Ross Douthat

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  • Conservative Media Fight Over David French Trial Balloon

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who has long advocated for a third party alternative to the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, announced his desire to recruit National Review writer David French as his chosen candidate. French’s coworkers and some core Never Trump figures supported the possible candidacy, while many other right-wing media figures called it “embarrassing” and “preposterous.”

    The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol Pushes National Review's David French To Enter Presidential Race

    Wash. Post: "David French Is Urged To Enter Presidential Race As Independent." On May 31 The Washington Post reported that Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, sought to recruit National Review writer David French as a third-party conservative presidential candidate. French has not stated whether or not he will run:

    Tennessee attorney David French, who in recent years has become a prominent right-wing writer, is being urged by some conservative leaders to make a late entry into the 2016 presidential race as an independent candidate, according to two people close to him.

    William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard magazine and a former Republican White House official, is at the fore of the draft effort. A group of well-known evangelical leaders and GOP operatives is also involved in the discussions, the people said, requesting anonymity to discuss private conversations. 

    [...]

    When reached by phone Tuesday, French’s wife, Nancy, declined to comment. David French did not respond to multiple calls and emails over the past weekend. [The Washington Post, 5/31/16]

    Some Never Trump And National Review Figures Support A French Candidacy

    National Review: "French Is Preposterous? This Year?" National Review blogger Mona Chen defended Bill Kristol's selection of French for a third party bid, calling for "an honest man in this contest." Chen asserted that since “the Democrats are about to nominate a woman who may be indicted” and the Republicans “a reality star who knows nothing of policy, but ... threatens to undermine" the GOP itself, French has a viable opportunity to enter the presidential race:

    Twitter tittered with a combination of contempt and amusement yesterday when word leaked that it might be our own David French who is considering an independent run for president. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” — that great “herd of independent minds” — the same tone prevailed (except for Mark Halperin, who noted that much would depend upon whether French could get financial backing). Mika Brzezinski scoffed that Bill Kristol needed a vacation, and the assembled crew were unanimous that French lacks the stature to enter the race. 

    In any normal year, they would certainly have a point. But look around people. This is the year when the Democrats are about to nominate a woman who may be indicted. The Republicans are nominating a reality star who knows nothing of policy but excels at schoolyard taunts, and threatens to undermine the one party that, until recently, stood (broadly) for the Constitution. But David French is out of his league? French is a graduate of Harvard Law. While Trump was bedding married women and allegedly defrauding strivers who signed up for Trump University, French was earning a bronze star in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He’s a major in the US Army Reserve. He’s a bestselling author of, most recently, The Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore and countless brilliant articles. He is past president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and has worked for the Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Center for Law and Justice. [National Review, 6/1/16]

    National Review Editor Jim Geraghty: “If A David French Candidacy Gets All Of America To See The Alt-Right Clearly, He’s Done A National Service.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]
     

    Talk Radio Host Charlie Sykes: “David French Is A Class Act, Would Be An Impressive Candidate.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    RedState's Leon H. Wolf: "French ... Will Easily Get My Vote." RedState.com writer Leon H. Wolf wrote that French “will easily get my vote over any of the options that are currently on the ballot.” Even though Wolf conceded that French has little realistic chance to win, he asserted that he will never “bow before the con man who bragged that I would support him even after he destroyed my party.”

    I guess some are determined not to give French a shot on the basis that he can’t possibly win. Personally, I could not care less. A realistic chance of anyone who deserves the office winning left the building a long time ago.

    I don’t have a duty or obligation of any kind to vote for a candidate who might win. The only duty I have – to myself or anyone else – is to vote for the candidate who is most deserving of my vote. Hell, by the time election day of 2008 rolled around, McCain had no chance, and we all voted for him, didn’t we?

    If French really does run, he will easily get my vote over any of the options that are currently on the ballot, in addition to my help gathering signatures and whatever spare money I can afford. Not only will he deserve it, but I won’t submissively tuck my tail between my legs and bow before the con man who bragged that I would support him even after he destroyed my party. [RedState.com, 6/1/16]

    Erick Erickson: “I’d Gladly Vote For David French Over Either Hillary Clinton Or Her Donor Donald Trump.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Erickson: “I’d Be Happy To Participate In The #FrenchRevolution.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Daily Caller's Matt Lewis: “I Will Vote For David French … But We Could Probably Hold Our Convention In A Phone Booth.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Ben Shapiro: “Voting For David French Over Hillary And Trump Would Be The Easiest Call Ever.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Others In Right-Wing Media Ridicule The "Embarrassing" Potential Candidacy Of French

    Hot Air: Bill Kristol Is "Now Pulling Fans Out Of The Stands To Play QB." Conservative blogger Allahpundit ridiculed Kristol's choice of French in a May 31 blog post on HotAir.com:

    This was who he had in mind with that much-hyped tweet this weekend that had everyone wondering if Romney had reconsidered? An … NRO writer? Trump fans are forever deriding #NeverTrump as a “movement” consisting of, like, six guys at National Review and the Weekly Standard. And now here we are.

    [...]

    As it turns out, Kristol actually touted French as a potential independent candidate in a piece published in the Standard just a few days ago. No one put two and two together this weekend, though, presumably because, um, no one thought he could possibly be serious.

    [...]

    There’s a sense that, having exhausted everyone on the team’s depth chart, you’re now pulling fans out of the stands to play QB. I’m not sure either what the value is in picking a conservative challenger to Trump who’s even less well known than Gary Johnson is. [HotAir.com, 5/31/16]

    Breitbart News: “It’s Likely This Will End Up In The Ash Heap Of Kristol’s History Of Inaccurate Positions.” Breitbart News dismissed Kristol’s selection of French, writing in a May 31 post that “it’s likely this will end up in the ash heap of Kristol’s history of inaccurate predictions”:

    Kristol created a media firestorm after tweeting that an “impressive” third party candidate would run with a “real chance.” If David French is all Kristol can come up with, it’s likely this will end up in the ash heap of Kristol’s history of inaccurate predictions. [Breitbart News, 5/31/16]

    Guy Benson: French Candidacy “Will Represent An Embarrassing Fizzle For A ‘Never Trump’ Movement That Once Seemed Potent. Or At Least Relevant.” Townhall political editor Guy Benson called French’s selection by Kristol an “embarrassing fizzle” for the Never Trump movement in a May 31 post:

    And the grand reveal is...National Review writer David French? And it's not even confirmed? Don't get me wrong: French is a decorated Iraq war veteran, a strong writer, and a principled conservative whose stalwart commitment to religious liberty is admirable, even if one disagrees from time to time. … He's an impressive man. The impressiveness of his team -- if this presidential run ever actually comes to pass -- remains to be seen. But the notion that a relatively little-known writer could parachute into this race at such a late juncture and have a prayer of winning even a single state is, frankly, preposterous. 

    [...]

    So with due respect to the potential candidate, and with strong sympathy for its most prominent backers, I must say that if the French report proves accurate, it will represent an embarrassing fizzle for a 'Never Trump' movement that once seemed potent. Or at least relevant. Instead, it will have roared in like a lion after Indiana, then trotted impotently and inexorably toward the political abyss ahead of California. [Townhall, 5/31/16]

    Hot Air's Ed Morrissey: "I Like And Respect David, But This Can’t Be Right.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Morrissey: A French Candidacy Is “Like Picking George Will To Pitch For Your Fantasy Baseball Team.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    NY Times Columnist Ross Douthat: “Both David French And Bill Kristol Will Be Mocked If French Is The #NeverTrump Candidate.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

  • The Media's Outrage At Trump's Abortion Comments Ignore That Women Are Already Being Punished

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    Trump MSNBC Town HallGOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump's statement that "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who have abortions led to widespread condemnation from mainstream and conservative media alike, but the media has ignored that many women already face punishment in many states due to the lack of access to reproductive care.

    Trump was pressed by Matthews during a town hall on March 30 about whether he believed a "woman be punished for having an abortion?" Trump responded, arguing that "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who get an abortion.

    Right wing media figures expressed immediate displeasure with Trump's initial remarks calling them "awful," "tone deaf," and "ignorant."

    Trump attempted to walk back his remarks the same day, issuing a statement that said the punishment for abortions should be restricted to "the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act ... not the woman" (emphasis original):

    DONALD J. TRUMP STATEMENT REGARDING ABORTION

    If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed - like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.

    Trump's statement ignores that when abortion is illegal or when a legal abortion is out of reach for women, some will go to desperate lengths to terminate a pregnancy and some states have already punished women for it.

    According to MSNBC's Irin Carmon "women are already being prosecuted and even convicted on suspicion of having abortions." Carmon noted that an Indiana woman "is appealing a 30-year prison sentence for her conviction for feticide" because she allegedly "ordered abortion pills online."

    A New York Times article examined the case of Pennsylvania's Jennifer Whalen, who was jailed in 2014 for ordering medication for her 16-year-old daughter because the nearest abortion providerwas 75-miles away. The state required a 24-hour waiting period between the first counseling visit and the procedure -- which meant Whalen and her daughter would have to take two trips or stay overnight with the family's only car, which Whalen and her husband both used to get to work.

    Whalen and Patel are not the only women who have faced punishment for their attempts to terminate a pregnancy. In 2011 Idaho authorities arrested Jennie Linn McCormack for inducing an abortion, a crime that could have carried a penalty of up to five years in prison. The charges were later dropped for a lack of evidence and McCormack's case actually led to Idaho's self-induced abortion statute being ruled unconstitutional. And in December 2015, Tennessee charged Anna Yocca for her attempt to induce a self-abortion with a wire coat hanger.

    In a statement to Media Matters, the Guttmacher Institute's Senior State Issues Associate Elizabeth Nash explained that, seven states currently ban all or some self-induced abortions. Delaware, Nevada, South Carolina, and Utah prohibit all self-induced abortions while Kentucky, New York, and Oklahoma permit self-induced abortions under very limited circumstances.

    While the GOP and right-wing media may want to spout rhetoric that "punishment" is not their goal in seeking to end legal access to abortion, the truth is that women are already being punished for being unable to cross the many barriers to abortion access already passed by conservative states.

  • Right-Wing Media Panic Over Donald Trump's Front-Runner Status On Super Tuesday

    Right-Wing Media: If Trump Gets Nomination, "The GOP In Its Current Form Ends"

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Right-wing media figures lamented Donald Trump's primary success, after he won the majority of Republican primary contests on Super Tuesday. Their attacks against the front-runner follows a New York Times report on the formation of the "Our Principles" political action committee, a right wing PAC devoted to a "full-fledged campaign against Donald J. Trump."

  • NY Times' Ross Douthat Resurrects Debunked Claim That Planned Parenthood "Endorsed A Right To Post-Birth Abortion"

    ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    The New York Times' Ross Douthat defended GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina's widely-discredited statements regarding footage she claims was in the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress' deceptively-edited videos, citing a Florida Planned Parenthood lobbyist's halting testimony about the unlikely event of a live birth during a failed abortion. Douthat did not mention that Planned Parenthood of Florida issued a statement after the hearing that clarified the fact that illegal "born alive" cases are "extremely unlikely and highly unusual" and eliminated any doubt as to whether its clinics would provide life-saving care in that hypothetical scenario.

  • The Curious Way New York Times Columnists Are Covering Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Promoting his latest column deriding Hillary Clinton for being chronically unethical and a lot like Richard Nixon, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni took to Twitter to suggest the Democrat's campaign constituted "psychological torture," which definitely sounds bad. Unsubtly headlined "Hillary the Tormentor" (because she inflicts so much pain on Democrats, apparently), Bruni's effort was unusually overwrought even by his dramatic standards.

    In his column, the essayist outlined concerns from two nameless "Democrats," who viewed Clinton as "tainted" and guilty of creating "ugly, obvious messes." One source was so "disgusted" he wants "never to lay eyes on [Hillary] and Bill again."

    Turns out that same day, fellow Times columnist Ross Douthat also made Clinton the focus of his column and he also dinged the candidate. Far less excited than Bruni's effort, Douthat nonetheless made it clear that Democrats supporting Clinton should consider themselves "warned" for when things go terribly wrong if she's elected president.

    So on the same day, two different Times columnists attacking the Democratic frontrunner; a candidate who enjoys historic and unprecedented support among the party's faithful. It was just a case of bad timing for Clinton's on the Times opinion pages, right? Just a coincidence where not one but two columnists for the supposedly-liberal newspaper of record unloaded on her?

    Not quite.

    In truth, the Bruni-Douthat tag team was a rather common occurrence among Times columnists, some of whom have banded together this year to publish a steady stream of attacks on Clinton. (Yesterday, columnist David Brooks announced Clinton's electoral strategy is all wrong, and that it's bad for America.) What's unusual is that the conveyor belt of attacks hasn't been balanced out by clear signs of Clinton support among Times columnists. More importantly, the Times' odd brand of Clinton wrath has not been duplicated when columnists assess Republicans.

    Searching essays written by Times columnists this year, I can't find a one that unequivocally supports the Democratic frontrunner. (There have been passing sentences and paragraphs of support, but nothing focused or thematic by columnists.) By contrast, I can count more than two dozen that have focused on attacking her.

    Is the New York Times under any obligation to employ a columnist who supports Clinton? Of course not. But it's worth noting that Clinton enters this campaign season with more Democratic support than perhaps any non-incumbent frontrunner in recent party history, yet the New York Times hasn't published an opinion column in support of her possibly historic run. (The Times has published editorials backing parts of her agenda.)

    Increasingly, the Times is facing criticism about its off-kilter Clinton coverage and its, at-times, odd obsession with the Democratic candidate. Is that attack-dog mentality also playing out on the opinion pages?

  • New York Times Columnist Apologizes For Attending Fundraiser For Anti-Gay Legal Group

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP & CARLOS MAZA

    New York Times columnist Ross Douthat apologized for appearing at a fundraising event for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an extreme anti-gay legal group working to criminalize homosexuality.

    On October 16, Douthat spoke at "The Price of Citizenship: Losing Religious Freedom in America," an event held by ADF and aimed at drawing attention to a number of popular right-wing horror stories about the threat LGBT equality poses to religious liberty. Douthat spoke alongside radio host Hugh Hewitt and the Benham brothers, who are notorious for their history of extreme anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-Muslim rhetoric. The event ended with explicit solicitations for donations to support ADF's legal work.

    As Media Matters noted, ADF is one of the most extreme anti-gay legal groups in the country, fighting against even basic legal protections for LGBT people and working internationally to repress LGBT human rights, including supporting Belize's draconian law criminalizing gay sex.

    On Wednesday, Douthat explained that he did not know ADF's event was a fundraiser and said he plans to decline the honorarium he received from the event.

    "I was not aware in advance that this event was a fundraiser and had I known, I would not have agreed to participate," he said in a statement issued to Media Matters through the Times Wednesday. "I was invited by an events organizing group, not by ADF directly. I understood this to be a public conversation about religious liberty. This is my fault for not doing my due diligence, and I will be declining the honorarium."

  • A New York Times Columnist Spoke At A Fundraiser For A Group Working To Criminalize Gay Sex

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    New York Times columnist Ross Douthat spoke at a fundraising event for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing legal group that works to defend anti-LGBT discrimination and supported the criminalization of homosexuality.

    On October 16, ADF held an event titled "The Price of Citizenship: Losing Religious Freedom in America" in Denton, Texas. The event, which focused primarily on highlighting the alleged tension between LGBT equality and religious liberty, featured a conversation between radio show host Hugh Hewitt and Douthat.

    The event also featured an appearance from the Benham brothers, the right-wing activists who lost their HGTV reality show because of their history of extreme anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-Muslim rhetoric:

    The event touched on a number of popular right-wing horror stories about LGBT equality, from the plight of anti-gay bakers and florists, to the outrage over the recent subpoenaing of several Houston pastors. David Benham, who has previously warned that the gay "agenda" is "attacking the nation," urged the audience to take "dominion" of the media and legal system back from the "sexual anarchy agenda":

    DAVID BENHAM: Unfortunately, the church, now that we have the keys to authority that Christ gives the Christian church, we give that dominion back through our silence. And so what we see now is the struggle for dominion. And one of the ways that we've lost dominion is because Christians, unfortunately, don't believe in the sovereignty of God. God is sovereign over all things. The Bible says in Psalm 24 "the Earth is the Lord's and everything in it," including government, entertainment, media, education, the legal system, everything. My finances, my sexuality, everything is under God. ... Does this agenda, this sexual anarchy agenda, does it want dominion? Take a look. Has it got dominion in government? Has it got dominion in entertainment? Has it got dominion, I mean, you name it, in the marketplace? Yes. Absolutely it does. How does God get dominion back? ... The government exists for the punishment of evildoers and for the reward of those who do good. The problem is, is when we switch good and evil and evil and good. There's only one institution that can fight that dominion battle, and that's the church. [emphasis added]

  • The One Religious Liberty Case Anti-Gay Conservatives Want To Ignore

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER

    For years, conservative media figures have attacked marriage equality by citing "religious liberty" concerns, baselessly warning that churches might be forced to perform same-sex weddings against their will. But a new lawsuit in North Carolina challenges the right-wing media's commitment to religious freedom when it's not being used as an excuse for anti-gay discrimination.  

    On April 28, the United Church of Christ (UCC), a progressive Protestant denomination that supports marriage equality, filed suit in Federal District Court challenging North Carolina's ban on clergy blessings of same-sex unions. Under the state's 2012 same-sex marriage ban, it's a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 45 days in jail, to perform a ceremony for any couple lacking a valid marriage license. The UCC argues that the ban infringes on clergy members' First Amendment right to free exercise of religion:

    "We didn't bring this lawsuit to make others conform to our beliefs, but to vindicate the right of all faiths to freely exercise their religious practices," said Donald C. Clark Jr., general counsel of the United Church of Christ.

    The lawsuit represents the inverse of a long-standing (and entirely baseless) conservative horror story about marriage equality - that churches will be forced to perform same-sex weddings against their will.

    This myth has been perpetuated by conservative media personalities like Fox's Todd Starnes, who in 2012 warned that a Kansas non-discrimination ordinance "would force churches to host gay weddings":

    When the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Breitbart News' Ben Shapiro claimed that churches would lose their tax exempt status if they failed to perform same-sex weddings. Fox contributor Erick Erickson has gone so far as to claim "gay marriage and religious freedom are incompatible."  And Fox News' longstanding campaign to depict marriage equality and anti-discrimination laws as burdens on religious liberty inspired a rash of so-called "religious freedom" bills across the country earlier this year.

    Given social conservatives' self-appointed role as guardians of religious freedom, the North Carolina case would seem ripe for their attention.

    But now that religious liberty is being invoked to oppose a gay marriage ban, will right-wing media rush to tout the cause of a pro-equality church?

    Conservatives who rushed to defend "religious liberty" legislation like Arizona SB 1062 have so far been silent on the case. The New York Times' Ross Douthat, who penned a column supporting Arizona's bill on religious liberty grounds, has yet to comment on the UCC case on his blog. A TV Eyes search shows that Fox News - which regularly features segments titled "The Fight for Faith" - hasn't taken up the UCC's mantle. The same goes for anti-gay conservatives like Starnes, Shapiro, and Erickson.

    While civil marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples would have no bearing on churches' doctrines and practices, laws like North Carolina's actively restrict religious denominations' right to freely exercise their faith. If serving a cake to a same-sex couple constitutes an unconscionable violation of religious liberty, then surely a law telling churches which unions they can and can't bless does. But the right's crusade against LGBT equality has almost nothing to do with genuine, intellectually consistent support for religious liberty, and everything to do with keeping discrimination enshrined in law.

    Too often in conservative media, religious liberty becomes a shield to deflect accusations of bigotry, even while justifying blatant anti-LGBT discrimination. UCC's lawsuit, and conservative media's interest in taking it up as a cause célèbre, will test whether the right's interest in religious liberty is anything more than a shallow excuse for homophobia.

    METHDOLOGY

    Equality Matters searched TV Eyes for the terms "gay," "United Church of Christ," and "North Carolina" for Fox's programming on April 28 and the morning of April 29, 2014.

    Photo via Flickr.com user Sarah Cartwright

  • Why Is A New York Times Columnist Defending Anti-Gay Discrimination?

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER

    Ross Douthat

    Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat depicted business owners who wish to discriminate against gay customers as the real victims in the debate over whether it should be permissible, as a recently vetoed Arizona bill would have authorized, for businesses to deny services to gay people on religious grounds.

    In his March 2 column, Douthat conceded the inevitability of marriage equality, contending that once that debate is finished, the question will be whether marriage equality opponents will be able to express their "dissent" by, say, turning gay couples away from their businesses. Even as he urged his fellow Christian conservatives not to "call it persecution" if they're required to treat LGBT people equally, Douthat's entire column attempted to frame the fight for equal treatment as a matter of conservative victimization, rather than fundamental human dignity (emphasis added):

    But there's another possibility, in which the oft-invoked analogy between opposition to gay marriage and support for segregation in the 1960s South is pushed to its logical public-policy conclusion. In this scenario, the unwilling photographer or caterer would be treated like the proprietor of a segregated lunch counter, and face fines or lose his business -- which is the intent of recent legal actions against a wedding photographer in New Mexico, a florist in Washington State, and a baker in Colorado.

    Meanwhile, pressure would be brought to bear wherever the religious subculture brushed up against state power. Religious-affiliated adoption agencies would be closed if they declined to place children with same-sex couples. (This has happened in Massachusetts and Illinois.) Organizations and businesses that promoted the older definition of marriage would face constant procedural harassment, along the lines suggested by the mayors who battled with Chick-fil-A. And, eventually, religious schools and colleges would receive the same treatment as racist holdouts like Bob Jones University, losing access to public funds and seeing their tax-exempt status revoked.

    [...]

    I am being descriptive here, rather than self-pitying. Christians had plenty of opportunities -- thousands of years' worth -- to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.) So being marginalized, being sued, losing tax-exempt status -- this will be uncomfortable, but we should keep perspective and remember our sins, and nobody should call it persecution.

    But it's still important for the winning side to recognize its power. We are not really having an argument about same-sex marriage anymore, and on the evidence of Arizona, we're not having a negotiation. Instead, all that's left is the timing of the final victory -- and for the defeated to find out what settlement the victors will impose.

  • New York Times' Douthat: Curbing Gun Violence Isn't A Priority

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    If current projections hold, for the first time modern American history more people will die in 2015 from gun violence than will be killed in automobile accidents.

    Meanwhile, nearly 20,000 Americans kill themselves each year using firearms, amidst an escalating suicide rate. And as Bloomberg News recently reported, the financial cost of U.S. gun violence in terms of lost work, medical care, insurance, court costs, and pain and suffering amounted to nearly $175 billion in 2010.  

    It's against that dire backdrop that The New York Times' Ross Douthat insisted in his most recent column that gun violence doesn't represent a pressing issue for the country. Instead, it's part of an elitist, "political class" agenda cynically embraced by President Obama.

    The columnist's effort continues a misguided trend by media conservatives to dismiss the issue of gun violence as a "red herring" and a "distraction" from what really matters in America, which is job creation. Douthat scolds the president for allegedly not keeping his focus on the economy. But how did Republicans respond to Obama's effort last year to pass a jobs bill? They blocked it. Just as they did in 2011.

    Pointing to a Pew Research Center survey from January, Douthat also includes immigration and climate change as examples of how Obama's second-term agenda is out of sync with what Americans truly care about, and how the three issues are actually "non-priorities."

    But there's something callous an almost tasteless about casually dismissing as a "pet cause" the 32,000 Americans who die each year from gunfire, and the 70,000 more who are injured by firearms. And to claim, as Douthat did, that only politicians aboard the "Acela Corridor ideology" consider gun violence to be a national priority.

    Wrote Douthat [emphasis added]: 

    After all, gun control, immigration reform and climate change aren't just random targets of opportunity. They're pillars of Acela Corridor ideology, core elements of Bloombergism, places where Obama-era liberalism overlaps with the views of Davos-goers and the Wall Street 1 percent. If you move in those circles, the political circumstances don't necessarily matter: these ideas always look like uncontroversial common sense.

    Step outside those circles, though, and the timing of their elevation looks at best peculiar, at worst perverse. The president decided to make gun control legislation a major second-term priority ... with firearm homicides at a 30-year low.

    This is an amazingly dishonest argument for a New York Times columnist to make about such a pressing public policy issue. Douthat claims the "timing" of Obama's push for a background check bill in Congress this year was "at best peculiar" and "at worst perverse." The only thing peculiar and perverse is Douthat's refusal to acknowledge the shooting at the Sandy Hook School in Connecticut last December when a madman massacred 26 kids and teachers with a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle.

    By inferring that Obama recently selected the issue of gun laws only because it's one of the "pillars of the Acela Corridor ideology," Douthat pretends it wasn't a shocking national tragedy that placed the issue at the top of the White House's second-term agenda this year.

  • Conservatives continue to accuse NYC Islamic center imam of being a "secret radical"

    ››› ››› SOLANGE UWIMANA

    Conservative media have continued to accuse the imam leading the initiative to build an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan of being a "secret radical," pointing to his remark that "the United States' policies were an accessory" to the 9-11 attacks. In fact, Rauf has condemned terrorism and has been widely described as "moderate," and his comments on 9-11 are not outside the mainstream.

  • Ross Douthat's nonsensical attack on gay marriage

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    New York Times columnist Ross Douthat tries to explain his opposition to the legal marriage of two loving adults:

    If this newer order completely vanquishes the older marital ideal, then gay marriage will become not only acceptable but morally necessary. The lifelong commitment of a gay couple is more impressive than the serial monogamy of straights. And a culture in which weddings are optional celebrations of romantic love, only tangentially connected to procreation, has no business discriminating against the love of homosexuals.

    But if we just accept this shift, we're giving up on one of the great ideas of Western civilization: the celebration of lifelong heterosexual monogamy as a unique and indispensable estate. That ideal is still worth honoring, and still worth striving to preserve. And preserving it ultimately requires some public acknowledgment that heterosexual unions and gay relationships are different: similar in emotional commitment, but distinct both in their challenges and their potential fruit.

    Let's say you think, as I suspect Ross Douthat might, that Christianity is "one of the great ideas of Western civilization." Are we "giving up on" Christianity by allowing people to practice Judaism and Hinduism and Buddhism and Islam and Atheism? Repeal the First Amendment! Or let's say that you think democratic elections are "one of the great ideas of Western civilization." Does it follow that it should be illegal to decide not to vote? Teachers are pretty important to Western civilization, too -- so perhaps we should make it illegal to be a police officer, bank teller, florist or ditch-digger?

    Douthat is essentially arguing that if X is important, Y should not be allowed. For some values of X and Y (say, "Life" and "Murder") that makes sense. For others ("Teachers" and "Firefighters"; "Christianity" and "Judaism") it does not. Douthat makes no effort to explain why the marriage of two gay people belongs in the former category rather than the latter. And it seems not to have occurred to Douthat that his effort to preserve the "sexual ideal" of "lifelong fidelity and support by two sexually different human beings" actually demeans that which he seeks to protect, by suggesting that heterosexual marriage is so tenuous a concept that it cannot survive the extension of marriage rights to gay couples.

    The American Prospect's Adam Serwer writes: "Ross Douthat's column this morning reads like a column from someone whose religious and cultural views lead them to oppose marriage equality but can't think of a very good reason for the state to prevent recognition of same-sex marriages." That sounds just about right.

  • False equivalence of the day

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    New York Times columnist Ross Douthat plays the tired "the left and right are equally crazy" card:

    Paranoia is a bipartisan temptation. Amid last August's town hall frenzy, there was a stir over a poll showing that roughly a third of Republicans believed that Barack Obama had been born outside the United States. Liberals trumpeted the finding as proof of the Republican base's slide into madness. But conservatives had a rebuttal: As recently as 2007, they pointed out, polls showed that a third of Democrats believed George W. Bush knew about 9/11 in advance.

    ...

    The Clinton-era conservatives who insisted that Vince Foster's suicide was really murder ceded the stage, in the Bush era, to left-wing cranks convinced that the British scientist David Kelly was bumped off by Iraq war hawks desperate to cover up their deception about weapons of mass destruction.

    ...

    And the ideological fringes are forever blurring into one another: Pat Buchanan can sound a lot like Gore Vidal, "truthers" and "birthers" often share common fixations, and both the far left and far right seem equally inclined to circle around, eventually, to pointing fingers at the Jews.

    Vince Foster conspiracists enjoyed widespread acceptance and promotion by leaders of the conservative movement, including Republican members of congress -- and by the news media. That's why there were half a dozen investigations into Foster's death, despite the fact that each unambiguously concluded he had killed himself -- you had Republican congressional leaders playing amateur detective, shooting up pumpkin patches in order to "prove" that Foster was murdered. And the Birthers' lunacy was taken quite seriously last year by, among others, members of congress and a CNN host who promoted their theories on a regular basis.

    The Truthers have never enjoyed that level of respect and influence among progressive leaders, or among the media. So while it's true that you can find liberals who believe far-fetched things, they don't enjoy nearly as much influence as their conservative counterparts. That's a good thing. It would be even better if the media consistently made clear that one side is much more prone to taking their fringiest element seriously.