Archive for October 20th, 2008

October 20, 2008

Obama and GLSEN

Linda Harvey is asking questions:

I’d been wondering what Kevin Jennings was doing these days. Jennings is the founder and long-time head of the radical homosexual group GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. GLSEN’s mission has been to plant “gay” clubs and training programs in as many schools as possible. . . .
He’s now the Obama campaign fundraising co-chair for the “LGBT” community — that’s “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered.” You can listen to Jennings lay out the rights-oriented rhetoric in two interviews with Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign, on the website “LGBT for Obama.” . . .

Read the whole thing. BTW, the reason John McCain’s campaign hasn’t made a deal of Obama’s endorsement of the radical LGBT agenda is that McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt is pro-gay.

October 20, 2008

Sarah Palin is no Harry Truman

And thank God for that:

Of all the dead Democrats who are now routinely praised by Republicans, none is less deserving of such plaudits than Harry S. Truman. In discussing Sarah Palin’s sudden emergence from obscurity last week, Peggy Noonan wrote: “But there was a man who came from nowhere, the seeming tool of a political machine, a tidy, narrow, unsophisticated senator appointed to high office and then thrust into power by a careless Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose vanity told him he would live forever. And yet that limited little man was Harry S. Truman. Of the Marshall Plan, of containment. Little Harry was big. He had magic.”
Magic, bah! Truman was woefully unprepared for the presidency and was so immensely unpopular that he quite nearly destroyed all the goodwill the Democratic Party had accumulated during Roosevelt’s presidency.

Please read the whole thing.

October 20, 2008

Barack Mugabe?

Michelle Malkin uses the plight of Zimbabwe as an analogy for Barack Obama’s “spread the wealth around” philosophy. Naturally, this induces accusations of racism from the liberal blogger Oliver Willis.

The only way to avoid accusations of racism in this election is either to (a) praise Obama or (b) say nothing at all. And the biggest undertow against Obama’s otherwise inevitable election is the suspicion of some voters that an Obama presidency would mean four years of such hysterical finger-pointing: “Look! That guy said something bad about Obama! Racist! Racist!”

At least Oliver Willis is black. I don’t so much mind when a black person says, “Hey, that’s racist.” If a man says he feels insulted, who am I to say how he should feel? What bothers me is these self-righteous white liberals parading around their fine-tuned racial sensitivity as if sensitivity were a moral virtue: Thou shalt kowtow to PC shibboleths.

October 20, 2008

Palin and the press

Guess what? She’s great:

Though she often turns the “mainstream media” into a punching bag on the stump, Palin clearly enjoys interacting with reporters. She seems to relish the opportunity to demonstrate that her breadth of knowledge far exceeds what she offered to CBS News’ Katie Couric in a series of interviews that were marked by vague, often convoluted answers to straightforward questions.

Via Joe at NoVaTownhall who sagely notes the most important point: I was right all along. Twenty-two years in the news business, but does any Republican ever ask my opinion about “media strategy”? No, but they’ll shell out big bucks to “media strategists” who never worked a day in a newsroom. For want of a nail . . .

UPDATE: I just saw Frank Luntz on “Fox & Friends” say that it was wrong for Sarah Palin to do the Gibson and Kouric interviews — and in this, Luntz is right — but then he said she shouldn’t have talked to any reporters until after the first debate, which is completely wrong.

Let me try to explain this briefly. The daily deadline reporters who are out there covering the McCain campaign every day should never be treated as the Big Media Enemy, except in those cases where an individual reporter commits some specific act of unfairness. Nor should the local and regional reporters who show up to cover specific events be confused with The Big Media Enemy.

The workaday journalist whose job it is to go out and cover campaigns deserves to be treated with respect. That reporter is supposed to be getting the news, and when campaigns don’t allow reporters access to candidates — when there’s never a press conference, never any unscripted availability — you can’t blame the inevitable deterioration of the campaign’s press relations on the press.

“You draw more flies with honey” — that’s the simplest summary of the secret to good press relations. “Walk a mile in my shoes” — that’s the simplest summary of why Republicans are so lousy at press relations. Because 90% of reporters are Democrats, there are very few people working in Republican politics who’ve ever been reporters. There is a lack of empathy, an inability to see press relations from the reporter’s point of view, at the heart of the Republican Party’s lousy standing in America’s newsroom.

The liberal leanings of the press corps can’t be helped (at least, not in the short term), but how Republicans deal with that problem is within their own control. “I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing,” Reagan said, and today’s GOP stands guilty of doing nothing about media bias — except constantly whining and lashing out in paranoid rage, which is Nixonesque, not Reaganesque.

Republican campaign operatives have to get over their sadistic, punitive attitude toward the press. The Tucker Bounds School of GOP media relations — where every interview is treated as an opportunity to show contempt for the interviewer — is only making a bad situation worse.

Over the years, I have patiently sought to explain this to the Republicans I know personally. They nod in assent, but then . . . nothing. Maybe it’s my fault they never seem to follow up on what I tell them. Maybe it’s that I’m not a big-shot party operative like Frank Luntz or a 20-something know-it-all like Tucker Bounds. But with their mishandling of the Palin press roll-out, everyone can see how this blunderheaded attitude has cost the GOP a real political opportunity, so maybe something will change.

October 20, 2008

The news, neglected

This blog is usually crammed full of political news, and you may have noticed that I’ve been ignoring most of the news for a day or so. I apologize, but you haven’t really missed anything.

Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama. So what? Is it racist for a black Republican to endorse a black Democrat? (Rush Limbaugh, George Will and Pat Buchanan seem to think so.) Or is it even more racist for a white Republican to say that it is racist for a black Republican to endorse a black Democrat?

I am agnostic on these questions, but I’m also giddy beyond words. With all this fingerpointing about “racism” going on, and nobody pointing the finger at me, I’m starting to feel like an exemplar of enlightened tolerance. If all you bigots and hatemongers will keep this stuff going for another couple of weeks, the NAACP is likely to give me an award just for staying out of this mess.

The polls … eh, talk to Nate Silver or just go to Real Clear Politics and see for yourself. More than two weeks ago, when McCain pulled out of Michigan, I said the election was over, and I’ve gotten nothing but grief from my Republican friends ever since. Most of the complaints were to the effect that the polls don’t mean anything, unless the polls predict a Republican victory. So why even bother to look at the polls, if I’m not allowed to draw any conclusions from them without being accused of bad faith? I’ve already got all the enemies I need.

That’s all the political news. In sports, Texas, Alabama and Penn State are atop the college football standings, which is like a 30-year flashback to 1978, when I had a puffy golden shoulder-length shag haircut and looked good in my 28-waist skintight jeans. Speaking of golden oldies . . . in Madonna news:

In other celebrity news:

  • David Duchovny, self-confessed “sex addict,” had an affair with his tennis coach. (Also, he had an affair with his maid, his secretary, some chick he met at a party, and the girl serving soft drinks at the local Taco Bell. The difference between a “sex addict” and every other guy in the world is that, unless you’re a rich TV star who looks like David Duchovny, women usually say “no.”)
  • Billy Bob Thornton denies having an affair with Tea Leoni. OK, that makes two guys — Billy Bob and David Duchovny — who aren’t having sex with Tea Leoni. Plus me, so that’s three. Anybody else care to confess that they aren’t shagging Tea Leoni?
  • The boyfriend of some starlet you never heard of was shot dead in Hollywood.
  • Embarrassing photos of the boyfriend of a slightly more famous starlet.
  • Pictures of Britney’s child-visitation day.
  • Eminem has just written a memoir, and it’s not impressionistic like Renoir. It’s more just like a scene out of film noir, except without a blonde dame in a peignoir. Marshall Mathers grew up poor near the Eight Mile. He was moody even though he had a great smile. Of all the local rappers he was the most white. He should have called me, ’cause I know how to ghostwrite . . .
  • Is Will Smith bisexual? The rumors are contextual, but two more jokes and next you will think my humor is exceptional.
  • Supermodel in a $5 million bra. (You’ve never heard of her, but she’s a “supermodel,” so she is by definition a celebrity, and I know you’re thinking: “Like Obama said, babe, share the wealth — lose that bra.”)
  • Hip-hop star Lil Wayne announces he’s going to be a father. (Rumors that he received a strange package of congratulatory gifts from Madonna could not be immediately confirmed.)

OK, that’s all the news you missed and it doesn’t amount to much, does it? So it’s a bad day in the news business. If Al Qaeda blows up something tomorrow, that will be a good day for the news business. (And the media wonders why everybody hates them . . .)

October 20, 2008

Short answer: ‘No.’

“Does the work of Sigmund Freud have anything to teach us about the global financial crisis and how to extricate ourselves from its clutches?”

No. A thousand times, no. To the extent that Freud asserted anything original as being scientific, he was 100% wrong. His conceptions of the mind, its natural processes and ailments, were as primitive as those of any tribal shaman or voodoo priestess, and as scientifically useful as astrology, tarot or palmistry.

Mental illness does not result from bad potty training or repressed lust for one’s own parents or any “complex” bearing a name from Greek mythology. Freud formed his theories from his practice treating the complaints of Viennese hypochondriacs in the Victorian Age. As such, his work offers some insight into the worries that afflicted 19th-century Austrian neurotics, but not much more than that.

Freud’s ignorant theories spawned more nonsense than the theories of any other intellectual in modern history, excepting only Marx and Nietzsche. And in the case of all three of these European humbug merchants, there are still apologists who, having been taught to reverence the Great Man before they had sufficient experience to know any better, cling to the idiotic insistence that the Great Man’s theories were true, and that any perception of error is the result of the misinterpretations made by the Great Man’s followers.

To defend these eminent authors of error is the same as advocating error, and to perpetuate misconceptions that have long since been proven false. No amount of fact can seem to shake these people who cling to the bogus theories of Great Men. One still encounters educated people who worry that “sexual repression” causes mental illness, even though nothing could be plainer than (a) American society is now less sexually repressed than any major culture since Nero was Emperor, and (b) we’ve got far more genuine craziness than we had when Coolidge was president and the Comstock Laws were in full force.

Anyone who thinks that anything true or useful can be found in Freudian psychology needs to have his head examined.
P.S.: I should add that the falsehood of Freud’s theories does not prove the truth of modern theories of the mind. I am a real physical being, not a perception induced by a neurochemical illusion. Also, if you think I’m sexy, it’s not because of a biological deterministic evolutionary urge. Darwin was wrong, too; there is no “gay gene”; and my sexiness is an objective fact.
October 20, 2008

Sully, blogs, and the Young Turks

Politically, Andrew Sullivan is erratic, and his attacks on Sarah Palin have been wildly irresponsible, but in two sentences of his latest article for The Atlantic Monthly, Sullivan makes a huge point:

If you added up the time a writer once had to spend finding an outlet, impressing editors, sucking up to proprietors, and proofreading edits, you’d find another lifetime buried in the interstices. But with one click of the Publish Now button, all these troubles evaporated.

Younger people — i.e., those under 35, who have started their careers since the online explosion of the mid-1990s — have no appreciation for how instantaneous Internet communication has transformed the world of the professional writer, of which blogging is the ultimate example.

I’m 49 and Sullivan’s 44, so we both began our careers when there were no Web sites, when the Internet was something known only to academics and technogeeks, when editorial “gatekeepers” stood squarely between the writer and the reader, and when the only way to gain access to mass readership was to present yourself and your work to these gatekeepers, in person or via mail (I would say “snail mail,” but that term did not exist).

Of course, Sullivan started his career at a much higher level — I used to read his articles in the New Republic when I was a staffer at the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune — but in recalling the limitations of journalism in the pre-Internet age, he echoes my own memory.

Applying for a staff position, you would “send clips and resume” or, if you were a freelancer, mail out manuscripts in hope of finding a publisher. It required the commitment of an enormous amount of time and energy, with a lot of time spent waiting for replies, if any. Mail out a clips-and-resume package on Monday, which might be delivered to the editor on Thursday or Friday, and if you were lucky you might get a phone call the next week.

On my desk is a book, The Proud Highway, a collection of Hunter S. Thompson’s letters from 1955-67. Reading it, you get some sense of the difficulties a writer faced seeking assignments in the Bad Old Days. The young Thompson was a genius (and arrogantly aware of it), but had to spend an enormous amount of time pitching articles to editors, at a time when that meant typing letters on a manual typewriter, and most of the time getting rejected.

All this tended to limit a writer’s career mobility. If you got a staff position, you tended to stay wherever you were and work your way up (rather than hop from job to job, as many young journalists do now) since the process of applying for jobs was so laborious. And once a freelancer found an editor who’d publish one of his articles, he would keep pitching that editor, trying to establish a regular outlet for his work. For example, Thompson regularly freelanced for the National Observer, and when he sold a feature to the national men’s magazine Rogue in 1961, he kept pitching them for future assignments (without luck).

¡Viva La Revolucion!
The advent of the Web as a mass medium in the mid-’90s changed all that. Suddenly, it was possible for any writer to communicate directly and instantaneously, in writing, with editors anywhere in the world. And anything you published online was available to a worldwide readership.

The revolution of blogging — free, user-friendly software for online self-publishing — followed in the early years of this century, and in just the span of a few years, has transformed the writer’s world beyond anything I could have imagined in 1995.

In September, nearly 300,000 readers visited this blog, an average daily readership equal to the Georgia newspapers where I used to work. This blog has been linked by the New York Times, Michelle Malkin and, indeed, by Andrew Sullivan. And there is no editor, no staff, no office, no budget — nothing. Just me sitting here in my house, with my wife and kids in the next room, the dogs wandering in and out, the smell of spaghetti sauce wafting in from the kitchen.

Young Turks and Old T-Shirts
Yesterday, I did some curmudgeonly grumbling at the insufferable arrogance of young conservative writers: I’ve got T-shirts older than you, kid. This is half-joking, of course. I enjoy playing the curmudgeon, fondly recalling the grumpy old-school editors who showed me the ropes when I was starting out in journalism.

Behind the humor, however, is a serious perception about the transformative effects of the information revolution. Part of the arrogance of today’s young writers, I think, comes from how easy it is for them to reach a national readership via the Internet.

Sullivan was one of the brash boy-genius prodigies (succeeding Michael Kinsley) whom Marty Peretz hired as editor of the New Republic. That kind of thing was astonishingly rare at the time. True, William F. Buckley Jr. was not quite 30 when he launched National Review, but Buckley . . . well, there was only ever one Bill Buckley.

In The Prince of Darkness, Robert Novak recalls that when he joined the Washington bureau of the Associated Press in 1957 at age 26, he was the only reporter in the bureau under age 30, “and there were precious few under 40.” In other words, it used to take years of hard work for even a very talented writer to get anywhere near the heights of political journalism. And it took another six years as a reporter in Washington before Novak teamed up with Rowland Evans to become a nationally-syndicated columnist.

Of Horses and Carts
Today, Washington seems to be crawling with 22-year-olds fresh out of college who are doing political commentary on a daily basis without ever having spent a single day working as a straight-news reporter.

To say that this is putting the cart before the horse would be wrong — it never even occurred to them that they needed a horse. The Blog Age has, in some ways, elevated opinion over fact. It has also fostered a belief that pure intelligence is more important than knowledge or experience.

The same medium that allows me, a graduate of lowly Jacksonville (Ala.) State University, to hurl online blasts at alumni of Harvard and Yale also allows callow youth to offer the world opinions about political affairs ungrounded in any direct experience of politics, or any observational memory of politics prior to the Clinton administration.

Today’s 22-year-old was in second grade when Clinton became president. When I was in second grade, LBJ was president, and I think it’s worth sharing with the ambitious Young Turks of conservatism a story about old Lyndon.

After he became vice president in 1961, LBJ attended a meeting of John Kennedy’s advisers, the Ivy Leaguers famously dubbed “The Best and Brightest.” Johnson was so impressed that when he met later that day with House Speaker Sam Rayburn, he couldn’t help raving about the brilliant minds of JFK’s brain trust. The wily Rayburn famously replied, “Well, Lyndon, you may be right and they may be every bit as intelligent as you say. But I’d feel a whole lot better about them if just one of them had run for sheriff once.”

In the same way, I’d feel a whole lot better about the punditry of the Young Turks if any of them had ever covered a sheriff’s race as a reporter. One of the brightest of the Young Turks, J.P. Freire of the American Spectator, likes to say that the conservative movement today needs more Robert Novaks and fewer Bill Buckleys. Which is to say, everybody wants to be a pundit, and nobody wants to do any research or reporting.

The Next Ann Coulter?
Freire is exactly right, and I cannot tell you how many times in recent years I’ve encountered bright young College Republican types whose ambition is to be “the next Ann Coulter,” and who seem to expect to fulfill that ambition by the time they’re 25. Yet Coulter herself would be the first to tell them that they’ve got it all wrong.

Last fall, Coulter spoke to the National Journalism Center’s 30th anniversary gala, and in the Q&A afterwards, she was asked by one of her young admirers how to follow in her footsteps. Coulter explained that, after her stint at NJC, she told her mentor — the famed conservative journalist M. Stanton Evans — that she had decided against a career in journalism. Evans was heartbroken, because Coulter had been a most promising protege.

Instead, Coulter attended law school at the University of Michigan, did a clerkship with a federal appeals court judge in Kansas City, and worked as a corporate lawyer in New York before returning to Washington at age 32 to become a top Senate staffer. Two years later, at age 34, she made her debut as a regular commentator on MSNBC, and she was 36 — I repeat, ANN COULTER WAS THIRTY-SIX-YEARS OLD — when she published her first book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Now, I am well aware that many of the Young Turks loathe Ann Coulter with every fiber of their traditionalist/paleo/libertarian/Paulista souls. This is irrelevant to the point of the story, which is that Ann Coulter did not become Ann Coulter by setting out in her youth to become Ann Coulter. She didn’t move to DC right out of college. She didn’t go to work at a think tank or join the staff of a major political journal or try to write”big picture” essays about the cosmological meaning of conservatism.

As Coulter explained to her Q&A interrogator at the NJC event (and I think I remember the quote very nearly verbatim), “Nobody cares about your opinions when you’re 24. You don’t know anything when you’re 24.”

The Virtue of Experience
Of course, smart 24-year-olds always think they know everything, and it’s a reasonably safe guess that 24-year-old Ann Coulter was no exception. Yet she was smart enough to realize that she needed real skills and real experience — something outside the unreality of Washington, D.C. — and so when she returned to D.C. a decade after her NJC internship, she brought with her knowledge and perspective that she could never have gained had she gone directly into journalism at age 24.

The impatience of the Young Turks is in many ways understandable, and I can’t blame them for succumbing to the temptation that the Blog Age offers them to fulminate (with a potential worldwide readship) on the woes of the GOP amid this evident gotterdammerung of conservatism. I fully sympathize with these whip-smart 20-somethings in Washington who regret the transformational opportunities being lost because the major conservative institutions are in the hands of 60ish men who don’t even know basic HTML and who have certainly never Twittered or Facebooked. And I know that the Young Turks have a unique understanding that their elders in the conservative movement seem sadly incapable of bridging the culture gap that separates the vinyl LP/8-track analog generation from the Limewire-and-iPod generation.

Patience, Young Turks. You have more friends than you know, but you are still Jedi apprentices and your eagerness to supplant the Yodas of conservatism is creating a disturbance in the Force. Instead of filling the Internet with harangues about the failures of neocons and pseudocons and cryptoliberals, you would do more good for yourself and for conservatism by devoting yourself to tasks more befitting your youth — research, reporting, development, organizing — even if you think those menial duties are beneath the dignity of such philospher princes as yourself.

And if you will suffer to hear one more bit of curmudgeonly wisdom, consider this: When I was your age, I was a Democrat.

At 25, I voted for Walter Mondale. I was such an enthusiastic yellow-dog Democrat that the poll worker had to stop me at the door and ask me to remove my Mondale-Ferraro pin so as not to violate the prohibition on campaigning inside a polling place. And I continued to follow the ways of the Dark Side until the mid-’90s, when I came within the orbit of a Jedi Master who had himself been mentored by another Georgia Democrat, the late Larry McDonald. Ahem:

(Carroll Quigley! Edward Mandell House! Ah, those were names to conjure with!) By 1996, my worldview had been so radically transformed that I eschewed voting for the mushy moderate Bob Dole — “Tax Collector for the Welfare State” — and instead voted for Libertarian Harry Browne.

Having undergone such a reorientation myself (and struggled to regain equilibrium), I am here to tell you that the next 10 or 20 years may revolutionize both American politics and your own worldview. Just 25 years ago, an arch-conservative like Larry McDonald was a Democrat. And just 15 years ago, so was I.

Work hard, study and grow wise, Young Turks. Be sure that the world will still be in need of your wisdom, once you obtain it.

UPDATE: Linked at Instapundit. Thanks.