Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Jonathan Last at The Weekly Standard offers a succinct critique of CBS's investigation into the Dan Rather affair. He concludes, for compelling reasons, that the report was a whitewash that failed to answer the most important questions.

FOX blocker

Here's an interesting indication of the depths of desperation that liberals are beginning to feel. The following is an article from the New York Daily News:

Attention, blue-state parents. Are you worried about what your children are seeing on TV? Have you caught them ogling Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity as they engage in explicit acts of love with Bush administration policies? Now you can protect your little liberals from hard-core right-wing positions the same way you censor cable porn. For just $8.95, The FOXBlocker eliminates the risk of exposure to Fox News Channel.

Sam Kimery and Joshua Montgomery, who are marketing the device, say it employs the technology already used to filter adult content.

And every time someone orders one of the gizmos from Foxblocker.com, Fox advertisers receive E-mail telling them that another consumer has just said no to Rupert Murdoch's brand of "fair and balanced news."

"We hope that companies will see people actually paying to block channels that won't offer alternative views, and then rethink how they spend their advertising dollars," Montgomery tells Variety V Life magazine.

Is Fox worried about this new product?

"I mean, clearly, it's not working," a Fox News rep told us. "Our ratings continue to skyrocket."

Since it seems clear that the marketers of this product are at pains to prevent children from watching Fox News (adults can be presumed to be able to select their viewing fare unsupervised), it's interesting that their implicit comparison is of Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, et al. to sleazy, pornographic television content. Here's an irony and a difference between the way liberals and conservatives see the world. In the conservative world-view obscenity is a perversion of the intimacy, privacy, and marital context of sex. In the liberal world-view obscenity is the expression of conservative political ideas. Let the tots see as much illicit coitus on screen as they wish, let them hear as much scatological language as they want, let them see the love which dare not speak its name proclaim itself from the rooftops, but conservative political notions must be concealed from the children with programming blockers lest the little ones secretly view Hannity, Hume, O'Reilley, et. al. and be seduced by conservative thinking. If we don't act now to prevent this, the liberals fear, our children will surely grow up to be degenerates.

Thanks to Evangelical Outpost for the tip.

Dem Says Let <i>Roe</i> Go

No Left Turns discusses an article by Benjamin Wittes in The Atlantic who argues that the time has come for the Democratic Party to stop defending Roe v. Wade. Wittes gives two reasons why this makes sense for Democrats. The original article is subscription only so the following is from No Left Turns' post:

Part of Wittes' argument is that the criticisms conservatives have made against it are not totally off the mark.

"Since its inception Roe has had a deep legitimacy problem, stemming from its weakness as a legal opinion. Conservatives who fulminate that the Court made up the right to abortion, which appears explicitly nowhere in the Constitution, are being simplistic--but they're not entirely wrong. In the years since the decision an enormous body of academic literature has tried to put the right to an abortion on firmer legal ground. But thousands of pages of scholarship notwithstanding, the right to abortion remains constitutionally shaky; abortion policy is a question that the Constitution--even broadly construed--cannot convincingly be read to resolve."

Of course, this comes as no news to any conservative. But his more interesting argument concerns how a reversal of Roe v. Wade would place the Republicans in a deep dilemma.

"Roe gives pro-life politicians a free pass. A large majority of voters reject the hard-line anti-abortion stance: in Gallup polling since 1975, for example, about 80 percent of respondents have consistently favored either legal abortion in all circumstances (21 to 34 percent) or legal abortion under some circumstances (48 to 61 percent). Although a plurality of Americans appear to favor abortion rights substantially more limited than what Roe guarantees, significantly more voters describe themselves as "pro-choice" than "pro-life." Yet because the Court has removed the abortion question from the legislative realm, conservative politicians are free to cater to pro-lifers by proposing policies that, if ever actually implemented, would render those politicians quite unpopular."

He makes a valid point; as long as Roe stands Republicans can fulminate against it, secure in the knowledge that they don't really have to do anything about abortion. We've spent a good bit of time talking about the divide in the Democratic Party between moderates and ultra-liberals, but a reversal of Roe would no doubt expose a fault line within the GOP that is just as wide--the one separating die-hard pro-lifers from those of us who, while favoring certain restrictions on abortion, see considerable moral and practical problems with an outright ban.

Three things should be mentioned here. First, when Wittes says that Conservatives have not been entirely wrong about the lack of constitutional support for the 1973 Roe decision what he's really trying to say is that Conservatives have been completely correct. Everything he says in that paragraph confirms this. He just doesn't want to state it that baldly for fear of incurring the censure of his liberal associates.

Second, it's not at all clear that the statistics are as Wittes sees them. There is reason to believe that the nation is much more sympathetic to placing restrictions on abortion than pro-choicers would have us think. This is why Kerry tended to downplay and waffle on the issue during the campaign and George Bush didn't.

Third, whether an overturn of Roe would create a political problem for Republicans depends upon how they react to it. If they point out that remanding the matter to the states gives the people greater say in formulating their state's abortion policy, it may well work to Republicans' benefit. Removing abortion from the judiciary and giving it to state legislatures empowers people to decide for themselves where to draw lines on this issue and should be presented that way by Republicans.

It is also not irrelevant that if the pro-choice throng is as numerous as Wittes' suggests it is, then they should have nothing to fear from having state legislatures, which are much more responsive to the will of the people than is the Supreme Court, establish the law. The fact that Pro-choicers are generally loath to have abortion law handled by the states gives the lie to their proclamations of substantial majorities in support of their position. We strongly suspect that they resist throwing the issue back into state houses because they fear that the majority of citizens in most states favor restrictions which they oppose.

The CBS Fallout

We confess to savoring a bit of schadenfreude at the fallout from the RatherGate affair at CBS. It couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch. Well, perhaps that's not quite true. Maybe the New York Times deserves it just as much. At any rate, CBS and the cashiered foursome is getting what it, and they, deserve. They wanted with all their might for this story to be true. They wanted so badly to discredit George Bush that they convinced themselves that the forged memos were genuine. They were blinded by their own wish-fulfillment and threw all professional standards and caution to the winds, chancing their careers on this one throw of the dice.

At least that's the charitable interpretation. The alternative is that they knew going in that the documents were suspect, but didn't care. They thought they could damage the president with fabrications, and no one would be the wiser. They may well have done it before and thought they could do it again. Indeed, if it hadn't been for the blogosphere they doubtless would've gotten away with it.

The difference between the two interpretations is the difference between being reckless, careless, and gullible because of ignoble political motives and being overtly malicious and vicious because of ignoble political motives.

Some bloggers are a little miffed that the CBS report didn't come down harder on what they perceive to be the obvious political motivations of the principal players in this farce, but motivation is much easier to discern than it is to prove. Even so, in this case there can be little doubt, whether the report makes it clear or not, that the impelling force was a desire to destroy the Bush presidency.

Here's what Bernard Goldberg, former CBS reporter and author of the expose Biased, said to Wolf Blitzer on CNN:

"And I'm going a step further. I'm saying there was an agenda at work. I'm not saying that Dan Rather went into this saying, I'm going to get George Bush. It's never -- that is not the nature of bias in the news. It never, ever happens that way. But I am saying that he wanted this story to be true, and Mary Mapes sure wanted that story to be true. And did he depend too much on her? Yes, that's obvious. But if he didn't want this story to be true, if it didn't fit the culture of CBS' preconceived notions about liberals and conservatives and Democrats and Republicans, it would have never seen the light of day and we would never be talking about it..."

"I think when you're working with investigative producers -- and it's the scariest thing in the world -- I've worked with them -- when they fall in love with the story, head for the hills. Because you may have big, big problems, as we see here. But what I'm saying is, they didn't simply fall in love with a great story. They would have never -- I know these people, I know these people. And even more than knowing these people, I know the culture at CBS News. They would have never fallen in love with a story that made the other side look as bad as they made George Bush. They just wouldn't have."

We hate to sound like Madame DeFarge, but we're satisfied that the job-ending guillotine at CBS is doing condign work. The only injustice is that Dan Rather is allowed to walk away with his dignity and dubious reputation somewhat intact while underlings suffer a season of public humiliation. Rather's head should have rolled with the rest of them, metaphorically speaking of course. The good news is that everyone knows it.