Sunday, October 4, 2009


Conservatives celebrate America's loss  Rachel Maddow is joined by Rep. Danny Davis, D-IL to try to make some sense of conservatives celebrating the news that the International Olympic Committee decided the summer Olympic games won't be held in Chicago in 2016.

Krugman: Party of Beavis and Butt-head 
Middle-aged adolescents — dumb middle-aged adolescents — rule one of our nation’s two great political parties. Read it and weep.

Noting the passing of Irving Kristol, Slate's Jacob Weisberg argued yesterday that the era of "intellectually serious conservatism" has also died.
Weisberg's pitch is simple but persuasive: Republicans have given up on being the "party of ideas," have no plausible alternatives to major policy challenges, and don't take policy matters seriously at all. Conservatives, Weisberg said, have "devolved" so far, "ostensibly intelligent people [are] cheering on Sarah Palin." With the rise of neoconservatives, the right's focus shifted to political power, and away from interest in policy.
Now, Weisberg holds Irving Kristol's work in much higher regard than I do -- which is to say, Weisberg finds value in Kristol's efforts and I don't -- but the larger point is compelling. The political right of the 21st century is obviously and shamelessly intellectually bankrupt.
It's a concern Steven F. Hayward, a conservative writer at the American Enterprise Institute, also touched on today. Whereas the conservative movement used to strike a balance between "the intellectuals" and "the activists," the right's thinkers are now "retreating and struggling to come up with new ideas."
Consider the "tea party" phenomenon. Though authentic and laudatory, it is unfocused, lacking the connection to a concrete ideology that characterized the tax revolt of the 1970s, which was joined at the hip with insurgent supply-side economics. Meanwhile, the "birthers" have become the "grassy knollers" of the right; their obsession with Obama's origins is reviving frivolous paranoia as the face of conservatism. (Does anyone really think that if evidence existed of Obama's putative foreign birth, Hillary Rodham Clinton wouldn't have found it 18 months ago?)
Hayward laments the fact that Malkin and Coulter sell best-selling "red-meat titles," but the "intellectual works" are "conspicuously missing."
Which is not to say Hayward is despondent. He believes Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" is an intellectual text, and he believes Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, and William Bennett are "brainiacs" with "popular" talk shows. Hayward is also impressed with Glenn Beck's reading habits and choice of authors and guests. Beck, Hayward argued, has demonstrated an "interest in serious analysis of liberalism's patrimony."
Where Hayward finds hope, in other words, is with Jonah Goldberg, Hugh Hewitt, and Glenn Beck. Seriously.
If this isn't proof of the right's intellectual collapse, nothing is.
CNN's Political Ticker blog ran an item yesterday about Newt Gingrich blasting President Obama over the decision of the International Olympic Committee.
@newtgingrich Somehow charm and oratory dont seem to work in foreign affirs but historians have warned that foreign policy is different than campaigning
@newtgingrich President Eisenhower had a rule that Presidents of the United States went to the meetings after success had been assured
@newtgingrich President Obama fails to get the Olympics while unemployment goes to 9.8% Iran continues nuclear program. America needs focused leadership
That's it. That's the entire story. No context, no analysis, no fact-checking, no depth, not even a response from the other side. Gingrich took a few cheap shots, and CNN decided to just pass them along to their national audience, as-is.
Gingrich's dumb tweets, in other words, are a news story, according to CNN. I haven't the foggiest idea why.
Atrios asked a good question in May: "[Y]ou know, disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has precisely zero power but his every pronouncement is treated as Incredibly Important News. Any journalists want to explain why?"
I'd really love to hear an answer.
We're talking about a disgraced, scandal-plagued politician who was forced from public office -- by his own party -- more than a decade ago. What difference does it make if he trashes the president on his Twitter account?
Remember Jim Wright and Tom Foley? They were the House speakers before Gingrich. If they had a few tweets saying supportive things about the White House, would CNN have run an item about their comments, passing them along as self-evidently newsworthy? If the answer is "no," and I think reasonable people would agree that it is, then CNN's piece yesterday is absurd.
Eric Boehlert had a good take on this recently: "[A]s often happens when I read breaking, this-is-what-Newt-said dispatches, I couldn't help thinking, 'Who cares what Newt Gingrich thinks?' And I don't mean that in the partisan sense. I mean it in the journalistic sense: How do Gingrich's daily pronouncements about the fundamental dishonesty of Democrats (Newt's favorite phrase) translate into news? Why does the press, 10 years after Gingrich was forced out of office, still treat his every partisan utterance as a newsworthy occurrence? In other words, why does the press still treat him like he's speaker of the House? It's unprecedented."
Eric wrote that nearly five months ago. It's still true.
Last week, for reasons that weren't entirely clear, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) lashed out at National Security Adviser James Jones. Arguing for an escalation of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the failed presidential candidate told his Senate colleagues that retired Marine Gen. Jones is one of the president's advisers who doesn't "want to alienate the left base of the Democrat [sic] Party."
Jones wasn't pleased with the criticism.
"Sen. McCain knows me very well," Jones, a retired Marine Corps general, told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, "I worked for Senator McCain when he was a captain. I've known him for many, many years. And he knows that I don't play politics with national -- I don't play politics. And I certainly don't play it with national security. And neither does anyone else I know.
"The lives of our young men and women are on the line. The strategy does not belong to any political party and I can assure you that the President of the United States is not playing to any political base. And I take exception to that remark."
McCain may not remember this, but in June 2008, in the midst of the presidential campaign, Gen. Jones joined McCain at an event in Missouri and flew to the campaign event with McCain on the candidate's plane. He's not exactly a progressive political activist.
For McCain to argue that Jones is worried about the opinions of the Dems' liberal base was foolish. For McCain to question the integrity of Jones' national security advice was absurd.
I was glad to see Jones push back this morning, but under the circumstances, McCain's cheap and petty partisanship probably deserved an even stronger rebuke.
Senator Tom Coburn caught in a lie  Rachel Maddow is joined by Harpers Magazine contributing editor Jeff Sharlet, to talk about Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, who has been caught lying about his involvement in the cover-up of Sen. John Ensign's, R-NV, affair.

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