• Israel,  The Political Animal

    Two Epistemic Closures: The GOP and Israel-Critics

    . (This commentary originally appeared in the Algemeiner on January 25, 2013.) What do Tuesday’s election results remind us of? They should recall the result of November’s U.S. elections. Against all evidence – and here I do mean all evidence – Mitt Romney and Republicans of every stripe, from Tea Party to establishment, genuinely believed that they were going to win. Strictly speaking, this was not a case ofepistemic closure. It was more a case of confirmation bias, of false-consensus bias. Against consistent evidence of how most Americans view their nation and the role of government, in the face of polls that all year had shown, however marginally, Barack Obama invariably leading Romney across…

  • The Political Animal

    The MSNBC Bent vs the FOX News Bias

    . You hear it a lot. MSNBC is the liberal Fox News. No. It’s not. This is just one more variation of false equivalency, the inability to make acute judgments amid the buffeting winds of so many competing claims, the warp of reason by the gravitational pull of all those massive subjectivities. MSNBC has a bent. Fox has a bias. Which is to say that – are you ready for this? – objectively speaking, one leans toward something, the other leans against. “FOX News vs. MSNBC in Terms of Bias” one blog post titles its consideration. “MSNBC really is more partisan than Fox, according to Pew study” headlines a Baltimore Sun article that…

  • The Political Animal

    The End of American Democracy

    . A dissenter will call it hyperbole, an opponent hysterical, some of its targets sensational. We will all or we will not find out – any of us today, I mean, for confirmation may take far longer to receive than the length of our short lives. Rome, you know, word is, was not built in a day, but it did not decline in a day either. Likely, there was no Roman in 290 CE who felt the shift, a start in the earth’s movement or a diminution of the light, and said, “This is the moment,” even though Rome would not be sacked until 410 or Romulus Augustus deposed until…

  • The Political Animal

    The Gentleman & the Boor

    I didn’t even know last night was the night of the Al Smith Dinner, with which, of course, I am familiar, as the Washington and Catholic Church insider that I am. But fate set me down in front of Rachel Maddow at just the right time, so I was in virtual attendance. I’ve seen them before, watched the tapes. The first one, with Peter presiding, was a staid affair. Since then, however, a tradition has developed: from the two candidates jokes all around, with many targets, including their opponent, none greater than themselves in a show of gracious self-deprecating humor. A history of videos is out there. You can check…

  • The Political Animal

    Preventing Romney: Mediating the Laughter and the Lies

    . The challenge for supporters of Barack Obama, tonight and after, is to mediate the media’s mediation of reality. Mediating the mediation: in politics that’s called “spin.” Spin is a conceptually sexy, pop-cultural term for influence. It is a method of persuasion. But as the nature of the expression suggests in its physical metaphor, it is superficial, acting on the exterior body rather than the interior being. Spin – like the earth on its axis. Don’t necessarily transform the deep understanding; just grab the body by the arm and turn it in another direction. In this picture, though, the body is the whole argument, both sides of it – the…

  • The Political Animal

    Faking Foreign Policy

    . From David Sanger in yesterday’s New York Times: But beyond his critique of Mr. Obama as failing to project American strength abroad, Mr. Romney has yet to fill in many of the details of how he would conduct policy toward the rest of the world, or to resolve deep ideological rifts within the Republican Party and his own foreign policy team. It is a disparate and politely fractious team of advisers that includes warring tribes of neoconservatives, traditional strong-defense conservatives and a band of self-described “realists” who believe there are limits to the degree the United States can impose its will. Each group is vying to shape Mr. Romney’s views, usually…

  • Israel,  The Political Animal

    A Political Hall of Mirrors

    . Bob from Brockley writes (from Brockley, I presume) to offer compliment and commentary to my last post on Maureen Dowd. Bob and I are usually in close alignment on such issues as have arisen from Dowd’s recent column on the neocons. In this case not. Bob (whom, if you don’t, you really should be reading over at BobfromBrockley) thinks, like other of her critics, that Dowd used problematic language in a subject that seems to touch on Jewishness. Contrary to my more common thoughts on these matters, I think Dowd’s critics got it all wrong this time. And then again… I have to say that I do not read…

  • The Political Animal

    The Stink Bomb

    . There is so much messy farting going on, the political arena smells like an outhouse. Of course, why should it not? It is an outhouse. Between the craven opportunists and the reflexive ideologues, even a dash past the entrance with cotton plugs in your nose will not spare you the stench. The Muslim world has a problem. Clearly. Is it all Muslims? No. Is it most Muslims? Check with Gallup. Is it a lot of Muslims. Yes. What’s a lot? I don’t know. I didn’t take statistics. But something is going on in the Muslim world, has been for a long time, that is not quite going on in any…

  • The Political Animal

    The Other God That Failed

    . Of course, nothing so far can match, or is likely to, the epic-historical failure of twentieth century Marxism. The cost of that failure, if not actually beyond measure, surely transcends any measure the mind can really grasp. Other failures, however, cannot be denied just because they do not reach a comparable magnitude. Dionysus was not Zeus, but he held sway enough. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, like Brezhnev after the debacle is done, seek the presidency and its supporting role in the geriatric decrepitude of a conservative idea that over thirty years of sway over American society has proven an abject failure. “You’re as young as you feel,” they cry, with forced smiles…

  • The Political Animal

    I Apologize

    . Jonah Lehrer has apologized to his readers for manufacturing quotations in his latest book, to Michael Moynihan for lying about it, and to himself for self-plagiarizing his blog posts for The New Yorker. Fareed Zakaria has apologized to Time and CNN for plagiarizing a paragraph of an article from Jill Lepore at the New Yorker. The Washington Post has apologized to Zakaria for claiming he also plagiarized from a book by Clyde V. Prestowitz when, apparently, he did not. Clyde V. Prestowitz has apologized to Zakaria, too. Zakaria has not apologized to Jeffrey Goldberg for stealing quotations from him. He says it is standard practice. Goldberg says it is…

  • The Political Animal

    Mitt Romney Thinks You’re a Moron

    . Conventional wisdom is not precisely an oxymoron (time really does fly), but it is not infrequently moronic. The conventional wisdom that the Romney campaign wishes to create around Paul Ryan is one of rare courage and unusual intelligence and experience in budgetary matters – the GOP’s fiscal Brainiac for the Chinese (I mean Second American) Century, and now, too, a man of bipartisan largeness (so long as he isn’t confronted with cancerous progressive smallness). According to TPM this morning, The Most Fundamentally (© N. Gingrich) Dishonest Candidate Since Richard Nixon™ is on that theme already. “This guy’s a real leader,” Romney told CBS News on Sunday. “He’s reached across…

  • The Political Animal

    The Other Paul Ryan

    . While the general media roll out of Paul Ryan as VP pick focuses on the GOP’s chosen narrative of Ryan as “smart” and “courageous” thinker about budgetary and Medicare matters, many more careful economists, like Paul Krugman, are offering the necessary corrective in even that area. Krugman reminds us that Ryan has never crunched the numbers, which don’t add up, and that Jacob Weisberg felt compelled to correct himself by writing, Ryan is more an anarchist-libertarian than honest conservative. This, though, is hardly a surprising assessment of a man who has said, “I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value…

  • The Political Animal

    The Most Fundamentally (© N. Gingrich) Dishonest Candidate Since Richard Nixon

    . Let’s not speak of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. The Mormon Church isn’t one of the longer running cults in the world, but that wouldn’t matter so much if it were the source of a person’s principled goodness in the world. But when various public figures began months back to dance gingerly around the subject of Romney’s “core,” that is what they were really addressing: principles. Romney has none. You could field a veritable army of athiests more principled in their beliefs, more honest in their representation of themselves, and truer to any fellows they might seek to influence, let alone lead. Even swimming amid the usual cauldron of hot conflict…

  • Uncategorized

    Playing Politics with Jews

    . This post previously appeared in the Algemeiner on August 1, 2012. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), in his best Captain Renault form – which includes being entirely insincere and unconvincing – is shocked, shocked to discover that there is politics going on in the U.S. of A. Never played any of that sort of thing himself. Though, actually, feigning shock at the discovery of politics going on right there in the city of the Casa Blanca is, well (cover the children’s ears) an act of playing politics. Reported The Hill (and everyone else covering the jerk-my-chain political beat), Cantor, said in a statement Sunday that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.)…

  • The Political Animal

    Glenn Greenwald’s Mitt Romney Surrogacy

    . I might just as well have titled this Glenn Greenwald’s Collateral Damage, The Politics of Animus, or the Politics of National Destruction or the Puritopian’s Dilemma – the list goes on. Here’s a list that goes on longer, among Glenn Greenwald’s last eighteen blog posts: Probing Obama’s secrecy games; U.S. again bombs mourners; Tough Guy Leaking: Iran edition; How extremism is normalized; Obama the Warrior; “Militants”: media propaganda; The Authoritarian Mind; The Imperial Mind; WH leaks for propaganda film; John Brennan’s new power. The last twelve posts are all attacks on the Obama administration or President Obama himself. Of the six before that, four are directly critical. Even a…

  • The Political Animal

    Threats to Democracy

    . The New York Times editorialized the other day, in “Too Much Power for a President,” It has been clear for years that the Obama administration believes the shadow war on terrorism gives it the power to choose targets for assassination, including Americans, without any oversight. The Times argued, No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield — depriving Americans of their due-process rights — without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle. This is a discussion always worth having, but it can never be productively engaged if one does not honestly acknowledge some of the essential…

  • The Political Animal

    The Daily Beast Begins to Bottom Feed

    . The Daily Beast provides some thoughtful journalism and opinion, but increasingly it and its editor, Tina Brown, offer sensational nonsense. Newsweek isn’t making money yet – better draw more eyeballs. So we get the crudely philistine “The 13 Most Useless Majors, From Philosophy to Journalism” or the sucker punch at controversy of Newsweek’s “The First Gay President,” the reaction to which the Beast is happy to tally in perpetuation of its own manufactured story. And since the assembly line is running, why wait for an actual Bush-Gore II? Six months before the votes are counted is not too early for Michael Medved’s “How Another Electoral Split Decision Could Divide America.” On that…

  • The Political Animal

    Politicians, Faith, and Reason

    Invariably in American politics, the faith of political candidates will be scrutinized. Because of protestant strains in the nation’s colonial origins and its long-time demographic majority, the scrutiny has always been heightened for the non-Protestant. In the evangelical age, for the Protestant, the scrutiny has taken the form less of a necessary demystification – and easing of anxiety – than of personal testimony. Even for a Protestant, though the faith required no justification, the call has been for representation in biography. From a George W. Bush, the MSM acquiesced in seeking to know how religious faith would comfortingly shape Presidential rectitude and decision making. For a JFK, a Mario Cuomo, or a Mitt…

  • The Political Animal

    The GOP’s Media-Manufactured Messiahs

      They might have learned something from the original breakfast flake of modern times Ross Perot. But the news media do not learn. They speculate, they trumpet, they pander, they shill – “It’s news! How can we not cover news?!” And who made it news? You’d think certainly they would have learned from Rudy and Fred Thompson, the real Law and Order and the fake. (The Army Corp of Engineers is still calculating the size, impression, and speed of Thompson’s 2008 face-fall.) Their attention span is so short, that it took less than a week for the long-heralded Rick Perry, on the basis of one, by this point, SOP conservative…