A Northam and Omar Twofer: Liner Notes

I have two new columns posted at The Federalist today: “All Ralph Northam Needs To Weather Racism Controversy Is The Approval Of Woke Whites” and “Ilhan Omar Criticizes Cold War Policy To Distract From Socialism’s Atrocities In Venezuela.” The first is a “normal” column I pitched, while the second was the result of a comment I made in a discussion of yesterday’s news (which I note simply because some are curious about how items get “assigned” over there).

What got left out? In the Northam piece, I considered writing more about why I think he should have resigned, which boils down to a pattern of comments suggesting he does not treat individuals — whether newborns or African-Americans — in accord with our ideals. But the piece is really more about the underlying politics, so I left that argument in the subtext. Also, in the time since I submitted the column, it’s becoming clearer that black legislators in Virginia are paying attention to the poll showing black Virginians are not as outraged as whites by Northam’s blackface scandal. It’s always nice when the news arrives in support of one’s argument.

In the Omar column, I could have written much more about Reagan-era foreign policy in Central America. Top Democrats took a very anti-anti-Communist line in this arena and history will not remember them kindly. The socialist Rep. Ron Dellums, who was eventually elevated to chair the House Armed Services Committee, was an admirer of Fidel Castro and Grenada’s dictator Maurice Bishop.

No one is going to defend the excesses and abuses of some of America’s proxy forces who fought against the socialist dictatorships during the Reagan era. On the other hand, I doubt the Democrats would now defend the idea that we should have allowed these dictators to permit the establishment of Soviet airbases and other installations on our southern doorstep. And if you oppose direct intervention, you wind up supporting proxy forces that almost inevitably will not live up to our ideals. Democrats opposing the entire enterprise told people by their actions (and demands for inaction) what results made them comfortable. And so it is with Omar, who opposes not only any direct intervention, but also sanctions against the Maduro regime. Her posturing against Elliott Abrams on human rights abuses is just that — posturing, on behalf of thugs every bit as murderous as anyone the U.S. supported (or fought) in South and Central America in the 1980s.

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One Cheer for the NYT on Democratic Extremism

A bonus follow-up on my Friday column about the way the media covers far-left extremism in the Democratic Party in the most begrudging way they can get away with. Although most of the column was about the media’s slanted coverage of abortion, I added:

Abortion may be the subject where the media’s sins of omission are the greatest, but they do not end there. The New York Times celebrated the swearing-in of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-NY) as a historic triumph over anti-Muslim bigotry and Muslim sexism, while omitting the inflammatory comments that made her a lightning rod for criticism.

Similarly, if newly elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) reportedly associates with anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists, you won’t be reading about it in the Post or the Times, or see it on establishment newscasts.”

Well, the NYT got around to correcting those omissions in a story which also ran on Friday, addressing them in paragraphs 26 and 24, respectively. Slow clap.

And that’s not the only curious thing about the story, either. The article is almost entirely about the turmoil Omar and Tlaib are causing within the House Democratic Caucus, but paragraph 2 reads as follows:

Four weeks later, their uncompromising views on Israel have made them perhaps the most embattled new members of the Democratic House majority. Almost daily, Republicans brashly accuse Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar of anti-Semitism and bigotry, hoping to make them the Democrats’ version of Representative Steve King as they try to tar the entire Democratic Party with their criticism of the Jewish state.”

Inasmuch as the article barely returns to that “Republicans pounce” theme, readers might be forgiven for wondering whether it gets top billing to prime the paper’s core readership to side with Omar and Tlaib by means of negative partisanship, especially since the lede is about how path-breaking and heroic they are.

People might also be forgiven for seeing the political assessment inserted into a straight news story as a bit of projection, and an explanation for why the establishment media reports these stories as though they are undergoing a root canal. People on the right are sounding the alarm about the growing anti-Semitism within the Democratic Party not because it is currently dominant, but because they fear it might become common and acceptable, as has occurred in the UK’s Labour Party.

The editorializing in the NYT story occasionally gets Orwellian, as here:

Democratic leaders are standing by the women. Mr. Jeffries, the caucus chairman, called them ‘thoughtful colleagues.’ Representative Steny D. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader and a staunch ally of Israel, said, ‘I don’t know that I draw the conclusion that these two members are anti-Semitic.’

The first comment is non-specific; the second has leadership withholding judgment. Neither is a defense.

In between, there is much on the pending bill that would allow state and local governments to break ties with companies that participate in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions [BDS] movement. Opposition to the bill on free speech grounds is what people like Tlaib hide behind, when such measures are almost certainly constitutional.

That does not mean the policy isn’t worthy of debate, only that Tlaib and her ilk would much rather pretend that the issue is free speech, not BDS. Per usual, there is nothing in the coverage explaining why BDS is anti-Semitic, or even suggest there is a debate about it. The NYT story’s focus here is telling, given that both Omar and Tlaib have come out in support of BDS after they got elected.

Furthermore, in reporting that Tlaib said of the bills supporters that “They forgot what country they represent,” the NYT allows Tlaib to offer the unchallenged defense that her comments were not aimed at Jews (but at Sens. Marco Rubio and Joe Manchin). Aiming those comments at anyone is anti-Semitic. Aiming them at non-Jews implies that our government is under the control of Jews or the Jewish state. It’s a “dual loyalty” charge, regardless of the target. And it’s a charge Omar laughed and smirked over in a recent CNN interview.

The sourcing in the NYT story is also selective. The only Jewish group quoted is the progressive J Street (which endorsed neither Omar nor Tlaib, a sign of how extreme these two are). There’s no quote from the ADL, AIPAC, or even the newly-formed Democratic Majority for Israel, despite the group’s launch being the subject of an NYT story just days earlier.

The last omission is doubly curious inasmuch as the formation of the new group underscores the supposed thesis of the article about intra-party friction. It is triply curious given that the new group reportedly may aid Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who just happens to be one of the Congressmen quoted repeatedly in this new story. The other Reps with multiple quotes are Ted Deutch and Eliot Engel — both are Jewish, Engel is from New York.

A few days ago, writing in part about Democratic leadership teaching Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez her place as a rookie Member, I noted that quietly going to the media with embarrassing material would be another weapon they held in reserve. Friday’s piece on Omar and Tlaib reads like it may have originated that way, even if the reporter then went out of her way to skew the piece in their defense.

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The Future of Abortion Politics: Liner Notes

I have a new column up at The Federalist, “Ralph Northam And Kathy Tran Revealed The Future Of Abortion Politics,” and it’s coincidentally about federalism.

Abortion is not a topic I write about much, but wherever one’s view, it is an issue that has profoundly shaped our politics since the decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973. It was a big factor in moving Democrats toward Reagan in 1980 and the decision of born-again Christians to become more active in partisan politics. The defeat of the Bork nomination to the Supreme Court is not only a significant cause of our current polarization, but also the seed of our current battles over judicial nominations (and thus a major factor in the election of Pres. Trump).

Recent statements by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Del. Kathy Tran supporting a bill to deregulate abortion (particularly late-term abortion) apparently have complicated abortion rights activists’ nationwide campaign to loosen restrictions on the practice. I argue that the reaction of the pro-life movement to the controversy in Virginia (quickly following the passage of a similar bill in New York) suggests that if Roe were overturned, there would probably be a less federalist, “leave it to the states” attitude on either side than has been generally supposed.

This idea came to me largely due to the disingenuous “conservatives pounce” framing that most of the establishment media put on the story (after having largely ignored the passage of the NY law). The pro-life reaction was even more justified than originally thought, given the previously undisclosed campaign. But the media also missed what that reaction implies about how politics might look if the Supreme Court declared Roe and its progeny (esp. Doe v. Bolton) were no longer the law of the land. That’s a true measure of lazy partisanship, given that the pro-choice side could make an argument like mine to suggest the pro-life side deep down really wants federal restrictions on abortion or access thereto.

As an aside, I would note this is another one of many columns in which there is a media element, even if media coverage is not the main subject. One of the things about media bias that continues to annoy me in a low-key way is that having to account for said bias in a column often threatens to become a distraction, interrupting the flow and structure of a column. But in a story like this one, the behavior of the establishment media is enough of a factor that it cannot be entirely ignored, either.

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The Media Blind Spot For Left-Wing Extremism: Liner Notes

I have a surprise (to me) third column this week at The Federalist, titled “Democracy Dies In Darkness When The Media Avoids Extremist Democrats.”

Over the past decade or so, I have written quite a bit about media bias. In recent years have tried to dial it back a bit because I believe there is a danger in media criticism which is purely partisan, as opposed to institutional (in the sense that certain types of media bias are not healthy for our small-p politics). So I have tried to restrict myself more to the latter cases. The establishment media’s bias regarding abortion, particularly the extreme support for late-term abortion, is one of those cases and I’m far from alone in this belief.

The more polarized our politics become, the less effective partisan criticism becomes, so I have little hope that a column like the one published today persuades many people on the left. But if internal policing is what remains, the establishment media’s failures to police extremism within the Democratic Party they so obviously favor are that much more egregious, not only on its own terms but also for the cynicism it breeds on the right. Moreover, for the reasons I suggest at the end of the column, it appears the media knows that what the left is doing here is morally wrong, but cannot bring itself to speak truth to power which is otherwise congenial to them.

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AOC: A Fantasy Candidate for Fantasy Politics (Liner Notes)

My second column at The Federalist this week is titled “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is The Unicorn In A Field Of Fantasy Candidates,” which is a better title than whatever I proposed.

Regular readers know I believe that a mass audience tends to prefer reading about people over events over ideas. So while the column is ostensibly about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it’s really more about populist politics disadvantaging anyone with a political record — and the origin of that sentiment in political psychology. Indeed, I originally pitched this column as a more abstract thinkpiece about the 2020 Democratic primary field before realizing I was violating one of my own guidelines. And AOC is a hot topic right now (my last column got plenty of clicks), so I moved her from the second act of this drama to the first.

Space considerations caused me to leave out a bit about the role youth plays in this dynamic, particularly with Millennials and Gen Z having favorable opinions of “socialism,” a term every bit as ill-defined as “capitalism.” Some of this is the after-effects of the Great Recession, and some the result of so-called “higher” education today, but also the romantic feeling of being part of something “revolutionary,” which fits nicely into my argument as published.

I also could have delved much further into the sources of political disappointment mentioned in the column. For example, one could argue that modern capitalism produces a sense of alienation, or a sense of entitlement, and occasionally both in various segments of the population — all of which contribute to people investing far too much of their identities into politics (and politics as a religion, a topic I’ve written about often). But that was sort of the problem — a book could be written about that subject, so I had to stick to keeping today’s argument flowing.

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AOC’s Risky Game: Liner Notes

I have a new column posted at The Federalist today, “How Ocasio-Cortez’s Trump-Like Tactics Could Be Her Downfall.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) became a phenomenon doing her own thing, but she has started copying Pres. Trump’s tactics. Attacking fellow Dems and the establishment media (but I repeat myself) is a path already proving a bad choice for her — and one which could get worse if the media realizes she could harm them in ways Trump cannot.

What got left out? After the fact, it occurred to me that I may have buried in the subtext the theory that AOC is behaving as she is precisely because she is in over her head (a factor that has played into Trump lashing out dating back to the 2016 campaign).

Beyond that, I left out a discussion of the impact of the 2020 Democratic primary race and its outcome. AOC’s endorsement — or lack thereof will be a storyline.

More significantly, 2020 will be at least a partial referendum on democratic socialism, either with the Democratic primary electorate or the general electorate — and this will pose questions for AOC’s status in the party as well. In the event of a more moderate nominee, the pressure on her to be a team player will intensify (even more so if that moderate won). In the event of a more socialist nominee, a loss would tarnish her agenda, while a win would raise questions about what AOC would do when her agenda likely crashes against the reality of governing.

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Ilhan Omar Strikes Again : Liner Notes

My second column of the day at The Federalist is headlined “Ilhan Omar Deletes Tweet Smearing Covington High Schoolers, But Her Anti-Semitic Tweets Remain Online.”

This was truly done on a “breaking news” type of deadline, so not much got left on the clipboard. If I had more time, I might have done more parsing of Omar’s most recent rationalization of the infamous ” Israel has hypnotized the world ” tweet. The more closely you read her new tweets, the more they read as: “sorry Jews were offended by my obvious anti-Semitic trope; I’ll try not to let the mask slip quite so obviously in the future.”

In addition, as Omar will almost certainly stick her foot in her mouth again, I think I might profit from looking at the media coverage of Israel on the date of the “hypnotized” tweet. Based on how the Middle east conflict generally gets covered, I suspect it’s not the pro-Israel fantasy coverage Omar seems to think it was.

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Impeachment? Bring It On. (Liner Notes)

My latest column at The Federalist is online: “Impeachment Won’t Be The Trump-Ending Silver Bullet Democrats Expect.” It’s a set of arguments for why the right is coming around to the acceptance of impeaching Pres. Trump, in case you were wondering whether the site publishes a broad spectrum of views.

Some on the right have been questioning the FBI/Special Counsel probes of the President for some time already. All recognize that any serious claim against the President would wind up with Congress, as the Constitution dictates. If a Democratic House cannot be stopped, it should be asked why Dems should be allowed to hide behind the executive branch investigations.

What got left out for space? First, the consideration of evidentiary claims (other than to note the current public evidence is not moving a GOP-controlled Senate). After all, Trump supporters are confident he did nothing warranting a conviction. And if it turned out that Trump was guilty of something that would convince the Senate, the GOP should rip off that band-aid sooner rather than later.

Second, space precluded a more detailed examination of the timing of impeachment. But once you realize that (so far), the Dems have better odds of beating him at the ballot box than in an impeachment, there’s not really a “good timing” scenario for them. Impeachment this year might take it off the table before the 2020 election and dispirit Dems. Impeachment might have the most impact in Summer 2020, but it would be seen as the height of partisanship. Dragging proceedings out past the election would be difficult if Trump is reelected.

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CNN Mishandles Ilhan Omar: Liner Notes

A busy week of punditry ends with a third column at The Federalist, “CNN Does Not Know How To Question Ilhan Omar’s Conspiracy Theories And Anti-Semitism.” The domestic channel’s anchors dropped the ball by failing to ask basic questions. Meanwhile, on CNN International, Christiane Amanpour asked some basic questions, but embedded fairly obvious sympathy for Omar’s odious views.

Given the “breaking news” quality of the interviews, it was written on a fairly tight de facto deadline to get it posted today (at least this is how I thought of it). If I had allowed myself more time, I could have addressed those on the left who emerged later in the day to defend Omar’s so-called defense on CNN Newsroom by arguing Omar was not claiming Sen. Graham was being blackmailed regarding his sexuality.

First, Omar’s substitution of baseless speculation about political pressure remains baseless, regardless of whether it’s rooted in the sexual rumor. And her “explanation” still leaves open the question of whom Omar believes has pressured Graham.

Second, as noted in the column, Omar singled out Graham among many Republicans who have changed their tune (rightly or wrongly) on Pres. Trump. Her tweet appeared at the moment that MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle was alluding to the rumor in a discussion about the exact prior comments by Grhama that Omar relied upon. The inference to be drawn here is a lot stronger than any of the speculation Omar has ever offered about Graham.

Time and space considerations also precluded me from mentioning the Politico report that House Democrats likely will not move to censure Rep. Steve King (R-IA) because they fear the GOP will retaliate with motions to censure members like Omar and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). With the Dems being this weak on policing themselves, the media’s failures loom larger.

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Blank Screen Beto: Liner Notes

I have another new column up at The Federalist this week, “There’s No Way Beto O’Rourke Can Duplicate Obama’s Success.” That headline is a bit more confident than I am (as headlines tend to be). But Beto will have problems trying to be the “blank screen” that Obama — and Trump, for that matter — were for many voters.

What got left out? Not the material about his weird road trip journal; that story had not broken when I submitted this column. (I tend to think this is a calculation on O’Rourke’s part, albeit a strange one.)

Rather, I cut more material about the weaknesses of populism, whether deployed by Beto or others.

For example, in the original discussion that led to me writing the column, I had noted that Tucker Carlson’s recent critique of modern capitalism was largely devoid of any actual policy, and that by his own admission, Carlson was “just asking questions.” And that as the Federalist’s publisher, Ben Domenech, pointed out in his newsletter (The Transom), when Carlson got specific on the issue of marijuana decriminalization, he got it backward: it was not an issue driven by elites (at least not by political elites). Similarly, while the column has a Big Lebowski-inspired joke about President Trump’s desired border wall, I would up skipping a bit about the wall not really being the top priority for immigration hawks in the policy sphere.

Unfortunately, as much as I like that bit, it tended to break the flow of the argument. This is what writers mean when they talk about “killing their darlings.”

I also wound up cutting more about the attacks on Beto from the Bernie Sanders types, including that Beto squirms about being labeled “progressive” and never joined the progressive caucus in the House. To the contrary, he belonged to a caucus that was more of a Clintonite, “third way” sort of group. The degree to which Beto and others (notably Kamala Harris) decide to embrace the democratic socialist agenda will probably be one of the major stories of the Dems’ 2020 presidential nomination, but it’s a story for another column.

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