A couple of months ago, Washington Free Beacon (and yes, that's "beacon," not "bacon") launched with some reasonably experienced conservative journalists and a mandate to hold their political opponents accountable with rock-solid journalism. The site describes itself this way: "Dedicated to uncovering the stories that the professional left hopes will never see the light of day, the Free Beacon produces in-depth and investigative reporting on a wide range of issues, including public policy, government affairs, international security, and media criticism." That sounds fair enough. I'm all for rigorous journalism that nevertheless has an ideological perspective—after all, that's what we do here at the Prospect. But let's just say conservatives have a particular perspective on how to go about this. These were the top three stories on the Beacon's site when I read it on Wednesday:
Now that America's burning hunger for Mitt Romney has overflowed, and he really is the Republican nominee-to-be, the Obama campaign must settle on its anti-Romney strategy. Or more properly, they will reveal to us the anti-Romney strategy they settled on many months ago. One central component will be an argument about taxes, contrasting Obama's approach with the Republican one, and the cornerstone of that argument looks to be the "Buffett Rule." Which is kind of unfortunate. The Buffett Rule is, I'm quite sure, good politics. Believe you me, the Obama campaign wouldn't be going whole-hog on it if they hadn't already polled and focus-grouped it within an inch of its life. What it isn't is particularly good policy.
In every election season, each month or two will see some conservative discover that this is finally going to be the year when American Jews abandon the Democrats and flock to the GOP's presidential candidate. And it never happens. I've made this point before, but this column by Michael Medved has to be the most hilarious installment this reliable genre has ever seen. Why are Jews going to vote Republican this year? Because, Medved tells us, Jews love Mormons! Seriously.
Both political scientists and political professionals have known for some time that in presidential primaries, momentum matters a lot. Win, and you look like a winner; lose, and you look like a loser. This is manifested in multiple ways, from the tone of news coverage to the ease of fundraising. But seldom does one candidate attack another by saying, "My opponent lost an election, so he's a big loser." I've heard plenty of (mostly liberal) commentators note contemptuously that Rick Santorum lost his last Senate race by 17 points as a reason he ought not be elected president, which I never found particularly persuasive. What's far more important is why he lost by that margin, which is that he sold himself to Pennsylvania voters as a mainstream Republican with a populist streak but then became a venomous culture warrior once in office.
But the Mitt Romney campaign has evidently decided it's going to play the loser card in Pennsylvania. What's notable about this ad is that there is no mention of any issue of substance; it just tells people that Santorum is a losing loser who lost like the loser he is:
Yesterday, Ben Smith quoted a conservative lawyer offering a way the Supreme Court's conservative majority may think about striking down the Affordable Care Act. Essentially, this lawyer said, they think that the last 70 years of the Court's interpretation of the Constitution's commerce clause, which underlies much of what the modern American government does, is a giant fraud perpetrated by liberals. Even though they know they can't toss out that last 70 years all at once, they have no problem finding some ridiculous justification for striking down the ACA, no matter whether they really believe it or not. "You have built a fantasy mansion on the Commerce Clause," the lawyer tells Smith.
Be veeewy quiet - Mitt Womney is about. (Flickr/theseanster93)
For a long time, the National Journal was known as the most staid and serious of Washington publications, chronicling the legislative and regulatory processes with reliable sobriety. Of late, however, they've been trying to liven things up. Which is all well and good, but really, is this kind of thing really necessary? ...
Remember just a few years ago, when "Purpose-Driven Life" author Rick Warren was considered such a bipartisan figure that candidate Obama visited his Saddleback Church, and then invited him to deliver an invocation at the inauguration? Even at the time, a lot of knowledgeable people on the left protested that Warren was actually a deeply conservative person, even if he wore Hawaiian shirts and led the hip and casual megachurch movement that presented itself as inclusive. Well listen to Warren now.
You may have heard that there is a certain kind of breed of journalist who becomes a war correspondent. Maybe they're thrill-seekers to begin with, or maybe the rush of reporting from war zones changes them, but many of them keep returning over and over again to one hotspot after another, putting their lives at risk for the sake of their job. Some of them are wounded, some are even killed. Some, I'm sure, suffer from the same kind of post-traumatic stress disorder that soldiers endure. What we don't often hear, though, is those reporters talking candidly about it as something that is perhaps not too healthy.
That's why this segment on the Public Radio Exchange program Howsound is so striking. Kelly McEvers, a terrific NPR reporter based in Baghdad, opened up in a surprising way about her feelings about what she does and the effect it has on those around her:
The 2012 Republican primaries were without question the most religious party contest in memory. Nearly all the major candidates put their religious beliefs at or near the center of their public personas, from the puritanical scold Rick Santorum, to the prayer warrior Rick Perry, to Newt Gingrich, producer of books and movies on the importance of God in American politics. As for the Almighty himself, He apparently told no fewer than three separate candidates (Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Santorum) that they should run.
Democratic legislators in Michigan try in vain to get their votes counted.
One of the old saws about the different ways partisans see the world is that both sides think the other side is more underhanded, more vicious, and more corrupt than their own side. And as far as it goes, that's true: Democrats think this, and Republicans think this. That doesn't mean, however, that they're both right. One side might in fact be more underhanded, vicious, and corrupt than the other. We can debate which one is, and both sides might have data points they'd use to support their contentions. But I'm pretty sure I've never seen a legislature controlled by Democrats do something as unbelievably shameless as what Rachel Maddow documents in this segment.
In honor of the recent discovery of a 125 million year-old, 30 foot-long dinosaur with feathers, the largest feathered dino ever found, we have They Might Be Giants with "I Am a Paleontologist," from the terrific "Here Comes Science," an antidote to every insipid kids' song you've ever heard.
200 calories, and a side of voter suppression. (Flickr/twm1340)
You may have heard that in response to a campaign by the progressive group Color of Change, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and now Kraft Foods have all withdrawn their support for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the group that pushes conservative laws at the state level, in part by having corporate lobbyists write model legislation which they then pass to friendly Republican legislators to introduce in their states. It seems that the companies were happy to give ALEC money so long as no one knew about it. But the real question is, why did they support the group in the first place?
Coca-Cola's explanation was that "Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business." But when you sign on with a group like ALEC, your money is going to advance the entire conservative agenda. That means not just pro-corporate laws, but "Stand Your Ground" laws, voter suppression laws, and laws restricting women's access to abortion. And guess what: women, minorities, and people who don't want to get shot buy soda too!
The first grownup television show I can remember watching as a wee pup in the 1970s was the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was a favorite of my mother's (and millions of other women's). It was pretty revolutionary for its time, a show built around a single working woman who was uncertain of herself and vulnerable (and the victim of constant casual sexism), but also smart, competent, and determined to be successful in a world ruled by men. It made Moore probably the central cultural icon of the feminist movement's key period. The show ended its run in 1977, but it was no surprise when Jimmy Carter's re-election campaign in 1980 recruited Moore to encourage women to vote for Carter. Here's the ad she did:
UC-Berkeley, where young minds are being poisoned at this very moment. (Flickr/Nina Stawski)
When Rick Santorum went after the University of California the other day, it might have seemed like a one-off, fact-free hors d'ouvre of resentment, the kind of criticism of elitist liberal professors that we've come to expect from conservative culture warriors like him. Sara Robinson, however, sees this as the first shot in a coming war on public universities, following up as it did on a report from the Hoover Institution about how the academy is dominated by liberals. And she may be right.
Since leaving Congress, Newt Gingrich managed to put together a souped-up version of the way congressional heavy hitters make a living after leaving the life of legislating. As befitting a world-historical figure like himself, simply signing on with one of Washington's elite law firm/lobby shops wouldn't be enough. Instead, Gingrich constructed what I like to call GloboNewtCorp, a network of quasi-think tanks, policy centers, and publishing enterprises whose role was to promote all things Newt. They worked symbiotically, each feeding off each other's work. So for instance, if you're a health-care company, you could pay six figures to Newt's Center for Health Transformation, you weren't only paying for Newt's access to powerful Republicans, you also saw your favored policy ideas show up in the products of other arms of GloboNewtCorp, like Newt's op-eds and books.
One would imagine that a presidential campaign could only aid GloboNewtCorp in acquiring new clients and new income, heightening Newt's visibility and reputation as a visionary, knowledgeable insider. But it seems to have had the opposite effect. This morning we learn that the Center for Health Transformation, one of the cornerstones of Newt's empire (the "for-profit think-tank" raked in $55 million over the last decade), has filed for bankupcy protection. And I predict that it won't be the last arm of GloboNewtCorp that suffers because of Gingrich's presidential campaign...