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Howard Kurtz Media Notes

Still Angry After All These Years

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 2, 2005; 10:18 AM

Considering that conservatives just won the November election, control every branch of the federal government and are celebrating the Iraqi turnout, some of them still seem to have some anger issues.

Ted Kennedy drives them up the wall. John Kerry gets under their skin. Hillary. Well, let's not go there.

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I'm not quite sure why this is. Maybe controlling the levers of power makes you even less tolerant of dissenting views. Maybe they're insecure. Maybe all those years of being in the minority have left them with an instinctive need to slam the other side. And, of course, there's still the liberal media, liberal academia and liberal Hollywood to get the juices flowing.

There's also the possibility that we're just in Permanent Campaign Mode these days. If you're not on offense, you're on defense, according to the cliche. So the right is staying on offense.

I cited Jonah Goldberg's denunciation of Kennedy yesterday. Today his National Review colleague Rich Lowry argues that it's the libs who are cracking up:

"Being in opposition does funny things to a party. When Republicans opposed Bill Clinton they had flashes of paranoia -- remember black helicopters? -- and developed a blood lust to bring down Bubba. In the Bush years, Democrats have had their share of paranoia and blood lust, but they are mostly characterized by sheer peevishness.

"Yes, there were excesses in President Bush's inaugural speech. But the wave of nitpicking from the media and Democrats was overwhelming. It's as if they had heard Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address and peppered the administration with critical questions: '"Malice toward none" -- literally "none"? Is that even possible? The president also referred to achieving "a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." Does he have an actionable plan to do that? If not, is he backing off his speech? And isn't that embarrassing?'

"This same querulousness has been on display in the reaction to the historic Iraq vote -- indeed, historic leaps forward for self-government are strangely difficult for the media and Democrats to process. . . .

"It has been impossible to obscure all the good news from Iraq, but the media and Democrats have strained to find disappointments. They focused on the poor Sunni turnout, which John Kerry mentioned in his pooh-poohing of the election. It is important that Sunnis join the political process in Iraq, but this solicitousness for the sentiments of a formerly repressive minority -- Sunnis are less than 20 percent of Iraq -- is odd. No one on the Left piped up on behalf of South African whites -- 14 percent of the population not universally thrilled with the election -- when that country shifted to majority rule.

"Then there are those who can't bear to mention Iraq without talking about the scandal at Abu Ghraib. Ted Kennedy did it last week in his hilariously premature declaration of U.S. defeat in Iraq."

OpinionJournal's James Taranto hits Kerry's "Meet the Press" interview:

"Russert: Do you believe this election will be seen by the world community as legitimate?

"Kerry: A kind of legitimacy--I mean, it's hard to say that something is legitimate when a whole portion of the country can't vote and doesn't vote. I think this election was important. I was for the election taking place. . . .

"Is Kerry saying that he was for the election before he was against it, or that he was against it before he was for it? And are we to understand that he's 'confident' that the world will see the election as less than fully legitimate?. . . .

"As National Review's Jim Geraghty points out, John Kerry is 'just the junior senator from Massachusetts.' It takes a degree of effrontery for him to lecture the president of the United States in this manner. Doesn't he know he lost the election?"

The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes calls Kennedy's Iraqi pullout speech "appalling," says the Dems "ganged up" on Condi Rice, and that such "brutal" tactics are "madness."

"Yet Democrats act as if they're taking the moral high ground. Listen to Howard Dean, who's favored to become the next Democratic national chairman. Asked in an un-aired interview with Fox News to list his supporters for chairman, Dean said: 'It's not likely I'm gonna make an announcement like that on Fox . . . because Fox is the propaganda outlet of the Republican party . . . I have to weigh the legitimacy that it gives you.'

"Dean is delusional. He and other Democrats cannot confer or deny legitimacy."

How could Fox resist airing that interview??

And then there was this: "The media tolerate or even encourage Democratic rage. But the White House can't afford to. Senate Democrats have enough votes to block major Bush initiatives like Social Security reform and to reject Bush appointees, including Supreme Court nominees. They may be suicidal, but they could undermine the president's entire second term agenda."

Everyone's got their SOTU previews this morning, so let's dip into a few:

Los Angeles Times; "President Bush will deliver his most detailed sales pitch yet for Social Security restructuring in Wednesday night's State of the Union address, the White House said, as Democratic opposition appeared to solidify on Capitol Hill. White House officials said Bush's proposed overhaul of the government retirement program would receive equal billing with Iraq and other foreign policy concerns in the national televised address."

Chicago Tribune: "Buoyed by the apparent success of elections in Iraq, President Bush will present his view of the State of the Union to Congress and the nation Wednesday night and outline an ambitious second-term domestic agenda. . . .

"The centerpiece of Bush's domestic agenda, a Social Security overhaul that he wants to accomplish in the first year of his second term, is drawing skepticism from congressional leaders within his own Republican Party and pointed criticism from Democratic leaders."

Washington Times: "In his State of the Union address at 9 tonight, President Bush will press his plan to overhaul Social Security, call for a near-freeze in nondefense spending and reiterate his proposal to relax immigration laws, a senior administration official said yesterday."

The Note, which keeps leading off with a series of questions to avoid taking a stand--an old rhetorical trick--still manages to ask provocative questions:

"How can the president gain domestic political oomph from the successful vote in Iraq? And is there anyone of any power and influence in the Democratic Party who realizes that their current Tower of Babble on the issue is as self-destructive to them as it is inspirational to Karl Rove?

"Will the self-styled budget hawks in the Republican conference squeal like stuck pigs when the real spending restraints in the President's budget start to hit their districts and states? And will the fallout from that intra-party discord impact the White House's overall legislative agenda?

"How closely would Howard Dean as chair of the Democratic National Committee live up to the nightmare that so many Washington, Hill, and Clinton Democrats think he would be? And will Dean do anything -- anything -- stylistically or substantively in the next ten days to calm their nerves?"

When will The Note start taking a stab at the answers???

I guess, despite our experience a year ago, we can now safely call Dean the front-runner:

"Howard Dean emerged Tuesday as the almost assured new leader of the Democratic National Committee, as one of his main rivals quit the race and Democrats streamed to announce their support of a man whose presidential campaign collapsed one year ago.

"Dr. Dean's dominance was secured after Martin Frost, a former representative from Texas, who many Democrats viewed as the institutional counterpart to Dr. Dean, dropped out after failing - in what had become an increasingly long-shot effort - to win support from national labor unions."

The American Prospect's Mark Leon Goldberg jumps on the Dean bandwagon:

"Lest the guy who represents (as the conservative Club for Growth put it in a memorable advertisement) the 'latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show' class of the Democratic Party put the panic of permanent Republican majority in you, I say: Don't fear the doctor.

"Sure, he's likely (for better or worse) to rile up all sorts of emotions in voters; people seem to love him or hate him, with little in between. But his appeal to voters is beside the point. After all, did anyone really decide for whom to vote in 2002 and 2004 based on Terry McAuliffe's temperament?

"Dean's detractors' understandable fear is that the doctor's northeastern roots might contribute to the problematic consolidation of Democratic power in blue states at the expense of expanding the party's appeal outward to the Midwest and the South. As Michael Lind aptly pointed out in the January issue of the Prospect, unless the Democrats broaden their geographical appeal, they are in danger of becoming a permanent minority party representative of 'Greater New England.'

"Dean's platform recognizes this problem. Beyond his oft-repeated sound bite of not conceding a single race in a single state, he has argued for a more systemized devolution of power to states and local parties. This includes, if we are to take him at his word, giving each state party the means to pay for its own executive director and creating more robust local party structures in all 50 states. The inevitable result of this kind of decentralization is a steady march toward making the Democratic Party a coalition of state parties rather than what it is now: a coastal, blue-state dictatorship."

Other Prospect views follow. Michael Tomasky, for example, says he has "a bucketful of misgivings myself, and they center on the fact that Dean, at bottom, represents only liberal party activists."

Ann Althouse, who was slammed by Kevin Drum (as I mentioned yesterday) for questioning the NYT changing online headlines about Iraq, says she's no wingnut:

"Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly somehow saw fit to launch into an attack, calling me a 'wingnut' and delivering an irrelevant lecture about how newspaper headlines are written and websites updated. You certainly can't tell from reading his garbled post that I was writing about changing the headline on the same article and changing it to something that did not fit the article. . . .

"I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm a political moderate. More than any ideology, I care about rational discourse. In the year that I've been blogging I've taken a lot of different positions, some left and some right. What I've noticed, over and over, is that the bloggers on the right link to you when they agree and ignore the disagreements, and the bloggers on the left link only for the things they disagree with, to denounce you with short posts saying you're evil/stupid/crazy, and don't even seem to notice all the times you've written posts that take their side. Why is this happening? I find it terribly, terribly sad."

For once, I'm happy to report on a media hoax. This AP photo was an image of a captured American soldier on an "Iraqi militant Web site" who was being threatened with death, although the caption noted that "the claim could not be verified." But as we see in this picture, the soldier is just a doll. What a relief.

There's a new newspaper in Washington, the Examiner--a free tabloid that's a spin-off from the latest incarnation of the San Francisco Examiner. I was struck by the opening comments of the editorial page editor, Dave Matsio, who plans to offer "the top elected and appointed officials as well as the nation's most prominent journalists the opportunity to write as Publius. The identities of our authors will be known only to me and the editor-in-chief of The Examiner. We are not interested in running personal attacks, and everything published under the Publius name will be fact-checked with a microscope, but we are looking for people with new ideas, politically incorrect criticism and dangerous truths to give our readers the benefit of reading the things that are only discussed in private today. If you've got an idea, my door is open. . . .

"I can already hear the dead-tree Pharisees who guard the purity of the journalism profession drawing in their breath to denounce some of the things we're going to do. Let me just finish by saying I don't care. The Examiner exists to do one thing - serve our readers. The journalism profs and professional chin-scratchers can save their breath and just go hold a conference or something."

He signed his column, "Dave."

Jeff Jarvis, who now seems to blog every hour or so, has this observation on the latest hot story:

"Oh, gawd, the Michael Jackson trial begins. We watch him going to lunch. We watch him coming back from lunch. We watch the poor guy whose job it is to hold an umbrella over the poster boy for the dangers of fame. We watch MJ being wanded -- no pat-downs here. We watch reporters fill time. And it's just the first day. We're sentenced to months of this.

"They said on TV today that 1,000 journalists had applied for credentials to cover the trial. Why, lord, why?

"I'm going to bet that the trial will not be the subject of much talk in blogs -- unless something amazing happens -- but, of course, it will explode in big-media's coverage. If that's the case, what does that indicate about news judgment? You tell me."

Say it ain't so! Andrew Sullivan, opting out of the blog wars--for now:

"After much hemming and hawing, I've decided to put the blog as you've known it on hiatus for a few months. The Dish will still exist, the site will be updated weekly with new feature articles, and I'll still post when I feel like it. But it won't have the regularity or content of the past four and a half years.

"Why? The simple answer is that I want to take a breather, to write a long-overdue book, to read some more, travel to Europe and the Middle East, and work on some longer projects. Much as I would like to do everything, I've been unable to give the blog my full attention and make any progress on a book (and I'm two years behind).

"It's not so much the time as the mindset. The ability to keep on top of almost everything on a daily and hourly basis just isn't compatible with the time and space to mull over some difficult issues in a leisurely and deliberate manner. Others might be able to do it. But I've tried and failed."

Finally, here's one that definitely ain't over till it's over:

"He's known for Yogi-isms, but Yogi Berra doesn't want to know from Yogasms," says the New York Post.

"The Yankee legend has filed a $10 million lawsuit against Turner Broadcasting Systems for using his name in a "hurtful" advertisement for its "Sex and the City" reruns -- an ad that 'created a false image of [Berra] that is both contrary to his personality, lifestyle and character as well as abhorrent to him personally.'

"The ad, which appeared on numerous city buses and billboards and in magazines around the world, features what the suit calls a 'rather provocative' photo of 'Sex' star Kim Cattrall's promiscuous 'Samantha' character and reads, 'Yogasm: a) a type of yo-yo trick b) sex with Yogi Berra c) what Samantha has with a guy from yoga class.'"

Hey, most people would consider that good publicity at Yogi's age.


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