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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - David Mastio

RealClearPolitics - Articles - David Mastio

Last Build Date: Thu, 25 May 2006 08:04:11 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007

Look for the Next President in the History of Flip-Flops

Thu, 25 May 2006 08:04:11 -0600

Meanwhile on the Republican side, Freepers debate which Republican apostate, McCain or Rudy, would go down easier while another Bush warms up in Florida as if the nation pines for a third. Then there's Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, former Speaker Newt Gingrich and a legion of others including no-way, no-how, no-no-no Rice, the Secretary of State. Each day closer to the 2006 elections, it seems they'll only matter as much as they reshape the playing field for 2008. It is safe to say that the partisans are already fully engaged in Campaign '08, but they're only half the story. Inside each party is the cohort who pick their candidate not by who makes them go weak in the knees, but by asking themselves, "Who can win?" They're not always the brightest bunch - and they easily stampede into disaster (see Kerry, John, also Dole, Bob). Regardless of the track record, shaping the conventional wisdom of this "winner" primary in both political parties will be the real business of the next couple years. So what does a "winner" look like? "Straight Talkers" and their automatic, continuous Sista Souljah moments such as a McCain or a Lieberman? Is it the play-against-type types - the free-market Mormon from Massachusetts, the liberal trial lawyer from the South, or the business-friendly moderate Democrat from Virginia? Is it the power of dynasty that can only be offered by a Bush or a Clinton? You can argue which might connect with voters this year, but even if you argue until you pass out, there's no way to prove anything. But perhaps there's something that would let any of these wannabes become the one. The answer might lie in the recent history of gigantic flip-flops that have slid by and those that have turned into political disasters. Consider a couple that the public let slide: While Ronald Reagan was famous for his tax cuts, after his big success, he spent the rest of his presidency raising taxes - the public didn't seem to hold it against him. The same can be said for Reagan's relations with the Evil Empire where he set his rhetoric aside to strike agreements with the Soviets that would have made Nixon, or for that matter, Carter proud. Closer to our time, our current President Bush ran just on the respectable side of isolationism - vowing never to get involved in such silly things as nation-building, yet after 9/11 when Afghanistan was in need of rebuilding, Bush didn't bat an eye and the public didn't care. Now consider a couple that blew up in presidential faces. Bush I abandoned the "no new taxes pledge" for a budget deal and torpedoed his presidency. Clinton dumped the whole moderation thing for aborted tax increases and Hillary-care. Voters handed Congress to the GOP. Our current Bush decided he'd stick a politically dubious crony on the Supreme Court and ignited the wave of distrust that has stripped him of his conservative support. What's the difference? Try this - what the public is looking for, perhaps more so since 9/11, is principle tempered by a strong connection to reality. Reagan could raise taxes because the facts had changed - he lowered taxes, raised spending and the deficit exploded. It needed to be fixed. Bush I couldn't raise taxes without a horrible price because the public didn't perceive any big change in circumstances - there were big deficits when he made his promise and nothing had changed. Our current President Bush could rebuild Afghanistan without political cost because 9/11 was a rather big change in circumstances. Which brings us to Iraq. How is it that President Bush had public support when he went in, but it has been slowly disappearing? The comforting answer for Bushies (and I count myself as one) is that when things are tough, the uncommitted drift away - by sticking to his guns, President Bush is showing principled leadership. But there is another way to look at this. Ever since looting began as Saddam Hussein's government fell, there have been nagging doubts about American troop levels. The battle has gone on with fits and starts with the latest round being the fracas over retired gen[...]

Page Six Blackmail, Rummy & General George S. Patton

Fri, 21 Apr 2006 00:31:25 -0600

In the same vein, over at the Pentagon, before the first general said boo, military reporters already thought that Rumsfeld was messing things up in Iraq. Watch their press conferences with Rummy on C-Span and you can just see the frustration dripping from their every question.

It turns out that a little blackmail and wartime personnel changes also have a funny historical resonance.

Everyone who has cable has seen at least part of the legendary movie "Patton" for which George C. Scott won an Oscar (also 1970's best pic and best directing). One of the classic anecdotes in the movie, presented in an only slightly twisted fashion, is the famous slapping incident. Patton finds a couple enlisted men lying in hospital beds suffering only from "shell shock" next to men still bleeding - and dying - from terrible wounds. In a rage, Patton slaps the soldiers around, as he later explains, in an effort to reawaken their self-respect. Things go downhill from there.

There's an interesting bit of history that didn't make it into the movie related in a classic Patton biography A Genius for War by Carlo D'Este.

Fairly quickly after the slapping incident, the Saturday Evening Posts's Demaree Bess, NBC's Merrill Mueller, Newsweek's Al Newman and John Charles Daly of CBS got wind of the story and interviewed some of the witnesses. Rather than file the story, they decided, along with some other journalists covering the Seventh Army, that the Supreme Allied Commander - Eisenhower - needed to know what was going on.

According to D'Este, even as the fighting in Sicily continued, Bess, Mueller and another writer, Quentin Reynolds of Collier's flew to see Ike. "In return for killing the story, they wanted Patton fired," D'Este writes.

In other words, in the middle of a war, a gaggle of journalists tried to blackmail America's top general into firing one of his most effective subordinates. They didn't succeed, because as Eisenhower wrote, "Patton is indispensable to the war effort - one of the guarantors of our victory."

No, blackmail is not par for the course among journalists. But there is a lesson here. No matter how well versed they get to be in a subject, journalists are not really experts and they don't have all the information that folks at the top have.

Journalists also don't have the right perspective. When Eisenhower was deciding whether to give Patton the boot, he had to be thinking about the next campaign - and what generals he had on hand to command the next battles. Ike knew he would be held accountable for his decisions. Journalists don't think that way.

If the European war lingered on into 1946 because we didn't have our best generals at the front, nobody was going to blame some Newsweek reporter named Al Newman. Just as Ike was the one with all the information to decide on Patton, George Bush is the one to decide on Rummy, no matter what Jamie McIntyre thinks.

The Media and Reporting on the Environment

Wed, 05 Apr 2006 00:23:48 -0600

The deal works like this: The Ad Council endorses and distributes ads that encourage people to give money to "Earth Share," a fundraising front group whose members include dozens of groups from the moderate Nature Conservancy to the radical Friends of the Earth. Media companies donate vast amounts of air time and ad space, assuming that Ad Council campaigns follow the charity's standards such as the rule that campaigns must be "non-commercial, non-denominational, non-partisan, and not be designated to influence legislation." ( That rule may be important to our non-partisan media, but the Ad Council treats it like a joke. Earth Share's Fall 2005 newsletter, released at the same time as the latest round of Ad Council ads, brags that its members helped "defeat numerous efforts to pass legislation." ( Environmental ads' dubious facts And the ads sponsored by Earth Share, endorsed by the Ad Council and fueled by media donations are not exactly examples of truth in advertising. Here's the text of one radio ad released last fall: "Place your hand on your heart ... measure the beats ... 1...2...3...4...5... That's how long it takes to protect your child's life. Five heart beats. That's how long it takes to learn about the dangers of pesticides that could be in your child's classroom. Asthma, lower IQ scores and cancer have all been linked to prolonged exposure to these toxins ..." Want to know the number of national medical and public health organizations that consider classroom chemical exposure a significant cause of cancer. Z-E-R-O. Want to know the number of scientific groups that blame classroom chemical exposure for asthma and low IQs? Yep, zilch. (Indeed, if you take the time to look it up, average IQ scores are rising.) An agenda bigger than environmentalism By giving free space to environmentalists' fundraising campaign, the press is not just broadcasting deceptive messages that stoke public anxiety, they're also laundering the image of environmentalism. The Ad Council name gives the fundraising a patina of non-partisanship. The Earth Share name gives the campaign a soft-focus that hides the full agenda of its member groups. If you've given money to Earth Share, you might believe, as Harrison Ford says in some of Earth Share's Ad Council sponsored ads, there's "one environment and one simple way to care for it" - give some cash to Earth Share. The reality is less simple. There may be one environment, but there are many other causes that can hijack your money: Efforts to stop missile defense testing (Union of Concerned Scientists), running attack ads against Senators who opposed campaign finance reform (Sierra Club) and derailing global trade negotiations or trying to give Bill Bradley the Democratic presidential nod instead of Al Gore (Friends of the Earth) are all causes supported by Earth Share members. Earth Share members also tend to take a knee-jerk anti-technology stance, even when the new technology may benefit the environment. For instance, Earth Share's membership is almost universally opposed to biotechnology because "Frankenfood" genes may contaminate the environment or harm someone, somewhere, somehow. Who knows, they may be right. But while they raise these hypothetical concerns, they ignore concrete environmental benefits. Genetic engineering has significantly raised crop yields, allowing farmers to feed more people with less land. That leaves more room for wildlife. Genetic engineering also increases resistance to plant pests allowing farmers to slash their use of chemicals. And now onto global warming Which brings us to the latest news from the nexus between extreme environmentalism and the "non-partisan" Ad Council: The launch of a new campaign aimed at raising public awareness of our global warming crisis. The web site for the campaign ( makes things pretty clear: "Global warming is the most serious envir[...]

A Little Perspective on the Washington Post's New Blogger

Fri, 24 Mar 2006 00:35:13 -0600

Take Nicholas Confessore, for example: A few years ago, he was an editor at the left-leaning Washington Monthly. Before that he worked for the hard-left American Prospect. Now he's a supposedly unbiased reporter for The New York Times. Robert Worth, another staff writer for The New York Times was an editor in 98-99 at The Monthly. There are plenty of others.

Washington Post music critic David Segal was an editor for the Monthly in 93-94. Katherine Boo, the investigative wiz for The Post was a Washington Monthly editor in 91-92, launching her Post career a little more than a year later.

There is a literal conveyor belt from left-wing opinion journalism into straight news reporting and editing slots. The New Republic, The American Prospect and The Washington Monthly are the biggest suppliers. That opportunity simply isn't open to those on the right.

Can anyone name for me a current New York Times or Washington Post reporter who was previously on the staff of National Review, The Weekly Standard or The American Spectator? No? Maybe that's because there are none.

And over time, this imbalance has consequences for the press. A few years spent as a reporter or editor for The New York Times, The Washington Post or one of the newsweeklies can turbo charge a career, opening doors that would be locked otherwise.

Just ask James Bennett. Only a couple weeks ago, he was named editor of The Atlantic Monthly, one of the most prestigious and influential perches in journalism. When he was Domenech's age back in the late 80s, he was an editor at The Washington Monthly. From there, he became a reporter for The New York Times.

Or consider Jonathan Alter. He went from Washington Monthly editor to Newsweek where he worked his way up to senior editor and columnist while adding a gig as an NBC News Correspondent. The managing editor and Washington bureau chief of Newsweek have similar backgrounds.

I have nothing bad to say about any of these authors. In fact, I am a fan of both Confessore and Boo (as well as The Monthly in general). I also don't have anything bad to say about the decision to hire these folks for straight reporting and editing slots. Newspapers need passion. And they need people with new ideas. Part of an editor's job is to spot people with promise.

The problem is that the nation's top newspapers and magazines haven't figured out a way to tap into the same kind of talent on the right.

Just as when you read The Washington Monthly, when you read The Weekly Standard or National Review you'll find intensely reported articles by journalists who care deeply about getting the facts straight. At National Review, my friend John Miller is a stellar reporter who could easily walk into a reporting slot. The same is true of Steve Hayes at The Weekly Standard.

If the MSM truly wants to deal with its bias problem, it has to start giving young conservative writers the same shot at being a reporter and learning the craft of journalism from the inside that they regularly give to young liberals.