New on NewsReal – Daily Beast’s Leftist Inquisition Still on the Hunt for Right-Wing Extremists

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Conservatives who are still under the delusion that they can persuade the Left to tone down their rhetorical attacks and play nice would do well to check out Howard Kurtz’s latest column on the Daily Beast, which gives us yet another round of hypocritical finger waving over the Republican Party’s “liability on the fringe.”

Kurtz begins with, of course, the Birthers:

The [House Republican] caucus has 85 new members, more than 30 of whom are new to elective office—“the kamikazes,” they are privately called—and some took strong exception to being urged not to talk about President Obama’s birth certificate. “Well, I don’t think he was born in this country,” one freshman snapped.

A lone quote from a single unnamed GOP freshman, who represents “some” of a group of thirty or so? I guess they just don’t make epidemics the way they used to.

The birther nonsense seems especially pointless—and corrosive—when one considers that Obama was planning the helicopter raid that would kill Osama bin Laden days later, as he was releasing his long-form Hawaii certificate. Conservative author David Frum says bin Laden’s death should end the racially charged insinuations “that President Obama’s identity and loyalties lie elsewhere.”

Frum is no wild-eyed rebel; he helped coin the phrase “axis of evil” in the Bush White House and opposes virtually all of Obama’s agenda.

Don’t you just love it when lefties presume to tell us which conservatives to take seriously? I’m not sure what Kurtz means by “wild-eyed rebel,” but David Frum’s opinion here is meaningless, considering he’s made a cottage industry out of erecting “far-right” straw men he can loudly denounce so publications like the Daily Beast will fawn over how Serious and Responsible he is. Irresponsible attacks (racial or otherwise) against Obama obviously shouldn’t be tolerated, but they should be rejected on their own merits, not because he nailed bin Laden. Likewise, the political no-brainer of taking out the world’s most wanted terrorist shouldn’t insulate the president from substantive critiques of his “identity and loyalties,” like Matthew Vadum’s. Making bad decisions neither justifies dishonest attacks against you nor exempts you from honest ones.

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New on NewsReal – Latest Indicator of Racism: Questioning Obama’s Intellect

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As the White House deals a devastating blow to one Obama conspiracy theory, leave it to leftists to dig up another one to browbeat allegedly-bigoted conservatives with. At the Daily Beast, pseudo-feminist Michelle Goldberg “traces the far-right history of the claim” that something funny’s going on with Barack Obama’s academic background:

Claims about Obama’s educational history date back to September 2008, when The Wall Street Journal attacked him for not releasing his school records, writing in an editorial, “Some think his transcript, if released, would reveal Mr. Obama as a mediocre student who benefited from racial preference.” Since then, Orly Taitz, queen of the birthers, has developed elaborate theories about Obama’s college years. As Taitz argues, Obama himself acknowledged that he was directionless when he started college. How, then, did he get himself accepted into the Ivy League?

Despite purporting to refute the right-wing “fever swamps,” Goldberg won’t actually reference the WSJ piece again, so it’s worth mentioning that it makes substantive points, among them that the ambiguity of Obama’s college days doesn’t square with the prominence of his personal story in his claim to fame. And as Andy McCarthy points out, Obama has a habit of modifying details of his biography for different audiences. (Ace has more solid analysis of Obama’s college days here.)

But not a peep about any of this from Goldberg. Instead of addressing what serious Obama critics have said, she spends the next couple paragraphs shooting down the theories of Orly Taitz, an especially destructive Birther attorney, who speculates that Obama attended Columbia as a foreign exchange student, attended for a mere nine months instead of two years, and even that he got into Harvard Law thanks to the machinations of a Saudi prince.

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New on NewsReal – Barack Obama Is Too Much Like Jimmy Carter, Says…Eric Alterman?

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Conservatives frequently make unfavorable comparisons between Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter, but it’s a rarer occurrence to see leftists do the same. So when a lefty zealot like Eric Alterman does precisely that in his latest Daily Beast article, it’s bound to raise eyebrows, though it shouldn’t—where The One reminds right-wingers of Carter through his international and economic ineptness, Alterman sees Obama aping some very different traits from his predecessor:

The gregarious Massachusetts pol, House Speaker Tip O’Neil, could hardly have been more eager to work with a Democratic president after eight years of Nixon and Ford. But when they first met, and O’Neil attempted to advise Carter about which members of Congress might need some special pleading, or even the assorted political favor or two with regard to certain issues, to O’Neil’s open-jawed amazement, Carter replied, “No, I’ll describe the problem in a rational way to the American people. I’m sure they’ll realize I’m right.” The red-nosed Irishman later said he “could have slugged” Carter over this lethal combination of arrogance and naivety, but it would soon become Carter’s calling card.

Alterman doesn’t know just how right he is. The Left can never entertain the possibility that they might be wrong on questions of fundamental principle. Progressive ideology holds itself to be the culmination of man’s intellectual and moral development thus far, enlightenment from which there could be no fundamentally different deviation. John F. Kennedy said the days of “grand warfare of rival ideologies” were behind us, replaced with “more basic discussion” of “technical questions.” If someone rejects the key tenets of the progressive agenda, it must be because he either doesn’t yet understand it properly, or is blinded by his personal biases or interests. Someone simply can’t be enlightened and well-informed, and still reject leftist policies.

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New on NewsReal – "Extreme" Jan Brewer Vetoes a Handful of "Right-Wing" Bills. What’s She Up To?

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We’re all used to the zeal with which leftists conjure ugly smears of conservatives, but when conservatives prove the stereotype wrong, it takes serious chutzpa to then make a controversy out of that. Such is the spectacle on display in Terry Greene Sterling’s latest Daily Beast report, which tries to make sense out of recent decisions by Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer which don’t exactly fit the MO of a right-wing extremist:

A year ago, incumbent Republican Gov. Jan Brewer was trailing her Democratic rival Terry Goddard in the Arizona gubernatorial race. Then Brewer signed SB 1070, the state’s notorious immigration law, and further pandered to her Republican Tea Party base by touting her proud membership in the NRA, labeling unauthorized migrants drug mules, and scaring the daylights out of Arizonans with false tales of “beheadings” in the desert. Despite an agonizingly embarrassing senior moment in televised pre-election debates, Brewer rode a wave of conservative sentiment into the governor’s office, and achieved iconic status among her supporters.

(Since you bring it up, our friends at NewsBusters actually did find confirmation that at least one immigration-related beheading took place. But I digress.)

A year later, incredibly, that iconic status hasn’t diminished, even though Brewer, 66, appears to be changing her political stripes. She reversed a cold-hearted decision to deprive poor people of state-funded transplants in Arizona (after three patients on the transplant list died) and stunned Arizonans on Monday when she vetoed two Tea Party pet measures that had sailed through the state house. Her apparent tick toward the right-of-center comes on the heels of a highly successful Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry campaign to kill five proposed state immigration laws that Brewer likely would have supported a year ago.

In her sudden about-face, Brewer axed a “birther” bill that required federal and state candidates to submit to the Arizona secretary of state a “circumcision certificate” or a “baptismal” certificate absent a “long form” birth certificate. In a letter to House Speaker Kirk Adams, Brewer implied that the circumcision language was tacky and claimed the bill went “too far” while doing nothing “constructive” for the state. And she told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News that the bill was a “distraction.”

She also vetoed a measure that would allow guns on vaguely defined “public pathways” close to state schools. In a letter to her political ally, Senate Majority Leader Russell Pearce, Brewer huffed that the gun measure was “poorly written” and could be construed to mean that people could pack guns on “public pathways” meandering through grammar schools and kindergartens.

“So what gives?” Sterling asks. Why the “shocking” transformation? Why, despite Brewer supposedly having re-invented herself as the second coming of Charlie Crist, aren’t “Tea Party Republicans furious at Brewer?”

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New on NewsReal – No, Bill Sammon Didn’t Lie About Thinking Obama Was a Socialist (Which He Totally Is)

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There’s only so much mileage the Left can get out of vehemently denying that President Barack Obama is a socialist. For best propagandistic results, it’s ideal to highlight people on the Right who allegedly admit the same thing (and if their remarks can be used to embarrass a hated cable news channel in the process, so much the better).

Case in point: relying upon Media Matters research, Howard Kurtz’s latest on the Daily Beast highlights recent remarks made by Fox News Channel’s Washington Managing Editor Bill Sammon during a 2009 cruise hosted by Hillsdale College (my alma mater):

“Last year, candidate Barack Obama stood on a sidewalk in Toledo, Ohio, and first let it slip to Joe the Plumber that he wanted to ‘spread the wealth around.’ At that time, I have to admit that I went on TV on Fox News and publicly engaged in what I guess was some rather mischievous speculation about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism, a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched.”

That he did—on several occasions.

On Oct. 14, 2008, Sammon said on the air that Obama’s “spread the wealth” remark “is red meat when you’re talking to conservatives and you start talking about spread the wealth around. That is tantamount to socialism.”

On Oct. 21, he told Greta Van Susteren: “I have read Barack Obama’s books pretty carefully, and he in his own words talks about being drawn to Marxists… Now all this stuff’s coming out about whether he’s a socialist. I don’t know why anyone is surprised by it, because if you read his own words and his sort of, you know, orientation coming up as a liberal through college and a young man, it’s not a huge shock.”

Sammon, a former Washington Times reporter, also made sure his troops got out the word. On Oct. 27, he sent an email to staffers highlighting what he described as “Obama’s references to socialism, liberalism, Marxism and Marxists” in his 1995 autobiography, Dreams From My Father.

Sammon’s response:

In an interview, Sammon says his reference to “mischevious speculation” was “my probably inartful way of saying, ‘Can you believe how far this thing has come?’” The socialism question indeed “struck me as a far-fetched idea” in 2008. “I considered it kind of a remarkable notion that we would even be having the conversation.” He doesn’t regret repeatedly raising it on the air because, Sammon says, “it was a main point of discussion on all the channels, in all the media”—and by 2009 he was “astonished by how the needle had moved.”


In defense of Sammon’s ethics, raising a subject on the air and speculating about it, even “mischievously,” aren’t the same as reaching or arguing for a firm conclusion about the subject. Indeed, if you watch the full clip the Oct. 14 quote comes from, Sammon’s not even arguing for the Obama-as-socialist charge—he’s just objectively analyzing 2008 rival John McCain’s strategic interest in pressing the issue.

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New on NewsReal – John Avlon Trashes Minnesota to Paint Bachmann and Pawlenty as Wingnuts

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Not content to let Eric Alterman have all the fun of belittling Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Daily Beast writer John Avlon has joined the Bachmann bashing bandwagon, too.  The Beast’s resident “extremism” hand-wringer is taking a more roundabout approach, suggesting that Bachmann is symptomatic of a broader radicalization of Minnesota, for which she and Gov. Tim Pawlenty “are going to have to answer for”:

In recent weeks, the Republican-controlled state legislature has clashed with liberal Democratic Governor Mark Dayton. Among their headline grabbing and eyebrow-raising legislative efforts have included trying to ban all abortions in the state after 20 weeks and forbidding anyone on public assistance from withdrawing more than $20 cash per month.

The man Dayton narrowly defeated in an overwhelmingly Republican election year was conservative-populist-turned-lobbyist Tom Emmer, who backed a “Tenther” bill that would require a two-thirds state legislative vote to ratify any federal legislation and supported a state constitutional ban on gay marriage.

This isn’t the first time Avlon has had trouble grasping the fact that just because he disagrees with a particular position, it doesn’t automatically follow that the position is beyond the pale. It’s unreasonable to ban abortion well after unborn babies can feel pain? It’s extreme to do what thirty other states already do on marriage? As for the restriction on withdrawing money, Mark Meed debunked that canard on March 21, and while the idea of state supermajorities having to ratify all federal laws does strike me as both constitutionally and practically problematic, it hardly signifies a kook epidemic that a gubernatorial candidate would embrace a questionable solution to a real problem—federal overreach over states’ rights.

Avlon continues in a similar vein, listing examples of Minnesota Republicans either saying off-color things or appearing with others who have. The players in question deserve heat for some of it, while other scandals are almost certainly overblown; I’ll leave the final judgment to Minnesota politicos.

Read the rest at NewsRealBlog.

New on NewsReal – Sarah Palin Visits Israel. What’s In It For Her?

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Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is in Israel right now, which for some reason is perplexing to some in the chattering class back home. Taking the most cynical approach, Newsweek Jerusalem bureau chief Dan Ephron takes to the Daily Beast to explore what Palin might stand to gain politically from the visit:

For the former Alaska governor, the trip offers a chance to distinguish herself as more pro-Israel than other American politicians and, perhaps, to make amends for her “blood libel” gaffe in January that angered many Jews. Palin has already pointed out that President Obama has yet to visit Israel during more than two years in office. At a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, she was expected to distance herself from the position of some fellow Tea Partiers—chiefly Congressman Rand Paul—in favor of cutting aid to Israel.

Leftists and left-wing groups which claim to speak for Jews complained about the “blood libel” nonsense at the time, but a.) that doesn’t necessarily translate to “many Jews,” and b.) I doubt Palin took that line of attack too seriously, considering the frequency with which both sides have used the term in the past. Attempting to compare favorably to Obama’s inattentiveness (and worse) to Israel is more likely, as is the idea that she’s distancing herself from Paul’s stances on that front, especially considering that she supported him.

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New on NewsReal – John Avlon Gives Hysterical Madison Protesters a Dose of Reality

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John Avlon’s wingnut-hunting shtick usually takes the form of biased anti-conservative tirades, but every now and then he manages to call out the other side, too. In his latest Daily Beast column, he takes on the left-wing protestors in my home state of Wisconsin for their hysterical opposition to Republican Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to get the state budget under control and reform public-sector unions. Aptly labeling the protest “an unwelcome recurrence of politics being treated as apocalypse,” Avlon writes:

We’ve certainly seen a full range of left-wing-nuttery at the protests, from the obligatory Nazi/Hitler comparisons on signs to Democratic elected officials getting into the overheated action. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) declared his solidarity with the mob, saying “every once in a while you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary,” while the esteemed Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) said, “There is an unbelievable parallel and a real connection that I can readily identify with the people in the streets of Cairo and Madison, Wisconsin.” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) just cut to the chase and called Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker a “dictator.”

To top off the ugliness, there has been a mini-Twitter rampage of kindly folks calling for Walker’s death. They’ve forgotten about Gabby Giffords pretty fast, and the outrage should be more widespread than it’s been to date. But too often, situational ethics is the operative mode in politics, causing partisans to excuse the inexcusable as long as it comes from their side. The attitude seems to be “they may be crazy, but they’re our crazies.”

Indeed. These guys are continuing in the not-so-proud tradition of leftist vitriol and hypocrisy that has been practiced and affirmed for years by everyone from former Democrat presidents to successful media personalities.

But double-standards for extreme rhetoric is territory we’ve been over before; the more interesting question is: how can so many people (other than, of course, the ones being shipped in by SEIU and the President of the United States) be roused to such anger and displays of ignorance? How can a proposal for a state to reduce its own employees’ benefits, which “would still leave workers better off than those in [the] private sector,” lawfully submitted to the democratic process and subjected to a “61-hour debate that was the longest in living memory,” possibly be equated with the actions of a dictator who murdered six million Jews, turned his nation into a police state, and plunged the entire world into war?

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Bill to Cut Abortion Funding Kneecapped by Tone-Deaf Ignorance of Left-Wing Playbook

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Good politicians need firm principles, the courage to stick with them, and the common sense not to kneecap their efforts right out of the gate. You’d think that last part would go without saying…but you’d be wrong.
Case in point: Republican Congressman Chris Smith and Democrat Congressman Daniel Lipinski have introduced H.R.3, which seeks to further restrict federal funding for abortion. Under existing law, public money may be used for abortions sought due to rape or incest, but the new bill would only cover cases of “forcible rape.” LifeNews.com reports that bill is meant to “roll into one permanent law all of the many provisions and riders attached to the various bills funding the federal government that are passed each year,” eliminating the need to re-fight the same battles annually.
This, predictably, has many leftists shrieking that conservatives are trying to define rape down. At the Daily Beast, pro-abortion zealot Michelle Goldberg hysterically condemns the “GOP Abortion Bill” (no mention of its Democrat co-sponsor):

Victims of statutory rape—say, a 13-year-old girl impregnated by a 30-year-old man—would be on their own. So would victims of incest if they’re over 18. And while “forcible rape” isn’t defined in the criminal code, the addition of the adjective seems certain to exclude acts of rape that don’t involve overt violence—say, cases where a woman is drugged or has a limited mental capacity. “It’s basically putting more restrictions on what was defined historically as rape,” says Keenan.
Beyond that, says Keenan, the bill would give states the option of refusing Medicaid coverage for all abortions, even in the most brutal of rape cases, or when a medical complication leaves a woman’s life at risk.
These effects are only horrendous to those who can’t envision people managing to do anything without the government subsidizing it (plus those who ignore the part about dead babies). But the bill manifestly does not bar anyone from getting an abortion for any reason; it simply restricts the circumstances under which you can make your fellow citizens fork over money for that abortion.

Because of other provisions of H.R. 3, the bill’s restrictions would also affect women who don’t qualify for Medicaid or work for the federal government. During the debate over health-care reform, Bart Stupak and Joseph Pitts put forward an amendment that would have banned health-insurance policies that cover abortion, as 87 percent do, from participating in the proposed health-insurance exchanges. The Stupak-Pitts amendment would have created an overwhelming incentive for private plans to drop abortion coverage in order to be eligible for government subsidies.
It was defeated, but the new bill, H.R. 3, goes far beyond it—NARAL calls it “Stupak on Steroids.” Under the new bill, policies that cover abortion would be ineligible for the tax breaks that individuals and small businesses get when they purchase insurance. It essentially imposes a new tax on the vast majority of health-care plans unless they drop abortion coverage, even for some victims of sexual assault.
Um, Michelle? This is one of the points conservatives were trying to get across to your side during the health care debate: the less you make health care dependent upon government subsidies and beholden to government dictates, the less need there is to argue over what should or shouldn’t be funded—in a truly free market, abortion coverage would be one of many things some companies would insure, others wouldn’t, and consumers could decide accordingly.
Goldberg concludes with a warning that H.R.3 indicates a “startling new extremism in the GOP,” a party “that is willing to go further than most people realize to force women to bear children against their will.” This is pretty pedestrian feminist garbage—right-wingers are going further right all the time, evil men want to control you, and pay no attention to that ultrasound behind the curtain—but what’s unique here is her accusation that the bill “will send a message to all women that certain kinds of sexual assault don’t count as rape at all.” And she’s not the only one.
On the merits, it’s obviously not true—the bill does nothing to change the way rape is investigated, prosecuted, or punished. Alleging that someone doesn’t care about rape is about as vicious and dishonorable as politics can get, yet this brand of defamation is apparently exempt from the new culture of civil discourse demanded of us in the wake of the Tucson shooting.   
The optics, though, are another matter. Targeting remaining tax subsidies for abortion is a worthy goal, but Smith and his colleagues should have expected that going after the rape exception was going to be met with a tough counteroffensive. That doesn’t mean you don’t do it, but it does mean that you either confront the issue head-on or you don’t—trying to split the difference and float new definitions for different kinds of rape, no matter how narrow or valid the legal purpose, was just asking for trouble, and should have been recognized as such right away.
Chris Smith is no rookie; he’s a fifteen-term Republican lawmaker who really has no excuse for not being more familiar with left-wing tactics. Let this be a lesson to the current Congress’s newly-elected Tea Party candidates: don’t be afraid to stick up for your principles, but pay attention to the other side. Learn to identify the openings they exploit. Most of their venom is unavoidable and can’t destroy those with the truth on their side; the true danger to conservative principles comes from self-inflicted wounds.