• June 30, 2004 | 11:51 AM ET
Pot Calling the Kettle Atheist
I’ve been thinking a bit more about Tony Blankley’s attack on George Soros, along with those of Bill O’Reilly and the Republican slime machine that are apparently inspired and supplied them. Aside from the hateful Nazi insinuations and the implications of anti-Semitism that I discussed in this piece, I did not have time to address two points. (Being able to do so is one of the great things about blogs for journalists, by the way.)
First, since when did it become OK to attack the presumably honest religious beliefs of an individual with whom one has political differences? So Soros is a “committed atheist” as Blankley, O’Reilly and others never tire of alerting us. So go**am what? I was perusing Rick Hertzberg’s mammoth new lifetime greatest hits collection (box set would be more like it) called Politics and I share the admiration for this passage that David Remnick chose to quote in his introduction: Writing in response to some silly crack by the Bill “Blackjack” Bennett—in the days when we only intuited his hypocrisy—Hertzberg, a committed atheist demands:
As a Judeo-Christian who has an aversion to religion, and who is an American as good as or better than any mousse-haired, Bible-touting, apartheid-promoting evangelist on any UHF television station you can name, I must protest.
Where is it written that if you don’t like religion you are somehow disqualified from being a legitimate American? What was Mark Twain, a Russian? When did it become un-American to have opinions about the origin and meaning of the universe that come from sources other than the body of dogma of organizations approved by the federal government as certifiably Judeo-Christian? Is it American to believe that God ordered Tribe X to abjure port, or that he caused Leader Y to be born to a virgin, why is it suddenly un-American to doubt the prime mover of this unimaginably vast universe of quintillions of solar systems would likely be obsessed with questions involving the dietary and biosexual behavior of a few thousand bipeds inhabiting a small part of a speck of dust orbiting a third-rate star in an obscure spiral arm of one of millions of more or less identical galaxies?
(I copied all that from the book not only because it skewers the likes of Blankley and O’Reilly, and not incidentally, Bush, Cheney and Ashcroft, but also because it demonstrates another point. Rick Hertzberg does pretty much one thing and one thing only which is to write short political essays. But he does it better than anyone else alive—or at least anyone writing in the English language. Politics has 650 pages of this stuff and it would be foolish economy on your part if you enjoy this site to deny yourself.)
Meanwhile, has there ever been funnier case of a pot calling a kettle black than Blankley? I mean just who does Tony Blankley work for? Sun Myung Moon, that’s who. And what does Moon say about Jews and their mass murder by Hitler? Moon claims that the Holocaust was payback for the crucifixion of Christ: "Through the principle of indemnity, Hitler killed 6 million Jews." Is he just kinda kidding? At his Unification.net FAQ, Webmaster Damian Anderson warns of any politically correct dilution of Moon's attack on Jews.
"The fact is that the Jewish people committed a grievous sin in rejecting the Lord, and the world is today committing a grievous sin in rejecting the Lord," he writes. "I will not water down what Father said to please liberal constituencies within his own church."
And while we’re at it, what about gays? Someone might want to get Little Roy on record about the guy who terms him to be a "dung-eating dog," while paying his salary.
And there’s more on what an open-minded fellow O’Reilly is here, though note that Ol’ “Conflict-of-Interest” Kurtz does not mention yours truly in his discussion of John Podesta’s appearance, though that was the topic of the debate. As far as I’m aware, Howie has not written the words “Eric Alterman” since the day What Liberal Media appeared and exposed the conflicted, conservative lapdog role he so frequently plays. I knew and expected this would be the case when I wrote what I wrote, and it helps explain why so few people ever go after Kurtz for his obvious glass-house/stone-throwing sins, but for the record, that’s the way this game works.
Another thing that’s been bothering me about this nasty, dehumanizing political machine. Remember when, during the California recall, Fox faux liberal Susan Estrich, went after Arianna Huffington for endangering the welfare of her own children by running for public office, thereby taking the position that all mothers should be disqualified from running for public office, or any demanding job for that matter? I took no position on Arianna’s candidacy, which now looks like a pretty terrible idea, but I noted at the time that Estrich could hand in her “feminist” card at that moment, for it’s hard to imagine that even Phyllis Schlafly could take a more reactionary position regarding the rights of women in the workplace. Still, I read the same attacks as everyone else and I did for a moment wonder how Arianna managed to handle doing everything she does and still be a decent mom. Well, our families went out for some cheap Mexican the other night, and while, I still have no idea how she does it—and I suspect it involves having lots and lots of money—I can say that I found myself both touched and fascinated by her enviable and admirable relationship with her fun and charming teenage kids. I’m not going to impose on her privacy to say anything more that that except that this is simply not the kind of thing one can fake, and well, if Susan Estrich had been raised half as well as Arianna’s daughters, she’d know when to keep her mouth shut about things she knows nothing about.
I don’t generally get involved in poll-Kremlinology, but I see Mickey is all over the Communist New York Times for allegedly pimping for Kerry by misreading the latest poll numbers, demonstrating that Bush has fallen to his lowest point yet in public esteem. He writes
Nagourney and Elder seem to be relying on a technicality--that last month's poll was a "CBS poll" and not a "Times/CBS" poll. Note the Clintonian clause they work into this sentence:
The 42 percent of Americans who say they approve of the way Mr. Bush is handling his job is the lowest such figure in a Times/CBS News survey since the beginning of Mr. Bush's presidency in January 2001; 51 percent say they disapprove.
But hey Mickey, that’s no “technicality.” That’s the way to read a poll. Reporters are obsessed by polls but ignore the flaws in their methodology. Polls are only useful over time if you use the same exact poll. If Nagourney and Elder are sticking to that rule—and not following this much, I can’t say whether they are—they deserve kudos for their meticulousness not working-the-ref-style harassment.
(And by the way, why has no one taken up the question that if the Times under Howell Raines was such a Bush-hating, peacenik-loving “leftist pamphlet” as I think Little Roy called it, why did Raines throw out the journalistic rulebook and allow Judith Miller to publish her war-loving, Saddam-hating, Bushite propaganda on the front-page, day-after day? There would seem to be a logical inconsistency there, that ought to trouble anyone who takes even a moment to consider it. I mean if this is the "liberal media," you can have it.)
Nader is no Progressive, Part XXXVI:
Corporate Front Group Supporting Ralph Nader
Citizens for a Sound Economy, a right-wing corporate front group opposed to everything Ralph Nader has struggled for, is working hard to help his 2004 presidential campaign in an effort to defeat John Kerry. "'Ralph Nader is undoubtedly going to pull some very crucial votes from John Kerry, and that could mean the difference in a razor-thin presidential election,' reads a script used by Citizens for a Sound Economy in its phone calls [to Republicans in the state of Oregon]. 'Can we count on you to come out on Saturday night and sign the petition to nominate Ralph Nader?' Russ Walker, state director of Citizens for a Sound Economy ... said the idea of helping Nader has been widely discussed among conservative groups and activists in Oregon. 'It's definitely an interesting scenario,' Walker said. 'We don't agree with Ralph Nader's positions on the issues - he's socialistic and we're free marketers. ... We think he'll take some of the more extreme votes from the other side.'"
The Princeton Review says Brooklyn College of the City University of New York is the sixth most beautiful campus in America and the third best bang for your buck, tuition-wise. Well, it just got even prettier and ‘bangier’ as I was offered—and accepted—a full professorship in the English department, where I’ll be teaching history of journalism and some other things. CUNY will also be starting a master’s program in journalism in Manhattan in 2006 and I look forward to participating in that too. It’s a wonderful institution, one that makes the American Dream real for people who work hard and play by the rules, and I’m honored to be a part of it.
I’ll be even busier while teaching—hence the classified ad of recent times—because I also just signed a two book contract with my regular publisher, Viking, to do two books on American liberalism. The first is tentatively entitled “Why I am A Liberal” and will be my contribution to the literature that recently includes E.J. Dionne, Robert Reich, and any minute now, Garrison Keillor, and loosely modeled on Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s “The Vital Center.” The second, which I believe to be unique, will be a big, sprawling history of postwar American liberalism since the death of FDR. It’s going to be called “The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from World War II through the War on Terrorism,” or something. It won’t be out for a while.
Alter-reviews: I was lucky enough to catch the Herbie Hancock/Wayne Shorter show at Carnegie Hall last week which was part of the JVC Jazz Fest. Seeing these two guys can be a little bit hit-and-miss in part because Shorter is kinda moody and Herbie is so versatile that his taste can get the better of his talent. This show, however, was a joy from start to finish. It seemed as if they were self-consciously re-entering the zone they shared as younguns when they constituted two-fifths of the second great Miles Davis Quintet.
The music was tasteful, thoughtful and quite demanding—not in terms of melody, but in terms of its subtlety and beauty. Dave Holland and Brian Blade were also extremely important to ensemble and rarely was any kind of false note heard. Even Bill Cosby struck the right note when he came on and introduced each member of the band and said not another word. My only complaint is that I find it arrogant and counterproductive when jazz musicians refuse to introduce the songs they’re playing. I find my enjoyment immensely improved when I know not only the name of a song, but also when it was written and under what circumstances. But these guys were (like Miles) too cool. The Times had a smart review here.
I also caught Jane Monheit one night last week taking a brief break from the JVC Jazz fest enjoying the luxurious fantasy-life seductions of the Oak Room at the Algonguin Hotel. The woman is so sexy, self-consciously, I think, but sexy just the same, that it can threaten to overwhelm her talent. But fortunately, it never does. At 26, her singing is poised and passionate and her interpretations of the under-rated Arthur Schwartz oeuvre almost uniformly successful. I’ve never thought she fully clicked on record yet, but I think she may be about to. Don’t read this guy about her if you have any sensitivity at all.
Name: Ed Sacharuk
Hometown: Edmonton, Canada
I just went through Paul Lukasiak's analysis of George W.'s military records. This is an incredibly precise, meticulous, detailed and devastating piece of research. I expect that all the big news media will pick it up and make it into a big story. Right? Right?
Name: Drew's Blog-O-Rama
Long time reader (book and web), but it's the first time I actually had something worthy for you.
The good news: I found a transcript of the first half of Fahrenheit 9/11 from a conservative Web site. But, it perpetuates a flat-out lie that was started with an MSNBC/Newsweek article about Bin Laden family interviews and deliberately misquotes a key exchange in the movie. So
I made a video clip of the scene so people could compare the transcript with the actual scene and get the truth from the horse's mouth. I figured it might float your boat, check it out.
Name: Sandy Goodman
Hometown: Rockville, MD
Stranger that Mistah Kurtz didn't have more to say about Limbaugh's promoting phony rumors of Vince Foster's "murder" since in his own book, "Hot Air," paperback edition, Kurtz takes Limbaugh to task for it at least twice.
On page 18, Kurtz writes:
In the world of talk, almost any spark can ignite a prairie fire. On March 10, 1994, such a blaze swept Wall Street during the height of the Whitewater affair. Stocks, bonds and the dollar all took a beating after rumors that White House lawyer Vincent Foster had committed suicide, in a private Virginia apartment used by White House officials, and that his body was later moved to Fort Marcy Park, where it was found. Rush Limbaugh inadvertently [?] embellished this unconfirmed report on his radio show, saying the word was that Foster had been murdered and moved to an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton.
The source of the false report was a newsletter published by Johnson Smick International, a consulting firm headed by a former Reagan administration official. The newsletter attributed its report to the staff of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, which denied it. Research firms often peddle rumors to their clients, but this one got a powerful enough boost from Limbaugh and company to move the markets, and the Washington Post and other papers repeated the rumor the next day to explain the dip in the Dow.
And, on page 241:
Few subjects were more serious to Limbaugh than the Whitewater affair, which he believed confirmed his longtime view that the Clintons were conniving liars. The tangled details of the couple's Arkansas finances were obviously fair game for critics. Limbaugh, unfortunately, sometimes strayed beyond the facts. When he got word of the Johnson Smick newsletter account of Vincent Foster's death, he told his listeners: "Brace yourselves. This fax contains information that I have just been told will appear in a newsletter to Morgan Stanley sales personnel this afternoon...that claims that Vince Foster was murdered in an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton, and the body was taken to Fort Marcy Park."
Later in the show Limbaugh refined the account to say "that Vincent Foster committed suicide in an apartment in Washington owned jointly or rented jointly by a number of Arkansas people who came to Washington to serve in the administration, and the body was then moved to Fort Marcy Park...the original rumor was that Foster was murdered in this apartment and then moved." Limbaugh said he had talked to a skeptical New York Post reporter, "So there are those who disbelieve already the Johnson Smick International report. But that's the big news today."
Limbaugh says he merely passed on the report, "along with a thousand million other people...I don't apologize for the way that was handled." He seems to believe he has no personal responsibility if he merely repeats unsubstantiated claims made by others.
Apparently Kurtz forgot what he wrote in his own book, or for some other reason didn't see fit to correct Laura Ingraham.
Name: Barry Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture
While the Monday NYT poll showed the President's poll numbers reaching a dismal nadir, the bigger picture is where his support is faltering: among traditionally GOP strongholds. This cannot be the sort of news that makes Rove & Co. happy. (The link below includes supporting charts as to why execs are so unhappy).
While it's still early in the election cycle -- we have 5 months to go -- this trend certainly bears close watching right after the Democratic Convention to see if it has legs.
Two recent polls/anecdotal surveys reveal disturbing realities about what should be near automatic support for the president among GOP voters in the upcoming election. They are not good news for the incumbent.
The first is a 1H 2004 CNBC poll of 30 professional money managers. This group manages over $320 billion dollars -- a third of a trillion bucks. They were questioned about the market, the economy and the upcoming election. While 92% of these pros thought the stock market would do better under Bush than Kerry, a surprising 37% of them were supporting Kerry anyway.
For the incumbent, this amounts to a very large vein of discontent running through what should be a heavily GOP stronghold. Republican presidents do not typically get re-elected when they are only polling a 63% support on Wall Street.
Adding support to this survey was an article from Tuesday's WSJ: "Chinks Appear in Bush Business Armor." Again, we see a strong vein of discontent among what should be a GOP stronghold: VCs, technology execs, and corporate executives.
The article took quotes from participants at the Wall Street Journal's recent "All Things Digital" conference of senior technology executives. "An informal show of hands revealed many more planning to vote for Mr. Kerry than Mr. Bush. Even "Undecided" beat the president." The audience included large and small company execs, Wall Street Analysts, and Venture Capitalists. In the high-tech sector -- a younger and less-traditional set of players -- is where the Journal suggests Mr. Kerry will find the most fertile ground for support.
This development is yet another example of a demographic voting bloc that should be a lock for a GOP President -- but isn't for this one. As we have seen in the recent past (Cubans, Arab-Americans, etc.), the incumbent should not lightly assume that traditional GOP voters will be fully behind him in November:
Though George W. Bush has been a decidedly pro-business president, a few cracks are surfacing in what had been a solid wall of business support.
Those small cracks, some stemming from dismay with record budget deficits, others from fears that his foreign policies are clouding the global business climate, have grown wide enough for Sen. John Kerry to launch a behind-the-scenes effort to woo business executives. While the Democratic candidate has no chance of matching the incumbent Republican's business support, even a few notable defectors could help blunt Mr. Bush's advantage, raise doubts with swing voters and draw more money into the Kerry coffers.
The upshot is a mostly quiet but significant struggle over business's allegiance.
For Mr. Kerry, last week's endorsement by onetime corporate icon Lee Iacocca, the former Chrysler Corp. chairman, was only the first of what his campaign promises will be more such staged appearances with business leaders. Mr. Kerry already had won backing from Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett and Apple Computer's Steve Jobs.
As we mentioned back on March 10 (Market Adapting to Ugly Realities), there is a brewing backlash against Corporate America to the foreign policy adventures of the present administration. I'm glad this meme is gaining traction in the mainstream media -- hopefully, before too much damage is done to U.S. brands and reputations:
Among Kerry supporters is Eric Best, a managing director at Morgan Stanley, who says Mr. Bush's tax cuts go too far at the expense of mounting deficits. "I was raised as a fiscal conservative, and I think his fiscal policy is scary," he says. Mr. Best, who remembers Mr. Bush as an upper-class dormitory proctor at Phillips Academy Andover boarding school, says that what really motivates him to stump for Mr. Kerry is the hostility the global strategist finds as he travels.
"I can testify to the extraordinary destruction of 'American Brand Value' accomplished by this administration, from Europe to Hong Kong to Shanghai to Tokyo, and beyond," he wrote in a recent e-mail that he widely distributed. "If any CEO of a global multinational had accomplished this for his enterprise as quickly and radically as George Bush Jr. has done for the U.S., he would be replaced by the board in no time."
Chinks Appear in Bush Business Armor
Kerry, Sensing an Opening, Tries to Gain Political Capital By Courting
By JACKIE CALMES
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
June 29, 2004; Page A4
Name: Robert Earle
Hometown: Torrance, CA
I was able to find the Greg Miller Zarqawi piece from 2003 here.
(I love the Internet!)