Tag Archives: US News and World Report

Subterranean Agenda Blues

Kenneth T. Walsh at US News:

On March 12, 2010, President Obama welcomed me into the Oval Office for an interview for this book. Dressed in an elegant dark blue business suit and tie with an American flag pin in his left lapel, he was serene and confident. Behind him was the portrait of George Washington that has hung in the Oval Office for many years. Flanking that portrait were two busts added by Obama, reflecting his own values and heroes—behind him on his right was a likeness of Martin Luther King Jr., and on his left was one of Abraham Lincoln.

Obama was in a reflective mood. He began the interview by saying he had been “fully briefed” on my topic and was ready for me to “dive in.” He proceeded to methodically defend his effort to build a race-neutral administration. “Americans, since the victories of the civil rights movement, I think, have broadly come to accept the notion that everybody has to be treated equally; everybody has to be treated fairly,” the president told me. “And I think that the whole debate about how do you make up for past history creates a complicated wrinkle in that principle of equality.”


But Obama, in his most candid moments, acknowledged that race was still a problem. In May 2010, he told guests at a private White House dinner that race was probably a key component in the rising opposition to his presidency from conservatives, especially right-wing activists in the anti-incumbent “Tea Party” movement that was then surging across the country. Many middle-class and working-class whites felt aggrieved and resentful that the federal government was helping other groups, including bankers, automakers, irresponsible people who had defaulted on their mortgages, and the poor, but wasn’t helping them nearly enough, he said.

A guest suggested that when Tea Party activists said they wanted to “take back” their country, their real motivation was to stir up anger and anxiety at having a black president, and Obama didn’t dispute the idea. He agreed that there was a “subterranean agenda” in the anti-Obama movement—a racially biased one—that was unfortunate. But he sadly conceded that there was little he could do about it.

His goal, he said, was to be as effective and empathetic a president as possible for all Americans. If he could accomplish that, it would advance racial progress for blacks more than anything else he could do.

Mike Riggs at Daily Caller:

Pres. Obama has successfully avoided reducing the complex populist outrage of the Tea Party to racial anxiety–in public, that is. Behind closed doors, however, he allegedly has no problem distorting the motivations of anti-government types.

Roger L. Simon at Pajamas Media:

That was May 2010, according to Walsh. Ironically, only a few days before, on April 29, 2010, your humble scribe wrote the following:

The real reason liberals accuse Tea Partiers of racism is that contemporary America-style liberalism is in rigor mortis. Liberals have nothing else to say or do. Accusations of racism are their last resort.

The European debt crisis — first Greece, then Portugal and now Spain (and Belgium, Ireland and Italy, evidently) — has shown the welfare state to be an unsustainable economic system. The US, UK and Japan, according to the same Financial Times report, are also on similar paths of impoverishment through entitlements.

Many of us have known this for a long time, just from simple math. Entitlements are in essence a Ponzi scheme. Now we have to face that and do something serious about it or our economy (the world economy) will fall apart.

Liberals, leftists or progressives — whatever they choose to call themselves — have a great deal of trouble accepting this. To do so they would have to question a host of positions they have not examined for years, if ever, not to mention have to engage in discussions that could threaten their livelihood and jeopardize their personal and family associations.

Thus the traditional wish to kill the messenger who brings the bad news: the Tea Partiers. And the easiest way to kill them — the most obvious and hoariest of methods – is to accuse them of racism.

When I wrote that, it was a month after Andrew Breitbart issued his as yet unanswered $100,000 challenge for evidence of racism at a Tea Party demonstration. So this is now already a relatively old debate. And the same arguments keep coming up again and again. The left keeps accusing the right of racism and the right keeps denying it, demanding evidence, which is never forthcoming. Not once. But that doesn’t stop the left. They continue the accusations — and the president, at least according to Walsh, believes them.

Bryan Preston at PJ Tatler:

There was, of course, no evidence at all that the Tea Parties had any racial motive whatsoever, and there still isn’t. None. They’re not motivated by race, but by policy. They consider Obama’s policies to be dangerous and destructive, and they’re right on both counts.

But this president, and the people he hires (think Eric “nation of cowards,” “my people” Holder, Van Jones, etc) can’t seem to abide opposition based on policy. Either that, or they’re using race cynically as a way to freeze the shallower thinkers around them and try to put legitimate critics out into the political outer darkness. Charges of racism do both quite nicely.

Tom Maguire:

I think (hope?!?) he was being polite to some fat-cat donors rather than describing his own convictions (and I am bitterly clinging to the notion that he has some convictions).  Huckabee going on about Obama’s Kenyan attitudes would be an example from the right of pandering to the nutters rather than challenging them.

Obviously, your mileage may vary.

THEN AGAIN:  The First Panderer is also the First Condescender, so he might very well believe the worst of these lowly Tea Partiers…

Patterico at Patterico’s Pontification:

Of course, it’s difficult to know what he said and how he said it from this report, as it is admittedly full of paraphrases, and lacks the clarifying aids of a recording or even direct quotes longer than two words. Depending on what he said, he may have been accurate — there clearly is a racial component to some of the opposition to Obama. The issue is how widespread he portrayed this aspect of his opposition to be. Because most of us really don’t care about the color of his skin. The color we’re worried about is red — all the red ink required to document the effects of his disastrous policies on our national balance sheet. (Look at it as a stimulus program: Obama will save or create thousands of jobs at the manufacturers of the red ink hues!)

Given how uncertain it is what he said, how’s about a journalist asks him at his next press conference? Let’s get some clarification on just how racist he thinks Tea Partiers really are.

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

What a horrible disappointment this man has been as president.
2012 cannot get here soon enough.

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Filed under Political Figures, Politics, Race

I Write The Speeches

Real Clear Politics

Huffington Post:

Media and real estate mogul Mort Zuckerman told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto Monday that he had helped write one of President Obama’s speeches.

“I voted for Obama, I in fact helped write one of his speeches, we endorsed Obama,” Zuckerman said, though he declined to say which speech. “Having said that, he’s our only president, we all want him to do well. Frankly, I’ve been a Democrat virtually all my life. I would like a Democratic administration to do well.”

Zuckerman, who owns the New York Daily News and US News & World Report, has been critical of Obama’s foreign policy.

Dan Riehl:

New York Daily News Publisher Mort Zuckerman admits to writing one of Obama’s speeches, saying he voted for him and endorsed him.

Here’s Zuckerman on July 2. Remember folks, these are the smart ones. Speaking of which, not hearing a lot from Chris Buckley these days. Rubes.

The hope that fired up the election of Barack Obama has flickered out, leaving a national mood of despair and disappointment. Americans are dispirited over how wrong things are and uncertain they can be made right again. Hope may have been a quick breakfast, but it has proved a poor supper. A year and a half ago Obama was walking on water. Today he is barely treading water. Then, his soaring rhetoric enraptured the nation. Today, his speeches cannot lift him past a 45 percent approval rating.


Jeez, not long ago Zuckerman was writing Obama’s speeches, now he’s writing his political obituary. Dan Riehl notes that he shoulda thought things through sooner.

UPDATE: A reader who works in Human Resources and requests anonymity writes:

I would be hysterical, if it wasn’t so sad and frightening, that all of these supposedly intelligent, perceptive, savvy CEOs, e.g. Mort Zuckerman, have come to the conclusion that the President has no demonstrated competency in leadership or execution.

If in my role as the HR guy at their respective organizations I had presented the President for an executive position which required managing for any sort of productive, value added outcome I suspect I would have been told to clean out my office.
Some jobs require you to DO more than talk.

It does seem that the President was inadequately vetted pre-election. So we’re doing the vetting now, instead, which is somewhat more expensive.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Stephen Clark writes:

“The Democratic party is the vehicle through which, after a populist interlude, the governing classes are proposing to take their country back. Obama is a restoration candidate but that doesn’t mean he has a plan. “ So wrote Christopher Caldwell in the last two sentences of his piece in The Spectator dated 29 October, 2008, Describing Obama as the restoration candidate for the governing classes may well capture a large part of the motivation behind a whole swath of people like Zuckerman.

Zuckerman, Bloomberg, and a very long list probably understood that Obama did not have enough experience. So much the better! Naturally, Obama would turn to the likes of them to help manage the country; except, it doesn’t look as if Obama and the people around him feel a great need for their help. If there is any shock to poor Mort, it’s that Obama, if only out of a sense of self-preservation, hasn’t recognized his need for the likes of him.

I would say that not listening to them is a mark in Obama’s favor, but the results suggest he should have taken any help he could get . . . .

Max Read at Gawker:

Do you know who Mort Zuckerman is? Mort Zuckerman is a Serious Person. He is rich. He owns the New York Daily News and U.S. News & World Report. He once dated Arianna Huffington. So, it is very important that you take Mort Zuckerman’s opinions Seriously. Such as his well-considered opinions that Barack Obama is doing everything wrong (due to health care) and Barack Obama hates the economy (due to “hostility to business culture”). Mort Zuckerman is nominally a Democrat, and like many Serious Democrats in New York, he is actually a rich New York Republican, who mostly just believes in not raising taxes or messing with Wall Street.

(Another thing you should know about Mort Zuckerman is that there is a baby, in his apartment, and asking where the baby came from is “considered impolite.”)

So, Mort Zuckerman brought some of his Serious Opinions to Fox News today, where he spoke with fellow pro-business anti-Communist freedom fighter Neil Cavuto. And while they were discussing the Marxist Jihad being waged against profits by President Red, Mort Zuckerman revealed that he, Serious Person Mort Zuckerman, had “helped write one of [Obama’s] speeches.” (He wouldn’t say which one.)

You might imagine, if you are familiar with the strange and wondrous territory known as the Right Wing Blogosphere (Here There Be Opinions!), that this would inspire spirited commentary. And indeed it did! Real Clear Politics picked up the moment first, at which point it began to spread to people like blogger Dan Riehl, who categorizes it as “media bias.” It is unclear, exactly, why right-wingers are bent out of shape about a rich conservative newspaper publisher claiming to have helped write the speeches of their least favorite black President ever, but it has to do with the Liberal Media, and other things that make us need to breathe into a paper bag.

Marc Ambinder:

Liberal media alert: Mort Zuckerman (who is no liberal) says he “helped write one of [Obama’s] speeches” but won’t say which one. Obama’s aides don’t remember consulting with Zuckerman.

Ben Smith at Politico:

Real Estate and media mogul Mort Zuckerman raised eyebrows all over yesterday with the claim on Fox that he “helped write one of [Obama’s] speeches,” and his subsequent refusal to go into it right now.

Among those with reason to be puzzled, a White House source tells me, were Obama’s speechwriters, Jon Favreau and Ben Rhodes. Neither “has ever met or spoken to Mort Zuckerman” and the two have “been closely involved in every speech the President has given since 2005,” said the official.

Zuckerman has met President Obama a few times and no doubt encountered other Administration officials, and he could well have suggested a theme to the president or another aide. But the question of what he “helped write”  remains a bit of a mystery.

Mort Zuckerman at US News:

Over the years I have been asked by various public officials, including those in Washington, for my perspectives and views on numerous issues. These conversations have always been considered confidential. My point in noting during a recent television interview that I had once “helped” contribute to one of Barack Obama’s campaign speeches was to reflect the fact that my recent criticisms of the president came from someone who had been supportive of him, who had voted for him, and whose newspaper endorsed him. I continue to hope for his and the country’s success.

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Filed under Mainstream, Political Figures

My First SOTU™

Obama’s first State Of The Union is tonight. We’ll add some stuff to this post later, after the speech.

Joel Achenbach at WaPo:

The state of the union is obstreperous. Dyspepsia is the new equilibrium. All the passion in American politics is oppositional. The American people know what they don’t like, which is: everything.

That sounds like nihilism, but they’re against that, too.

Consider the poll last week by The Washington Post and ABC News. People were asked a standard question about how much confidence they had in President Obama to “make the right decisions” for the nation’s future. A majority — 53 percent — gave the two most dismal of the four possible responses: “just some” and “none at all.” The same question had been asked a year earlier; in just 12 months, the “none at all” camp had tripled, from 9 percent to 27 percent.

We are at a strange moment: a crescendo in American anger even as the man in the White House hums along in a state of preternatural equanimity. Obama, who will take over prime-time television Wednesday night for his annual address to Congress, has seen such a drastic erosion of popularity that he may get only about 35 or 40 standing ovations instead of the usual 50 or so.

Jim Treacher at Daily Caller:

Here are some of the rules for our drinking game, if you want to play along at home. All by yourself. Not that I’m judging.

  • If Obama says “This will not be easy,” chug half your drink.
  • If Obama says “Challenging times,” start a waterfall with a staff member of The Daily Caller. There will be one of us near the emcee.
  • If Obama says “Bipartisan” or “Bipartisanship,” the back section of the bar yells “Yes,” while the front section yells “No.” Whichever side is louder should take a drink. Or take a drink after you lock arms with a person next to you (like a romantic toast).
  • Every time the camera shows the Supreme Court justices not standing, take a drink and then recite your Miranda rights.
  • If the camera shows Joe Wilson, yell “You lie” and then take a drink. If Joe Wilson yells “You lie,” finish everything in your glass.

I suggested that every time Obama says “Change,” everybody should throw all the coins in their pockets on the floor. Which would be awesome for me because I really need to do laundry. Tucker fired me on the spot. Do you know of any jobs?

Jules Crittenden:

Treach says these are just “some” of the rules, but doesn’t say what the others are. I guess that means you can make up your own. Here’s one. The first time he says “responsibility,” start a chugging ”wave” that goes around the room stadium-style. See how long you can keep it going. It stops when he says “prior administration” or “inherited.” Also, everytime he says “anger,” jut your jaw and defiantly knock back an appletini.

Robert Schlesinger at US News and World Report:

My colleague Ken Walsh has a nice history of the of the State of the Union address, looking at not only what tonight’s speech can mean for Obama, but how this event–filled with pomp, circumstance, sound, fury, but little significance–developed. And I blogged earlier about some of my favorite behind the scenes moments from various past administrations, from LBJ grousing that his speechwriters had given him “50 pages of vomit” to Richard Nixon bemoaning how boring the speech could be (an opinion shared by Bush 41 speechwriter and bloleague Mary Kate Cary).

But here are some straight facts and figures to sate your need for State of the Union data, trivia, and other minutia.

The shortest state of the Union message in terms of word count was the first: George Washington’s 1790 address weighed in at 1,089 words.

The longest in terms of words was Jimmy Carter’s final message, in January 1981. A written document rather than a speech, the report was 33,667 words long.

The longest orally delivered speech (at least since they started tracking these things in 1966) was Bill Clinton’s January 2000 address, which clocked in at 1 hour, 28 minutes and 49 seconds. Incredibly, that speech was only 7,452 words long, not nearly as long as his 1995 talk, in which he jammed 9,190 words into 1 hour, 24 minutes and 58 seconds. That ’95 address, by the way, was the longest in terms of word count, delivered as a speech.

In the republic’s early days, the House and Senate debated the president’s message and sent formal replies back to him. That practice was eventually deemed too time-consuming and stopped. And while George Washington and John Adams gave their messages in the form of speeches, Thomas Jefferson stopped the practice. It wasn’t until Woodrow Wilson in 1913 that the State of the Union speeches restarted. In all, 76 out of 220 such messages have been delivered by the president, in person.

Two presidents–William Henry Harrison and James Garfield–never delivered such a message to Congress. Both died in office before they were able to.

Silent Calvin Coolidge delivered the first State of the Union (though it was called an annual report until 1934 when FDR called it a “State of the Union” speech) that was broadcast over the radio, in 1923. Harry Truman’s 1947 speech was the first broadcast on television. George W. Bush’s 2002 address (“axis of evil”) was the first livecast from the House’s website.

Until the 1960s, these speeches were delivered around midday. It was Lyndon Johnson who first thought to take advantage of a larger prime time audience, in 1966. That in turn prompted Republicans to ask for chance to respond, starting the tradition of opposition party responses. That first was delivered by House Republican Leader Gerry Ford, who would eventually give his own State of the Union speeches. Last year, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal didn’t fare as well. His speech was such a disaster that many wags compared him to 30 Rock’s Kenneth the Page.

More later.

UPDATE: Max Fisher at The Atlantic with a round-up

Evan McMorris-Santoro at TPM

UPDATE #2: Chris Good at The Atlantic with a live-blog


UPDATE #3: Matthew Yglesias has directed us to his public twitter feed for SOTU analysis

Ed Morrissey looks forward

UPDATE #4: Allah Pundit

Andrew Sullivan

UPDATE #5: The Atlantic live-blog

Michael Crowley at TNR

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline

The Corner at National Review

UPDATE #6: Jonathan Chait

Michael Gerson at WaPo

Peter Wehner at Politics Daily

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Thank You For Flying The Church Of The Nones, Tea And Cake Or Death?

James Joyner did a lot of this round-up already, but oh well.

Dan Gilgoff in US News:

If current trends continue, a quarter of Americans are likely to claim “no religion” in 20 years, according to a survey out today by Trinity College. Americans who identify with no religious tradition currently comprise 15 percent of the country, representing the fastest growing segment of the national religious landscape.

While the numbers portend a dramatic change for the American religious scene—”religious nones” accounted for just 8 percent of the population in 1990—the United States is not poised adopt the anti-religious posture of much of secularized Europe.

That’s because American religious nones tend to be religious skeptics as opposed to outright atheists. Fewer than ten percent of those identifying with no religious tradition call themselves atheists or hold atheistic beliefs, according to the new study.

“American nones are kind of agnostic and deistic, so it’s a very American kind of skepticism,” says Barry Kosmin, director of Trinity’s Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture. “It’s a kind of religious indifference that’s not hostile to religion the way they are in France. Franklin and Jefferson would have recognized these people.”

Andrew Sullivan:

The study estimates that in twenty years, the Nones will make up 25 percent of Americans. The political breakdown is also fascinating.

In 1990, the Nones were mainly Independents but were equally spread among Democrats and Republicans. Today, the proportion of Independents who are Nones has leaped from 12 percent to 21 percent; and the percentage of Democratic Nones has doubled from 6 percent to 16 percent. In stark contrast, the GOP share has fallen from 8 percent to 6 percent. I’d say that’s a function of the GOP becoming an essentially Christianist fundamentalist party; and the Democrats having lots of Irish, Jewish and Asian supporters, who are the strongest groups in the None cohort.

The Nones are not wealthier than average, but they are more male. Almost 20 percent of American men are Nones, compared with 12 percent of women.

61 percent of Nones find evolution convincing, compared with 38 percent of all Americans. And yet they do not dismiss the possibility of a God they do not understand; and refuse to call themselves atheists. This is the fertile ground on which a new Christianity will at some point grow. In the end, the intellectual bankruptcy of the theocon right and Christianist movement counts. Very few people with brains are listening to these people any more. They have discredited Christianity as much as they have tarnished conservatism.

PZ Myers at Science Blogs:

It’s not enough, is all I can say. I suppose it’s good news, but I am disappointed in my fellow Americans. I will not be content until the number is 100%. (OK, 95%. It’s not fair to demand rationality from people who are brain damaged or locked up in asylums.)

The really bizarre news here is the way people are squirming to put a twist to the data to reassure the believers. They’ve got a label for that 15% that isn’t “godless atheist unbelievers”: they are “Nones”. Don’t panic, they say, only 10% of them call themselves “atheists”! They’re mostly agnostics and skeptics of organized religion! You don’t have to stockpile food and ammo, bar the doors and windows, and prepare for the anarchy and evil that would follow if all those people were atheists.

It’s rather annoying. Every article I see on this subject makes this desperate rush to reassure their readers that this growing cohort of Americans aren’t really those goddamned atheists — they’re nice people, unlike those cold-hearted, soulless beasts called atheists, and they aren’t planning to storm your churches and rape the choir boys and boil babies in the baptismal fonts, unlike the scary atheistic monsters. They’re special. And most of all, they aren’t French.

Allah Pundit:

As fascinating and portentous as all this is, the only issue I can think of where religious affiliation might strongly drive the partisan reaction is teaching evolution in schools. Behold:

That’s a staggering divide, with a majority among all U.S. adults saying evolution probably or definitely didn’t happen versus a huge majority among “nones” saying that it probably or definitely did. Exit question: Imagine an America 100 years from now that’s majority non-religious. Imagine it.

James Joyner:

I suspect part of the reason that people are reluctant to call themselves “atheists” is a fear of being lumped in with the likes of Myers, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins.  Not satisfied to use their considerable brainpower to argue for scientific explanations over supernatural ones, they instead show utter disdain for the overwhelming majority of their fellow citizens who were brought up in a religious tradition and cling to parts of it.  “Atheism” in this sense isn’t a mere belief that there is no supernatural overlord controlling our universe but a quasi-religion of its own, with many of the worst traits of organized religion.

Similarly, AllahPundit likes the trend but is baffled by the non-believers who have a “personal god” or otherwise quasi-religious beliefs.   But that strikes me as a cultural phenomenon rather than a purely religious one.  America is steeped in religious traditions that are followed even by non-believers.  Pretty much everyone celebrates Christmas, for example, and even Easter — a more purely religious occasion that doesn’t even result in an extra day off work — has a huge secular buy-in, what with Easter bunnies and the various fun traditions for kids.  Not only does Big Business glom onto these occasions but they’re also massive public rituals, as well.  The President lights the national Christmas tree.  He hosts an Easter egg roll.   We reflexively say “Bless you” when people sneeze and take the Lord’s name in vain when we’re angry, regardless whether we believe in said Lord’s existence.

A sizable number of America’s self-described “religious,” even those who attend church with some regularity, aren’t religious in the sense that their 16th Century forebears were.  They pick and choose from the teachings of their chosen faith at will, occasionally even choosing a new faith altogether for reasons of “comfort” and convenience.  It’s a communal experience from which many draw inspiration and comfort

Michael Merritt at PoliGazette:

One, the number of Catholics is going down, particularly in the Northeast.  These people have been exposed to religion, and have likely left the Church due to the scandals that have erupted in years past rather than perhaps a personal disbelief in a diety.

However, I found something else reported by the study to be quite striking.

“Younger Nones are more likely to identify as “agnostic” than are all Nones.”

I’m 23, and I identify this way, despite almost no exposure to religion during my younger years.  Then I think back to where I most often seem to find the militant atheists: Among the boomers, or at least, people who are approaching the age group the the boomers are.  Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are both boomers.  Bill Maher and P.Z. Myers are stretching that a bit, but they’re close enough.  We know quite well how cantankerous boomers can be.  Many of these people were right amongst the activists of the civil rights and Vietnam eras.  Coincidence?  I think not.

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Orange Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair


Tom Ridge writes a book.

Paul Bedard at US News:

Tom Ridge, the first head of the 9/11-inspired Department of Homeland Security, wasn’t keen on writing a tell-all. But in The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege...and How We Can Be Safe Again, out September 1, Ridge says he wants to shake “public complacency” over security. And to do that, well, he needs to tell all. Especially about the infighting he saw that frustrated his attempts to build a smooth-running department. Among the headlines promoted by publisher Thomas Dunne Books: Ridge was never invited to sit in on National Security Council meetings; was “blindsided” by the FBI in morning Oval Office meetings because the agency withheld critical information from him; found his urgings to block Michael Brown from being named head of the emergency agency blamed for the Hurricane Katrina disaster ignored; and was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush’s re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over.

Marc Ambinder:

The news this morning that former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge believed that President Bush and his top advisers manipulated the terror threat alert system for their political gain is really — and it ought to be — a major story. Ridge was in a position to know, for certain, whether this was the case. And though he’s hinted at it before, he now says, in his soon-to-be-released book, that he was pressured into raising the alert level before the 2004 election. Let’s see what Ridge actually writes before making too many conclusions. Let’s talk to other Bush officials and try to figure out whether we need to exercise caution about Ridge’s own perspective. For one thing, Ridge didn’t immediately resign. He resigned after the election. If he believed at the time that manipulating the terror alert system was damaging to the country, and he said nothing, and when he did resign, he said nothing, then he doesn’t come off as a particularly sympathetic figure. Ridge left the White House in 2005. He’s joined several corporate boards, has made a lot of money consulting on homeland security, and has been mostly silent. He’s probably been saving it for the book.

Journalists, including myself, were very skeptical when anti-Bush liberals insisted that what Ridge now says is true, was true. We were wrong.  Our skepticism about the activists’ conclusions was warranted because these folks based their assumption on gut hatred for President Bush, and not on any evaluation of the raw intelligence.  But journalists should have been even more skeptical about the administration’s pronouncements. And yet — we, too, weren’t privy to the intelligence. Information asymmetry is always going to exist, and, living as we do in a Democratic system, most journalists are going to give the government the benefit of some doubt.  We can see, now, how pre-war intelligence was manipulated, how the entire Washington establishment (including Congressional Democrats(, including the media, was manipulated by a valid fear of the unknown — but a fear we now know was consciously, deliberately, inculcated.

Dave Weigel at The Washington Independent:

If Ridge really quit DHS because it became so politically rotten, good for him; his successor Michael Chertoff, however, somehow managed to hold the job for four years without issuing a conveniently timed alert. And it’s worth remembering that the idea that Ridge might do this was seen, in 2004, as political conspiracy-mongering. In a Sept. 4, 2004 Washington Post piece, Richard Morin cited the “politicized color code” worry to make fun of skeptical Democrats.

“Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, it has been an article of faith that the terrorism issue works to the huge political benefit of President Bush and to the disadvantage of the Democrats. As a consequence, some Democratic stalwarts privately wonder whether administration officials might spring a late October surprise in the form of an orange alert in order to help President Bush win reelection.  Such cynicism!”

Emptywheel at Firedoglake

Doug J. notes that this will probably not be a subject for discussion on “Morning Joe.”


But if you think that using the threat of terrorism for political purposes would be more interesting to the Villagers than Michelle Obama’s shorts, you’re probably wrong.

And just so it’s clear: using the threat of terrorism to try to achieve political goals is, you know, what terrorists do.

Pareene at Gawker:

Come on, Tom. Michael Brown was just a symptom of an administration too concerned with exaggerated foreign threats to give a shit about domestic emergency preparedness and too opposed to career civil service to staff FEMA with people who knew what they were doing. He was not actually personally responsible for Katrina, and unless Tom’s claiming that Brown’s presence alone was the reason why Ridge, as head of the department in charge of FEMA, never bothered to make emergency response a departmental priority that “revelation” is just long-after-the-fact ass-covering.

Oh, but the other thing, about changing the terror alert right before the 2004 election? We believe that one.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey

UPDATE #2: Emptywheel and Glenn Greenwald on Ambinder’s post

Ambinder responds

UPDATE #3: Tom Maguire

Michelle Malkin

Juan Cole

Versha Sharma at TPM

UPDATE #4: Reihan Salam

Emptywheel (Marcy) responds to Ambinder

Spencer Ackerman on the Empty/Ambers spat

Matt Lewis and Bill Scher at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #5: Now Ridge is back-tracking

Steve Benen

Michelle Malkin

Marc Ambinder

Ed Morrissey

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary


Filed under Books, GWOT, Homeland Security, Political Figures

Tim Ryan And The Pro-Life Movement: Warm Fuzzies Or Cold Pricklies?


Bonnie Erbe in US News and World Report:

HuffingtonPost.com has an interesting post about the fragmentation of the pro-life movement. The piece focuses on Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, and his work with pro-choicers to find common ground among those who oppose the right to abortion and those who support it.

For his work on a paper with a center-left think tank to try to find ways to reduce the need for abortion, he was thusly rewarded by his pro-life advocates:

Congressman Ryan was removed from the board of Democrats for Life of America, and with it, disowned by the pro-life movement at large. Pro-life publications have taken to qualifying his pro-life status as “allegedly” pro life or referring to him as someone “who claims to be” pro-life. Because of his support of prevention in 2007-2008 congressional session, Ryan received a “0” rating from National Right to Life Committee. According to the pro-life establishment’s new standards, his support for prevention means he no longer qualifies as “pro-life.” And that means very few pro-life Americans will either.

It may be news to some Americans that the vast, vast majority of pro-life ACTIVISTS (as opposed to Americans) are religious zealots who, when and if they ever get done banning abortion, have already begun to set their sights on banning contraception, too. Think about it: Would you devote your whole life to this issue, or any other issue, if you had anything better to do? My point is, the extreme fringe of both parties comprises a large percentage of full-time activists on many tough issues.

John McCormack in The Weekly Standard:

Ryan’s support for the Capps amendment is the latest instance in which he has served as a pro-life “front-man” for groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, says the National Right to Life Committee’s Douglas Johnson. He says that Ryan is a “wolf dressed in increasingly-tattered pro-life clothing,” and points to Ryan’s 2004 vote to repeal the ban on abortions at military bases overseas, his recent vote to allow public funding of abortion in D.C, and his votes in favor of embryo-destructive stem-cell research. According to the NRLC, Ryan hasn’t cast a pro-life vote since 2006. “[Ryan] has no right whatsoever to advertise himself as right-to-life,” says Rep. Smith.

Ryan defends himself from these charges, saying that in 2004, “I accidentally voted the wrong way” on allowing abortions at military bases, and he points out that he cast pro-life votes on the issue in 2003, 2005, and 2006. While a few anti-abortion legislators support embryonic stem-cell research, Ryan’s support for public funding of abortion in D.C. pits him against all pro-life Representatives (and even a number of pro-choice Representatives who oppose funding of abortion). “Congress shouldn’t tell the District of Columbia that it can’t use its own money to fund abortions,” Ryan told a local Ohio paper recently. “That’s not the federal government’s concern.” Though D.C. generates some funds through local taxation, Congress appropriates all funds in the District.

William Saletan in Slate:

While some extremists have been raising hell and shooting doctors, pragmatists have been hashing out common-ground legislation. Their latest bill, introduced Thursday, is the Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion, and Supporting Parents Act. If that sounds like a jumble of ideas from both sides, it’s because lots of bargaining went into it. Among other things, pro-choicers got money for contraception and sex education. Pro-lifers got abstinence-friendly curriculum, a bigger adoption tax credit, and financial support for women who continue their pregnancies.

[…] But the militant old guard of the pro-life movement didn’t. The militants, led by the National Right to Life Committee, call the bill a “scam.” According to NRLC Legislative Director Doug Johnson, the bill’s real goal is “financial gains for the abortion industry.” How could abortion-reducing legislation help the “abortion industry”? By funding contraception. If you run an organization dedicated to avoiding unplanned pregnancy but in 3 percent of cases you provide abortions to women who ask for them, you’re the “abortion industry.” And any bill that funds your pregnancy prevention services, even with the legal understanding that you’re forbidden to spend the money on anything else, is a “bailout for the abortion industry.”

[…] Ultimately, the militants don’t care what’s in the bill. The mere fact that some pro-choicers support it is, by their reckoning, grounds to oppose it. Johnson scoffs that the bill was drafted “under the direction of [a] career pro-abortion activist” (Rachel Laser of Third Way) and her congressional “sock puppet” (Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio), who’s trying to hide “his close collaborative relationship [with] key pro-abortion groups.” Never mind that Laser has put in years of work, antagonized her friends, and risked her career as a pro-choicer for Johnson’s cause. Never mind that Ryan has stood up for unborn life, vote after vote after vote after vote, in a party committed to legal and publicly funded abortion. Any pro-lifer who collaborates with pro-choicers is a traitor, any pro-life bill involving a pro-choicer is a “scam,” and any Catholic who supports such a bill is a “fake” Catholic. Common ground is impossible. In the name of life, we must fight to the death.

Pro-life pragmatists take a different view. They sought, won, and commend the bill’s emphasis on abstinence and parental involvement in sex education. They welcome its voluntary approach to abortion reduction even as they seek the procedure’s abolition. And while some of them oppose contraception or doubt it will help, they think the bill is still worth supporting because, on balance, it will lead to fewer abortions.

I prefer the pragmatists. How about you?

Ramesh Ponnuru at The Corner:

Saletan attributes to the militants—and specifically to NRLC official Douglas Johnson—the view that “any pro-life bill involving a pro-choicer is a ‘scam.'” Johnson has not said any such thing, nor does he believe it: He worked for years to ban partial-birth abortion, which involved a lot of collaboration with pro-choicers.

Fourth, Saletan makes it sound as though the militants are persecuting poor Rep. Tim Ryan for his open-mindedness even though “Ryan has stood up for unborn life, vote after vote after vote after vote.” Oh come on: He’s not Henry Hyde. He’s not Bart Stupak. The votes Saletan mentions are a few years old, or required no particular courage even from Democrats, or, typically, both. Here’s what I wrote about Rep. Ryan earlier this year: “Even though Ryan presents himself as a pro-lifer, he did not cast a single pro-life vote in the last Congress. He broke with pro-lifers on stem-cell funding, on cloning, on foreign aid, and, of course, on Planned Parenthood funding. Nowadays his allegedly ‘pro-life’ advocacy consists entirely of working with Congresswoman DeLauro to funnel more money to abortion providers.”

Saletan again:

Does the nation’s leading pro-life organization oppose contraception?

Officially, the National Right to Life Committee takes no position on birth control. Its legislative director, Douglas Johnson, has restated this neutrality many times. I’m inclined to believe him, because I take people’s stated motivations seriously.

Johnson, however, doesn’t take such statements seriously. He relentlessly characterizes his opponents as “pro-abortion,” even though they don’t like abortions. They call themselves “pro-choice” or “pro-abortion rights.” But Johnson insists on an objective standard: Do you support legislation that funds abortions or people who defend them? If so, you’re pro-abortion.

By this standard, NRLC is against contraception.

[..] Ryan claims to be pro-life. Laser, who is pro-choice, claims to share Ryan’s interest in reducing the number of abortions. Johnson rejects both claims. In a comment posted in Slate‘s Fray last Wednesday, Johnson repeats that Laser is “pro-abortion” and that she is now using “false flag operations,” serving “the public policy goals of the pro-abortion lobby, with a methodology that employs misleading rhetoric, labels, and props intended to disguise the substance of that agenda,” thereby providing “camouflage for the pro-abortion politicians.” He dismisses the Ryan-DeLauro bill and its themes of abortion reduction and common ground as “phony,” a “smokescreen,” and a “prop” in a “political charade.” He calls Ryan a “front man” for this pro-abortion scheme and accuses him of voting “against all the real pro-lifers.”

[…] From 2003 to 2006, the score card lists 22 key House votes. On these, it shows Ryan voting with NRLC 17 times, voting against it four times, and not voting once. Three of the four votes on which Ryan split with NRLC involved contraception, stem cells, or cost controls on prescription drugs. Of the 22 roll calls scored, 15 were directly about abortion. On these, Ryan voted with NRLC all but once.

From 2007 to 2009, NRLC scored only 10 votes. Four of the first five were on stem cells or cloning. On these, Ryan voted against NRLC twice, and the other two times, he didn’t vote. Lots of other anti-abortion legislators, such as Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, vote for stem cells and cloning, and NRLC doesn’t call them fakers, so those two votes don’t explain why NRLC has denounced Ryan. The fifth vote on the NRLC score card was on the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act. NRLC says this vote was a pro-life test because “the bill would result in the imposition of price controls that would limit access to and discourage the development of innovative life-saving medicines.”

Ponnuru again:

What Saletan demonstrates is that if he explicitly abandons his own intellectual standards in favor of the lower ones he attributes to his opponents, and then adds some illogic of his own, he can make those opponents look pretty bad. Why this exercise was worth going through is not entirely clear.

The gist of the criticism is that the NRLC is secretly opposed to contraception, not just abortion and embryo-destructive research, and that is why it criticizes Rep. Tim Ryan. Saletan suggests that the NRLC’s problem with Rep. Ryan can’t be his position on stem-cell research, for example, because it hasn’t gone after other professed pro-lifers who take it with nearly the same level of hostility. It’s really against him because he supports the contraception funding. But, um, this isn’t a secret. The NRLC has openly opposed contraceptive funding when that funding flows to Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest abortion provider. It reasons that money is fungible and therefore giving money to the group promotes abortion. The NRLC thus supported the Pence amendment to hold contraceptive funding steady but redirect it from Planned Parenthood. You can disagree with that view, as Saletan does—rather incoherently*—but there’s nothing here for a journalist to uncover.

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