(Editor's note: this column was syndicated on Friday.)
It’s axiomatic that people who’ve disgraced themselves are the last to realize it, or maybe the first to pretend they don’t know. Take longtime CBS anchorman Dan Rather, who shredded his own reputation by smearing President Bush’s military service with phony documents.
He’s still at it, still in shameless self-denial, raging against the world, still pontificating about that which he has no standing to speak about: Journalism ethics. On June 7, he mounted a soapbox at a far-left event in Minneapolis called the "National Conference for Media Reform," perhaps the last and perhaps the best forum interested in his opinion.
In front of this fervent group of leftists, Rather tried to put on Superman’s cape and pledge to push back against the evil forces "that imperil journalism…and impair democracy itself." In Rather’s vision, blatantly biased reporting is not only what passes for "journalism," it is the lifeblood of democracy. Dismiss Dan Rather for a lack of professionalism, and suddenly, you’re part of the corporate media vast right-wing conspiracy against Jeffersonian ideals.
Feminism has been a very disgraced brand for decades. The final nail was placed in the coffin when feminists tried so athletically to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil with Bill Clinton’s record of serial adultery, sexual harassment, and even a credible accusation of rape. But now that Hillary Clinton has finally conceded to Barack Obama, the media elites have suddenly discovered the glorious and militant cause of women.
Hillary Clinton’s failure wasn’t her fault. It was sexism that ruined her chances.
Feminists have blamed everyone for this crushing burden of sexism. It’s most fun watching them savage the press, the amazing thing being that the media just play along, as if they deserve it, with self-loathing males like CBS’s Harry Smith sitting in their studio chairs cheering them on. "Talk from your gut," Smith urged to ex-Congresswoman Patsy Schroeder, to which she responded as if afflicted by rhetorical rabies, as well as historical hysteria: "It was like they made a witch out of her, some people! You know, we thought the Salem witch trials were over!"
For conservatives who would like to think the whole government should be handed over to the liberals for a few years until the Reagan wing of the Republican Party can get its act together, a quick look at a monstrosity under consideration by Congress is in order. Liberal Democrats and "green" Republicans are proposing a massive reorganization of the American economy to fight so-called global warming. Worse yet, proponents of this bill are attempting to sell this eco-socialism as a "market-based" policy, and their allies in the national media are going along with the charade.
For decades now, the media have shoved down our throats the idea that Planet Earth is in grave peril of catastrophic global warming. Now that Washington’s elites feel confident that everyone from McCain to Obama agrees that doom is imminent, it’s time to push something they call "cap and trade." Put an emphasis on the "cap." That means that the federal government is aspiring to dictate for every individual and business in America the absolutely perfect level of carbon-dioxide emissions. Once the government mandates how much emission will be allowed, then it will allow the public to "trade" on the rights that remain.
That sleazy yet hallowed HBO television series "Sex and the City" is now in theaters as a feature film, and the cultural elites are having a religious experience. Newsweek previewed the movie by reporting how an estimated 50,000 people, some from far-away lands like Australia and Japan, "make the pilgrimage each year to the shrine," the fictional New York City home of "Sex" protagonist Carrie Bradshaw. The magazine chronicled a tour group standing silently, some weeping.
Am I the only one who thinks that those estimated 50,000 people out there make the Trekkies look sane by comparison? But Newsweek seems to lament how the movie isn’t outrageous enough. The headline is "Girls Gone Mild," and the trailer is all about our protagonist getting married – maybe. Writer Julia Baird was amazed at "how many people speak of it in hyperbolic terms: as a revolution, a phenomenon, a cataclysm, almost an insurgency."
Imagine that John McCain named a young running mate to campaign with him, and this national rookie suggested America had 58 states, repeatedly used the wrong names for the cities he was visiting, and honored a Memorial Day crowd by acknowledging the "fallen heroes" who were present, somehow alive and standing in the audience. How long would it take for the national media to see another Dan Quayle caricature? Let’s raise the stakes. What if it was the GOP presidential candidate making these thoroughly ridiculous comments? This scenario is very real, except it isn’t McCain. It’s the other fellow.
ABC reporter Jake Tapper follows politicians around for a living. On his blog, he suggested Barack Obama has a problem: "The man has been a one-man gaffe machine."
At the dawn of the Democratic primary race between Barack and Hillary, news anchors like ABC’s Diane Sawyer were caught up in the question: Is America more poisoned by racism or sexism? If like ABC, you think the country is still dragging its knuckles in the primordial slime, then the expected primary victory of Obama provides the answer: the country is more sexist.
Hillary’s now playing this card, even including the national media as an accomplice, as the rest of the poker palace is emptying out. Remember how the first President Bush suddenly discovered the "Annoy the Media, Vote Bush" tactic in the last futile days of 1992? Hillary looks just as pathetic trotting out this "Annoy the Media, Vote Hillary" angle in obvious desperation. Yet some in the press are biting. Washington Post reporter Lois Romano interviewed Hillary and asked her if her media coverage didn’t suggest mistreatment of women. Romano suggested "I get the idea that it's really pissed off a lot of women."
The second film based on the Narnia books, "Prince Caspian," roared like Aslan the lion at the box office in its first weekend, grossing an impressive $56 million in theaters, and supplanting "Iron Man" as the most successful movie in America.
Why the continued success of the "Chronicles of Narnia" films? Time movie reviewer Richard Corliss takes a stab at that question, with a unique angle, comparing "Caspian" to "The Golden Compass," the first movie installment of Philip Pullman’s dark atheist trilogy which viciously attacked God, Christianity, and the Catholic Church in particular.
"Narnia" author C. S. Lewis was a fervent Christian theologian. "Compass" creator Pullman proclaimed his books were about "killing God."
In the last presidential election, leftist special interest groups and socialist billionaires like George Soros waged war with an unprecedented tsunami of negative TV attacks on the Republican incumbent, suggesting he was a draft dodger that knowingly lied us into war. Adding fuel to the fire, Hollywood uncorked nasty – and equally distorted -- documentaries like "Fahrenheit 911." The Bush-bashing wave was so big Byron York wrote a whole book about it called "The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy." This year, our "objective" media turned their eyes on the November race, but they’re seeing only one negative side of the street – a right-wing conspiracy to lie, cheat, and smear their beloved Barack Obama.
A truly fair and balanced media might foresee a really tough election contest – on both sides. But instead, we have a partisan chorus, whining in four-part harmony. They’re not waiting for Hillary Clinton to discover her Titanic has sunk. They are getting their general-election assault on the "Republican attack machine" under way.
Air America Radio may have tried and failed to use washed-up comedians like Janeane Garofalo and Al Franken to make liberal talk radio work, but their rule seems to be that if first you don't succeed, flop, flop again. When wacky radical Randi Rhodes resigned over a nasty and profane denunciation of Hillary Clinton, Air America replaced her in afternoon drive time with... Roseanne Barr.
And in no time flat Roseanne behaved like Roseanne. On April 28 she suggested leftists should ignite riots at the Democratic convention in Denver. "We should, a bunch of us, go there and repeat the Democratic Convention from Chicago. Like, let's just cause a bunch of trouble!" There's even a leftist group called "Recreate 68" building up the rioting nostalgia.
"Recreate 68" is no joke. It is trying to draw a raucous crowd: "Join us in the streets of Denver as we resist a two-party system that allows imperialism and racism to continue unrestrained." These troublemakers live to get arrested.
The Bill Moyers PBS interview of Barack Obama’s long-time minister, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, underlined once again that our tax dollars don’t fund programs championing racial harmony. They fund programs that celebrate black radicals, militants, and kooks. Moyers came to Rev. Wright’s side not to condemn him or even challenge him, but to praise him and defend him. As he implored Wright to explain his "God damn America" sermon, Wright at least said he was free in America to denounce America. To which Moyers replied: "Well, you can be almost crucified for saying what you've said here in this country."
Bill Moyers wants us to see Jeremiah Wright as the Jesus Christ of our time?
Young black activists roared their approval when Barack Obama recently greeted criticism on the trail by dusting off his shoulders, a reference to a rap song by Jay-Z called "Dirt Off Your Shoulder." The media covering the moment went crazy, too. Washington Post reporter Teresa Wiltz hailed Obama’s moves and called it a "seminal moment in the campaign, the merging of politics and pop culture," and noted the lyrics suggest "If you feelin’ like a pimp...go and brush your shoulders off."
So Barack Obama is feeling like a pimp?
Online at "The Root," a Washington Post website for African-Americans, Obama supporter and Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell was sky high. "Like every other hip-hop generation voter in America I went crazy when he did it," she wrote. "I almost couldn’t believe it. It was a perfect moment."
Harris-Lacewell read that moment as a sign of racial swagger and solidarity with "his base of young urban brown and black voters" and they loved it. "He displayed all the familiar self-assurance and bravado of the hip-hop emcee. The people who got it went nuts, while those who don’t know hip-hop just thought he was being funny and confident."
The video went viral and became a YouTube sensation.
ABC generously offered the Democrats a gift that the Republicans were not given in this electoral cycle – a two-hour debate, in prime time, on a weeknight. Not only that, it was hosted by former Democratic aide George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson. Left-wing bloggers promptly greeted this gift by smacking ABC in the mouth. Like an abused spouse, ABC responded by repeating all the leftist complaints on its airwaves and supinely saluting the impressive dexterity of the Obama campaign.
Question: What did ABC do wrong? Answer: For once it veered from liberal orthodoxy.
Question: Why did ABC feel the need to atone? Answer: Because it veered from liberal orthodoxy.
I confess that when the producers of Ben Stein’s new documentary "Expelled" called, offering me a private screening, I was less than excited.
It is a reality of PC liberalism: There is only one credible side to an issue, and any dissent is not only rejected, it is scorned. Global warming. Gay "rights." Abortion "rights." On these and so many other issues there is enlightenment, and then there is the Idiotic Other Side. PC liberalism’s power centers are the news media, the entertainment industry and academia and all are in the clutches of an unmistakable hypocrisy: Theirs is an ideology that preaches the freedom of thought and expression at every opportunity, yet practices absolute intolerance toward dissension.
Evolution is another one of those one-sided debates. We know the concept of Intelligent Design is stifled in academic circles. An entire documentary to state the obvious? You can see my reluctance to view it.
I went into the screening bored. I came out of it stunned.
Pope Benedict XVI is in America and, like his predecessor, is about to be treated to curiously bipolar coverage at the hands of the American press. While in-country, John Paul the Great received almost universally positive treatment. But up to the point the papal wheels touched down, the media reports were consistently critical – some verging on the savage – and when it was wheels-up, the press immediately returned to their old ways.
The tone this time around will not be so much “news” as the recycled template that our journalistic elite imposes on every papal visit to America in the last thirty years. The usual surveys will be taken off the shelves, dusted, and re-re-represented. Catholics are leaving the Church. Catholics who remain aren’t attending Mass. Vocations are dwindling.
Admiration for the movie star Charlton Heston poured out of the obituaries and appreciations when he died. He would say he was an actor, which he certainly was, but he was also a star, a riveting presence that could credibly play great men like Moses. But the story of Heston’s activism came like a cautionary note, that he used to be a civil rights hero, but then he wandered badly astray.
Many were struck at the similarities of the late careers of Heston and Ronald Reagan, two actors who became more conservative as the 20th century moved on, and both passed away through the long and difficult descent of Alzheimer’s Disease. Journalists and biographers who suggest a dramatic conversion of these two men – sometimes with a nasty implication that they cynically switched sides in the debate to keep their faltering careers alive – often fail to acknowledge how the political and cultural ground shifted under their feet, causing the leap.
Ted Turner was not only interviewed, but celebrated on PBS – on April Fool’s Day. The prank was apparently on PBS. It was as if Turner had a subversive mission, to prove that PBS isn’t just for smart people. True to form, Turner walked off a cliff of rhetorical excess on the "Charlie Rose" show, charging that global warming was going to grow so severe, that in a few decades, most of humanity would be extinct. "We'll be eight degrees hotter in ten -- not ten, but 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals."
Washington Post writer Linton Weeks recently wrote a fascinating big-picture essay about the long, sad decline of sincerity and sentiment in America, symbolized by the public loathing of the 1975 Morris Albert pop song “Feelings.” It wasn’t merely the whoa-whoa-whoa chorus that drove the criticism, he suggested, but the mere act of the singer putting the heart on the proverbial sleeve that became phony, cheesy, hopelessly square.
It’s been said before that we live in an age of irony, and irreverence is king. But Weeks added the irresistible term “Snark Ages” to characterize it: “The revolt against sincerity -- the Snark Ages, still upon us -- began as a rebellion against corny, over-the-top displays of emotion in movies, songs, TV shows. But the rebellion spiraled out of control, and any public expression of emotion, no matter how sincere, was a target for mockery. Old war movies and romantic dramas, taken seriously the first time around, were consumed by a younger generation as farce -- as ‘camp.’”
The presidential campaign seems upside down, like a bad April Fool's joke. Suddenly, the titans of the liberal media are wondering out loud if Hillary Clinton should quit the presidential race, while Hillary is kindly greeting and grinning at every vaunted "vast right-wing conspiracy" media outlet from Dick Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a leading Hillary advocate, hailed Fox News as the fairest to Mrs. Clinton.
It is truly bizarre.
At the start of the new year, the dominant storyline was how the Clinton Juggernaut would eventually crush everyone in its path to the Democratic presidential nod. Certainly, Barack Obama's fundraising was matching hers, and his media clips were so sugary they'd make cotton candy seem bitter. But no one really believed Hillary would be where she is today, just three months later, finding herself hounded to go "home" to New York.
Barack Obama came to Philadelphia on March 18 not so much to address his poisonous pastor, Jeremiah Wright, but to talk vaguely of race relations. The news media swooned. No one was giddier than MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who rhapsodized that Obama’s speech was one of the greatest speeches in American history, worthy of Abraham Lincoln, and should be read by school children like "The Great Gatsby" and "Huckleberry Finn." This, after all, is the Chris Matthews who said he "felt this thrill going up my leg" over Obama.
Obama said he could no more disown Wright than his own white grandmother, whom he disparaged as mired in racial stereotypes. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos deemed that part of the speech an "act of honor" -- even if it publicly humiliated Grandma, and even if Wright’s record of paranoid ranting and raving about racism is anything but honorable.
It’s Damage Control Time for the liberal press. Count New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof as one in the media masses who have been outraged, just outraged at the supposed conservative bigotry against Barack Obama. This "most monstrous bigotry" isn’t just about race, but also religion. Stating his middle name and Internet whispers that he’s a Muslim "are the religious equivalent of racial slurs."
Kristof concluded his March 9 column by quoting Martin Luther: "I’d rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian."
Lewis Black is a stand-up comedian. His shtick is foam-flecked fits of rage and profanity. Amazon.com advertised one of his DVDs by promising "There's eye-crossing, teeth-gnashing, raspy-voiced yelling, and liberal use of the F-word." In his show at Washington’s Warner Theatre, Black complained the Kennedy Center refused their facilities on the grounds that he dropped F-bombs 42 times in his first hour-long HBO special.
With a record like that, it should be no surprise that he’s a star on Comedy Central, that venomous Viacom property that markets mockery of everything polite, charitable, and (especially) holy. Black is the star of a brand-new Comedy Central show, named "The Root of All Evil." Comedians act like prosecutors, with Black as judge, trying to determine which of two allegedly evil forces is worse. The battle for the debut episode: Oprah Winfrey vs. the Catholic Church.
This is the same hate-spewing channel that mocked the Pope on "South Park" and skewered Catholicism on the holiday special "Merry F—ing Christmas." Now, on the cusp of the Easter celebration, it’s Catholic-hunting season again.
For most of this decade, Eliot Spitzer has been one of the liberal media’s favorite public servants. Before being elected governor of New York in a landslide in 2006, he was hailed as the nation’s most powerful state Attorney General, the scourge of high finance. At "60 Minutes" on CBS, he was the "Sheriff of Wall Street." In the pages of Time, he was on their list of "Heroes and Icons" as "The Tireless Crusader."
While Spitzer was toasted by the national media elite for pursuing Wall Street chicanery, he’d also prosecuted at least two prostitution rings as head of the state’s organized crime task force. The New York Times recalled Spitzer "spoke with revulsion and anger" over a high-end prostitution racket uncovered in Staten Island in 2004.
How ironic that the Times would break the story that federal authorities had caught Spitzer on a wiretap, involved with a very high-priced prostitution ring called the Emperors Club. He was suddenly known simply as "Client #9." On a business trip to Washington last month, he registered at the posh Mayflower Hotel under the name "George Fox" (a donor of his) and arranged for a call girl to meet him there in a room on the eighth floor.
Newsweek magazine recently celebrated the latest trend in elite Northeastern colleges: sex magazines, complete with highbrow titles -- like "Boink." In applauding the shifting sexual mores of American youth, reporter Jennie Yabroff noted that these enterprising students "no longer see a distinction between their bedroom behavior and their publishing activities," and consider their sex-magazine careers in college to be building blocks for the business world.
"I continually tell my mom this is a great résumé builder," says Alecia Oleyourryk of her career publishing "Boink" magazine at Boston University. Newsweek now needs a sociologist to affirm the wisdom of these "young sexperts." Cue Pepper Schwartz, a sociologist at the University of Washington. "Maybe their generation will take this a lot less seriously than we do," she says.
Now that Barack Obama is closing in on the Democratic nomination, some are wondering whether the media will be tougher in their coverage. There’s a better question: is it possible to be any softer? The media writ large have been sounding like they’re covering a messiah more than a man. So was Hillary Clinton right to complain that Barack Obama has been more celebrated rather than vetted?
Let’s be clear. Hillary Clinton has been the beneficiary of so many cotton-candy profiles and “I Am Woman” honorifics that it’s almost impossible that her bad press will ever come anywhere close to balancing out her mountains of puff over the last 15 years. The “rough” press she’s been getting since Super Tuesday is merely the political prognosticators noticing she’s getting her clock cleaned by 18 to 20 points in a lot of states. Even so, she’s still being awarded softball interviews – like the latest in a long series of twinkly Katie Couric gal-pal segments on “60 Minutes.”
Thirty years ago I was fresh out of college, with no particular career path chosen, and decided I'd like to be a nationally-syndicated columnist. I'd learn rather quickly that before being one, one has to become one, and to qualify on that caliber one has to demonstrate a talent which this young man didn't possess.
Bill Buckley told me so. I'd penned a couple of practice pieces, one having something to do with Jimmy Carter's choice of Muhammad Ali as his ambassador-at-large to Africa, another on something equally memorable, and sent them to Bill, asking for his critique.
"The New York Times is not a supermarket tabloid," boasted their Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple when Gennifer Flowers first declared in 1992 that she and Gov. Bill Clinton had an affair. Even then, the line sounded laughable.
One year before, then-Times reporter Maureen Dowd penned a 2400-word front-page stink bomb passing along discredited gossip author Kitty Kelley’s unproven charges of something apparently too glorious to fact-check: an alleged long-time affair between Nancy Reagan and Frank Sinatra, including private "luncheons" that went on all afternoon at the White House.
Fidel Castro Resigns. That’s a fantastic headline, and should be cause for celebration. But just because the doddering dictator is stepping aside doesn’t mean that Cuba’s abandoning tyranny. And just because he’s leaving doesn’t mean the media are dropping their fictions about Castro, the Cuban "president." Glancing at a TV set, I caught this CNN screen graphic: "Fidel Castro Resigns: Cuban Pres. Rejects New Term." Where on earth is the media’s regard for accuracy?
A "new term"? This murderous despot has only had one, long, abusive term, and it’s lasted 49 years. Anyone who says otherwise, that the Cuban "parliament" would be setting another "election," is not just a useful idiot, he’s simply an idiot.
Hillary Clinton should be nobody’s idea of a paragon of civil discourse in the political arena. Her personal style of political warfare is ruthless, a bare-knuckles fight to the death. Ask Ken Starr. Her idea of employee relations is also rough. Paul Fray, an Arkansas campaign worker said she cursed him out with F-bombs and ethnic slurs after Bill Clinton lost his one race for Congress in 1974. A co-worker told NBC News in 1999 that he heard cussing from Hillary that night like he’d never heard before.
So it’s a little strange to see Hillary appearing so upset over MSNBC reporter David Shuster suggesting that Chelsea Clinton was being "pimped out" by Hillary’s campaign. Shuster was substituting as host of Tucker Carlson’s show and used the P-word as he suggested to liberal radio host Bill Press that it was wrong for the Clinton campaign to have Chelsea call supporters, but not grant reporters any access to her.
There’s one little three-syllable word that has been left out of most of the Democratic primary coverage on the TV: "liberal." We’re constantly told by anchors and reporters how the Republican contenders are fighting over the "conservative" vote and who’s more "conservative," and that’s true. But exactly the same fight is taking place on the left side, with the Clintons trying to suggest Barack Obama’s not sufficiently liberal (he praised Ronald Reagan!) and Obama trying to take Hillary’s Iraq war vote and turn her into Rumsfeld in a black pantsuit.
But the news media cannot routinely bring themselves to say that word, "liberal." Obama landed a major victory in the who’s-more-liberal sweepstakes. He’s been endorsed by MoveOn.org, the screechy hard-left group that distinguished itself last year by taking out newspaper ads denouncing our commander in Iraq as "General Betray Us."
You can tell a lot about how the news media feel about conservatives by watching how they talk about Rush Limbaugh. They want his influence curbed. They pine for the day his career hits the skids. They’re constantly looking for a moment where they can declare that conservatives no longer have – that Rush Limbaugh no longer has -- the Grand Old Party in a menacing trance. They don’t want Republican candidates seeking a Limbaugh endorsement.