Time is not on our side, continued ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new Think Again column here called, "Now You Tell Us ..."

Time Columnist Countdown, March 26, 2007, edition

The roundup:

1) Time's Joe Klein, sucking up to conservative Christian Republican Mike Huckabee.

2) The Weekly Standard's Charles Krauthammer, condescending to Vice President Gore (and other "limousine liberal hypocrisy").

3) The Aspen Insitute's Walter Isaacson on Iran's ambassador (only two-thirds of a column).

4) (and if we include Time online) The Weekly Standard's William Kristol on Newt Gingrich.

The numbers:

Number of columnists who are conservatives (and neo-conservatives of various stripes) whose primary political motivation is hatred of liberals: 3

Number of columnists who are liberals: 0

Number of columnists who had the good sense to oppose the Iraq war: 0 (unless Walter did and I missed it)

Number of columnists who have accused those who did oppose it of a lack of patriotism: 3

Number of columnists who happen to be psychiatrists and joked, "It looks as if Al Gore has gone off his lithium again," when Gore gave his prophetic speech warning against the Bush invasion of Iraq, and who are invited again by Time to further slander Gore without any sense of responsibility for his past record for his false and slanderous record with regard to the man: 1

Excellent piece by Sam Tanenhaus on William F. Buckley in TNR, here ($). And note this ($) distinction:

But I think the distinction between the Republican Party and conservatism was an important distinction which has since been obliterated. It happened really, oddly, during the Clinton years. And so conservative shills, the really passionate defenders of Bush and Iraq -- thinking of Norman Podhoretz, Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard, Commentary people -- do not allow any daylight as far as I can see at least in practical terms, between the party and the movement. But Buckley and company were very different, Buckley founded National Review, making the famous assertion -- not in its pages but in notes and conversations -- that he would read the "liberal" Dwight Eisenhower out of the conservative movement. It was not tied to a party; they were suspicious of the Republican Party. So that introduced a nuance and subtlety that, as far as I can tell, vanished from the conservative movement, and it's become very much a partisan operation.

What the world needs now: A Mini-Marty.

Boehlert asks: What is the point of this NYT op-ed? A visiting scholar from University of Jerusalem is writing about BBC programming, and the whole thing is built around a what-if:

If the BBC's Arabic TV programs resemble its radio programs, then they will be just as anti-Western as anything that comes out of the Gulf, if not more so.

These are the media critiques the NYT editorial page is interested in?

Quote of the Day: "We've only had subpoena power for the last six weeks and every tree that we've barked up so far has had a cat in it," said a senior Democrat who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly. "Imagine where we'll be after six months." Here.

David Brooks puts it this way: "Say what you will about President Bush, when he thinks a policy is right, like the surge, he supports it, even if it's going to be unpopular. The Democratic leaders, accustomed to the irresponsibility of opposition, show no such guts." Here ($).

I'd have put it this way: "Say what you will about President Bush, when he thinks a policy is right, like the escalation, he supports it, even if it's going continue to kill thousands of people, including our soldiers, for no good reason except to excite further hatred of this country and our citizens as his policies have done so far. The Democratic leaders, accustomed to the irresponsibility of opposition, show no such delusions."

Cross-posted at HuffPo:

Reply to a Letter from Never-Never Land

I guess I have only myself to blame for this most recent pestering I'm receiving from the unrepentant Naderites. For a group whose candidate did not even amass even a half of a single percentage point in the last election, they sure know how to annoy. My first and most significant mistake was failing to figure out that the people who made the Nader documentary were, in fact, members of the cult themselves. No sensible person would give an interview about Reverend Moon to a group of Moonie filmmakers nor an interview about Lyndon LaRouche to a bunch of Larouche-niks. Expecting fair and balanced treatment -- in the old-fashioned sense of the word -- from Naderites in their Nader documentary was naïve in the extreme on my part, and that's entirely my fault.

Second, it was silly of me to think I could criticize their movie without inviting the kinds of cheap shots on display here. Just as they misrepresented the context of the arguments Todd Gitlin and I make in their movie, the filmmaker pretends -- again -- that I am addressing myself to the issue of screen time. As I made pretty clear yesterday, that's exactly the smokescreen they hid behind in the first place. The issue has nothing to do with me, whatsoever. I would have preferred to have been left out of this movie entirely, now that I know its purposes. The issue, as I've tried to explain, is addressed to their honesty of their presentation of the issues. This "Open Letter" -- the second one with which I have now been honored at HuffPo -- demonstrates to me, anyway, that they never had any intention of treating the issues raised by Nader's various campaigns with honesty and integrity and prefer, instead, to play games designed to make me look silly before their fellow cultists without ever once engaging the issues of Nader's responsibility for George Bush's presidency in an honest and forthright fashion.

A writer named Paul Hogarth, to whom I linked yesterday, does an admirable job in his short essay, "Re-Assessing Nader: A Selfish and Unreasonable Man," of explaining why the filmmakers' version of Nader is about as true to life as are Dick Cheney's assessment of the state of things in Iraq. Such is the wisdom of the True Believer that reality need not get in the way. Here are some excerpts. I hope I can drop the matter here, but I urge you to read the entire piece.

(Oh, and Steve, thanks anyway for the offer of the DVD, but seriously, I prefer Peter Pan. The 1953 Disney cartoon's re-release is quite a bit more entertaining and alas, however inadvertently, provides considerable insight into the recent career of Ralph Nader and his acolytes.) Here's Mr. Hogarth:

Don't be fooled by reviews that say "An Unreasonable Man," the new film about Ralph Nader, criticizes his 2000 presidential campaign. While the two-hour documentary gives face-time to Eric Alterman and Todd Gitlin who blame Nader for electing George Bush, the filmmakers just use them to create an illusion of credibility. Meanwhile, the film gives very short shrift to Nader's long consumer legacy - where he is portrayed in glowing terms as a saint, while papering over a disturbing trait from those years that explains why he later ran for President.

Rather than "unreasonable," Nader is a selfish egotist. Accountable to nobody. He burns through his disciples. He believes that any disagreement with him amounts to a betrayal. The film is propaganda at its worst - it pretends to see both sides of the issue, but really props up Nader for his 2008 presidential campaign.

[...]

[I]t's a glowing tribute to Nader ...

[...]

For my generation, Nader will always be remembered as the reckless ideologue who gave us the worst President in American history.

[...]

Nader treated any of his former employees who deviated from what he wanted as Benedict Arnolds in the highest degree.

[...]

By 1981, Nader celebrated the defeat of Jimmy Carter because "Reagan is going to breed the biggest resurgence in nonpartisan citizen activism in history."

[...]

To call Nader an "unreasonable man" in the context of the George Bernard Shaw quote is dangerously misleading. Nader was a brave crusader at the beginning of his career -- when he attacked General Motors for creating unsafe cars -- but by the 1970's he was a vicious egomaniac.

[...]

Today, he's even worse. Beyond "trying to adapt the world to himself," he has refused to adapt to any reality at all. The world has changed, and everything he has argued about electoral politics has been completely disproven in the last six years. But still, Ralph Nader insists on proving a point - and he doesn't seem to care how many more people suffer under Republican Administrations. After all, he's not poor and won't be hurt by the Bush budget cuts.

But you won't get this perspective from viewing "An Unreasonable Man." It's not a documentary -- it's a puff piece.

Blogger ethics panel time again (and again).

Also, fire Novak (again and again).

And retire already, David Broder.

Alter-reviews:

I was among the lucky few to catch one of Steve Earle's and Allison Moorer's shows at the Blue Note this week. You'll have to trust me that I have a bunch of conflicts writing about them, and so if I had thought it sucked, I wouldn't say anything at all. But of course it didn't suck at all. Allison is a luminous presence with a beautiful voice (and it isn't supposed to matter, but a face to match). Her new material is stronger than the old stuff, I think, and her version of "A Change is Gonna Come" is for the ages. Few Altercation readers will need to be informed, I think, of the greatness of Steve Earle as a songwriter. He is up there, methinks, with John Fogerty and Lucinda Williams in his ability to mine a vein of Americana that produces song after song that sounds as if it's been around for centuries (and will be centuries hence). The good news is that Steve's new material -- written since he moved to the Village from Nashville -- is as strong as ever. And to hear it in such an intimate setting was a rare and memorable treat.

Last night I went to see a wonderful show by the Fab Faux, in which they, together with a horn section, a string section and at least seven backup singers, cooked up a fantasy post-Beatles album called "Hot as Sun" made up of the best of the boys' early solo material. It was also a rare thrill. I mean, most of these songs had never been played live. And the Fabs are not a tribute band, all dressed up and stuff, they are a bunch of terrific musicians who dedicated themselves to doing justice to the material the band never played live. (The Beatles stopped touring in 1966 and never played live again, save the rooftop gig for "Let it Be.") And when you add up all those songs, particularly George's, and then pick and choose -- it comes out be just as great as the late Beatles' albums. Hearing it live in a room full of fellow nerds at Webster Hall was weirdly terrific. Check out the Fabs here to see if you might get the chance to see the same.

(I found myself thinking at this post-Beatles show that last weekend I saw Ratdog [post-Dead], and this weekend I'll try to pick up a ticket to see Levon Helm (post-Band), and the following weekend (and a few more after that) it's the post Duane/Berry/Dickie Allman Brothers. On the one hand, this seems antithetical to the youthful spirit of rock 'n' roll. On the other, it's great music, played with authority and integrity. I don't have a conclusion beyond: who'da thunk it?)

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Anna Churchill
Hometown:

Mr Aleterman, and the rest of the pack of sniveling little weasles are truly the ones who are responsible for 4 more years of Bush.

You guys would be out of business if a man like Nader ever got elected. You couldnt whine and thump your chests anymore. and pretend to be something you are absolutely NOT.

Go away.

I spit on you from a great height.

Name: Beth Harrison
Hometown: Arlington, VA

I hope I'm the first to answer your question: Bush would not be President today if Nader had gotten behind Gore before the election, and then supported Gore on the Florida recount. I am tired of having to knock down every "it's not Nader's fault" canard that pops up, just as you are.

But I think referring to Ralph as a deluded Leninist megalomaniac is a bit harsh. I think of Ralph as King Canute ordering the tide to go out when the tide was coming in.

Name: Jeff Frane
Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Both your article and the linked piece are dead-on: Ralph is a selfish egotistical blight on the political scene who, with his minions, can still potentially deliver an election to the GOP, even in 2008. I say this as someone who voted for Nader in 2000 because I was disgusted with the Democratic Party and rather stupidly unaware of the damage yet to come. I knew GWB was a bozo, but I had no real idea of how bad things could get. Even knowing that a vote from me might insert a Republican in the White House (it didn't; Oregon saved my butt) wasn't enough to sway me.

No more. Nader needs to grow up and get over himself.

Name: Arthur C. Hurwitz
Hometown: New York

Dear Eric:

I wish to add my own words of encouragement and support to you for your merciless and well deserved criticisms of Ralph Nader. His supporters can twist the facts any way that they wish to, but the bottom line is that Nader cost Gore the election by acting as a spoiler. One of the ways in which his supporters wish to have it both ways is that on one hand, they blame Gore for losing the election while at the same time, they did not support him. In other words, if you wish a certain candidate to win, then one has to support him. One can not support one candidate while secretly hoping another one will win, and at the same time undermined that one's chances. As you pointed out, Bush's ascendancy to the presidency has had real and disastrous implications, both for our country, and the world.

Name: Brian Geving
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Eric,

Check out this story regarding a Vulture Fund owned by the largest contributor to Bush's election campaign. These funds -by buying the debt of African nations and then freezing their assets until the governments pay them 10 times the amount they paid -- are literally stealing medicine away from children dying of AIDS in Africa. The President has come out against this practice, but so far has not used his power to stop it, even though it is a very simple process. There should be a special place in hell for people like this.

What isn't surprising to many reading this blog is that the U.S. press has totally ignored this story, even though the public would rightly be furious that this is happening if they knew about it.

Name: John B
Hometown: Des Moines, IA

It seems like just yesterday that every statement uttered by a Republican regarding Bill Clinton had to include the phrase "Rule of Law." Now the Bush administration and most GOP members of Congress are more than happy to use the offices of US Attorneys for political attacks, eliminate the tempering effect of Senate confirmation on appointment of attorneys using the Patriot Act, then lie about it. This story is dominating the news right now, but this and this pretty well illuminate the intentions of the White House. So, what's more important; the rule of law, or getting what you want? Apparently the law is for suckers.

Name: Bill Skeels
Hometown:

The US Attorney study done by Shields and Cragan identified 375 primarily local prosecutions of officials, of which 10 involved independents, 67 involved Republicans and 298 involved Democrats.

I'll bet the ratio is even worse if you peel the onion. Is there any way to ID who was being targeted? To then determine whether some % of the 67 Republicans were in some way on the wrong side of Bush allied Republicans, or Bush / Rove?

Name: John
Hometown: New Jersey

No General worth his salt would let a staff weenie like Snow speak for him. I though the President, the Commander-in-Chief (ALL military), who gave the order to attack Iraq, who is the "Decider," in keeping with all those roles would have made some decision, ORDERED an investigation (he is the CinC!), and advised the people. Why is the WH always reacting? Why wasn't the President asking the networks for a prime time slot and speaking to the American people directly "Today, I was informed of some disturbing accusations regarding treatment of our wounded soldiers, wounded in our war on terror. Rest assured, I have ordered an immediate investigation... etc. etc." Where is the leadership in this country?

Name: Daniel Roberts
Hometown: Ljubljana, Slovenia

Reader "JB Sheehy" wonders why Senator Feinstein did not know about the Bush Administration's change to the US Attorney appointment rule in the latest PATRIOT legislation. The reason is largely because the change was made with the intent that no one notice it. It is a small deletion to the wording of the original law on such appointments, and its implications are not directly obvious. (Wikipedia has a short explanation here.)

If the change was made in a way that spelled out what the end result would be, then one would expect that the Democrats would have demanded its removal before voting on it. But this is the standard M.O. for the Bushies: to ceaselessly seek to increase their power through whatever means they can, and often doing under the radar. Yes, it would be great if our Democratic legislators were more vigilant and suspicious, but you have to remember that the Republicans are dirty tricksters, and clever ones at that.

Name: Isaac Luria
Hometown: University of Florida

I just love the "everybody knows" standard of proof that Limbaugh loves to employ. Of course, people who listened to him at any point during the Clinton years will fondly remember that "everybody knows" that liberals are all having welfare babies so they can get more money from the government and not work. I guess all those lazy welfare recipients decided to start having abortions now instead of welfare babies, everybody knows that.

Name: David Simon
Hometown: New Haven, CT

On the Peter Pan DVD: What's not to like? Well, the original had a song called "What Makes the Red Man Red?" (And I believe the musical answer has something to do with kissing.) Maybe I'm overreacting, but there's a stereotype there that today's under-10 set can probably do without.

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