Archive for Media Bias

Let’s Play BTL’s New Game. See If You Can Explain The Meaning Of The Bland Term: MEN

Ten men with knives.

What do we know about these men?

Twenty-nine people were killed and 130 were injured Saturday night when 10 men armed with long knives stormed the station in the southwest Chinese city of Kunming, the state news agency Xinhua reported.
Members of a separatist group from Xinjiang, in northwest China, are believed to have carried out the assault, authorities said. The report referred to them as “terrorists.”

They were “terrorists,” eh? What makes them terrorists? Just because the Chinese say so? They sound like Freedom Fighters to me. Language can be so tricky.

Anyway, one way to figure out who the “men” were and what their anguish is all about – because imagine the pain the Chinese must have inflicted for them to decide to butcher 29 strangers in a train station – is to simply jump to the last paragraph. Let’s see, there are 20 paragraphs in all. And the last one says this:

Frequent outbreaks of violence have beset Xinjiang, a resource-rich area where the arrival of waves of Han Chinese people over the decades has fueled tensions with the Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim ethnic group.

So there you have it. The media did their best to confuse us, but BTL was correct in the previous post. It was Muslim terrorism against infidels, or, if you prefer, Freedom Fighters defending their land and culture against Occupiers. I wonder if the Chinese public will be as lame as we are in the West?

- Aggie

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Sarah Palin Called The Fact That Putin Would Invade Ukraine And Obama Would Be Too Lame To Stop Him

I wonder what Katie Couric is thinking?

Sarah Palin may be having a bragging rights moment.

In 2008, when she was the GOP vice presidential nominee, Palin questioned in a speech whether then-Sen. Barack Obama would have the foreign policy credentials to handle a scenario in which Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.

“After the Russian army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence – the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next,” she said in Reno, Nevada on October 21, 2008.

The former Alaska governor was happy to highlight her prediction on Friday and scold those who criticized her 2008 comments.

“Yes, I could see this one from Alaska,” she said on Facebook. That remark was a reference to a 2008 interview in which Palin argued that Alaska’s proximity to Russia helped boost her foreign policy experience.

Saturday Night Live parodied her remarks in a now-famous sketch with Tina Fey, who played Palin on the show, saying “I can see Russia from my house.”

On Facebook, Palin continued to explain how she anticipated a growing crisis between Russia and Ukraine, where there has now been an uncontested arrival of Russian military forces by air at a Russian base in Ukraine’s Crimea region. They are believed to be Russian land forces, according to a U.S. assessment.

Political tension grows in Ukraine’s Crimea region

“I’m usually not one to Told-Ya-So, but I did, despite my accurate prediction being derided as ‘an extremely far-fetched scenario’ by the ‘high-brow’ Foreign Policy magazine.”

Democrats are so dumb.

- Aggie

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Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

I like Glenn Harlan Reynolds, aka Instapundit. He’s smart and thoughtful.

Doesn’t mean he’s always right:

America’s ruling class has been experiencing more pushback than usual lately. It just might be a harbinger of things to come.

First, in response to widespread protests last week, the Department of Homeland Security canceled plans to build a nationwide license plate database. Many local police departments already use license-plate readers that track every car as it passes traffic signals or pole-mounted cameras. Specially equipped police cars even track cars parked on the street or even in driveways.

But the proposal was suddenly withdrawn last week, with the unconvincing explanation that it was all a mistake. I’m inclined to agree with TechDirt’s Tim Cushing, who wrote: “The most plausible explanation is that someone up top at the DHS or ICE suddenly realized that publicly calling for bids on a nationwide surveillance system while nationwide surveillance systems are being hotly debated was … a horrible idea.”

On Friday, after more public outrage, the Federal Communications Commission withdrew a plan to “monitor” news coverage at not only broadcast stations, but also at print publications that the FCC has no authority to regulate. The “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN (pronounced “sin”) involved the FCC sending people to question reporters and editors about why they chose to run particular stories. Many folks in and out of the media found it Orwellian.

He’s right: these proposals were made and then summarily withdrawn. But if it wasn’t bad enough that they were made in the first place—and it was bad enough, that and more—the opposition was tepid and slow to react. No one should have opposed “monitors” in newsrooms more than the denizens of newsrooms themselves. And they clearly have the means to make “news” out of any story they choose. But did they do anything with this story? After A WSJ op-ed outed the plan, the story lay fallow for days without any mention.

To Rush, who said it first and best:

I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out that a journalism school was actually behind this idea. I mentioned to you that there wouldn’t be any protests from journalists or journalism schools. I said:

“If it turns out here that a dean or an entire j-school is behind this idea, it won’t surprise me a bit.” And guess what? There are two, ladies and gentlemen. “The FCC commissioned the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Communication and Democracy to do a study defining what information is ‘critical’ for citizens to have.

“The scholars decided that ‘critical information’ is information that people need to ‘live safe and healthy lives’ and to ‘have full access to educational, employment, and business opportunities’ …” That’s what the news should be. Any mea culpas in there? Anybody want to now admit what I told you: This isn’t about news anymore, it’s about advancing the Democrat Party agenda? It’s about advancing the leftist agenda.

If that’s pushback, Prof. Reynolds, we are so screwed.

This, however, is pushback:

Meanwhile, in Connecticut a massive new gun-registration scheme is also facing civil disobedience. As J.D. Tuccille reports: “Three years ago, the Connecticut legislature estimated there were 372,000 rifles in the state of the sort that might be classified as ‘assault weapons,’ and 2 million plus high-capacity magazines. … But by the close of registration at the end of 2013, state officials received around 50,000 applications for ‘assault weapon’ registrations, and 38,000 applications for magazines.”

This is more “Irish Democracy,” passive resistance to government overreach.

If there is any resistance to governmental overreach under the Obama regime, it is not from the bureaucracies and institutions (Homeland Security, mainstream media) that support Obama’s power grabs. If there is any at all, it comes from citizens acting in concert to protect individual liberty (like the Tea Party, say). In that sense, Reynolds is right: let’s hope they give the “ruling class” more pushback than they can handle.

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Unity For Me, But Not For Thee

The Reverend Louis Farrakhan (née Wolcott) gave a speech. It was about unity and justice and all that [bleep].

But you know what it was really about:

As he has done in the past, he also lashed out at Jews, saying they fostered division among blacks as well as misrepresentations of black leaders through what he said was their control of the publishing industry. Farrakhan also compared himself to Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company who actively promoted the idea of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy through his local newspaper.

Ford was “a great man who was called an ant-Semite,” Farrakhan said, praising the auto pioneer’s measures to improve the living conditions of his employees through higher pay. “I feel like I’m in good company.”

Additionally:

Farrakhan has been accused himself of using anti-Semitic language in speeches, recently in May at Detroit’s Fellowship Chapel. In Detroit last year, Farrakhan denounced “satanic Jews” and the “synagogue of Satan” that he said controls major U.S. institutions and said President Barack Obama has “surrounded himself with Satan … members of the Jewish community.”

Sunday, he addressed that criticism. “I don’t hate Jewish people,” he said.

Well, why not? You don’t hate “Satan”, Louie? You don’t hate:

“I believe that for the small numbers of Jewish people in the United States, they exercise a tremendous amount of influence on the affairs of government…Yes, they exercise extraordinary control, and Black people will never be free in this country until they are free of that kind of control…”

I have warned you that Allah will punish you. You are wicked deceivers of the American people. You have sucked their blood. You are not real Jews, those of you that are not real Jews. You are the synagogue of Satan, and you have wrapped your tentacles around the U.S. government, and you are deceiving and sending this nation to hell.

“They call them [Hezbollah] terrorists, I call them freedom fighters.

“That’s a slave talking. Who was he [Julian Bond] talking to? He was talking to his masters. Sir, I am not the least bit disturbed by that. Any time the Jewish philanthropists financed the NAACP, they have a stake in what the NAACP does. So the leaders of that organization have to kowtow to those kinds of powers. That’s what I’m angry about. I’m hateful of their inordinate control over black politicians, black intellectuals, black organizations…

“The Jews have been so bad at politics they lost half their population in the Holocaust. They thought they could trust in Hitler, and they helped him get the Third Reich on the road.”

No, he doesn’t hate Jews.

What’s just as disturbing as Farrakhan’s Jew-hating acid bath is that it doesn’t appear until the 18th paragraph (plus or minus—who can count that deep into a story?). Does anything else matter? Who cares what else he said? How can anyone else there (politicians, clergy, fans) not be shamed by his words? how is he not shunned by decent people as a pariah?

And how can the media report it as an afterthought? Why is unremediated antisemitism not news?

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More Info on the “Man”

We told you yesterday about the generic “man” who has been sucker-punching people in Cambridge. (We’re not reflexively opposed, mind you, if it can be proved they’re from Cambridge.)

There’s more:

Deputy Superintendent Jack Albert said no arrests had been made as of yesterday. He also shot down speculation the attacks were part of the viral phenomenon dubbed the “knockout game” in which people randomly attack others to knock them out cold with a single punch.

Albert said police believe the suspect was “either under the influence or suffering from some type of mental illness” when he unleashed the brutal beatings.

One of the victims told police that he had walked out of BoConcept when a woman he was with heard the suspect yelling, “Oh, you think that’s funny?” Suddenly, he clocked the victim in the right side of his head from behind, dazing him as he fell to the ground. In another attack, when the suspect hit a man twice in the face, police said he was “yelling something unintelligible.”

Sounds like the Cambridge police have “acted stupidly” again. Then again, Cantabridgian “men” “yelling something unintelligible” would hardly stand out. The Harvard faculty alone (Stephen Walt, Elizabeth Warren, et al) could fill the available holding cells if we arrested people for unintelligibility.

You have been warned: beware of mentally ill men near Harvard Square. That would mean the only one you can trust is the man in the Cubs cap selling his dirty socks in front of the T station.

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Have You Seen “A Man”?

Police are looking for “him”:

Police are looking for a man who was apparently throwing sucker punches at random victims on a Cambridge sidewalk where one of the assaults was captured on video.

A witness says a man and woman were leaving a store on Massachusetts Avenue near Dana Street when an assailant approached from behind and punched the man in the head Saturday afternoon.

The man was staggered by the punch and both he and the woman fell to the ground, suffering minor injuries.

Cambridge Police said the suspect punched another man in the face earlier in the day.

Please let the police know if you see any “men”, “assailants”, or “suspects”. Given what we have to go on, all men are suspects, I guess. Few more details here. The Cambridge PD site has nothing as I write (about 48 hours after the attacks), save a tweet or two about possible assaults in progress.

So we are left to speculate. Many passing fads are still rampant in Cambridge: peasant skirts with hiking boots, long hair gone to gray (and that’s just the guys), Stalinism. So why not the knockout game?

This “man” is just catching up to the Flappy Birds of the felonious set—weeks to months after it already swept the rest of the country. Since they busted Barry Baldwin in Brooklyn, the two-month rein of terror there ended. He was a black “man”, as described by his victims, most of whom were Jewish “people”.

Until they apprehend this “man”, avoid “men” (always good advice).

PS: Not much joy in the irony that such a PC armpit like Cambridge has spawned both this scumbag and the Tsarnaev brothers, whose high school lies only blocks away from the site of these attacks.

PPS: Contrast with this coverage:

Boston police released surveillance video yesterday of an individual sought for questioning in connection with an attempted sexual assault on Valentine’s Day in the North End.

The woman described the suspect as a white male in his 20s with a medium build, short blond spiked hair, clean-shaven with possible freckles on his cheeks, blue eyes, and wearing a dark colored pea coat, dark hat, jeans and work boots.

Now, that’s a “man” you can look out for!

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This is Your Brain on Liberalism

This is your brain:

This is your brain on liberalism:

“I think they’re racist against blacks, Hispanics… I think they’re racist against women.

If you can be racist against women, can you be sexist against midgets? Agist against cocker spaniels?

You’ll note they don’t have any evidence to back up their claim—not least because there isn’t any. So, where do they get their ignorant, misguided impression that a loosely organized, racially disparate group of people who broadly agree that big government and big taxes are a threat to individual liberty—that these people are somehow, some way racist?

Oh. Okay then.

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NY Times Gets A Chuckle Out Of This!

Suicide bomb instructor in Iraq blows up entire class

Just imagine if this had been a story about a Palestinian “work accident” What if the Israeli population had reacted with such glee? How would the NY Times would have covered the story?

If there were such a thing, it would probably be rule No. 1 in the teaching manual for instructors of aspiring suicide bombers: Don’t give lessons with live explosives.

In what represented a cautionary tale for terrorist teachers, and a cause of dark humor for ordinary Iraqis, a commander at a secluded terrorist training camp north of Baghdad unwittingly used a belt packed with explosives while conducting a demonstration early Monday for a group of militants, killing himself and 21 other members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, army and police officials said.

Iraqi citizens have long been accustomed to daily attacks on public markets, mosques, funerals and even children’s soccer games, so they saw the story of the fumbling militants as a dark — and delicious — kind of poetic justice, especially coming amid a protracted surge of violence led by the terrorist group, including a rise in suicide bombings.

Just last week a suicide bomber struck a popular falafel shop near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here, killing several people. On Monday evening Raad Hashim, working the counter at a liquor store near the site of the attack, burst out laughing when he heard the news.

“This is so funny,” Mr. Hashim said. “It shows how stupid they are, those dogs and sons of dogs.”

It is funny, and on so many levels. There were nearly daily Palestinian terrorist suicide attacks on Israel during the first six years or so of our glorious new century, and there were uncountable work accidents. Somehow the media never saw the humor in the work accidents nor the horror of the terror attacks themselves. And they blamed the victims. Let me take a shot at playing editor, rewriting the first bit of the NY Times article, as if it had appeared circa 2005, assuming this incident had involved people trying to murder Israelis:

“If there were such a thing, it would probably be rule No. 1 in the teaching manual for instructors of aspiring suicide bombers: Don’t give lessons with live explosives.” NO. NO. NO. Try something like this: In the continuing tit for tat conflict between Palestinian freedom fighters and the Israeli military, the Palestinians are today mourning the loss of some of their bravest soldiers… Better, right?

In what represented a cautionary tale for terrorist teachers, and a cause of dark humor for ordinary Iraqis, a commander at a secluded terrorist training camp north of Baghdad unwittingly used a belt packed with explosives while conducting a demonstration early Monday for a group of militants, killing himself and 21 other members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, army and police officials said. Terrible. Try it this way: Iraqi government officials claim that a training accident caused an explosion in which approximately 22 “terrorists” died. Representatives of the Iraqi Freedom Fighters are currently studying the accident and cannot be reached for comment… There, much more balanced.

“Iraqi citizens have long been accustomed to daily attacks on public markets, mosques, funerals and even children’s soccer games, so they saw the story of the fumbling militants as a dark — and delicious — kind of poetic justice, especially coming amid a protracted surge of violence led by the terrorist group, including a rise in suicide bombings.” Horrible. Unbalanced, one-sided, unethical, beneath the dignity of The Paper of Record. Try this: Some Iraqis are gloating and celebrating the loss of the Freedom Fighters, but others point with worry to the possibility of an escalation of tensions.

“Just last week a suicide bomber struck a popular falafel shop near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here, killing several people. On Monday evening Raad Hashim, working the counter at a liquor store near the site of the attack, burst out laughing when he heard the news.

“This is so funny,” Mr. Hashim said. “It shows how stupid they are, those dogs and sons of dogs.” Find a supporter of the Freedom Fighters who will say, “This is an attack on our brave men. Allah will punish the perpetrators. We will kill ten of them for every one of us who has entered Paradise!” Or just make is up. Who will bother to track the speaker in Iraq? ;)

“This is God showing justice,” Mr. Hashim continued. “This is God sending a message to the bad people and the criminals in the world, to tell them to stop the injustice and to bring peace. Evil will not win in the end. It’s always life that wins over death.”

Perfect! The Freedom Fighter says that Allah will not tolerate violation of his ways, and that we, the Freedom Fighters, value Death over Life, etc. Blame the Israelis, George W. Bush, and even Obama.

Another paragraph, another example of unbalanced reporting:

Another resident of the area, who lives near the ministry building that was targeted last week, said: “I heard this today when my friend rang me in the afternoon to tell me about it. He was so happy as if he was getting married.

“Which made me happy as well,” the resident said. “I hope that their graves burn and all the rest of them burn as well. I was not happy with the number killed, though: I wanted more of them to die, as I remember my friend who was killed by a suicide bomber in 2007.”

Perhaps the NY Times should end the story like this: And so the eternal Tit-for-Tat continues. Or possibly we should channel Pete Seeger?

- Aggie

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Too Liberal, Or Not Liberal Enough?

When liberals attack—each other:

IT’S WELL KNOWN AMONG THE SMALL WORLD of people who pay attention to such things that the liberal-leaning reporters at The Wall Street Journal resent the conservative-leaning editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. What’s less well known—and about to break into the open, threatening the very fabric of the institution—is how deeply the liberal-leaning reporters at The New York Times resent the liberal-leaning editorial page of The New York Times.

The New York Observer has learned over the course of interviews with more than two-dozen current and former Times staffers that the situation has “reached the boiling point” in the words of one current Times reporter. Only two people interviewed for this story agreed to be identified, given the fears of retaliation by someone they criticize as petty and vindictive.

The blame here, in the eyes of most Times reporters to whom The Observer spoke, belongs to Andrew Rosenthal, who as editorial page editor leads both the paper’s opinion pages and opinion postings online, as well as overseeing the editorial board and the letters, columnists and op-ed departments.

I’d be happy to stop here and just warm my hands by the fire of leftist civil war. But I can’t:

And the growing dissatisfaction with Mr. Rosenthal stems from a commitment to excellence that has lifted the rest of the Times, which is viewed by every staffer The Observer spoke to as rapidly and dramatically improving.

Are you effing kidding me? Didn’t the Times just screw up a Chris Christie story out of liberal bias? Kate Zernicke and her editors—news people?

Tip of the iceberg.

Anyway:

The Times declined to provide exact staffing numbers, but that too is a source of resentment. Said one staffer, “Andy’s got 14 or 15 people plus a whole bevy of assistants working on these three unsigned editorials every day. They’re completely reflexively liberal, utterly predictable, usually poorly written and totally ineffectual. I mean, just try and remember the last time that anybody was talking about one of those editorials.

“[T]he editorials are never on the most emailed list; they’re never on the most read list. People just are not paying attention, and they don’t care. It’s a waste of money.”

Aww…cheer up. Who says the Times doesn’t carry the funny pages?

Also coming in for intense criticism were the opinion-page columnists, always a juicy target. Particularly strong criticism, to the point of resentful (some might say jealous), was directed at Thomas Friedman, the three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize who writes mostly about foreign affairs and the environment.

One current Times staffer told The Observer, “Tom Friedman is an embarrassment. I mean there are multiple blogs and Tumblrs and Twitter feeds that exist solely to make fun of his sort of blowhardy bullshit.” (Gawker has been particularly hard on Mr. Friedman, with Hamilton Nolan memorably skewering him in a column entitled “Tom Friedman Travels the World to Find Incredibly Uninteresting Platitudes,” as a “mustachioed soothsaying simpleton”; another column was titled “Tom Friedman Does Not Know What’s Happening Here,” and the @firetomfriedman Twitter account has more than 1,800 followers.)

Another Times reporter brought up Mr. Friedman, unsolicited, toward the end of a conversation that was generally positive about the editorial page: “I never got a note from Andy or anything like that. But I will say, regarding Friedman, there’s the sense that he’s on cruise control now that he’s his own brand.

He paused for a long time before continuing and then, unprompted, returned to Mr. Friedman. “I just think it’s bad, and nobody is acknowledging that they suck, but everybody in the newsroom knows it, and we really are embarrassed by what goes on with Friedman. I mean anybody who knows anything about most of what he’s writing about understands that he’s, like, literally mailing it in from wherever he is on the globe. He’s a travel reporter. A joke. The guy gets $75,000 for speeches and probably charges the paper for his first-class airfare.”

There’s a lot more gossip, but reading it is up to you. I feel marginally (minusculey) less hostile toward the Times knowing most of the staff is embarrassed by Tom Friedman as I am for him. I still can’t wish enough bad things to happen to the rag.

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“What Happened to the New York Times?”

Oh, I don’t know. What did you expect from the New York Times?

Last Friday, the paper published a huge story. [Heh. Get it?] “Christie Knew About Bridge Lane Closings, Port Authority Official Says,” the headline screamed.

Huge. [We get it already!] New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, during a two-hour press conference weeks ago, had repeatedly insisted that he knew nothing about lane closures on a bridge leading into New York City, after allegations emerged that the lanes were shut down to punish a mayor who failed to endorse the governor’s re-election bid. Now, The Times said, it turned out “Christie Knew.” Huge. [Stop it!]

The article went on to prove — nothing. No proof whatsoever of the “evidence” (which was highlighted by the weird wording “had the evidence” — does that mean he no longer “has” it?) Still, the claim was shocking. And it directly targeted a sitting U.S. governor, who just happens to be the front-runner for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

[O]ne might wonder why the newspaper didn’t ask the very first question nearly anyone else would ask when presented with such a claim: “Uh, OK, you say you have evidence, can we see it?”

But no, The Times ran with the piece, which made the follow-on media follow on the story throughout the day. But few noticed the way the lede was changed — in less than 20 minutes.

In a write-through of the piece, the new lede said: “The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, central to the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, said on Friday that ‘evidence exists’ the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening.”

“Evidence exists”? Where? Does anyone “have” it like, say, the reporter writing the story about its existence?

Meanwhile, the headline, once a killer with the declarative “Christie Knew,” also morphed into a watered-down weakling. “Christie Linked to Knowledge of Shut Lanes.” “Linked to Knowledge”? A far cry from “Christie Knew.” And what does it even mean for someone to be “linked to knowledge”?

As questions began to emerge about the altered piece and headline, The Times was forced to put out a statement.

“Times metro editor Wendell Jamieson addressed the change in an email to HuffPost’s Michael Calderone: ‘We’ve made probably dozens of changes to the story to make it more precise. That was one of them. I bet there will be dozens more,’” the Huffington Post wrote.

Dozens more? Maybe, just maybe, The Times should work the story for a while until editors and reporters can draft a strong piece before publishing. Just a thought.

For the record, David Wildstein, the Port Authority official who claimed he “had” the evidence, has been publicly asking for immunity since the scandal hit the press. He has even been held in contempt by the New Jersey Legislature for refusing to testify. And the threat of “evidence” makes up just one sentence in a two-page letter from his lawyer.

“Could we have made this more clear? Yes,” The Times reporter who wrote the piece, Kate Zernike, said Sunday on CNN. “Did we make it more clear? Yes.” And all those changes, softening the lede, the headline? “That’s a typical newspaper process,” she said.

An aside: We happen to remember when Ms. Zernike was a hungry cub reporter for the Boston Gob. She was the attack bitch (if a young feline can be an old canine) on the Glob’s campaign to water down the state laws on special education. Evidently the liberal elite in the Commonwealth did meet a constituency they didn’t like: developmentally disabled children. Ms. Zernike served her masters well—the law was gutted—earning a promotion to the big leagues.

The article doesn’t leave you hanging too long for the answer to the question it poses: Chris Christie is the elephant in the room. (Hey, if the author can, I can.) The president may have sicced the IRS, NSA, and FEC on American citizens, but if Chris Christie can be smeared for a traffic jam he may or may not have known about (“evidence exists”), that’s their story.

This blog is neutral on Christie and his presidential aspirations. He’s far down my list of preferred candidates, but I’d be hard pressed to vote against him if he were the nominee. Media muggings, on the other hand, are our bête noire. Christie and Sarah Palin are nothing alike (you can say that again), but they share this. Both have been taken down by a Democrat-Media complex out to destroy any chance they might have. Maybe Palin-Christie should be the ticket in 2016.

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Fifty and Fabulous!

You were expecting someone else?

On Wednesday the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a devastating report that blamed the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton’s State Department for security failures leading up to the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack.

While the Big Three (ABC, CBS and NBC) networks covered the report for a day, they found another event far more compelling — The First Lady’s 50th birthday bash, spending twice as much time on the White House party than Benghazi.

ABC was the most wildly out of line — 10 minutes on Michelle’s birthday vs. just 2 minutes on Benghazi. NBC spent twice as much time on the birthday (12 ½ minutes) as Benghazi (6 ½ minutes), while CBS actually gave slightly more time to Benghazi (6 minutes) vs. Michelle (5 ½ minutes).

NBC started their celebration on Thursday’s Today show with White House correspondent Kristen Welker, as she excitedly declared: “For days they’ve been gearing up for a big bash here at the White House. Guests were told to wear comfortable shoes and to be prepared to move around a lot, an indication there will be no shortage of dancing here. You can also bet there will be a long list of celebrities to pull off a party fit for a First Lady.”

Gack!

Still, the old bat looks like she could bust a move.

(Mamie Eisenhower, for those uninformed.)

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Heads and Tales

Oscar Levant once noted: “Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you’ll find the real tinsel underneath.”

Same goes with Barack Obama:

On the Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving, Barack Obama sat in the office cabin of Air Force One wearing a look of heavy-lidded annoyance. The Affordable Care Act, his signature domestic achievement and, for all its limitations, the most ambitious social legislation since the Great Society, half a century ago, was in jeopardy. His approval rating was down to forty per cent—lower than George W. Bush’s in December of 2005, when Bush admitted that the decision to invade Iraq had been based on intelligence that “turned out to be wrong.” Also, Obama said thickly, “I’ve got a fat lip.”

That morning, while playing basketball at F.B.I. headquarters, Obama went up for a rebound and came down empty-handed; he got, instead, the sort of humbling reserved for middle-aged men who stubbornly refuse the transition to the elliptical machine and Gentle Healing Yoga. This had happened before. In 2010, after taking a self-described “shellacking” in the midterm elections, Obama caught an elbow in the mouth while playing ball at Fort McNair. He wound up with a dozen stitches. The culprit then was one Reynaldo Decerega, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Decerega wasn’t invited to play again, though Obama sent him a photograph inscribed “For Rey, the only guy that ever hit the President and didn’t get arrested. Barack.”

Oh the wit! The banter! The bons mots! And with a gratuitous swipe at George Bush. This could only be The New Yorker (or Harper’s, or The Atlantic, The New Republic, or every other glossy magazine).

Usually, Obama spends Sundays with his family. Now he was headed for a three-day fund-raising trip to Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, rattling the cup in one preposterous mansion after another. The prospect was dispiriting. Obama had already run his last race, and the chances that the Democratic Party will win back the House of Representatives in the 2014 midterm elections are slight. The Democrats could, in fact, lose the Senate.

Obama spent his flight time in the private quarters in the nose of the plane, in his office compartment, or in a conference room. At one point on the trip from Andrews Air Force Base to Seattle, I was invited up front for a conversation. Obama was sitting at his desk watching the Miami Dolphins–Carolina Panthers game. Slender as a switch, he wore a white shirt and dark slacks; a flight jacket was slung over his high-backed leather chair.

Let me quote another wit, and contemporary of Oscar Levant, Dorothy Parker: “And it is that word ‘hummy,’ my darlings, that marks the first place in The House at Pooh Corner at which Tonstant Weader fwowed up.”

“Preposterous” mansions, “dispiriting” prospects—the poor lad flies in unmatched comfort to be feted by the high and mighty, and still lays his head on his own pillow that night. Oh, and about his spending Sundays with his family? That’s if he got a round of golf in on Saturday. If not, it’s hasta la vista, babies.

I don’t have no journalistic training, but it seems to me that a behind the scenes, warts and all profile might want to include a few warts. (“Slender as a switch”? Gag. How about “Skinny as a bean pole”?)

Warts:

A new documentary about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney premiered Friday night at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. The film, “Mitt,” is an extraordinarily intimate look at the former Massachusetts governor as he ran for president twice, in 2008 and 2012.

[F]or viewers who follow politics closely, especially for Republicans who desperately wanted to defeat Barack Obama, there is a revelation in “Mitt” that is not just unexpected but deeply disheartening. At a critical moment in the campaign — the two weeks in October encompassing the first and second general election debates — the Romney portrayed in “Mitt” struggled with a nagging pessimism and defeatism, unable to draw confidence even from a decisive initial debate victory over President Obama. Deep down inside, the Romney seen onscreen in “Mitt” seems almost resigned to losing to Obama in those crucial showdowns.

Then came the debate. Romney gave a dominating, near-perfect performance, while Obama struggled. The president didn’t even hit Romney on “47 percent.” It was a smashing victory, a big, big win for Romney.

Such a clear-cut triumph would seem a huge confidence-builder, but afterward, Romney seemed mostly concerned that Obama would come back and beat him badly the next time. “Sitting presidents have a very hard time in these debates,” Romney told the family. “They feel like, who is this whippersnapper coming up here who knows nothing? And so they don’t prepare, and they just think they can waltz through it. Then they get crushed in the first debate, and then they come back.”

“He’ll be better next time,” Ann said, as always trying to build her husband’s confidence. “But you can be better next time, too.”

Romney wasn’t buying it. Instead, he went into an extended monologue on how his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, was a better man than he will ever be. As he spoke, Romney held the notes he had made during the debate (candidates are not allowed to bring any notes with them to the stage, but are allowed to make them during the debate). Romney pointed out that in every debate he began by writing “Dad” at the top of the paper.

“That’s what I start with: ‘Dad,’” Romney explained. “I always think about Dad and about I am standing on his shoulders. I would not be there, there’s no way I would be able to be running for president, if Dad hadn’t done what Dad did. He’s the real deal …”

“You’re the real deal,” said one of Romney’s sons.

Romney didn’t pause. “The guy was born in Mexico. He didn’t have a college degree. He became head of a car company and became a governor. It would have never entered my mind to be in politics, how can you go from his beginning to think, I can be head of a car company, I can run for governor, I can run for president?”

Romney wasn’t finished. “The gap — for me, I started where he ended up. I started off with money and education, Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School. For me it’s moving that far” — Romney held two fingers close together — “for him, it’s like that,” Romney said, holding his arms wide apart.

Do you think Obama has those same feelings about his father? Do you think he has any feelings about his father? Bill Ayers did, but Obama?

This humanizes Romney, but it also greatly disappoints. I often said of him that he was every Republican’s third choice; but at the end, he was the party’s choice. We needed—deserved—a better showing.

And he knew that better than anyone:

“I cannot believe that [Obama] is an aberration in the country. I believe we’re following the same path of every other great nation, which is we’re following greater government, tax rich people, promise more stuff to everybody, borrow until you go over a cliff. And I think we have a very high risk of reaching the tipping point sometime in the next five years. And the idea of saying ‘it’s just fine, don’t worry about it’ — no, it’s really not.”

That was the case to make, Mitt, and you didn’t make it. History is made of great eras and great men and women. The decline of America hastened by Obama needed a great man to reverse it. We didn’t have one in Mitt Romney. Sadly, he knew that better than anybody, too.

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