Ben and Joel welcome Eric Boehlert, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America and the author of "Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press," out this month in paperback.
Questions addressed in this podcast:
• How has the Internet changed politics and the press?
• Do the "netroots" deserve credit for Democratic electoral victories in 2006 and 2008 -- or would the left have been victorious anyway?
• How did liberals get their online advantage? Are conservatives finally catching up?
• Why did Obama bypass the netroots during his campaign? Are they getting in the way of his governance now?
• What's all this Tea Party stuff about, anyway?
• Would today's National Review make Bill Buckley cry?
Music heard in this podcast, all by The Bad Plus:
• "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
• "Heart of Glass"
• "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate"
Next week's podcast guest: Will Bunch, author of "Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future."
Many Americans think the American Revolution was fought over excessive taxes. Not true. When Bostonians held their famous "tea party" 237 years ago, the tax in question amounted to a couple of pennies per pound of tea. The real issue was consent, the rallying cry "no taxation without representation," because "if we are not represented, we are slaves."
Today, Americans do not lack the opportunity to consent in the same way that colonial revolutionaries did. For the 21st century tea partier, the "Intolerable Acts" are years of profligate spending by a Republican Congress that hypocritically wore the fiscal conservative mantle culminating with George W. Bush's multibillion-dollar bailout of the banks under the despised Troubled Asset Relief Program. Then came the stimulus bill, which most tea party protesters rightly derided as a "porkulus" bill. The automaker bailout soon followed, along with revelations about AIG's sweetheart deal, news of government mismanagement of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, Cash for Clunkers, cap-and-trade, and, of course, health care reform. Obama's multitrillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see make George W. Bush's spendthrift ways look parsimonious by comparison.
Talk to any tea partier, and that's what they will tell you. That was what made part-time volunteer Laura Boatright and countless others like her into full-time activists.
...What tea parties represent is a revival of good, old-fashioned constitutionalism and the idea that government needs to get back to basics. There is a great yearning for a return to first principles. Millions of Americans, but perhaps not yet a majority, would very much like to restore the principles of the American Founding Fathers to their rightful and pre-eminent place in our political life. Or, as O'Hara put it to me, "Americans are realizing that more freedom, not more government, is both the principled and practical ingredient for prosperity."
Joel and I continue to argue whether the tea party people are nothing more than a bunch of sore losers. Even if that was true a year ago -- and I don't believe it was -- it's certainly not true now. These people are energized. They're active. They're trying to wrest the levels of power from an entrenched establishment at every level of government -- federal, state and, most important, local.
I don't know whether they will succeed, but I admire and respect the effort.
Joel and I discuss the tea parties in the new podcast with Eric Boehlert of Media Matters, which should be posted soon. We will revisit the tea parties in a couple of weeks, when John O'Hara, author of A New American Tea Party, joins us.
Well, this is awkward:
The United Nations climate panel faces a new challenge with scientists casting doubt on its claim that global temperatures are rising inexorably because of human pollution.
In its last assessment the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the evidence that the world was warming was “unequivocal”.
It warned that greenhouse gases had already heated the world by 0.7C and that there could be 5C-6C more warming by 2100, with devastating impacts on humanity and wildlife. However, new research, including work by British scientists, is casting doubt on such claims. Some even suggest the world may not be warming much at all.
“The temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change,” said John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a former lead author on the IPCC.
But if the globe isn't warming, could the climate be changing anyway? Maybe. And couldn't humans still have a hand in both causing that change and reversing its effects? Who knows? I mean who really knows? Because it's pretty clear to me at this point that the people who claim to know with metaphysical certainty are just trying to sell something.
That's why I made such a big fuss the other day about California's cap-and-trade scheme. Doubtless certain well-connected firms will do well. But a lot of people are going to be thrown out of work as a result. And for what? Politics -- obviously not "science."
The academic at the centre of the ‘Climategate’ affair, whose raw data is crucial to the theory of climate change, has admitted that he has trouble ‘keeping track’ of the information.
Colleagues say that the reason Professor Phil Jones has refused Freedom of Information requests is that he may have actually lost the relevant papers.
...Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now – suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.
And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.
The admissions will be seized on by sceptics as fresh evidence that there are serious flaws at the heart of the science of climate change and the orthodoxy that recent rises in temperature are largely man-made.
The reason for skepticism has little to do with an "anti-science" mentality and everything to do with a healthy suspicion that the people pushing the policies based on "science" care less about liberty and more about control of the minutiae of every day life.
Erick Erickson, the Daily Beast's number 13 most important journalist on the right, tells birthers and 9/11 truthers to stay away from RedState.com. "Birfers and Truthers are not welcome here. Period. End of Story," he writes -- before spending another 476 words explaining why:
The tea party movement is in danger of getting a bad reputation for allowing birfers and truthers to share the stage. At the National Tea Party, Joseph Farah treated the birfer issue as legitimate. In Texas, tea party activists have rallied to Debra Medina who, just yesterday, refused to definitely dismiss the 9/11 truther conspiracy as crackpot nonsense. If a candidate cannot do that, we cannot help that candidate. It’s that simple.
So we arrive at one of those moments where I am fully prepared to part ways with the individuals and groups willing to share the stage and treat as legitimate the crazies who believe the President was born in Kenya, the crazies who believe our government was complicit September 11th terrorist attacks … two groups, incidentally that increasingly overlap.
This sets us up for attacks from the left and from within that we must anticipate. It is one thing to separate ourselves from these individuals and groups. It is quite another to know that these people are among us. We should be careful. All of us have an obligation to vet those who we ally with. Just because someone is stridently against the size of government does not make him an ally if he also believes the U.S. Army blew up the World Trade Center. Such a person brings disrepute on us all, deservedly so.
Erickson is correct that mainstream conservatives need to not only keep their distance from the kooks, but state clearly and unequivocally why. But then Erickson goes on to complain about the double standards of the press, and here he loses me a little bit:
The media never runs stories about the Communist Party USA’s routine pronouncements in favor of Barack Obama. The media has never run legitimate stories about Barack Obama’s ties to the communist oriented New Party in Chicago. Obama gets a pass even on radicals whose support he personally solicited and those he personally befriended for years. But the moment a birfer opens his mouth and spouts his stupidity from the stage of a tea party rally it becomes headline news on every news network. Complain all you like that that’s not fair, but it’s the world we live in.
All of that stuff was reported before the 2008 election, and it made no headway with voters. It's pointless to keep harping about it. Obama's policy prescriptions and his inept record governing from the Oval Office is the story now. I think Erickson gets that, but even though he acknowledges the double standard as a fact of life, the digression is too distracting from the larger point to be worthwhile.
I have an editorial feature set to appear in Sunday's Sacramento Bee on the Tea Party phenomenon and what it all means. Although I'm somewhat allergic to transitory populist political enthusiasms and... well... the insane, I'm generally predisposed to liking the Tea Party people, for reasons that should be made clear in the piece.
This has been quite the week for tea party analysis and opinion, coming as it does roughly a year after the first real protests in Seattle and Denver and just a few days after the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville.
Here is a round-up of the tea party commentary from this past week:
• Richard Brookhiser explores tea parties and the American political tradition (The Wall Street Journal):
A political revolution is different from a political revolt and takes a lot more leg work. The postwar conservative movement's takeover of the GOP began with the nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964, led through the false dawn of Richard Nixon, and bore fruit only with Ronald Reagan's third run for the nomination.
The tea parties have made history, though. They stopped a monster of social engineering, stole a president's halo, enraged their enemies, and made a fashion statement.
• The Economist surveys "scenes from a counter-revolution" in Nashville:
One thing that became clear in Nashville however was that the 600 or so solid conservative types, mostly middle-aged and many of them women, who shelled out $549 for a ticket to attend were not interested in minor modifications of Mr Obama’s health plan, budget or cap-and-trade legislation. As a name that harks back to the Boston Tea Party suggests, they see themselves as revolutionaries, or counter-revolutionaries. They want to “take back” an America which they say has been going wrong for generations as successive administrations have bloated the federal government and trampled on the constitution and the rights of states and individuals. Many of those attending said that Mr Obama’s election and big-spending, deficit-expanding first year had been a sort of negative epiphany. “Suddenly I’m awake,” said Kathleen Gotto from Colorado Springs, who had not previously been involved in politics.
• David Broder saw Nashville as Sarah Palin's party and praised "her pitch-perfect populism" (Washington Post):
This is a pitch-perfect recital of the populist message that has worked in campaigns past. There are times when the American people are looking for something more: for an Eisenhower, who liberated Europe; an FDR or a Kennedy or a Bush, all unashamed aristocrats; or an Obama, with eloquence and brains.
But in the present mood of the country, Palin is by all odds a threat to the more uptight Republican aspirants such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty -- and potentially, to Obama as well.
...Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good.
• Reason's Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie argue that the independent-minded tea partiers' thirst for limited government is more than just some marginalized shouting (Honolulu Star-Bulletin):
As long as there are politicians in both parties who preach "fiscal responsibility" while delivering the opposite, who "punish" bad banks by saying mean things about them while handing over billions, and who treat capitalism as a process that begins with government benevolence, there will be both a Tea Party movement and broader political tendency underneath it. Americans have ridden these two worn-out husks of political parties since the 19th century; it's no wonder that voters are defecting in droves.
• Mark Davis explained what the tea party movement is -- and isn't (Dallas Morning News):
The Tea Party movement is not "anti-tax." It is against confiscatory taxes, outlandish taxes, excessive taxes – choose your adjective. But this "anti-tax" nonsense is the same kind of obnoxious slander as calling people who favor strong borders "anti-immigration."
The Tea Party movement is not driven by social conservatism. That doesn't mean you won't find plenty of tea partiers who are devout advocates of protecting the unborn and traditional marriage – it's just that the Tea Party engine is driven first and foremost by a desire to return government to its proper constitutional limits and run it with a lot less money. Anyone driven by that passion is welcome in any roomful of tea partiers, no matter what views they may hold about God and gays.
• E.J. Dionne thinks he knows "what fuels the grass-roots rage" (Washington Post):
Anti-statism, a profound mistrust of power in Washington, dates all the way to the Anti-Federalists who opposed the Constitution because they saw it concentrating too much authority in the central government. At any given time, perhaps 20 to 25 percent of Americans can be counted on to denounce anything Washington does as a threat to "our traditional liberties."
This suspicion of government is not amenable to "facts" -- not because it is irrational, but because the facts are beside the point. For the anti-statists, opposing government power is a matter of principle.
Dionne makes it sound like that's a bad thing.
So this musician John Mayer gave an interview to Playboy in which he discussed sexual intercourse with Jessica Simpson without using a negro dialect. Or something. I really don't know much about what he said or much about the man's body of work, for that matter.
(Oh, "Your Body is a Wonderland"? That guy? Jeeeeee-ZUS.)
John Mayer's Nashville fans were treated to more than just a rock concert last night. They also got a lengthy, tearful apology, delivered mid-song, and the promise -- or threat, depending on how one feels about the musician -- that he'd be quitting what he referred to as "the media game."
There's more, including a video. Because this is 2010, Mayer apologized first on Twitter before blubbering on stage. It's a brave new world, brothers and sisters.
Now, this may sound a bit odd, contradictory or perhaps even hypocritical coming from somebody who pays the mortgage "doing journalism" -- though certainly not celebrity journalism -- but I think anyone who deals with the press should always keep these two maxims at the very front of his or her mind:
First, journalists are untrustworthy bastards. They're quote hunters -- the juicier and more embarrassing the better. Even I've been burned by reporters before.
Second -- and this one is really important -- never say nothing to nobody about nothing. Ever.
There are caveats and exceptions to both rules, of course. (Obviously, don't think twice about talking to me.) I don't understand why a guy like Mayer, who is evidently a gossip and tabloid magnet, didn't learn to keep his yap shut years ago. Could be it's all an act; he's really just generating controversy for the sake of publicity; and this latest stunt got out of hand. "It was arrogant of me to think I could intellectualize using it," Mayer tweeted, "because I realize that there's no intellectualizing a word that is so emotionally charged." An understatement if ever there was one.
Or maybe Mayer thought people were only kidding when they say they just read Playboy for the articles.
It will be interesting to see whether the ad actually sells cars. The premise only works if you take it as a given that this Gorewellian nightmare is inevitable. The commercials arrive at precisely the moment when that inevitability is unraveling like an old pair of hemp sock.
Read the rest; but, yeah, that's about right.
The global-warming thrill ride looks to be coming to an end, undone by the same politically motivated serial exaggeration and moral preening that discredited previous apocalypses. On the heels of the East Anglia University “Climategate” scandal have come a series of embarrassing retractions from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regarding some of the most loudly trumpeted signs and wonders of global warming, such as the ludicrous claim that Himalayan glaciers would disappear within 30 years, that nearly half of the Amazon jungle was at imminent risk of destruction from a warming planet, and that there was a clear linkage between climate change and weather-related economic losses. The sources for these claims turned out to be environmental advocacy groups — not rigorous, peer-reviewed science.
There is much more, of course. And if you haven't listened to our recent podcast with Hayward, now would be as fine a time as any.
Placer County's Republican establishment is critical of the representative from California's 4th Congressional District because -- get a load of this -- he opposes earmarks in all their forms.
If I had the money, where would I send my contribution? Here.
Turns out that of the weak lot of pricey commercials that aired during Super Bowl XLIV, the most politically charged and polarizing wasn't the Focus on the Family spot featuring Tim and Pam Tebow. (By the way, does anyone take the National Organization for Women seriously anymore? Anyone? Really?)
No, it was that Audi "Green Police" commercial.
I thought the ad was cleverly written and produced (the anteater was a cute touch)... and utterly horrifying. Two bits in particular really bothered me: The part where the Green Police put some hapless homeowner in the back of a squad car as a news reporter explains the perp was caught using incandescent lights; and the Cops-like scene where the bewildered couple is rousted for setting their hot tub's thermostat too high.
My first reaction watching the YouTube was entirely visceral. I've watched it three more times however, and I still don't like it. But I'm aware this may be an overreaction. (Maybe.) Steve Hayward's pithy analysis is perhaps among the more sensible from my comrades on the right:
Is it mocking environmentalism? Um. . . yeah. Your moral authority is pretty thin when a major advertiser finds it safe to take this approach. Think anyone would ever try something like this about the civil rights movement? Or the feminist movement?
Hayward suggests that Republicans could successfully exploit the part of the ad I hated most in the fall: "I'm guessing a winner will be a repeal of the forthcoming ban on incandescent lightbulbs. I know I'm running out of space stocking up on them for 2012 or whenever the ban goes into effect." (It will be phased in between 2012 and 2014, FYI.)
I wish I shared Hayward's optimism. Sure, arresting a guy for installing incandescent lights or raiding a house because some schlub committed a "composting infraction" might be over-the-top now. But how about fining and jailing people for not maintaining proper pressure on their car tires? California's Air Resources Board proposed to do precisely that, for real, but quickly backpedaled once the public got wind and started making ugly noises.
Certainly, some environmentalists viewed the ad the same as Hayward did -- to their great consternation. Our friend Lisa Schmeiser tweeted how she was "bugged by the demonization of environmental measures. Seemed counterintuitive to the sales pitch." And Audi itself appears to be unsure whether the ad is wholly irreverent or maybe just a little bit serious.
The Green Police are a humorous group of individuals that have joined forces in an effort to collectively help guide consumers to make the right decision when it comes to the environment. They’re not here to judge, merely to guide these decisions.
Right. They're "guiding" the guy who chose plastic over paper at the beginning of the ad where exactly? (Incidentally, the lyrics of Cheap Trick's Dream Police redo, which are basically identical to the 1979 hit single but for one word, say the Green Police are "judge and jury." So put that in your carbon-loaded pipe and smoke it, Audi ad geniuses!)
The Audi Green Police page goes on to helpfully explain how
there are numerous real Green Police units globally that are furthering green practices and environmental issues. For example, Israel's main arm of the Ministry of Environmental Protection in the area of enforcement and deterrence is called; you guess it, the Green Police. New York has officers within the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation that are fondly called the "Green Police". The Green Police is also the popular name for Vietnam’s Environmental Police Department and the UK has a group who dresses in green as part of the Environment Agency’s squad to monitor excessive CO2 emissions.
Oh, and there was one other Green Police force that the German-owned carmaker doesn't mention, probably because... well, go and read for yourself.
Pains me as it does to link to it, if you can get past the "teabagger" guff, I think Grist's David Roberts discerns perfectly the message Audi is trying to get across in the spot:
The ad only makes sense if it's aimed at people who acknowledge the moral authority of the green police -- people who may find those obligations tiresome and constraining on occasion, who only fitfully meet them, who may be annoyed by sticklers and naggers, but who recognize that living more sustainably is in fact the moral thing to do. This basically describes every guy I know.
Ah, yes. What's a little loss of liberty for a life of contentedly "green" servitude?
The ad's payoff, don't forget, is that the guy in Audi's new clean diesel roadster gets to drive off when the Green Police wave him through their preposterous eco-roadblock. So if you want to keep the Green Police off your back, you can start by switching back to partially recycled paper bags, installing mercury-filled compact fluorescent lights, and driving a imported car. Brilliant. And, as I say, horrifying. It's just a commercial. Yep. Got it. I still hope the campaign blows up in Audi's face.
Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., has died, according to reports:
Congressman John P. Murtha died Monday at 1:18 p.m. at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, VA.
Murtha, 77, was Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
Murtha had been hospitalized last week due to complications from gall bladder surgery.
Pennsylvania's longest-serving congressman was a lightning rod. In the past few years, he was the subject of numerous ethics investigations. Murtha was also a bete noire of conservatives, who particularly loathed the former Marine's reckless comments about the 2006 incident that left 15 civilians dead in the Iraqi city of Haditha.
There will be more commentary about that and Murtha's legacy in Western Pennsylvania in the coming hours, days, and weeks to be sure. For now, however, my condolences to Murtha's family.
As Allahpundit at Hot Air writes, today we "accentuate the positive" (quoting the Washington Post story):
He entered the Marine Corps in 1952, during the Korean War period, and served until 1955. He returned to Johnstown to run the family car wash and finish his undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1962, and he joined the Marine Corps Reserve. During the Vietnam conflict, he volunteered for combat and served near Da Nang in 1966 and 1967.
In 1955, he married Joyce Bell. She survives, along with their daughter, Donna Murtha ; twin sons, Pat Murtha and John M. Murtha ; and three grandchildren…
Rep. Murtha, whose military decorations included the Bronze Star and two awards of the Purple Heart, was one of the first Vietnam veterans to sit in the House. His district returned him regularly to office, and after 10 years, Rep. Murtha had quietly established himself as a key Capitol Hill player who could woo lawmakers of divergent views to join forces.
A special election will be called within 60 days to fill Murtha's seat for the remainder of the year.
Peggy Noonan in today's Wall Street Journal:
The biggest historic gain of this administration may turn out to be that Democrats in the White House experienced leadership in the age of terror, came to have responsibility in a struggle that needs and will need our focus. It wasn't good that half the country thought jihadism was some little Republican obsession.
Oh, what utter, irredeemable bullcrap.
Liberals, like conservatives, had a pretty good view of what happened in Washington, New York and Pennsylvania on 9/11. We were horrified by it every bit as much as conservatives were, too. Many of us dropped our dovishness to support the overthrow of the Taliban, and a few of us -- by no means all, and certainly not me -- even supported the invasion of Iraq because of the attacks.
I was watching Meet the Press the Sunday after 9/11, the famous interview where Dick Cheney told Tim Russert that America might have to work "the dark side" in order to fight terror. And I'll admit that I thought this: "Well, yeah." I backtracked from that over time as the implications of what "the dark side" actually entails.
Liberals, like conservatives, have always wanted to protect this country from terrorism. Always. Where we've differed from conservatives, though, is in our willingness to compromise longstanding American laws and values on torture, eavesdropping and the rule of law. We've wondered if the conservative rush -- and in some cases, the conservative glee -- to proclaim a "clash of the civilizations" didn't actually give Osama bin Laden and his ilk exactly what they wanted. We've suspected that certain methods of demonstrating American toughness have actually created more terrorists than they eliminated. And yes, we've had a fair amount of contempt for Republican politicians who wielded 9/11 like a battle-axe in the efforts to secure political gains for themselves. Most of all, we've wanted to apply a restraining hand on those who would have us become the evil we seek to defeat.
We've tried to find balance, knowing that Dick Cheney's "one percent doctrine" is, ultimately, untenable -- that we have to live with some risk in our lives and that crushing out everything that made America America might make us feel safer, but wouldn't ultimately eliminate the risk.
I'm certain that if you look hard enough, you can find groups and people who think that any American armed response to 9/11 was too much. Those people don't represent me, and I doubt they represent the mass of folks who make up the left, center-left and other Democratic voters who make up half the country.
I hate terrorism. I know the risks are real. But I also value American freedom and traditions. I don't blame Republicans for being very focused on terrorism; I blame them for doing it wrong.
"A Democrat points out Rahm apologized to Shriver, but not to the liberals he called 'retarded.'" More at Politico about this tempest in a teapot.
California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner always struck me a smart, level-headed guy. You don't make a fortune in Silicon Valley if you're a dummkopf. Of course, business smarts don't always translate into political smarts, as voters are learning to their chagrin today.
Poizner called a bizarre press conference in Sacramento on Monday, in which he accused former eBay CEO Meg Whitman -- his main rival for the Republican nomination for governor -- of "criminal" campaign tactics. Poizner wants the state attorney general's office and the FBI to investigate Whitman's campaign consultants.
Torey Van Oot of the Sacramento Bee reports the gory details:
GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner today said he has reported "threats" made by the Republican rival Meg Whitman's campaign adviser to law enforcement officials.
Poizner said at a press conference that Whitman campaign strategist Mike Murphy issued "crystal-clear" threats to his staff in an attempt to effectively "cancel the election" by pushing him to drop out of the race.
"This is not an attempt to be hardball and to be aggressive, but this is an attempt to effectively manipulate the election process, the integrity of the election process, by issuing these threats behind the scenes to get me not to run," he said.
The campaign provided a copy of an e-mail in which Murphy asks an unidentified Poizner campaign consultant if there is any chance Poizner, who is trailing Whitman in the polls and in campaign funds, will reconsider his run.
The e-mail, provided by the campaign to reporters and in a letter to law enforcement officials, says the Whitman camp can spend $40 million "tearing up Steve if we must."
"I hate the idea of us each spending $20 million beating on the other in the primary, only to have a damaged nominee," Murphy wrote, according to the e-mail.
In the e-mail, Murphy offers that the campaign could "unite the entire party behind Steve right now to build a serious race" for U.S. Senate in 2012.
In a letter sent to the FBI, U.S. Attorneys Office, Fair Political Practices Commission and state Attorney General Jerry Brown, Poizner also claims Murphy told a senior adviser that the campaign would "put (Poizner) through the wood chipper" if he did not drop out of the race.
Poizner evidently believes Murphy -- who often appears as a guest and occasionally fills in for Dennis Miller -- was being literal. If that's so, then Poizner isn't politically smart at all.
It is true that I have been trying to find a way to avoid a costly and unnecessary Republican primary. I believe it is important that Republicans across California unite around Meg Whitman to defeat Jerry Brown in the fall. It is also true that I am not the only one with this view. Many Republican leaders are more and more concerned that the Poizner campaign, now 28+ points behind in the polls and still sinking, is becoming little more than a stalking horse for Jerry Brown and the Democrats, especially since Commissioner Poizner has been loudly threatening to run a multi-million dollar negative campaign against Meg Whitman for months.
Several weeks ago I was advised by a source close to Steve Poizner that his pollster, my old friend Jan van Lohuizen, had been expressing grave doubts about the viability of the faltering Poizner campaign. So I emailed Jan; this is the email the Commissioner is so excited about. About ten days ago I also placed a phone call to a second senior Poizner consultant. We had a nice talk and discussed the option of Poizner considering a race for Senate in 2012. The consultant offered to discuss this with Commissioner Poizner and asked for a number where I could be called back. I do not plan to make any further comment on these discussions, as I do not want to create even more embarrassment for his consultants or get anybody fired.
Judging from the Commissioner's rant today concerning the FBI and Jerry Brown, I take it the Commissioner's answer is "no."
There's more. (Murphy also expresses concern about Poizner's "mental condition.")
This is not good for Poizner, who is, in fact, trailing badly in the polls. No doubt his advisors thought he could portray Whitman as just another vicious pol disguised as a business-savvy outsider in an election year down on "politics as usual." Unfortunately, Poizner comes off as an underdog desperate to get traction. (Hugh Hewitt says much the same.)
It's really too bad, because Whitman is such a lame candidate. Her radio ads are as tedious as they are ubiquitous. She's currently traveling the country to peddle her new book of clichés. After Tom Campbell jumped to the Senate race, I had hoped Poizner would make a stronger showing. Instead, he's imploding. Just as well. If Poizner thinks Whitman is nasty, he wouldn't last five minutes in a stand-up fight with Jerry Brown or the SEIU.
Steve Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute and author of the Age of Reagan joins us again for something completely different. In addition to being a political historian, Hayward has also produced for 14 years the Index of Leading Environmental Indicators. (Soon to receive a J.J. Abramsian reboot, as Steve reveals.) So Steve agreed to doff his green cap to talk about the politics of climate change, cap-and-trade, and other enviro-follies. As a bonus, Hayward discusses some of the implications of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizen's United v. FEC.
(We recorded this a week ago, but some technical hurdles prevented us from posting it until now. Apologies. But it turns out that our timing may be better than we thought, especially with new revelations and questions about the International Panel on Climate Change.)
Among the questions we explore:
• What's the matter with Al Gore?
• What is the true significance of the "Climategate" controversy?
• Does Scott Brown's election in Massachusetts spell the end of cap-and-trade?
• Will California back away from its ambitious carbon-capping plans, too?
• How can casual observers make smart judgments in the climate change debate?
• What is the most important environmental challenge facing the world today? (Hint: It isn't warming, but it is real.)
• Why do corporations have free speech?
• Will the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United lead to more openness and transparency or much less of both?
Music heard in this podcast:
• "Warmer Than Hell," Spinal Tap
• "Al for All (and All for Al)," The Political Ice Caps
• "Acid Rain," Timbuk 3
• "Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)," Marvin Gaye
• "Hungry Planet," The Byrds
• "Free Speech in America," Blusion
• "Swarfiga," Kasabian
President Bush's infamous "16 words" in his 2003 State of the Union address:
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
These words were "infamous" because the left claimed (and still claims) that this was a lie. But it was not a lie. The British government believed that, shared that intelligence with the United States, and last I heard still stands by its word all these years later.
President Obama's infamous 29 words in his 2010 State of the Union address:
“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections.”
This is, in fact — if not a lie — an egregious misrepresentation of the Citizen's United decision, which plainly states on pages 46 and 47:
We need not reach the question whether the Government has a compelling interest in preventing foreign individuals or associations from influencing our Nation’s political process.... Section 441b [of current campaign finance law] is not limited to corporations or associations that were created in foreign countries or funded predominantly by foreign shareholders. Section 441b therefore would be overbroad even if we assumed, arguendo, that the Government has a compelling interest in limiting foreign influence over our political process.
In other words, the court's decision in Citzens United does not do anything to weaken (let alone repeal) current law preventing foreign corporations "to spend without limit in our elections."
Because I was covering Congress at the time, I remember how much of a tizzy Bush's "16 words" caused in Washington. Members of Congress demanded he apologize (for starters) for supposedly misrepresenting the facts and misleading the American people — despite the fact that he did not misrepresent the facts and what he said was not misleading.
But here we have President Obama, a supposed constitutional scholar, stating something that is flat-out wrong about the Citizens United free speech case. There are only two explanations for why he said what he said: (1) he, or his speech-writers and his entire White House staff, didn't read the decision very carefully; or (2) he knows the truth and engaged in willingly false demagoguery. Either one warrants an apology. And I hope for Obama's sake that this resulted because of option No. 1.
More fallout from President Obama's denunciation of the Supreme Court during Wednesday's State of the Union. The Wall Street Journal's editors "unpack the falsehoods" the president managed to load into three sentences:
The Court didn't reverse "a century of law," but merely two more recent precedents, one from 1990 and part of another from 2003. Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce in 1990 had set the Court in a markedly new direction in limiting independent corporate campaign expenditures. This is the outlier case that needed to be overturned.
Mr. Obama is also a sudden convert to stare decisis. Does he now believe that all Court precedents of a certain duration are sacrosanct, such as Plessy v. Ferguson (separate but equal, 1896), which was overturned by Brown v. Board (1954)? Or Bowers v. Hardwick (a ban on sodomy, 1986), which was overturned by Lawrence v. Texas (2003)?
The President's claim about "foreign entities" bankrolling U.S. political campaigns is also false, since the Court did not overrule laws limiting such contributions. His use of "foreign" was a conscious attempt to inflame public and Congressional opinion against the Court. Coming from a President who fancies himself a citizen of the world, and who has gone so far as foreswear American exceptionalism, this leap into talk-show nativism is certainly illuminating. What will they think of that one in the cafes of Berlin?
I think the last point is arguable, but the bottom line is strong.
Judge not the words themselves, but their effect on the audience. The president fully expected that his hundreds of supporters in the legislative branch would stand and cheer, while the justices remained seated and silent, unable to respond even afterward. Moreover, the president's speech was only released about 30 minutes before the event, after the justices were already present. In short, the head of the executive branch ambushed six members of the judiciary, and called upon the legislative branch to deride them publicly. If you missed it, check the YouTube video. No one could reasonably believe in their heart that this was respectful behavior.
Then there is the substance of the remark itself. It was factually wrong. The Court's ruling in Citizens United concerned the right of labor unions and domestic corporations, including nonprofits, to express their views about candidates in media such as books, films and TV within 60 days of an election. In short, it concerned freedom of speech; in particular, an independent film critical of Hillary Clinton funded by a nonprofit corporation.
While the Court reversed a 1990 decision allowing such a ban, it left standing current restrictions on foreign nationals and "entities." Also untouched was a 100-year-old ban on domestic corporate contributions to political campaigns to which the president was presumably referring erroneously.
That is a whole lot to get wrong in 72 sanctimonious words.
Ouch. Just imagine what would happen if Barnett turned his attention to the other 7,100.
Finally, I can scarcely believe I agree with everything Jonathan Chait writes here. But I do!
CNN's State of the Union focus group reveals that independents are tired of "hope." Notes the American Spectator's Philip Klein, "As always with focus groups, this needs to be taken with a grain of salt." It's nice to know, however, that I'm not the only one who has a negative visceral reaction to the word in almost any context.
Still, one shouldn't get too cocky about President Obama's apparent reversal of fortune among independents, because that would be racist, says San Francisco Chronicle blogger Zennie Abraham:
But when the hangover from the SOTU cleared, and the GOP realized what happened, some conservatives went for the racial-code-word jugular and sounded like White Supremacists in the process.
One such example is Red State's Erick Erickson.
In his Red State blog post, Erick Erickson used a word that's has a totally racist connection to describe President Obama's delivery: "cocky."
What you did not know at home listening to Barack Obama's speech tonight is that he inserted a few quips that were not in the prepared text. They were cocky and snide.
Erick Erickson, forgetting that Barack Obama is President of The United States, or perhaps upset about it, echoed the same views expressed over at the White Supremacist website Stormfront....
Abraham proceeds to quote from some obscure racist nobody's ever heard of, and concludes:
In other words, Erick Erickson and Red State apparently think that this African American President needs to be "slammed back" because he's too "cocky" and presumably like other black men should know his place.
Apparently, Nat X moved to San Francisco and started a blog when The Man took his show off the air.
Does anyone seriously buy these tendentious claims anymore? Anyone who is not wholly invested in the race hustling racket, I mean? Good grief.
The mighty Hadley Arkes makes a brief but compelling case at the Corner for abandoning the State of the Union's "monarchical" format.
Arkes is on to something. (Mark Steyn agrees and riffs on the idea a little more.) The annual spectacle Americans know today is an innovation that dates only to Woodrow Wilson. The Constitution says only that the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union." Until the vainglorious and megalomaniacal Woodrow showed up, every president simply wrote a report and sent it over to Capitol Hill. The old way was better.
I didn't watch Obama's address live; I heard a few minutes of it on the radio. And then I read the full text before I listened to more audio today. It reads better than it sounded.
The takeaway from President Obama's first official State of the Union address may not be the (bogus) spending freeze, his call for a jobs bill, education reform, or the pledge to end the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Rather, the most significant moment was this passage from the speech assailing the Supreme Court's decision last week in Citizens United v. FEC, and Justice Samuel Alito's reaction to it:
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well, I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.
Nice touch there with the bit about "all due deference."* Just after Obama finishes saying "including foreign corporations," Justice Alito -- who is already shaking his head -- can clearly be seen saying the words, "Not true."
As more than one blogger has pointed out, this is another "Joe Wilson moment"... not for Alito, but for the president. Rep. Wilson of South Carolina famously shouted "You lie!" from the gallery last autumn when President Obama last addressed a joint session of Congress on health care reform. Specifically, Wilson objected to Obama's claim that the bill then under consideration would not cover illegal aliens. Wilson's outburst may have been indecorous -- and he did subsequently apologize -- but it also had the virtue of being true.
Although Alito's more dignified retort may have appeared awkward to some -- Orin Kerr, Kashmir Hill and Allahpundit are among those who think the justice should have sat in silence and let the president "demagogue the First Amendment" -- he was also telling the truth.
The president, however, was not.
Bradley Smith, former FEC commissioner, says flatly: "The president's statement is false."
The Court held that 2 U.S.C. Section 441a, which prohibits all corporate political spending, is unconstitutional. Foreign nationals, specifically defined to include foreign corporations, are prohibiting from making "a contribution or donation of money or ather thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State or local election" under 2 U.S.C. Section 441e, which was not at issue in the case. Foreign corporations are also prohibited, under 2 U.S.C. 441e, from making any contribution or donation to any committee of any political party, and they prohibited from making any "expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication... ."
In the history of the State of the Union has any President ever called out the Supreme Court by name, and egged on the Congress to jeer a Supreme Court decision, while the Justices were seated politely before him surrounded by hundreds Congressmen [sic]? To call upon the Congress to countermand (somehow) by statute a constitutional decision, indeed a decision applying the First Amendment? What can this possibly accomplish besides alienating Justice Kennedy who wrote the opinion being attacked. Contrary to what we heard during the last administration, the Court may certainly be the object of presidential criticism without posing any threat to its independence. But this was a truly shocking lack of decorum and disrespect towards the Supreme Court for which an apology is in order. A new tone indeed.
But perhaps the most subtly devastating reply to Obama's attack comes from none other than the New York Times' former Supreme Court correspondent, Linda Greenhouse:
The law that Congress enacted in the populist days of the early 20th century prohibited direct corporate contributions to political campaigns. That law was not at issue in the Citizens United case, and is still on the books. Rather, the court struck down a more complicated statute that barred corporations and unions from spending money directly from their treasuries — as opposed to their political action committees — on television advertising to urge a vote for or against a federal candidate in the period immediately before the election. It is true, though, that the majority wrote so broadly about corporate free speech rights as to call into question other limitations as well — although not necessarily the existing ban on direct contributions.
But this was a populist night and the target was irresistible. There are a variety of specific proposals floating around to address the Citizens United decision. The president offered no specifics and did not endorse any of them. Just as the decision doesn’t lend itself to a sound bite, neither do the fixes.
Greenhouse tries to offer the best possible spi... er, interpretation of what the president said, but there can be no denying that he botched a cheap attempt to score populist points. Worse, this one brief moment may completely overshadow everything else he attempted to do with the speech. If none dare call it "arrogance", may we at least call it folly?
* By the way, I reject the view that Obama's critique of the Supreme Court is somehow unprecedented or especially alarming because of the venue in which he made it. Here's an example of what I mean from The American Spectator's blog: "Has a president ever attacked The U.S. Supreme Court like that in such an august setting?" I don't know the answer to that, but I'm sure some enterprising blogger will fill us in before breakfast. (Update: See here.) Clearly, American history is replete with examples of U.S. presidents battling the High Court for political supremacy. Andrew Jackson, anyone? And as Kevin Mooney points out in that Spectator post, "President Franklin Roosevelt's attacks on the judiciary ultimately worked to his political disadvantage back in the 1930s." Obama can expect no different.
Good news from Menifee, where parents and school district officials have come to their senses about Webster's dictionary. The Press-Enterprise reports:
The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary will return to fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms at Oak Meadows Elementary School, a committee of Menifee Union School District parents, teachers and administrators decided Tuesday.
An alternate dictionary also will be placed in the classrooms, and parents will have the option of choosing which dictionary their child can use, Superintendent Linda Callaway said in a statement about the committee's decision at a school board meeting Tuesday.
School officials pulled the Merriam-Webster dictionaries from classrooms last week after an Oak Meadows parent complained about a child stumbling across definitions for "oral sex."
The decision to offer both dictionaries was made by a committee of about a dozen school administrators, teachers and parents. School board policy calls for such a committee to be formed when classroom materials are challenged.
Here's a PDF of the school district's statement on the resolution. I'm pleased that Menifee's elementary school kids will continue to have access to first-rate dictionaries. Their teachers and administrators, however, could use a remedial course in writing simply and directly.
Menifee's absurd dictionary ban made me reach for my own copy of Webster's -- I don't actually have the "controversial" Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Tenth Edition in my library, but I do have a copy of Webster's II New College Dictionary. And therein lies a short story.
The dictionary was a gift from my late friend Chris Warden, on the occasion of the birth of my son Benjamin. Chris loved the language; he knew I did, too; and so he expected I would impart that love to my first-born. Lord knows I'm trying.
Truth is, I had forgotten where this dictionary came from. And so I forgot what Chris wrote on the flyleaf. Here it is:
To combat consternation
Calm, cool cerebration
A concatenation of confusion
Conspires with chaos, a constant collusion
Yet a conservative confluence
of candor and comprehension
Will compel composure, commute contention
Collect the truth
Claim your faults
A happy accident... and a charming, bittersweet reminder of Chris's wit and wisdom.
And I am quoting from the Washington Times, July 2006.
This just re-emerged, unbidden, from my subconscious this morning as I was assessing students in Algebra 1:
That is all.
Turns out, that's Herbert's lead -- RCP appropriated it for the headline; the Times's head was "Obama's Credibility Gap." Meh.
In any event: Who is Barack Obama? Who is Barack Obama?!?
Here's Herbert walking down a well-trodden path:
Americans are still looking for the answer, and if they don’t get it soon — or if they don’t like the answer — the president’s current political problems will look like a walk in the park.
Mr. Obama may be personally very appealing, but he has positioned himself all over the political map: the anti-Iraq war candidate who escalated the war in Afghanistan; the opponent of health insurance mandates who made a mandate to buy insurance the centerpiece of his plan; the president who stocked his administration with Wall Street insiders and went to the mat for the banks and big corporations, but who is now trying to present himself as a born-again populist.
Mr. Obama is in danger of being perceived as someone whose rhetoric, however skillful, cannot always be trusted. He is creating a credibility gap for himself, and if it widens much more he won’t be able to close it.
In danger of being perceived as such by whom, Mr. Herbert? Independents? They're already disaffected. Leftists? Depends which leftists you talk to, I guess. Rank-and-file Democrats? Maybe. But once you've lost the hard-core activists and the fickle independents, where does that leave you?
Right about here.
*With apologies to James Taranto.
Good news! The Congressional Budget Office says the deficit is getting smaller. "Emergency spending to combat last year's recession combined with a muted recovery will push this year's federal budget deficit to $1.35 trillion, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday," according to our friends at the Washington Post.
What's that? You say the news is freighted with caveats and exceptions?
"The figure represents a slight improvement over previous projections but would still be one of the deepest budget holes since the end of World War II."
Well, sure. Even so, the deficit is headed in the right direction and as long as the economy continues to improve, the numbers aren't likely to get any worse, right?
"And the numbers, the CBO notes, are likely to get substantially worse."
Oh... dear. And why is that, exactly?
"This year's deficit -- which is only slightly lower than the $1.4 trillion the government racked up last year -- would continue to expand if Congress approves additional spending this year. The House, for example, has already approved a jobs measure costing more than $150 billion, and the Senate is considering a package of tax cuts and social safety net programs that would cost more than $80 billion."
The other problem is taxes, which are likely to go up if Congress and President Obama let the Bush tax cuts expire and do not make the necessary adjustments to the alternative minimum tax to spare millions of middle-income earners from an unpleasant surprise. Genuine tax reform isn't on this administration's agenda.
Although the CBO says nothing about President Obama's proposed three-year spending spree, the Post notes the move "would save only about $15 billion next year but as much as $250 billion over the next decade." That doesn't even cover a fraction of the U.S. debt payment.
Never mind. Party on.
We Monkeys used "Cover It Live" in 2008 to live-blog a few primary and presidential debates. They are good fun, especially when friends pop in to help with the commentary, and can be quite informative. Well, my employer, The Heartland Institute, is going to be live-blogging President Obama's first State of the Union address on Wednesday night.
Your humble Dr. Zaius will be there along with several other scholars and fellows from the free-market, libertarian think tank. I'll be representing InfoTech & Telecom News, the publication I edit, and you can show up here just before the speech starts at 9 p.m. EST, 6 p.m. PST to participate with your own comments. (To register a few hours beforehand, go here and mess with the stuff beneath the speech countdown ticker.)
Be there, or be square!
A team of Heartland Institute policy experts will be offering live online coverage of President Barack Obama's first State of the Union Address on Wednesday, January 27, starting at 9:00 pm EST.
The live-blogging team will be hosted by Research Fellow Ben Domenech, managing editor of Health Care News, and James G. Lakely, codirector of Heartland's Center on the Digital Economy and managing editor of InfoTech & Telecom News.
The pair will be joined by policy experts on budget and tax, environment, and finance and insurance issues. The blog also will be open to participation by citizen bloggers and elected officials from across the country.
Advance registration is not required, but to sign up for an email reminder, visit one of these Web sites:
Budget & Tax News: www.budgetandtax-news.org
Environment & Climate News: www.environmentandclimate-news.org
Health Care News: www.healthpolicy-news.org
InfoTech & Telecom News: www.infotech-news.org