From Ramesh Ponnuru January 11 post to his Washington Post Right Matters blog, headlined "Harry Reid and Trent Lott: There's No Comparison":
Republicans and conservatives are comparing Harry Reid's comment about "Negro dialect" to Trent Lott's remark about how we would have avoided a lot of problems if Strom Thurmond had been elected. Just as Republicans turned on Lott and forced him to give up the Senate majority leadership, they say, so Democrats should turn on Reid and make him resign his post.
But the comparison is off the mark. Lott's comment implied that the country would have been better off keeping segregation and enforced white supremacy. What Reid said isn't within a lightyear of that.
We had thought/hoped that no one else would be stupid enough to pick up and run with Erick Erickson's moronic attacks on Erroll Southers, President Obama's nominee to be chief of Transportation Security Administration. We were wrong.
Back story: In a 2008 interview, Southers discussed the dangers posed to the United States by Al Qaeda, as well as Middle-East-based groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. Asked about domestic groups, he referenced "World Church of the Creator, National Alliance, Aryan Nations," and black separatist groups. He was then asked, "Which home-grown terrorist groups pose the greatest danger to the US?" He replied:
Most of the domestic groups that we have to pay attention to here are white supremacist groups. They're anti-government and in most cases anti-abortion. They are usually survivalist type in nature, identity orientated. If you recall, Buford Furrow came to Los Angeles in, I believe it was 1999. When he went to three different Jewish institutions, museums, and then wound up shooting people at a children's community center, then shooting a fellow penal postal worker later on. Matthew Hale who's the Pontifex Maximus of the World Church of the Creator out of Illinois and Ben Smith who went on a shooting spree in three different cities where he killed a number of African Americans and Jews and Asians that day. Those groups are groups that claim to be extremely anti-government and Christian identity oriented.
In a reaction reminiscent of their frenzied response to the release of a Department of Homeland Security report on "rightwing extremists," the conservative blogosphere has decided that Southers' comments are either 1) actually targeting them or 2) worth mocking.
The video, headlined "Obama's TSA Nominee Worries About Those Who Are 'Christian Identity Oreiented' by Breitbart.tv, features Southers' comments with the captions "Anti-Abortionists?" "Survivalist-Types?" and "Identity-Oriented?" flashed over the video. At the end, a caption reads, "Christian Identity Oriented? What does that mean? Not fit to head the Transportation Safety Administration."
So in 2008, Southers noted that anti-abortion rights extremists and white supremacists could commit dangerous terrorist acts. In 2009, Dr. George Tiller was murdered by someone who opposed abortion rights, and a white supremacist shot up the Holocaust Museum, killing a guard. In 2010, the right-wing is mocking Southers for suggesting that white supremacists who are anti-abortion could be dangerous.
The ignorance of the "Christian Identity Oriented? What does that mean?" comment is similarly staggering.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, "Christian Identity is a religious ideology popular in extreme right-wing circles. Adherents believe that whites of European descent can be traced back to the 'Lost Tribes of Israel.' Many consider Jews to be the Satanic offspring of Eve and the Serpent, while non-whites are "mud peoples" created before Adam and Eve. Its virulent racist and anti-Semitic beliefs are usually accompanied by extreme anti-government sentiments." The ADL has written of Christian Identity attacks in the 1990s:
In the 1990s, Identity criminal activity continued apace, including efforts by an Oklahoma Identity minister, Willie Ray Lampley, to commit a series of bombings in the summer of 1995 in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh. The following year, the Montana Freemen, whose leaders were Identity, made headlines for their "paper terrorism" tactics and their 81-day standoff with the federal government. In 1998, Eric Rudolph, who had been associated with Identity ministers such as Nord Davis and Dan Gayman, became a fugitive after allegedly bombing gay bars, the Atlanta Summer Olympics, and an abortion clinic. The following year, Buford Furrow, a former Aryan Nations security guard, went on a shooting spree at a Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles, wounding four children and an adult, and later killing a Filipino-American postal worker.
Breitbart and co. apparently find anti-Semitic hate groups hilarious.
Eighty advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people." Here are his December 2 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
On page 218 of their book Game Change, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin write:
But Bill [Clinton] then went on, belittling Obama in a manner that deeply offended Kennedy. Recounting the conversation later to a friend, Teddy fumed that Clinton had said, A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.
Note the lack of quote marks around the statement attributed to Clinton. That means it's a paraphrase, not a direct quote. That means that Heilemann and Halperin did not or could not verify that Clinton said those exact words -- their source is not Kennedy or Clinton, but someone else who was supposedly aware of a later, alleged conversation between Kennedy and a "friend." As The Plum Line's Greg Sargent points out, the authors do indeed admit in their book: "Where dialog is not in quotes, it is paraphrased, reflecting only a lack of certainly on the part of our sources about precise wording, not about the nature of the statements."
As Sargent notes, Clinton may have said something along those lines, but: "In cases like these, when people are hinting at racism, the precise wording is everything. And in this case, the whole claim is based on an anonymous source's recollection that someone who has now passed away told him or her that Clinton said something like this."
So why are news organizations treating this as an exact, direct quote?
"A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee," the former president told the liberal lion from Massachusetts, according to the gossipy new campaign book, "Game Change."
"A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee," Clinton told Kennedy, according to the book -- a comment that angered Kennedy, who later endorsed Obama.
When powerful Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) was in the process of deciding which fellow Democrat to endorse, former President Bill Clinton reportedly made disparaging, apparently race-based remarks about Mr. Obama, commenting, "A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee."
In a phone call in which he tried to get the late Ted Kennedy's endorsement for Hillary Clinton's campaign, the former president said of Obama. "A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee." The book says the remark left Kennedy "fuming" and may have pushed him into the Obama camp.
From the January 11 edition of MSNBC's The Dylan Ratigan Show:
You'd expect right-wing websites to make ignore the fact that Clinton's statement is a paraphrase and not a quote -- Fox Nation, for example, was quick to oblige. Shouldn't the "mainstream media" have higher journalistic standards than Fox Nation?
From an interview with Esquire posted January 11:
I ask a question, and I am attacked from the extreme Left as a quote-unquote birther. I mean, what the hell is that? When you can create a controversy by asking what seems to me still a perfectly commonsense question? It has been used in the extreme Left to create a toxicity that is just unbelievable.
Marc Ambinder makes some good points in his post "In Defense of Double Standards, Sometimes" -- and one big mistake. I'll refer you to his site for the good points rather than attempting to paraphrase them.
Here's the big mistake: Ambinder isn't really defending "double standards."
It does not follow that similar incidents should be treated similarly, particularly if the magnitude of the differences are more significant than the similarities. Double standards are often defensible.
And here's the problem: If "the magnitude of the differences are more significant than the similarities," it isn't a situation where the phrase "double standard" is appropriate.
The phrase "double standard" means that two identical (OK, nearly identical) situations are being treated differently.
It doesn't make any sense to apply the phrase "double standard" to situations that have greater differences than similarities. It's like saying we have a double standard in the way we punish murderers and jay-walkers. Well, no: We have different standards for murderers and for jay-walkers, because they have done vastly different things.
Now, I'm sure some of you are thinking "OK, but isn't this just semantic nit-picking?"
No. When we use the phrase "double standard" in discussing disparate reactions to dissimilar events, we suggest that the events are not dissimilar. We blur the differences -- and, in doing so, we advantage the perpetrator of the greater misdeed.
Take a look at the reason this discussion has come up: Republicans (and many media figures) are saying or suggesting there is a double-standard in the way Democrats and Republicans are treated when they make racially-charged comments. The basic argument is that Republican Sen. Trent Lott lost his job as Majority Leader when he made such a comment, while Democrat Harry Reid has not lost his job. (A variant of the argument: Democrats -- and the media -- were more critical of Lott than Reid, so they have a double-standard for Democrats and Republicans.)
Now, let's review the two situations: Trent Lott suggested America would be a better place had we elected a white segregationist presidential candidate. Harry Reid used archaic language in talking about the black man whose presidential candidacy he supported.
Those are not the same things. They aren't even close to the same things. One is pretty clearly much, much worse than the other. And so the phrase "double standard" does not apply. In using it, rather than describing exactly what each man said, the media blurs the difference between their comments, suggesting they are the same (or, at least, equally bad.) They confuse, rather than clarify.
Like I said: Ambinder makes some good points. But he isn't really defending double-standards. He's defending treating different situations differently. One of the lessons journalists should take from his post is that the danger in habitually describing things as "double-standards" just because one side in a given dispute wants them to.
Tucker Carlson's new web site, The Daily Caller, launched today, featuring a column by The Weekly Standard's Matt Labash:
For those unfamiliar with me from my day job at The Weekly Standard, I'll give you a capsule bio by way of introduction: I have the gift of wisdom. Does that sound arrogant? I'm sorry, that wasn't my intention. I didn't choose wisdom. It chose me. If I had my druthers, I'd have chosen another gift, perhaps the untold riches of Lil' Wayne, whose teeth are made of actual diamonds, or to be the sexiest man alive, like Rachel Maddow. But wisdom is what they gave me, so wisdom is all I have to give back to you.
Funny, isn't it? No? Well, maybe you just don't get it. 'Cause, see, Rachel Maddow is gay. And so, according to Matt Labash, she's really a man. Now do you get it? No? Neither do I.
Oh, and later, Labash calls stop lights with cameras attached to photograph cars that run red lights "Legalized rape."
Tucker sure knows how to pick 'em, doesn't he?
In a January 11 column titled "Ask Matt Labash" posted on Tucker Carlson's newly launched website, The Daily Caller, Labash compares automatic speeding tickets to legalized rape, complete with a reference to Rohypnol. In response to a submitted question "Pick three government programs you would eliminate. Why?", Labash writes:
Legalized rape. What's that you say? Rape isn't sanctioned in this country? Then you must not live in a city with red-light or speed cameras, where it happens every day. Forget for a second that in one-fourth of all automated ticket cases, the ticketed car owner wasn't the one actually driving the vehicle at the time of the infraction (what other crime-fighting technology do we consider reliable that nabs the wrong person 25 percent of the time?) Just as heinous is that every year, more and more municipal governments pretend that they plant these all-seeing menaces in the interest of "safety." Yet every year, their revenues tend to increase from the very same technology. Meaning that the only deterrent effect the technology has is deterring your government from being honest about raping its own citizenry. If you're going to slide me a roofie, Government, at least take me to dinner and a movie first.
According to his Washington Post Writers Group bio, The Washington Journalism Review once named George Will "Best Writer, Any Subject." Seriously? We've documented Will's repeated false statements regarding global warming. We've even documented Will peddling misinformation about his beloved baseball. This Sunday brought another Will column in The Washington Post, which means more colossal twisting of the facts, this time about the causes of California's fiscal crisis.
Will asserted: "California, a laboratory of liberalism, is spiraling downward, driven by a huge budget deficit." He later catalogued the supposed problems with which liberalism has saddled California: "liberalism's redistributive itch" that created the current income tax structure, which causes people to flee from California and "intensifies the effects of business cycles on the state's revenue stream"; "liberalism's mania for micromanaging life with entangling regulations," which caused business to flee; "compassionate liberalism," which made California "an importer of Mexican poverty"; and "servile liberalism," which causes the state to be "run by and for unionized public employees."
That's a lot of name-calling, but shockingly little actual evidence that liberalism caused the problems California faces. So let's clear up a couple of facts for Will. First, about those taxes: California relies heavily on income taxes because of conservatives' actions. In 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13, which enacted a conservative wish list on taxes. It required that all property taxes throughout the state be limited to one percent of property values; it limited yearly increases in property taxes due to rising home values; it required all state tax increases to be passed by a two-thirds majority. So, California's tax structure as well as its inability to raise enough revenue to cover its budget is the result of conservatives getting their way on taxes, not liberalism gone wild.
Another problem with Will's argument that California's problems can all be traced to liberalism: In the time period he is discussing, Republicans controlled the California governor's seat for most of the time. Will quotes statistics from two overlapping time periods: 1990-2007 and 1992-2006. During the 1990-2007 period, Republicans controlled the governorship for all but five years. Indeed, from 1983 to the present, Democrats only controlled the governorship from 1999-2003, when current Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) defeated Gray Davis in a recall election.
So, to sum up, Will is blaming liberalism for California's fiscal woes despite the fact that the state's tax structure is shaped by a system conservatives put in place and even though Republicans sat in the governor's chair for almost the whole time period Will is discussing.