classic illustration of Big Government trying to control every aspect of a particular activity and in the process running up against civil liberty."
Morrissey echoes Tapscott, with a healthy smattering of snark: "Anticipating a deluge of criticism over the thus-far ineffectual spending plan," Morrissey writes, "Eisen has a straightforward plan to deal with criticism. He’ll simply use the power of the federal government to silence it. Problem solved!"
Surely Morrissey and Tapscott are overstating things a bit? Well, maybe not...
(Click 'Read More' below for the rest of this post)
The White House special counsel, shown here shaking hands with Vice President Joe Biden, proposes to restrict all "oral communications" from citizens about how the government spends stimulus funds. (Via Politico.)