I’m noticing more than a few folks are demanding we leave the likes of David Hogg, Cameron Kasky and Emma Gonzalez alone. The argument generally goes something like this: they’re just kids who’ve experienced a horrible trauma, and their spewing venom on cable TV and Twitter is just part of the grieving process for them.
I have no doubt that these kids need to grieve. I have no doubt the experience at Parkland on Valentine’s Day was traumatic. I have no doubt their emotions are still all over the place and on edge.
But here’s the thing: they injected themselves into the political fray, and did so in a way that was intended to provoke. Whether or not the idea of banning guns was their own, a thought planted by the liberal environment where they’ve been raised, a line of attack suggested by their media handlers, or a combination of some or all of those factors, the fact remains that they opted to become the face and voice of the far left’s attempt to overturn a pillar of American society.
They have not attempted to engage in debate. In fact, they’ve run from actual debate to simply spew invective at anyone who doesn’t share their belief that banning firearms will solve the problem of violent assault in this country. They have been challenged, even by their own classmates, to debate the topic on the merits. To offer a cogent argument in defense of their opinion. Yet time and again, they’ve refused and responded instead by offering streams of profanity-laced invective.
These kids are not typical teens. They are drama students, who have learned in class how to evoke emotions in others, and had that craft further honed by their coterie of media handlers. They are members of the 1%, both in income and family status (how else did you think they appeared on TV so fast?). In short, these kids have been raised to believe they are better than the average American; that they are destined to lead the rest of us – whether it be to a better future or off a cliff.
So please, spare me the sanctimony. These kids injected themselves into a full-blown attack on the Second Amendment. They did so willingly, of their own accord and with the full blessing of their elders, who are supposed to have their best interests at heart. Yet, we’ve heard virtually nothing from those elders, except for the elder Mr. Kasky occasionally parroting liberal talking points on Twitter.
Not only have they dived into the political fray, they’ve done so by copying the Hillary Clinton playbook. Rather than looking to engage proactively with the rest of us, they’ve adopted the same condescending attitude that sank Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy. They speak of democracy, but they are all about talking down to the little people. Just as Mrs. Clinton saw fit to declare anyone who refused to be brainwashed by her abundant charm as “deplorable,” the Parkland activists have labeled those who support our Constitution as “child killers.” It may win them plaudits from the liberals on MSNBC and CNN. It simply makes everyone else regard them with equal ridicule.
If you want to blame anyone for their being subjected to internecine political battles, blame their parents, their teachers, and the media companies that have put them front and center. Tell them to give the kids time to grieve properly. Tell them to get the kids actual grief counselors, not cable news hosts, to whom they can pour out their emotions and guide them back to sanity.
Until then, as Von Clausewitz observed, “politics is war by other means.” As long as they remain engaged, they are fair game. And that’s how it should be.
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” –Benjamin Franklin
This past week, two seemingly unrelated events occurred that brought the 18th century to life in our modern age. Unless you are completely unaware (and if you are, I doubt you would bother to read this), Saturday was the “March for Our Lives,” the highly contrived display of juveniles calling for an end to an essential freedom. But earlier in the week, an Uber autonomous taxi struck and killed a pedestrian. Later reports laid the blame on the pedestrian, but that didn’t stop government from forcing every company testing autonomous driving technology to pull their vehicles off public roads.
What Franklin and the other Founder’s understood is there is a dynamic tension between safety and liberty. The reality is that they cannot perfectly coexist, and so the question is about how to set the dynamic to serve the most good. Think on it for a moment, and you’ll realize the two are polar opposites. Any society that promises absolute safety for it’s citizens offers no liberties, not even within the confines of the home. Conversely, the society that offers unlimited freedom has nothing in the way of societal protections.
What those wise old men created was a system that separated a subset of freedoms from everything else, and referred to them as “essential liberties.” They considered them essential for the simple reason that these freedoms guarantee every other human liberty. Among those considered absolutely necessary are the freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into an individual’s life and incarceration without first being tried by one’s peers, the right to peaceably assemble and address the government’s representatives, the right to worship and the right to defend oneself against the government, by force of arms if necessary. They packaged the essential liberties into the Bill of Rights – something the anti-federalists* demanded in order to secure their votes for ratification of the new Constitution.
What wasn’t mentioned, in the Constitution, the Articles of Confederation or the Declaration of Independence was the idea of a personal safety. Personal safety was generally accepted as an individual responsibility in the new republic.
Generally, but not universally. There have always been those who believe the duty of government is not the assurance of liberty, but dedication to protection from danger. While the nation was founded by, and throughout our history has rewarded risk takers, those who are risk averse have also made their homes among us. As the nation has aged, our society has reached agreement that certain personal liberties could be exchanged for government assurances of a sort of communal safety. Big Brother might not be watching your every move, but he’ll watch enough to make certain that some actions are prevented (or at least punished).
This brings me back to Franklin, Uber and the “#MarchForOurLives.” While Poor Richard might have been bemused at the idea of the government regulating transportation companies to this extent, he would have been willing to go along. After all, transportation is not an essential liberty. The government could ban all mechanized modes of getting about tomorrow as being inherently unsafe (and a glance at NTSB statistics will tell you just how unsafe they remain, despite government’s best attempts at making them safe), but you could still figure out a way to get from point A to B.
However, Ben would have taken umbrage at Saturday’s connived attempt to toss away one of those essential liberties, the right (and to many of the founders, the responsibility** of all citizens) to own firearms. I understand this concept is alien to the children who participated who, with the surety only born from the ignorance of youth, believe any idea older than they is ancient and outdated. It certainly is not alien to the people of Think Progress and the other left wing organizations that organized the protest. Indeed, removing it from the pantheon of essential liberties has been a goal of theirs from the beginning of the progressive movement, because they understand it is that which undergirds the individual’s ability to ensure his ability to exercise any of the others.
Think Progress has the right to assemble, and the even the right to dissemble on the nature of the Constitution. But the children whose unnatural fears they’re preying upon should also take note of the last part of the Franklin quote above. When he said those who desired safety over liberty deserved neither the safety they seek, nor the protections of liberty, he was referring to this other passage he had a part in crafting:
-That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.
This was the American Declaration of Independence, which stated the case that government does not exist to provide for personal safety, and that the duty of all people when confronted with a government that places benevolent tyranny ahead of individual liberty is to overthrow that government – by force, if necessary. That is the Pandora’s box they are toying with. Beware opening the lid. You won’t like what you find inside.
*For those of you not well versed in US history, the anti-federalists were Americans who opposed the adoption of the Constitution. Indeed, they opposed the idea of any strong government that could bind the individual states into a permanent union. Among their number were such notables as Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams and James Monroe.
**The various Founding Fathers have numerous dissertations on a citizen’s duty to maintain a firearm and remain proficient in its use, but this quote from Thomas Jefferson sums up the prevailing sentiment: “The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.”
In the wake of the President Trump’s signing the omnibus budget act, I am hearing and seeing a frenzied (indeed, almost apoplectic) reaction from my fellow conservatives. But I want to to stop you now, stop you dead in your tracks, because I am now going to tell you who is most responsible for this thing’s passage.
Yes, that’s right. YOU are the reason Congress just spent $1.3 trillion it doesn’t have. YOU are the reason that by the time the next Congress is seated, the federal debt will have swelled to $22 trillion.
By the way, I’m just as guilty of this fiasco as the rest of you.
Why are we responsible for this mess? Because we ignored the most basic tenet of our system of government. We’ve been great at describing our positions to one another. We’re lousy at describing them to anyone who doesn’t share those views. American government is not about just ramming your agenda through. Nothing lasts that way. No, it’s still about winning the marketplace of ideas. Think about it: the founders of this country traded speeches and newspaper editorials until the public eventually chose the vision of the federalists over that of the anti-federalists. That same dynamic still exists, and we’ve been terrible at the art of persuasion.
A big part of that is that while we’re all willing to talk the talk, almost none of us are willing to walk the walk. The last national elections pretty much embodied everything wrong with the conservative movement, and still we haven’t learned that lesson.
Think about it – a guy whose idea of fiscal discipline is going bankrupt and leveraging himself to the hilt managed to convince the nation he’s a fiscal conservative. From what I’ve been seeing throughout the day in my Twitter and Facebook feeds, he managed to convince a sizable number of you of the same. The guy who swore he could deliver the first balanced budget in two generations without touching entitlements (when anyone who can do basic arithmetic knows better) did enough reasonably conservative things over the first year of his Presidency to make you think he could somehow pull off that bit of alchemy.
Therein lies the problem. We are supposedly the people who want less government, which by definition means we want government to do less. But how many of you truly want less government across the board? I constantly hear we want less welfare, but: save the fuel subsidies. Enforce the ethanol mandate. Don’t touch my mortgage deduction. Hey, my job relies on that outdated weapons program!
We have an innate inability to reconcile, even in our own heads, that limiting government means actually taking more responsibility for own fiscal lives. We haven’t been able to realize that before we can ask a liberal to give up their government handout, we have to be willing and ready to give up our government handout.
In this respect, Congress is doing exactly what we want of it. We want our government programs, though we’re loathe to acknowledge they are a form of redistributionist welfare. Of course, liberals also want their government handouts, but the difference is they are not being intellectually dishonest with themselves. They know it’s redistributionist government. So, in order to get something passed, “conservatives” get their favorite programs and liberals get their favorite programs. The net result is that Congress passes a $1,300,000,000,000 spending bill with at least $880,000,000,000 in new debt. And of course, the President who thinks “debt is good” is going to sign it. (Indeed, the only reason he gave for almost vetoing the thing was it didn’t spend even more money).
If you’re truly outraged by this, it’s time to prove it. Call, write, go to town halls – and tell your congressman you’re ready to give up every government dime that floats your way. AND I MEAN EVERY SINGLE ONE. Because until you do, liberals will continue to smirk and call us hypocrites.
The sad thing is, they’ll be right.
I find myself, once again, having to cut through the bullcrap like a light saber through Ben Kenobi.
Look, here’s the deal folks: when Donald J. Trump, current President of these United States, was nothing more than an old lech (ok, a rich old lech), he paid to get laid by a porn star. He did this while his third wife, a former high-class skin model, was knocked up with his kid and while simultaneously having an affair with a Playboy playmate. Now, if I had more money than God (or at least, more than 90% of other Manhattan residents), I would waste my money on other things, but it’s his money. Besides, it’s part of his life-long pattern of keeping STD clinics in business.
The thing is, none of this should surprise anyone. After all, Trump has been a braggart about his sexploits since he first started appearing on Page Six. (What did you think was going on at Studio 54?) This is a guy who cheated on his first wife with his second wife, who he then dumped when she had the temerity to get pregnant. Long before achieving a career rebirth as a sort of lovable reality show host, he was famous for being the cad who turned Atlantic City into a hedonistic pleasure dome (albeit a badly managed, over-the-top version).
Indeed, this is the last scandal I ever expected to besiege the Trump White House. After all, only the wilfully ignorant would have thought Donald J. Trump hasn’t spent the last 50 years trying to hump every female human that crossed his path. For Pete’s sake, he’s bragged about. Loudly.
So, why wouldn’t he just fess up this time around? Surely he remembers 20 years ago. Yes, we were all skeeved by the middle aged dude boffing a barely legal intern in the Oval Office – but only the wilfully ignorant were surprised by the behavior. But what got that president into a heap of trouble was lying about it, even though nobody believed him. It cost him his legacy. 50 years from now, the only thing he’ll be remembered for is being the second President to be impeached.
The only thing I can think of is, he’s afraid of losing his base of support. But those of you who are rabid Trump fans wouldn’t abandon him over this. I mean, 5 minutes on Twitter proves that, right? So, it’s up to y’all. Already, the lawsuits are in motion. It’s Monica all over again. Shortly, the President will be forced to submit to being deposed and any missteps or misstatements in those, and he’ll have fallen into the same self-imposed trap that ensnared Bill Clinton. So, Trumpkins, save us all the spectacle. Urge him to fess up to doing the horizontal bop with a porn star named Stormy (and yes, having quite ordinary sized hands) and pay the settlements so we can all move on. There are real problems. We don’t need a lecherous old fool’s hubris to create new ones.
Some time back, the left uncorked a nutty idea: parents weren’t essential cogs in society. Over the last couple of weeks, this ugly theme has reappeared as a talking point in several leftist articles with wide circulation, all arguing that child rearing is better left to government overlords. Indeed, we are again being told that thousands of generations of humans have been poorly served by parents, because the reality is that “it takes a village” to properly care for a child – if that child is even deemed viable in the womb by those overlords. This seems like yet another attempt at destruction of the most essential building block of society, the nuclear family.
Now, for a quick detour. Why, you may ask, would anyone want to destroy families? The answer is simple, if you understand history. The first thing to understand is the roots of modern liberalism are found in the ideals of socialism, and modern socialists (whether they understand it or not) are promoting a soft communism. They may be willing to swap out the dictator for some sort of proletarian government, but make no mistake: they believe all of society’s ills can be cured by government. Their contention is that no government, regardless how well intentioned, can survive so long as private, unregulated ownership of property and capital is allowed to exist.
The nuclear family has been seen as an existential threat to this ideal since the very first promulgation of their warped philosophy. It was Engels who wrote an entire book on the subject, in order to reinforce his and Marx’s idea that the family was a construct of capitalist societies that existed primarily to ensure the preservation of individual wealth. They then further fantasized that governments and western religions encouraged the nuclear family, as a way of ensuring that children were indoctrinated with the approved morals and views of government.
Taken in that light, it isn’t terribly surprising to the rest of us that the family is one of the left’s foremost targets. So long as the family unit exists, the possibility of a socialist utopia cannot. The two are mutually exclusive.
Over the past 50 years, the left has launched a legislative assault on the traditional family. Liberalized divorce and abortion laws have removed most legal impediments to dissolving a family. The expansion of child welfare agencies and redefinition of what constitutes abuse have left parents who want to discipline their children at the state’s mercy. Increased participation in school curricula and operations by federal and state legislatures have ended parental control over their children’s education. They have even redefined the family with the legalization of gay marriage and making gay adoptions permissible.
While this assault on the family has recorded casualties (we’ve gone from 87% of children being in a traditional family to 68% in the last 50 years), the fact is that the normative family remains the standard in American society. But if your goal is to further the socialist ideal, to focus on the dubitable positives of equality of outcome, the family remains as your greatest threat. Modern socialists realize they cannot emulate their Marxist heroes and end the family by decree, so they instead have instigated a propaganda campaign to persuade us that parenting is not the most important job a person can have.
This line of attack, while perhaps not coordinated, has seen a dramatic uptick in the last few weeks. The first of these “thought pieces” that came to my attention was by Daniel Enberg in Slate. In Parenting Doesn’t Matter, he writes:
…what does affect a child’s future? Twin studies say a large proportion of the differences between children’s cognitive abilities, personalities, and chances of ending up with mental illness (among other long-term outcomes) can be explained solely by their DNA. And most of the rest appears to come from random chance, quirks in their biology, and specific non-parent-related life experiences: the teachers they had, or the friends they made along the way.
The entire article is a screed about how, even though he’s the father of an infant, he doesn’t see how anything he does – including things such as helping his daughter choose her friends, selecting her classes, her extra curricular activities, even simply reading her a bedtime story – will make any difference in her life. As he puts it, nothing he does “means she’ll still be shitting her pants at her high school graduation.”
The second piece was Ruth Marcus’ well publicized op-ed in the Washington Post. It is one of the most reprehensible articles I have ever read. It is nothing less than a full throated endorsement of eugenics, solely for a prospective mother’s “convenience.” She wrote:
I’m going to be blunt here: That was not the child I wanted. That was not the choice I would have made. You can call me selfish, or worse, but I am in good company. The evidence is clear that most women confronted with the same unhappy alternative would make the same decision.
Indeed, further on in the piece, she acknowledges that she foresees abortion as being the key to allowing eugenics to become a new societal norm (not unlike Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution”):
Technological advances in prenatal testing pose difficult moral choices about what, if any, genetic anomaly or defect justifies an abortion. Nearsightedness? Being short? There are creepy, eugenic aspects of the new technology…
But hey, if the mother chooses to kill her family before it even begins, that’s not society’s concern, right? I would fully expect an avowed leftist like Marcus to pen such drivel and assume some sort of perverted moral high ground with it.
Then there’s “How to Raise a Boy” by Will Leitch. Now, I enjoy Will’s writing when he sticks to his bailiwick, which is sports. But for some reason, he felt it necessary to provide the rest of us his take on parenting. Many others have taken his piece to be a commentary on other leftist tropes: white male privilege, the need to end “gun culture,” the virtue of being a beta male and so forth. But in reality, he supports Enberg’s view that parenting really amounts to little more than providing food and shelter for his offspring, not moral guidance or education.
There are things that I think I’m supposed to show them…that I don’t necessarily agree with but don’t want to stand in the way of. What do I know, you know? Every parent is only pretending that he or she has any real answers…this lesson of self-reliance is only an illusion. I can tell myself that any “success” I’ve had has been because of “hard work” and “perseverance,” but I’m kidding myself.
So, even though Leitch acknowledges that his parent’s example and instruction, their constant admonishment to “work hard and study hard” may be the reason he is able to earn a comfortable living as writer, he is conflicted as to the reason. Why? Because the combination of a liberal education and liberal thought has told him that his success is solely dependant on his DNA.
And in the end, that is what liberalism wants us all to believe. Not what our history and experience tells us. They won’t be happy until something similar to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is society’s new normal – and they know that can’t exist so long as even one traditional family exists.
I often hear liberals saying, “a minimum wage should give the same earning power as when it was first introduced.”
Well, in the spirit of bipartisanship, I’m happy to announce I fully agree with this position. When the federal government instituted a national minimum wage in 1938, it was set at 25¢ an hour. Adjusted for inflation (after all, only an idiot thinks a quarter goes as far now as it did 80 years ago), that would be $4.28 an hour today.
And I’d like to thank my liberal friends for pointing out the inequity in our current minimum wage structure vis a vis as it was originally intended.
By now, you’ve read every professional pundit’s take on what last night’s non-decision in the Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District special election means. So, in that time honored tradition of piling on, here’s a few thoughts of my own.
- Crappy candidates don’t win elections: unless they’re running against even crappier candidates. So long as the GOP keeps running people like Rick Saccone (who tried to pressure his possibly pregnant secretary into an abortion, despite running as a pro-life candidate) and Roy Moore (no need for further explanation), they will continue to lose elections. Unless, of course, the Democrats run even worse candidates. They tried that with Jon Ossoff. They also tried it in 2016 with somebody named Hillary Clinton.
- Smart Democrats run away from the “Party of Pelosi”: If you closed your eyes, Conor Lamb sounded like any number of moderate Republicans. At least in word, he is about as far from the national party platform as you can get and still call yourself a Democrat.
- Which leaves national Democrats in a quandary: Democrats need to flip 24 seats to regain the House in November. In order to do that, they’ll need a whole lot more people like Conor Lamb to run. If they succeed, what happens to the Democrats who’ve hewed farther to the left since the 2016 election? The return of a strong “Blue Dog” faction can’t be something Democrats eyeing a 2020 Presidential run (Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, etc) are eagerly anticipating. Nor can it be something the “old guard” House members (Pelosi, Hoyer, etc) really want to deal with.
- Presidents no longer have coattails: It might sound trite, but Presidents truly don’t enhance anyone else’s electoral chances anymore. While America has a long history of voting for the opposition in midterm elections, none of our last three Presidents have been able to transfer their considerable intraparty favorables into voter turnout. This year is continuing that trend. Whether that’s a function of our three decade long bout of hyper-partisanship, or Presidents who simply can’t reach voters on the “other” side, I don’t know. But it doesn’t really matter – it is, what it is. Just remember, the House has changed leadership 4 times during a midterm in the past 25 years.
- Anyone who thinks 2018 won’t be the fifth, is deluding themselves: Yes, 24 seats is a tall order. Yes, Democrats winning those seats will be running against the national party’s positions in many cases. Yes, that will create massive headaches for them, both in governance and electoral politics. But you know what? Another function of this period of hyper-partisanship is that the only accomplishment that matters is winning the damn election. Actual governing is secondary. You can bet the DNC and DCCC will pour everything they have into the districts they believe they can flip, and flip them they will.
“The Memo” – that 4 page document that’s tied our overlords in Washington into knots for over a week – has finally been released! If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you you click here and do so. Now.
Forgetting the political implications for a moment, I want to focus on the critical aspect I haven’t heard anyone mention yet: the FISA court’s existence. Think about it for a moment. None of what our nation has been subjected to over the past 20 months would have been possible, if not for a Constitutionally questionable extra-legal entity that was created for the sole purpose of allowing the federal government to spy on American citizens.
Absent the FISA court, the shady dealings of messers Comey, Rosenstein, Ohr, McCabe, et al., would have been presented in open court. Absent the FISA court, Mr. Steele’s questionably sourced, partisan “dossier” would have had to be presented as a verified source in open court – where any judge not asleep would have laughed the warrant application away. Absent the FISA court, Mr. Page and President Trump would have been notified they were the targets of a federal investigation.
That the last administration weaponized the various enforcement arms of the federal government as a political retribution tool has never been in much doubt. That they attempted to ply their retribution campaign in the shadows is also without dispute (think of the damage a weaponized IRS did to dozens of legitimate conservative groups). That some of the leading members of that administration’s Justice Department were utilizing a secret court to engage in a political dirty tricks campaign should not surprise anyone.
We, the people, gave the government that tool 40 years ago. Just like giving a spoiled child a hammer and telling him “No!”, how can we be surprised that the government uses that tool to smash everything in it’s way?
The political fallout from this will be with us for a while, possibly years. I hope that before those ashes are done burning America takes a good, hard look at the entire FISA process and decides to kill it. Any government that aspires to egalitarian principles cannot have secret courts, cannot grant the police authority to spy on it’s citizens, can never allow political actors control over those same police. Oversight, yes – operational control, never. That is the overriding lesson we need to learn from this fiasco.
Is it possible that the rank-and-file members of the FBI are loyal to the country and their mission, while their Obama administration era, politically appointed leaders are only loyal to a political movement?
Is it possible the Russian government engaged in an influence campaign during the last election, without either directly assisting either campaign, or being assisted by either campaign?
Also yes. And in both cases, more probable than not.
Unfortunately, the American public seems incapable of living with this state of things. The President is such a polarizing figure, and these issues so closely related both to the man and his temperament, that battle lines are being drawn where none should be. If you are a member of the “#Resistance,” that ill-defined cabal of #NeverTrumper conservatives, radical liberals and social justice warriors, then the Mueller investigation and FBI are the archangels of your salvation. If you’re fully aboard the #TrumpTrain, then the Russians are our friends, had no influence on the election and the FBI is staffed by former members of the Keystone Kops, all of whom are on Hillary Clinton’s payroll.
First for my friends on the #TrumpTrain: to pretend that Russia wasn’t attempting to influence the 2016 election is the height of naivety. Russia, from the time of the Czars, has never been a true friend of our nation. Russia has always been, and likely will always remain, an autocratic society that innately fears the very things that the United States’ very existence embodies. Russian governments, whether czarist, communist, perestroika or the current oligarchist regimes, have made it a point throughout history to gain influence over the American electoral process. At times, it was overt as hell. Boris Checherin, a Muscovite professor, was employed by Alexander II to identify and support American politicians who would be sympathetic to Russian interests during the early Reconstruction period. Some of you may be familiar with a KGB unsuccessful attempt to funnel campaign funds to Gerald Ford’s 1976 campaign. In 2009, the House of Representatives acknowledged that Dmitri Medvedev’s government had illegally contributed to political action campaigns for both candidates in the 2008 election.
Given that history, why is it outlandish to think Medvedev’s benefactor and mentor, Vladimir Putin, wouldn’t engage in some sort of dirty tricks campaign? It would be more outlandish to think the former KGB spook, whose only allegiance is to a Russian version of Manifest Destiny, hadn’t engaged in a disruption campaign during the Presidential race. Understanding the methods used, and their efficacy, should be a concern of every American. So take the blinders off. Nobody (except for some very dimwitted #resistance members) believes Putin actively threw the election to Donald Trump. If you give the President cover (i.e., so he doesn’t have to be defensive about Russia’s role), you’ll also give him the ability to unleash a proper investigation. That would be a good (and proper) thing.
Now for the #NeverTrumpers: as conservatives, we lamented the politicization of the Department of Justice under Barack Obama and his two Attorneys General, Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch. To suddenly be shocked that the highest levels of the Department of Justice were operating as a political committee, working to exonerate one candidate of a host of illegal activities while simultaneously creating a false narrative around supposed illegal activities of another, is disingenuous. It was precisely this type of behavior from the DoJ that had us most worried. Further, everything the politicized Obama DoJ had undertaken – from the Fast and Furious gun running fiasco to the early rush to judgement in the Michael Brown “Hands up, don’t shoot” lie, proved to be a political activity, not something actually related to criminal justice. The Obama administration politicized and weaponized all sorts of federal agencies, with a clear intent of crushing any thought of a conservative movement. Agencies with supposedly as diverse missions as the IRS and DEA, the SEC and BLM were all deployed as crusaders against the “evils of the bitter clingers.” Unless you’re willing to accept that the people responsible for creating and implementing those policies suddenly had a change of heart – that the Andrew McCabe’s, Peter Strzok’s, James Comey’s and Sally Yates’ that populated the upper bureaucracy of the Obama administration – decided on November 9, 2016 that duty to country replaced their duty to their Obamaführer, such an outcome wasn’t just a possibility. It is a probability.
It’s perfectly legitimate to call into question the political motivations of a James Comey or Vladimir Putin. It is not legitimate to dismiss concerns about their roles in the tumultuous 2016 campaign over your love or hatred of Donald Trump. Like it or not, he’ll be gone by 2025, at the latest. But the ramifications of these two, symbiotic scandals will resonate in our electoral and justice systems for many more decades after that. Understanding who was trying to put their thumbs on the levers of power and why is far more important than any President.
If the idea that all news is fake somehow shocks you, then you haven’t paid much attention to the world around you for the last 40 years or so. It wasn’t always this way. In the not so distant past, journalism truly was our “fourth estate,” and journalists actually did their bit to keep government more or less honest. This reached it’s peak in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. It was Walter Cronkite who was the only person with enough cache to convince Americans that the war in Vietnam was not going well and American lives were being sacrificed for a feckless foreign policy. It was valiant newspaper editors who risked everything – even imprisonment – to publish the Pentagon Papers. It was intrepid reporters who blew the cover off the Watergate conspiracy. It was a dogged reporter who went against his own political bias to doom Gary Hart’s candidacy.
Sadly, the Gary Hart story was the last hurrah for journalism. Already, political bias was creeping further and further into our evening newscasts. Reporters were feeling their oats and network news executives were feeling the heat to make their divisions profitable. The combination of the two was a slow turning of serious telejournalists into entertainers. David Brinkley gave way to Sam Donaldson. Walter Cronkite was replaced by Dan Rather. Barbara Walters was moved from interviewing monkees for Today to co-anchoring the evening news.
Likewise, newsprint reporters were no longer satisfied with reporting on the dull, mundane day-to-day things. No, now they had to be the news as much as they reported on it. One, John Anderson, even mounted a presidential campaign in 1980. Getting the above-the-fold, banner headline wasn’t just a matter of of industry prestige. It became both the means and the end, the potential springboard to fame and glory. Woodward and Bernstein had done it. Why shouldn’t they?
Of course, that was a generation ago. In the intervening years, the emergence of the internet as a news source not only intensified the drive for eyeballs. Before, the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times might have competed somewhat, but each had it’s own region. No more. Now, each of those papers was not only competing nationally with each other (as was every newspaper and magazine), but they found themselves in virtual warfare with the television networks and he newly emerged 24 hour cable news stations. Stories became more salacious and the telling more over-the-top as each source competed for those same eyeballs.
There had always been reporting errors, of course. Human beings are fallible, and that includes the ones reporting the facts. But whereas before, editors had been dogged in protecting their brands by ensuring accuracy, now they found themselves forced to protect their brands by ensuring they got a story out first, even if it meant having to make corrections later.
But even that bit of true editorial control fell apart in 1998. Newsweek had uncovered and sourced a story about President Clinton and a 21 year old intern, but refused to run it because the editorial board hadn’t been able to talk to the intern herself.
That intern was Monica Lewinsky, and the story was broken by a previously fringe newsman, Matt Drudge, on his internet blog. It wasn’t so much a blog as a news aggregator (as now), but the moment his site announced that bombshell story – which eventually led to the first impeachment of a president in 130 years – news was changed forever. Getting a story out first was no longer a big deal, it was the only thing that mattered. Editorial standards were demolished. It wasn’t long before reporters were openly editorializing on-air. Cable news became less news, and more talking heads arguing about the “issues.” As networks and news organizations began to target their editorial slant to be either pro- or anti-Clinton, the audiences that viewed their content sorted itself likewise. What was once a non-partisan fourth estate had fully migrated into becoming the propaganda arms of the two major political parties.
The lack of any true balance or bias in news reporting for the last 20 years has led to where we are today. Everyone in the news industry is either spinning the news around an editorial cyclotron to extract the content most craved by their target audiences, or just simply creating “infotainment” to reinforce those preconceived notions. It’s how you get CNN declaring the President is about to have a heart attack. It’s how you get MSNBC declaring the President has early-onset Alzheimer’s. It’s how you get Breitbart declaring that Hillary Clinton had a secret stroke.
It is how you get fake news, and how you get news arguing over what qualifies as fake news and what isn’t fake news. Here’s the only thing I know for certain: if Ben Bradlee were around today, here’s what he’d tell current reporters. Go back to reporting the facts, and nothing else. Leave the editorializing for the editorial pages (or in the case of television, the editorial segments). Leave the creative writing for writing novels. The message he would have the suits would likewise be similar. News is about disseminating information, not ratings, not clicks per page – just information.
Until that message gets through, though, here’s what you need to do. Break out of your bubble. If you’re not a reader (and if you are not into reading, then I really need to thank you for reading this!) and getting your news from television, then please, vary your sources. Watch a little of everything. You’ll note the four or five points in each story that CNN, MSNBC, FOX, ABC, etc will agree on. The rest of it? That’s the spin, the emotional tug. The same thing goes for reading newspapers. And if you can’t at least double-source a story, you can bet that it’s the ultimate in fake news: the contrived story.
You can do this, America. And that’s the real No Spin Zone.