The Sad Spectacle of Chris Wallace vs. Jon Stewart

I don’t know which Chris Wallace Moe Lane was watching, but the one the one I saw on “Fox News Sunday” certainly didn’t “school” Jon Stewart. Not even close. He managed a satisfying zinger or two, but by and large, Wallace let the comedian walk all over him with outrageous and uncontested claims about Fox News.
Wallace first challenges Stewart’s claim that Fox News is a “relentless agenda-driven, 24-hour news opinion propaganda delivery system. Well, Wallace doesn’t actually challenge that statement; he instead asks if Stewart’s willing to say the same of the mainstream media. Why on earth would you let that stand? 
It wouldn’t exactly be difficult to refute. First, you could ask for so much as a single example of Fox’s bias, which Stewart doesn’t do at any point in the interview. Second, you could point out that Fox’s mostly conservative commentary programs are separate from its hard news reporting, which is impartial. Third, you could ask Stewart to explain the high number of liberal hosts and paid contributors on Fox, like Andrew Napolitano, Geraldo Rivera, Shepard Smith, Alan Colmes, Ellis Henican, Juan Williams, Marc Lamont Hill, Susan Estrich, Ellen Ratner, Kirsten Powers, or Bob Beckel. Even Bill O’Reilly is hardly a doctrinaire conservative—the guy believes in global warming, routinely bashes oil companies for “price gouging”, and has been known to trash conservative talk radio for being too anti-Obama for his tastes. Can of the competition boast a comparable number of conservative talent?
Anyway, Wallace instead asked if Stewart would be willing to say the same thing about the mainstream media. Predictably, he wasn’t:
WALLACE: You don’t think the New York Times is a liberal organization?
STEWART: No.
WALLACE: Pushing a liberal agenda?
STEWART: The New York Times, no. I think they are to a certain extent. Do I think they’re relentlessly activist? No. In a purely liberal partisan way? No, I don’t.
The entire hour could have been spent listing examples of the MSM’s left-wing bias, and for Stewart to claim he doesn’t see it is phony on its face. Wallace gave him a recent one: the New York Times and Washington Post’s call for their readers to help them go dirt-digging through Sarah Palin’s recently-released emails. Why pull such a stunt, and why didn’t they do the same with the 2,000-page ObamaCare bill?
STEWART: Because I think their bias is towards sensationalism and laziness. I wouldn’t say it’s towards a liberal agenda. It’s light fluff. So, it’s absolutely within the wheelhouse.
So Fox is a partisan propaganda machine, but their competitors’ misdeeds are merely apolitical grabs at juicy headlines. So it didn’t occur to anyone at the NYT or WaPo that there might be a few sensationalistic tidbits in a 2,000-page piece of legislation that many of its supporters didn’t even read? Can’t Fox’s (alleged, unidentified) misdeeds just as easily be attributed to “sensationalism and laziness”? And if sensationalism alone is the lifeblood of the MSM, then how does Stewart explain the MSM’s lack of interest in, say, the John Edwards love child story? What could be more sensationalistic than a man who was almost Vice President fathering a child with a mistress while his wife was dying of cancer?
Next came some arguing about whether Stewart’s primarily a comedian or an activist, which misses the point—lies are lies, no matter who says them. And regardless of what Stewart labels himself, many of America’s youth do turn to him as their primary source for political news.
The diversion did, however, lead to this incredible nugget from Stewart:
STEWART: You can’t understand because of the world you live in that there is not a designed ideological agenda on my part to affect partisan change because that’s the soup you swim in. And I appreciate that. And I understand that. It reminds me of, you know — you know, ideological regimes. They can’t understand that there is free media other places because they receive marching orders.
Here Stewart is using his own lie about Fox as proof Wallace must be wrong about him. Did Wallace call him out for it? Nope.
Wallace next gave another example of liberal MSM propagandizing: Diane Sawyer leading a hard-news story with an outright lie about Arizona’s immigration law. Stewart’s reaction? “That’s sensationalist and somewhat lazy. But I don’t understand how it’s partisan.” Of course.
Perhaps the biggest moment of the whole interview came a bit later, when Stewart—angrily—asked:
STEWART: In polls, who is the most consistently misinformed media viewers, the most consistently misinformed? Fox. Fox viewers. Consistently. Every poll.
How did Chris Wallace respond to such a brutal, direct attack on Fox News Channel’s credibility?
He didn’t.
Not a word about whether it was true. Instead he changed the subject to raunchiness on Comedy Central. Incredible.
Fortunately, PolitiFact decided it was worth checking, and, unsurprisingly, it turned out to be false:
So we have three Pew studies that superficially rank Fox viewers low on the well-informed list, but in several of the surveys, Fox isn’t the lowest, and other general-interest media outlets — such as network news shows, network morning shows and even the other cable news networks — often score similarly low. Meanwhile, particular Fox shows — such as The O’Reilly Factor and Sean Hannity’s show — actually score consistently well, occasionally even outpacing Stewart’s own audience.

Meanwhile, the other set of knowledge surveys, from worldpublicopinion.org, offer mixed support for Stewart. The 2003 survey strikes us as pretty solid, but the 2010 survey has been critiqued for its methodology. 

PolitiFact’s look at the findings is worth checking out in full, as are takedowns they link to by John Lott and Brent Bozell, but they actually give too much credit to World Public Opinion. Here’s the gist of the 2003 study:
It asked three questions: “Is it your impression that the U.S. has or has not found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al-Qaida terrorist organization?” “Since the war with Iraq ended, is it your impression that the US has or has not found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction?” And whether, “The majority of people [worldwide] favor the US having gone to war.”
The obvious problem is that the first two “wrong” answers aren’t actually wrong. The study’s authors can nitpick about what evidence they think respondents should have considered “clear,” but just because people were confident Saddam had terrorist connections and WMDs doesn’t make them “misinformed”; in fact, the evidence of Iraq’s terror ties and WMD pursuits was more likely to actually get covered at Fox, making their viewers better informed than the MSM’s. The only question Fox viewers really do get wrong is the global opinion one—but anyone who remembers Fox’s coverage of the Iraq War at the time (which I do) can tell you that they didn’t try to whitewash anti-American sentiment; in fact, whether America should “go it alone” was a frequent topic of debate.

So the truth behind Stewart’s big, angry beef with Fox was complete garbage, and where a better interviewer could have used it to completely destroy him, Wallace let him get away with it scot-free.

Libya: Do Conservatives Have a Double Standard for Military Intervention?

I’m of two minds on the subject of the United States’ current air strikes in Libya. On the one hand, I do not believe that humanitarian impulses are a sufficient justification for US military action, but on the other hand I am open to the argument that Muammar Qadhafi’s past support for anti-American terrorism and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction constitute a sufficient interest for American intervention.
Whatever the answer is, two things are clear—the nation is ill served by President Barack Obama’s inability to clearly explain our objectives, and the Right is ill served by foreign policy analysis informed more by the party affiliation of the current commander-in-chief than by coherent principles.
Watching Sean Hannity this week, I can’t help but fear the former is at work. On March 6, Hannity said:

It seems to me that it becomes a no-brainer. In other words, look, here we have a mass slaughter of people going on, and we have military jets bombing innocent civilians. The country is going down the tubes. And Qaddafi obviously has to go. And the U.S. doesn’t have the moral authority to lead and it is hesitant and it’s slow to react? I’m having a hard time understanding why?

Compare that with his words on March 21:

The president said in Rio, you know, we are going to make the world safe from tyrants. Are we going to Sudan? Are we going after Mugabe? Are we going to go in Bahrain, Yemen? Are we going to insert ourselves in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia? Are we going to insert ourselves in Saudi Arabia? I mean, what is — how do we define success here? What is our mission here? And what is the new Obama standard here?

When — I don’t know what to make of this. Is this now the Obama doctrine? That if there is a potential humanitarian crisis about to take place and the international community is onboard, that we can’t standby with empty words, we have to take some action. Does that apply to Mugabe, Sudan, taking him out? Does that apply to, you know, Syria, Lebanon? You know, where do we take this? Is it Bahrain? Saudi Arabia? What does that mean?

So when Libyans were getting killed while Obama seemed distracted by basketball, it was a “no-brainer” that the US had to take action to stop the carnage, and Hannity had “a hard time understanding why” the White House was “hesitant” and “slow to react.” But now that Obama has taken action to stop the carnage, Hannity doesn’t “know what to make of this,” and fears that doing what he wanted done on March 6 (and what President George W. Bush set forth as one of the guiding principles of his foreign policy) might mean biting off far more than we can chew.
If that fear sounds familiar, that’s because it was one of the prominent arguments against the Iraq War, which Hannity supported. Now, I supported (and still support) the Iraq War too, because it was clearly justified on national security grounds, but recall that Hannity’s chief rebuttal to that conflict’s critics was strictly humanitarian:

If you guys had your way, the torture chambers and mass graves would continue […] Your way would appease evil.

Yes, but as 2011 Hannity inadvertently explains to 2005 Hannity, the same could be said of any number of regimes, and if the standard for force is simply the subjugation of a despot’s citizens, then the United States has a lot of catching up to do. This doesn’t make either Hannity wrong (nor does it make Obama right), but it does call into question the reliability of his analysis.
Former House Speaker and possible presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s reversal is even more blatant:
March 7: The United States doesn’t need anybody’s permission. We don’t need to have NATO, who frankly, won’t bring much to the fight. We don’t need to have the United Nations. All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we’re intervening. And we don’t have to send troops. All we have to do is suppress his air force, which we could do in minutes.
March 23: I would not have intervened. I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Qaddafi. I think there are a lot of other allies in the region we could have worked with. I would not have used American and European forces.
The good news is that other conservatives are taking a less knee-jerk approach, instead assessing the conflict based on values, not partisanship:

[T]he relative lack of Tea Party angst over the no-fly zone has been surprising. There is no discussion of Libya happening at Ginni Thomas’ Liberty Central, no statement from Tea Party Patriots or the Tea Party Express.

Quite a few liberal Democrats have come out and criticized the president. There were more Democrats who criticized President George W. Bush during the run-up to Iraq, but there have been enough to generate real heat for the White House. It was Kucinich, rather than a Republican, who first floated the idea that the strikes on Libya might be grounds for impeachment; Newt Gingrich, who mused that Obama could be impeached for failing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, hasn’t gone that far. Half a dozen Republicans who identify with the Tea Party have criticized the Obama administration’s shoot-first-ask-Congress-later approach, but most Republicans haven’t […]

There could be more Tea Party criticism of the Libya strategy if the conflict drags on. On Monday, Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots told me that the group may poll members to determine whether they should take a stance. If CNN’s poll on Libya is right, TPP might find itself taking the pro-Obama, anti-Ron Paul line on Libya. The poll, conducted from March 18 to March 20, found 70 percent of all voters favoring a no-fly zone. Among “Tea Party supporters,” it was 73 percent. Fifty-four percent of all voters favored attacks “directly targeted at Gaddafi’s troops who are fighting the opposition forces in Libya.” That number rose to 58 percent among Tea Partiers.

There are individual Tea Party leaders, like Williams or Rand Paul, who wince at a military intervention undertaken like this. The Tea Party is libertarian in plenty of ways. But if it has one defining characteristic, it’s that it’s nationalist. If there’s a way to remove Qaddafi decades after he aided the Lockerbie bombers, then that’s more important than a debate over the deep thoughts of the founders. In a Saturday interview with Fox News, Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., one of the most popular politicians to win the support of the Tea Party, explained that his problem with the intervention was about grit, not the Constitution.

“Back two or three weeks ago,” said West, “we could have taken care of this situation if we had done the exact same thing that Ronald Reagan did back in the early ’80s to Muammar Gaddafi, when he dropped the bomb in his back yard. Muammar Gaddafi didn’t say a word for the next 30 years.”

(See here and here for more on Tea Partiers’ view of Libya.) 
In all areas, conservatism demands an allegiance to principle regardless of our affection or disdain for the people and parties involved, and nowhere is that consistency more vital than in matters of war and peace. Heaven knows there’s much to criticize in the way Obama has handled this conflict even beyond his lack of clarity, but conservative critiques won’t do much good without clarity in our own motives.

New on NewsReal – Peter Beinart Confuses "Democracy" with "Freedom" in the Middle East

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

At CPAC 2011, Ann Coulter made the following claim:

Democrats are all for meddling in other countries –- but only provided a change of regime will harm U.S. national security interests.

It probably wasn’t his intention, but this week the Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart has set out to prove her right. Beinart (who, recall, doesn’t think the War on Terror is a war and says conservatives only support profiling because we don’t believe people who look like us are capable of bad things) has chosen to lecture us about “the hypocrisy of the right’s shallow rhetoric on liberty and human freedom,” allegedly displayed by those of us who aren’t all that optimistic that a post-Mubarak Egypt will be any more free or humane:

[T]he people with the biggest megaphones on the American right—people like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich—are not preaching democratic idealism. They’re warning that Egypt and Bahrain are about to become Iranian- or Taliban-style theocracies. They’re comparing Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter for not standing behind our favored strongmen. And they’re suggesting that, at the very least, America should demand that Islamist parties be banned. When it comes to Muslims and democracy, much of the supposedly idealistic American right turns out to be pretty pessimistic. It turns out that the people uninterested in the human rights of Muslims at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay aren’t all that concerned about them in Egypt or Bahrain either.


What human-rights disinterest are you referring to, Peter? The way I remember it, conservatives overwhelmingly condemned the actual abuse and the military punished those responsible all on its own, while waterboarding has saved American lives. And Beck, Palin and Gingrich’s doubts are far from groundless—the radical Muslim Brotherhood is among the factions vying for control of Egypt’s new government, and as David Horowitz sarcastically pointed out to Bill Kristol, recent history doesn’t suggest great odds for Egypt:

Perhaps the elections in Egypt will turn out better than those in Gaza where Hamas now rules a terrorist state; Iraq, which has instituted an Islamic Republic; Lebanon, where Hezbollah now rules a terrorist state; and Afghanistan, which is a kleptocracy wooing the terrorist theocracy in Iran.

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.

WikiLeaks Scoop: Bush Was Right

Those of us who were paying attention already knew this, but it’s always good to have more voices and revelations corroborating the same thing. From Larry Elder:

Wired magazine’s contributing editor Noah Shachtman — a nonresident fellow at the liberal Brookings Institution — researched the 400,000 WikiLeaked documents released in October. Here’s what he found: “By late 2003, even the Bush White House’s staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But WikiLeaks’ newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction (emphasis added). … Chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam’s toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict — and may have brewed up their own deadly agents.”

In 2008, our military shipped out of Iraq — on 37 flights in 3,500 barrels — what even The Associated Press called “the last major remnant of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program”: 550 metric tons of the supposedly nonexistent yellowcake. The New York Sun editorialized: “The uranium issue is not a trivial one, because Iraq, sitting on vast oil reserves, has no peaceful need for nuclear power. … To leave this nuclear material sitting around the Middle East in the hands of Saddam … would have been too big a risk.”

Now the mainscream media no longer deem yellowcake — the WMD Bush supposedly lied about — a WMD. It was, well, old. It was degraded. It was not what we think of when we think of WMD. Really? Square that with what former Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean said in April 2004: “There were no weapons of mass destruction.” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow goes even further, insisting, against the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that “Saddam Hussein was not pursuing weapons of mass destruction”!

Bush, hammered by the insidious “Bush Lied, People Died” mantra, endured one of the most vicious smears against any president in history. He is owed an apology.

When Hollywood makes “The Vindication of George W. Bush,” maybe Sean Penn can play the lead. 

Still doesn’t make Julian Assange any less of a cretinous wretch. Throw the book at him.

Around the Web

The Iraqis don’t want us to leave yet, and a narrow majority doubts that Barack Obama cares about their situation. Great…

Is Christianity true?

In National Review, Jason Lee Steorts reveals the dark side of Ayn Rand.

I love the video game Portal as much as the next guy, but giving people academic credit for playing it is really pushing it.

Here are two links about alleged right-wing violence not being so right-wing after all. (Hat tip to Ann Coulter)

And here comes backdoor amnesty. Boy, some leadership from the opposition party would be nice….

Major Bush Mistake Endorses Obama

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has endorsed Barack Obama for president. Michelle Malkin’s got a great post on just how much Powell’s “thoughtful, independent-minded” decision is worth, to which I would just add one thing: Mr. Powell, Obama claims the White House you worked for “misled” the nation into the Iraq War. Presumably this includes the case you personally presented before the United Nations. How can you, in good conscience, support a man for the presidency who demeans you, your colleagues, and the president you served, especially when you were there, and know better?

Odds & Ends

Sen. Jesse Helms has died. Rest in peace, Senator.

Now apparently four-year-olds
need sex ed. Yes, you read that right. How does one even reason with such insanity?

This Independence Day, Thomas Sowell
reflects on patriotism.

Now ABC News is noticing that Barack Obama has an Iraq problem. Looks like it’s
time to wake up from the Hope Dream.

A few weeks back I saw the Robin-Williams-runs-for-president comedy
Man of the Year. It was entertaining, but certainly no side-splitter. Williams’ “independent, third-way” character tilted left-of-center, predictably, but what really stands out is that, for a movie about the position of commander-in-chief, I don’t recall a single acknowledgement that there’s a war going on (I understand it’s a comedy, but still.). Kinda hits home the point that the war just isn’t real in the minds of Hollywood.

Speaking of movies, I went to see
The Incredible Hulk the other night, and thought it was great, the only drawback being some inconsistent quality in the CG work. It was everything the 2003 film should have been.