Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, like so many Americans, dislikes air travel. Her December 20 column devotes a few paragraphs to the horrors of sitting on an airplane, among which is the ever-present threat that the seat assigned to you "was used on the last flight by a Senegalese tourist with typhus." And if the risk of louse-borne diseases from African tourists weren't enough, there are also people -- other people -- on the flight who do things like interact with one another:
The words you always hear are "We have a full flight today," and they do, which is bad news because of America's Personal Physical Boundary Crisis. Our countrymen increasingly lack a sense of where their physical space ends and yours begins. The young, blond Viking-looking woman with the big purse and the jangly bracelets, waving her arms and yelling to her friends across the aisle; the big, wide man who takes not only the arm rest when you're in the middle seat but the shoulder and leg space...
Imagine these people with phones. It will be hell. Their voices will have no boundaries. And they are precisely the people who'll make the most calls, because they understand their urgent need to chatter is more important than your hope for quiet.
There will be the moment when softly and with a smile, you ask if he could lower his voice just a bit. He will not. He's on with the office, it's very important. So after half an hour you'll gesture to the stewardess, and she'll say something to the man, and he'll snap the phone shut but he's resentful, and you have to sit next to angry, no-boundaries man for another four hours...
"These people" do indeed sound troublesome, but at least they're not disease-ridden tourists from economically disadvantaged parts of the world.
Speaking of economic disadvantage, a few paragraphs after Noonan vents at having to share space with people less well-off than herself, she approvingly quotes an anonymous "billionaire of New York" who can't abide by economic inequality:
A billionaire of New York, in conversation: "I hate it when the market goes up. Every time I hear the stock market went up I know the guillotines are coming closer." This was interesting in part because the speaker has a lot of money in the market. But he meant it. He is self-made, broadly accomplished, a thinker on politics, and for a moment he was sharing the innards of his mind. His biggest concern is the great and growing distance between the economically successful and those who have not or cannot begin to climb. The division has become too extreme, too dramatic, and static. He fears it will eventually tear the country apart and give rise to policies that are bitter and punishing, not helpful and broadening.
So the Peggy Noonan approach to economic inequality advocates closing the distance between the haves and the have-nots, but preferably in a way that involves no actual contact between the two. Because you never know who might have typhus.
With the Megyn Kelly "white Santa" story entering its improbable sixth day, Fox News has pulled out the big gun: Bill O'Reilly. Whenever Fox is in the headlines for an embarrassing gaffe or flagrant rupture of journalistic ethics, you can count on O'Reilly -- the network's most-watched and most doggedly loyal personality -- to do a little pinch-hit PR. O'Reilly defended his new primetime colleague's assertion of the historical fact of Santa Claus' whiteness as "totally harmless." The real bad actors, according to O'Reilly, are Fox News' critics and "the far left," who are obsessed with race ("any talk of skin color brings out the zealots") and jealous of how successful the network is.
But O'Reilly coming to bat for Megyn Kelly -- not just defending a colleague but the substance of her argument -- undercuts the network's already dubious campaign to present Kelly as an island of "Fair and Balanced" objectivity in a sea of conservative commentary.
Here's what O'Reilly said:
But in this case Miss Kelly is correct. Santa was a white person. Does that matter? No. It doesn't matter. The spirit of Santa transcends all racial boundaries. It's a spirit based on generosity, kindness to children, and magical moments. But for those who despise the Fox News Channel there's nothing magical about anything we do here. Again, a little history. When we first started up more than seventeen years ago, the mainstream media was dismissive -- believing CNN and MSNBC would crush us. And they were wrong. When that became apparent, the liberal media attacked and continues to do so today. Because they cannot defeat us on the media battlefield, the far left seeks to demonize Fox News as a right-wing propaganda machine and a racist enterprise. That's why Ms. Megyn got headlines about a Santa Claus remark that was totally harmless.
Let's set something straight here. For O'Reilly to reassert the whiteness of Santa and then say "it doesn't matter" isn't actually a defense of Kelly -- it's a repudiation. Kelly's segment was premised on the idea that Santa's whiteness does, in fact, matter. It was a response to a Slate article arguing that "Santa should not be a white man anymore" but should rather, to borrow from O'Reilly, "transcend all racial boundaries." Kelly's counterargument was, essentially, "Nope, Santa's white. Deal with it."
The latest development in the never-ending soap opera of congressional budget negotiations is that Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) are close to reaching a limited deal to partially replace spending cuts imposed earlier this year (the much-maligned sequestration). The details of the deal are not known, but that hasn't stopped conservative activist groups and pundits from denouncing Ryan -- a long-time conservative hero for his austere budget proposals -- as a sellout.
The Washington Post laid out what little is known about the emerging deal:
Senior aides familiar with the talks say the emerging agreement aims to partially repeal the sequester and raise agency spending to roughly $1.015 trillion in fiscal 2014 and 2015. That would bring agency budgets up to the target already in place for fiscal 2016. To cover the cost, Ryan and Murray are haggling over roughly $65 billion in alternative policies, including cuts to federal worker pensions and higher security fees for the nation's airline passengers.
Salon's Brian Beutler notes that if the deal ends up looking like this rough outline, then there's no real reason for conservatives to be all that upset: "If inked, it wouldn't raise revenue through the tax code, and would protect the Defense Department from sequestration's most severe cuts. At the same time, some of the savings in the deal would likely come out of the hide of federal workers."
And yet, the outcry from activists was swift. Groups like Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, and FreedomWorks are urging conservative members of Congress to vote against the budget deal, even though they don't know what the deal actually looks like.
Appearing on Fox News on December 10, Stuart Varney trashed the deal, calling it "a handshake deal. It does absolutely nothing to resolve the basic problems which we're facing. It does not tackle entitlement reform, it does not tackle tax reform, and it does nothing to drastically reduce the debt."
Fox News won't let the Benghazi story peter out, and they're going to recycle as much old news as they can to keep it going. Fox chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reports on December 4 that "CIA personnel who testified Tuesday on the Benghazi attack provided new evidence that it was premeditated, telling lawmakers that the deadly mortar strike on the CIA annex began within minutes of a rescue team's arrival, Fox News has learned."
For anyone who's been following Benghazi reporting, the "new evidence" that the CIA annex came under mortar fire shortly after the rescue team arrived is really, really old information.
Here's CBS News' timeline of the attack, published in May:
5:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m. ET): The U.S. Regional Security Office in Tripoli gets a phone call from an Arabic-speaking source who says a Westerner has been found in Benghazi and is perhaps at a hospital. It's believed to be Ambassador Stevens. Transfer to airport is arranged.
At around the same time, the additional security team finds transportation from the airport under the escort of the Libyan Shield, another local militia, but decides to head to the annex after learning that Stevens was almost certainly dead. Just after their arrival, the annex takes mortar fire, sustaining three direct hits. The precision of the attacks indicates a level of sophistication and coordination.
Here's the State Department Accountability Review Board's report on the attacks, released in December 2012:
The seven-person response team from Embassy Tripoli arrived in Benghazi to lend support. It arrived at the Annex about 0500 local. Less than fifteen minutes later, the Annex came under mortar and RPG attack, with five mortar rounds impacting close together in under 90 seconds. Three rounds hit the roof of an Annex building, killing security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. The attack also severely injured one ARSO and one Annex security team member. Annex, Tripoli, and ARSO security team members at other locations moved rapidly to provide combat first aid to the injured.
And, just for good measure, here's Fox News' Jennifer Griffin, from this past July:
Doherty left Tripoli at about midnight local time, after chartering a local plane for the rescue. There were no U.S. air assets in Tripoli. He and the quick reaction force arrived at the CIA annex at 5:15 a.m. after being delayed for several hours at the Benghazi airport by the Libyans. The CIA annex, a fortress-like compound with several buildings, is where the Americans in Benghazi had retreated and the body of State Department official Sean Smith had been brought after the initial attack. At the time, Stevens was still missing.
Doherty joined Tyrone Woods, another highly trained former SEAL, on the roof of one of the buildings at the CIA annex. Within minutes, mortars were fired. Doherty and Woods were both killed.
This coming Friday, CNN will once again turn over its airwaves to everyone's favorite caliphate-spotting, end-times-prophesying, gold-huckstering bad novelist: Glenn Beck. He will be the special guest for the entirety of the December 6 edition of Piers Morgan Live, which will be guest-hosted by S.E. Cupp, the co-host of CNN's Crossfire who pulls double duty as a contributor to Beck's news venture, The Blaze. Beck's return to CNN (he decamped from the network in 2008, describing the newsroom environment as a "pit of despair") will "likely" feature, according to The Blaze, a discussion of "Beck's latest book, 'Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America,' the creation of TheBlaze and current events."
So CNN will have a conservative pundit interview her own boss about his various business ventures for an entire hour, which should allow plenty of time for all the various conflicts of interest this presents to come to the fore.
But if CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker is to be believed, this is the sort of programming we should come to expect from CNN going forward. "We're all regurgitating the same information. I want people to say, 'You know what? That was interesting. I hadn't thought of that,'" Zucker told Capital New York during a recent interview. "The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts."
If you're looking to send a message that you're prioritizing "attitude" (Zucker's word) and showmanship over actual useful information, an hour-long primetime interview with Glenn Beck is an excellent way to do that.
According to a tweet from Cupp, her CNN interview with Beck has been rescheduled due to the ice storm in Texas.
Way back in November 2008, Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed for the New York Times that bore the headline: "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." At the time, the economy was crashing and the Bush White House was considering a multi-billion dollar bailout of the auto industry to prevent its collapse and the resulting wholesale economic devastation. Romney argued against the bailout, pushing instead for a "managed bankruptcy" for the troubled automakers, which he referred to collectively as "Detroit."
Four years later, Romney was the Republican presidential candidate, and that op-ed became the subject of repeated attacks from Barack Obama, who supported the auto bailout and wanted to remind voters that the automobile industry had been saved by timely government intervention. "We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt. We bet on American workers and American ingenuity, and three years later, that bet is paying off in a big way," Obama said at the time, also referring to the automobile industry by its well-known nickname, "Detroit."
Jump forward to the present day, and the city of Detroit (not the automobile industry both Romney and Obama referred to as "Detroit," which has flourished) is declaring bankruptcy. It's an unfortunate state of affairs for a great American city. What's also unfortunate is how many conservatives are using Detroit's bankruptcy to claim that Mitt Romney was right and Obama broke his promise when he said he "refused to let Detroit go bankrupt" -- knowingly and deliberately confusing "Detroit" as it refers to the auto industry with Detroit the city.
The Republican strategy for the 2014 midterm elections is not a secret: tie the Affordable Care Act to vulnerable Democrats and hope it will drag them down to defeat. The road to GOP control of the Senate runs through Arkansas, where Rep. Tom Cotton (R) is challenging incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D), and Republicans are not shy about their plans to make the Arkansas race entirely about Pryor's vote for the ACA.
This narrative, and its presumption of the ACA's overwhelming political toxicity, finds expression in a December 3 Wall Street Journal article which frames the Arkansas Senate race as a referendum on Pryor's 2009 vote for the health care reform law. "Mr. Pryor's GOP opponent, Mr. Cotton, is making opposition to Mr. Obama and the health-care law the centerpiece of his campaign," the Journal observes. What's missing from the article, for all its assumptions of political fallout from Pryor's support of the ACA, is any recognition of the fact that Arkansas actually represents an unlikely Obamacare success story.
According to the Journal:
Republicans believe Democrats running in 2014 will be hard pressed to distance themselves from criticism of the health-law rollout, as well as the political burden imposed by Mr. Obama's sinking approval ratings.
Mr. Pryor still backs the law but echoes other swing-state Democrats who say it needs fixing. Mr. Pryor supports legislation that would allow people to recover health policies that were canceled because they didn't meet the law's new standards.
The health law was a big part of the political fall of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark.), who lost her re-election to Republican Rep. John Boozman in 2010. Democrats hope it will be a far smaller political problem by the midterm elections, assuming the government website continues to improve and the law's benefits come to be felt more broadly.
No one is going to argue that President Obama is popular in Arkansas -- he lost the state handily to Mitt Romney in 2012 -- and it stands to reason that his signature piece of legislation would also be viewed uncharitably. But Arkansas, for all its political hostility to the ACA, is one of the states making health care reform work.
The conservative reaction to the U.S.-backed six-country deal with Iran to temporarily curb that country's nuclear program has been predictably hyperbolic. Right-leaning commentators are falling over themselves to call deal the worst foreign policy debacle since the 1938 Munich Agreement, in which Allied powers ceded portions of Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler to avoid war. Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal (who won a Pulitzer for commentary earlier this year) took it a step further, calling the deal "worse than Munich" in a November 26 column.
The implied comparison of 2013 Iran to the Nazi war machine is, to put it gently, stupid. Reason's Matt Welch already took it apart ("2013 Iran is to 1938 Germany what a flea is to a Tyrannosaurus Rex") and Foreign Policy's Daniel Drezner observes that spittle-flecked, sky-is-falling commentary of this sort is a too common feature of foreign policy punditry.
But let's take it face-value for a moment. The Iran deal is only a few days old and already it's "worse than Munich"? The reasoning behind that judgment, according to Stephens, was that while the Munich Agreement didn't prevent the war Hitler so desperately wanted, it did buy time for Britain and France to ramp up their war machines in preparation for the war's eventual outbreak. The Iran deal, he argues, has no "redeeming or exculpating aspects," which might explain why he devoted precisely zero words of his column to explaining what the deal actually contains. And, as ThinkProgress' Zack Beauchamp notes, Stephens certainly didn't "point to anything in the Iran deal worse than delivering Czech Jews to Hitler's tender mercies."
That right there is the missing perspective on all this "worse than Munich" business. Regardless of whether you think the Munich Agreement was a naïve attempt at peace-through-appeasement or the only option available to the Allies, it nonetheless precipitated a massive human rights calamity before the ink on the signatures had a chance to dry.
60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan and her producer Max McClellan will reportedly be taking a leave of absence from the program, per a memo from CBS News chairman (and 60 Minutes executive producer) Jeff Fager obtained by Huffington Post media reporter Michael Calderone.
Calderone wrote on November 26:
Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of '"60 Minutes," informed staff Tuesday that Lara Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, would be taking a leave of absence following an internal report on the newsmagazine's discredited Oct. 27 Benghazi report.
The memo lays out the findings of CBS News' internal investigation, led by CBS News executive producer Al Ortiz, into Logan's badly flawed October 27 60 Minutes report on the 2012 Benghazi attacks. CBS News withdrew the report after the credibility of Logan's Benghazi "eyewitness," security contractor Dylan Davies, crumbled amid allegations that he had lied about being at the besieged diplomatic compound while the attacks were happening. Ortiz describes Logan's report as "deficient in several respects," and found that her "team did not sufficiently vet Davies' account of his own actions and whereabouts that night."
Ortiz also noted that Davies' book on his Benghazi experiences, The Embassy House, "was published by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, part of the CBS Corporation. 60 Minutes erred in not disclosing that connection in the segment." Simon & Schuster pulled the book from circulation after Davies' story fell apart. CBS News has not yet acknowledged that conflict of interest on-air.
Fager asked Logan and producer Max McClellan to go on leave from the program, and they both agreed to do so. "When faced with a such an error, we must use it as an opportunity to make our broadcast even stronger. We are making adjustments at 60 Minutes to reduce the chances of it happening again," wrote Fager.
In a statement, Media Matters chairman David Brock said:
From the start of this controversy, Media Matters has demanded that CBS review the flawed 60 Minutes report and take appropriate action. Today, the network has done that. We hope this serves as a lesson learned to CBS about the danger of misinformation.
The full memo from Fager and the conclusions from the internal review by Ortiz are below:
Washington Post political blogger Jennifer Rubin is, like most pundits sympathetic to the Republican cause, upset over the move by Democrats to change Senate rules so that judicial and executive branch nominees will no longer have to face down a filibuster in order to get a confirmation vote. "It's a bad way to run the country," Rubin writes. But at the same time she is wistful for what might have been had the filibuster been done away with long ago, and what the nation might have discovered about... Benghazi?
If only. . .
The president cared as much about Iran's nuclear option as he does the Senate's.
The nuclear option was in place for superbly qualified Republican-nominated judges like Miguel Estrada whom the Democrats filibustered.
The nuclear option had prevented Sen. Barack Obama from blocking the confirmation of John Bolton as United Nations Ambassador in 2005.
The nuclear option had removed fear of a filibuster and allowed Susan Rice to get nominated as secretary of state so then she could have been questioned about Benghazi.
This is a perplexing hypothetical. At the time Susan Rice's name was being thrown around as a potential nominee for Secretary of State, there were few people in the media who opposed the idea more than Jennifer Rubin. "From my perspective, it makes no sense to have a three-ring confirmation hearing and lose over a subpar nominee such as Rice," Rubin wrote on December 4, 2012. When Rice asked that her name be withdrawn from consideration for the position, Rubin wrote: "To be frank, she should never have been floated as a possible nominee."