It’s Official: The Weekly Standard Pushes Fake News

Now it makes more sense why the Weekly Standard declared back in April it was “deeply unserious” to call out the mainstream media’s “complete lack of integrity”: because the Standard’s own journalistic standards aren’t any better.

On June 4, TWS published a story by Haley Byrd and Andrew Egger about Republican reactions to Donald Trump’s declaration that the president has the power to pardon himself. Among them:

[W]hen asked whether he agreed with Trump about the president’s pardoning ability, Texas senator Ted Cruz fell silent for 18 seconds until, prompted by a reporter, he said that he hadn’t studied that particular aspect of constitutional law.

It inspired numerous reports about how Cruz was “speechless,” “had a very noticeable hesitation,” “paused for 18 excruciating seconds,” and so on. The implication is clear: Cruz supposedly stood there dumbstruck for 18 seconds because that’s how long it took him to think of an answer.

But that evening, Cruz responded in a series of tweets explaining the pardon issue, and revealing what actually happened during that silence.

Some dishonest journalists have attacked me for “taking 18 seconds” to answer — without acknowledging that I was walking through the Capitol, late to a meeting, and simply ignoring a question that a reporter had called out at me (as senators do every single day in the Capitol).

When reporters chased me down the hall, and another asked the question again, I chose to answer.

TWS left out the fact that Cruz was in transit — that he never stopped to take any questions in the first place — but their audio fits Cruz’s account: footsteps can be heard in the background, and another reporter’s voice can be heard before Cruz’s answer. Their phrasing that he “fell” silent is also misleading, considering you can’t “fall” silent if you were never talking in the first place.

Ignoring an impromptu question is obviously different from being stumped during an interview or press briefing. In fact, if Cruz tried to ignore it but relented when a reporter tried again, then the length of time between the two attempts is irrelevant — he might have answered if a reporter had repeated it five or ten seconds later.

So the only reason to harp on the “18 seconds” point is to insinuate Cruz was struggling rather than ignoring them. Now, “Cruz tried to dodge our question” would have been a fair complaint on its own, but either everyone involved in the piece was remarkably inept, or TWS thought a little misdirection was a small price to pay for a spicier story.

Apparently it was the latter, because rather than take responsibility for the omission (as Fox News promptly did the next day on a different story) and add a clarification, the TWS crew hysterically circled the wagons and played victim.

“There is nothing ‘dishonest’ about a reporter noting, accurately, how much time elapsed between posing a question and getting an answer,” editor-in-chief Stephen Hayes huffed, fixating on the time and completely ignoring the missing context explaining it.

Byrd (who asked the question) merely responded that the “audio speaks for itself” (indeed it does), that other reporters agreed Cruz’s response was “abnormal” (how specific!), and that the story was “accurate.” She addressed none of the specifics of Cruz’s objection, and refused to explain why she omitted the details in question.

Coauthor Egger simply said a couple times it was “weird” for Cruz to ignore the question (seriously?) and snarked that Cruz’s tweetstorm “basically summarizes” their piece (somehow). Again, no mention of the text’s incomplete and misleading language.

Deputy online editor Jim Swift “addressed” the controversy in a separate article:

Cruz, a Harvard-educated lawyer, was unable to offer a definitive response to our reporters. In fact, he paused for 18 seconds before offering a nothingburger. Later that night, Cruz took to Twitter to slam Haley as “dishonest” for her reporting […]

Senators are routinely aware that when leaving their office and headed to votes, they’ll be asked about issues of the day by reporters. Especially the biggest story of the day, which was that President Trump told Americans he could absolve himself from anything with a pardon.

True to form, Swift repeats the “paused” sleight of hand, declines to explain why it was okay to omit details, and ignores whether TWS has any responsibility for all the false impressions of the incident the piece generated. Again, the “Cruz should have been prepared” framing would have been a reasonable, honest critique — but TWS didn’t use it.

TWS’ Jonathan Last and Rachael Larimore also defended their deceptive reporting, and with even less specificity than their colleagues’ non-responses. But as if the above wasn’t enough, some compounded the offense by peddling another anti-Cruz line of attack — one which was an outright lie.

Hayes retweeted New York Times (!) “reporter” Maggie Haberman’s claim that the “real issue that he claimed he hadn’t studied pardon power, which he wrote about decades ago.” Larimore (formerly of Slate, which presumably would’ve been a bigger issue during the hiring process at a more serious conservative publication) reiterated it, in response to yours truly.

What these hacks are referring to is the fact that Cruz had written quite a bit about the pardon power in a 2015 Harvard Law Review article. This supposedly proves he forgot or was lying when he answered, “that is not a constitutional issue I have studied.”

But obviously, Cruz wasn’t claiming he never studied “the pardon power”; he was saying he never looked closely at the specific question of presidents pardoning themselves. It’s a purely hypothetical question that’s never been attempted or adjudicated, on which legal opinion is all over the map, so it’s natural for legal minds to deem other questions more worthy of their time.

Larimore actually tried to double down when I challenged her. Big mistake:

Gee, who could’ve guessed that a Slate alum would display Slate ethics and Slate tactics?

Snark aside, that’s the real story here: that a “conservative” news organization — a prestigious, “Special Report”-approved one that fancies itself a moral antidote to the uncouth rabble that supported Donald Trump — is no more trustworthy than the shameless propagandists that conservative media was meant to counteract.

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New at LifeSite: Our GOP Congressional Leaders Are Lousy on Life

Here’s my latest piece, highlighting some of the details NRLC and SBA List left out of their statements slobbering all over Paul Ryan:

Over the years, Ryan voted for and presided over multiple budget resolutions that continued the more than $500 million Planned Parenthood receives from taxpayers annually. Pro-life leaders called onthe GOP to make defunding Planned Parenthood “non-negotiable” in budgets passed under Barack Obama, but Ryan defended not doing so on the grounds that “in divided government, no one gets exactly what they want.”

Last month, Ryan said that supporting the most recent budget was necessary to fund the military. But critics like Rep. Thomas Massie, R-KY, argue that under Ryan, the House forbade lawmakers from voting on amendments concerning Planned Parenthood or any other conservative objections to the bill.

“A more complete betrayal of the electorate I have not witnessed,” Massie tweeted.

Moreover, while Ryan’s House passed several pro-life measures, only the one letting states defund Planned Parenthood ever became law.

There’s a lot more at LifeSiteNews. And here’s a snippet of my piece from earlier this week detailing how ostensible Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (for all intents and purposes, Chuck Schumer is really calling the shots) continues to let Democrats slow-walk judicial nominees, in the hopes of delaying as many as they can until Donald Trump no longer has a GOP Senate majority to confirm them:

An October 10 memo signed by more than one hundred conservative leaders, including Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, former Attorney General Edwin Meese, and Tea Party Patriot’s Jenny Beth Martin, blames part of the problem on the McConnell Senate’s “continued insistence on working no more than 2 ½ days a week – arriving on Monday evening for a handful of votes, and departing, on average, by 2:30 p.m. each Thursday afternoon.”

Even under the 30-hour rule, the leaders add, McConnell could “easily make this painful for them by forcing continuous session overnight and through the weekend.” They estimate this would enable the Senate to confirm up to five nominees per week even with the added hours of debate.

On a related note, the insipid myth that McConnell is the real hero in getting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court continues to make the rounds, even among people who should know better like Matt Walsh:

Assorted Musings on Kevin Williamson and the ‘Respectable’ Right (UPDATED)

Rarely do we see a story that has so much to teach, from which so little is learned, than the saga of Kevin Williamson’s firing from The Atlantic. The nonsense continues to pile up, so let’s see if we can sift out some truth.

One and Done

Lost in the uproar so far has been the fact that Williamson’s one and only Atlantic essay was crap. It was little more than a regurgitation of his longstanding contempt for Donald Trump and rank-and-file conservative voters, all wrapped in his trademark long-windedness that he tries to pass off as sophistication. The best I can say about it is that he dings libertarians for the delusion that they matter, but even that’s tainted by the delusion that they deserve to matter.

Still, it contains a couple of noteworthy nuggets:

  • His gratuitous and misleading swipe at someone who actually possesses the intellect Williamson imagines in himself, Victor Davis Hanson. I can’t add anything to Hanson’s prophetic response, but I do have to say how remarkable (and, I confess, gratifying) it is to see one of the Right’s most respected figures finally mention — in National Review, no less! — what most conservatives have spent years pretending not to notice: Williamson’s tendency to be “incoherent and cruel.”
  • “Self-professed libertarian voices such as Larry Elder have become abject Trumpists.” I don’t hear Elder enough to judge his overall take on Trump, but I can use Google — which is apparently more work than Williamson bothered to do. It took me less than 30 seconds to find this column in which Elder criticizes the “economic illiteracy” of Trump’s tariffs. Especially since it’s not the first time Williamson’s misrepresented a fellow conservative over Trump, his dishonesty makes all the odes to what a wonderful guy he is doubly grating.
  • “The Christian right was able to make its peace with Trump with relative ease, because it is moved almost exclusively by reactionary kulturkampf considerations. ‘But Hillary!’ is all that Falwell and company need to hear, and they won’t even hold out for 30 pieces of silver.” Anyone else see the irony of Williamson sneering at religious conservatives’ judgement that abortion (among other issues) was important enough to justify voting for Trump over Hillary Clinton (a call that’s since been vindicated), just before getting sacked for an abortion statement more extreme than anything they’ve ever said? Williamson understands that abortion is literally murder (and in his saner moments has written eloquently about how being born just a few months later, after Roe v. Wade, might well have killed him). Yet not only did he ignore the moral imperative this gave the 2016 election, he lacks any discernible charity for others motivated to vote Trump by a concern he claims to share.
  • One wonders if throwing in the German for “culture struggle” (or “culture war,” as we’d say) above was meant to evoke the vile smear of Trump supporters as Nazis, or to provide another bit of foreign language faux-sophistication. Knowing Kevin, probably both.

Kevin D. Trump?

I’ve long suspected that one of the reasons Williamson’s animosity toward our vulgar, impulsive, nasty, big-mouthed, thin-skinned president is so visceral is because, on some level, he recognizes some of those qualities in himself. His hanging comments are a perfect example not only of that, but of his #NeverTrump colleagues’ selective outrage.

One of the most glaring (and, so far, unspoken) ironies in all this is that Williamson’s defenders know damn well they never would have tolerated Donald Trump saying anything half as inflammatory. In fact, it’s not hypothetical — they didn’t tolerate it. Remember when Trump told Chris Matthews there “has to be some form of punishment” for women who get abortions? Conservatives uniformly (and rightly) came down on him like a ton of bricks. National Review’s editors said he “managed to damage his own campaign, the Republican party, and the pro-life cause at a single go.” NR’s David French called it an example of Trump doing “what he does best: open[ing] his mouth and insert[ing] his foot.”

Curiously, though, that doesn’t seem to be the verdict for Williamson saying — and sticking to — a more extreme version of what Trump said and recanted. Now, French meekly says “we might differ about the laws in hypothetical-future-America.” Jonah Goldberg (a senior editor who presumably had some input in the Trump denunciation) says simply that “You can agree or disagree with” Williamson’s position, but what really matters is that “He never made that argument for National Review.”

What’s the difference? That Williamson thought it through and Trump was just spouting what he assumed pro-lifers wanted to hear? True, but irrelevant — if punishing women is the wrong answer, it’s wrong no matter who gives it or why. That a presidential candidate is a bigger PR liability that a conservative opinion writer? Also true, but only a question of degree — the Left made sure to publicize it just the same, and again, it cannot be harmful for one person to say something but harmless for another to say the same thing, only harsher.

Indeed, many of Williamson’s other defenders are actually doing more harm by suggesting he was fired merely for being pro-life — lending credence to the leftist smear that punishing women (up to and including death) really is what opposing abortion’s all about. (UPDATE: Here’s my explanation for why Williamson is wrong about punishing women, and why most pro-lifers are logically consistent on the subject.)

Say, isn’t there a word for holding a like-minded friend to one standard, and a hated opponent to another? Oh yeah…tribalism.

Not Quite a Victim

The Atlantic and Jeffrey Goldberg are absolutely the bad guys here; the left-wing filth they’re willing to both publish and tolerate from their writers proves that leftist mob outrage, not some sincere or consistently-applied editorial principle, is why they canned Williamson. That said, let’s not exaggerate Williamson’s victimhood or overlook his own contribution to his current situation.

First, as Ace wrote Friday (in a post that’s a must-read for points beyond what I’m covering here), an opinion magazine terminating a writer for his opinions is hardly a matter of censorship, and going too far down that road carries a strong risk of hypocrisy:

The Atlantic is a magazine of ideas. Obviously, ideas being its stock in trade, it has the right any business does of deciding what ideas it wishes to sell and which ideas it thinks it can sell to its customer base.

Its ideas and the writers typing up those ideas are its stock in trade and its entire brand identity.

It has a very strong interest in defining not only what its brand identity is, but what its brand identity is not […]

I asked someone at the National Review during general campaign season of 2016 (not primary season — general election season) why they were hiring nothing but NeverTrumpers. They were hiring both writers of quality, like Heather Wilhelm, and trash level writers, who I won’t name.

The quality varied but their politics did not: They were all vociferously anti-Trump. Again, during general election season, when the only alternative to Trump was Hillary Clinton […]

Fair enough.

But then: Doesn’t The Atlantic have that exact same right to choose which writers it wants to tell its audience are worth reading (and, indeed, worth paying cash money for)?

Second, Williamson is only jobless (for the moment) because he chose to leave NR — a platform that, by all appearances, rubber-stamped damn near anything he wanted to say under its masthead, without regard for its reasoning or accuracy, no matter how unprofessionally he conducted himself on Twitter or elsewhere  — for a platform where it was entirely predictable that his days would be numbered.

Why did he make such a shortsighted trade? That brings us to the last item of this rundown…

Jonah Gives Away the Game

In just a few days, the righty blogosphere has filled with gushing defenses of Williamson, including one from his NR pal Jonah Goldberg. Its reviews as the best must-read reaction yet are dead-wrong (John Nolte’s, Scott Greer’s, and Ace’s are all smarter and more important), but it does illuminate a couple of extremely important points Goldberg didn’t intend to.

First, throughout the piece Jonah showers Jeffrey Goldberg (no relation) and The Atlantic with eyebrow-raising praise. Jeffrey “courageously hired Kevin because he wants his magazine to be a public square for different points of view.” Jonah “still think[s The Atlantic] is an excellent magazine, for now.” Jeffrey is one of “many smart and thoughtful liberals.”

Does Jonah really think excellence can be compatible with people and organizations dedicated to undermining the Constitution, individual rights, limited government, and free markets? Or is he stoking liberal egos for elite respectability? Neither possibility is flattering.

And it would be beyond naiveté to honestly believe Jeffrey had such lofty motives. Since the primary Williamson has established himself as one of the nominal Right’s nastiest (and shallowest) critics of Donald Trump and Trump-sympathetic conservatives. That’s what The Atlantic really wanted: a pet conservative to regularly dump on the Right, their own Jennifer RubinBret Stephens, or Charlie Sykes.

It says a lot about Kevin Williamson that “tool of the Left” was a job opening he was happy to fill, and that he thought getting in bed with vipers would spare him their wrath.

Finally, consider the following:

His point is that abortion is the taking of a life and should thus be treated under the law as such. You can agree or disagree with that position, on moral, practical, or legal grounds. I disagree with Kevin on all three grounds to some extent, even though I am what you might call mostly pro-life (I know, I know, but we can argue about all that another day).

And:

There are writers at National Review who are pro-choice, but they aren’t fired for it. They just don’t typically make that case in our pages.

All of a sudden, the past two years make a lot more sense.

Ever since Trump won the nomination, we’ve been inundated with lectures about how accepting Trump would corrupt conservative principles. Yet here we have one of the most prolific peddlers of those lectures admitting that “to some extent” he rejects the most foundational of those principles (the Declaration of Independence lists the right to life first), and that some other NR writers reject it outright.

No wonder he and so many other #NeverTrumpers downplayed the threat Hillary posed to the country and turned up their nose at the idea America’s survival was at stake. No wonder Goldberg lazily dismissed the moral dilemma of throwing a Senate seat to pro-abortion Doug Jones rather than leaving the Roy Moore accusations for an ethics panel to decide. Because #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary were operating from different starting assumptions not about either candidate, but about the causes we supposedly share.

They were the ones taking the conservative principles at stake less seriously than those of us who supposedly “sold out” or “bent the knee” to Donald Trump. And now, on at least one issue, we have one of them inadvertently admitting it.

So in a very roundabout way, we actually owe Kevin Williamson our thanks. His antics turned out to be the catalyst for his fellow travelers to display #NeverTrump’s moral and philosophical bankruptcy with some of the clearest examples yet.

Just imagine the rant we’ll get if he ever realizes it.

New at LifeSiteNews: The Atlantic Hypocrites Fire Kevin Williamson

Here’s my latest commentary at LifeSiteNews. Spoiler alert: Jeffrey Goldberg isn’t the only one I have words for.

Well, that was quick. After publishing just one piece at his new gig, liberal magazine The Atlantic has already fired conservative columnist Kevin Williamson.

On March 22, Williamson announced his departure from National Review, saying he viewed the new job as an opportunity to “be an apostle to the Gentiles,” taking his commentary to an audience where exposure to conservative ideas was the exception.

That might have been a nice theory, but how it fared in practice was entirely predictable. A left-wing mob immediately swarmedThe Atlantic, ostensibly outraged that a “reputable” publication would allow an extremist to supposedly darken its door (though Huffington Postwriter Noah Berlatsky let slip liberals’ real motivation with the simple declaration that “conservative ideas aren’t worth debating”).

The mob has gotten its wish. A memo to Atlantic staff has gone public, in which editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg confirms that the publication has fired Williamson. Goldberg said some of Williamson’s past “intemperate” tweets were not initially deal-breakers, but that was before the left-wing Media Matters unearthed a 2014 podcast in which Williamson doubled down on one of his most controversial remarks: that women who have abortions should be hanged (pro-life leadersdenounced Williamson’s comments at the time).

“My broader point here is, of course, that I am a – as you know I’m kind of squishy on capital punishment in general – but that I’m absolutely willing to see abortion treated like a regular homicide under the criminal code,” Williamson elaborated in the podcast.

Read the rest at LifeSiteNews.

Related reading: Ace on what Williamson’s original writing said about the “respectable” Right, and Victor Davis Hanson refuting a swipe Williamson made at him in his only Atlantic piece.

Lies, Damned Lies, and NeverTrump: A Defense of Dennis Prager

Note: an abridged version of this column appears at The Federalist Papers Project.

Dennis Prager set the conservative blogosphere ablaze last week with a column asking why there are conservatives “who still snipe (or worse) at President Trump,” who “remain anti-Trump today” despite the fact that for the next three and a half years, he’s our only means of getting national conservative policies across the finish line.

Prager’s first suspected reason:

While they strongly differ with the Left, they do not regard the left–right battle as an existential battle for preserving our nation. On the other hand, I, and other conservative Trump supporters, do […] To my amazement, no anti-Trump conservative writer sees it that way. They all thought during the election, and still think, that while it would not have been a good thing if Hillary Clinton had won, it wouldn’t have been a catastrophe either.

Exactly right, and a crucial point that NeverTrumpers, for all their self-righteousness, never seriously addressed.

Prager’s conclusion:

They can accept an imperfect reality and acknowledge that we are in a civil war, and that Trump, with all his flaws, is our general. If this general is going to win, he needs the best fighters. But too many of them, some of the best minds of the conservative movement, are AWOL.

I beg them: Please report for duty.

Amen! This column was a much-needed reminder of the big picture, which NeverTrumpers tend to sorely lack. And sure enough, a string of pundits jumped at the opportunity to demonstrate that they’ve done no introspection whatsoever since the election. Continue reading

There’s No “Christian Case” Against the Pledge of Allegiance

At PJ Media, John Ellis has a post entitled “Why as a Christian I Don’t Pledge Allegiance to the American Flag,” but a more apt name would have been “How to Imagine a Conflict Where None Exists.” He argues that pledging allegiance would violate his conscience as a Christian, because “I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I owe my fidelity to a sovereign King named Jesus,” and “it’s impossible to owe fidelity to two potentially competing kingdoms”:

And let’s be honest, often, and increasingly so, the concerns of the United States government are at odds with the concerns of King Jesus. What happens to allegiance during those moments? From my perspective, Christian either have to compromise their allegiance to King Jesus or demonstrate that by “I pledge allegiance to the United Stated of America” they only meant some of the time, making their “pledge of allegiance” dishonest.

With countless important crises demanding Christians’ attention–like, for instance, only a third of Christians in this country ever hearing their churches speak out against the slaughter of preborn babiesthis is the crisis of conscience Ellis sees within the faith? This was important enough for a column?

To be clear, the author is obviously correct that Christians owe their allegiance to Christ above and beyond their allegiance to secular authorities. However, pledging allegiance to the flag is not pledging allegiance to any specific administration, officeholder, policy, etc. It’s not even pledging allegiance to the government itself; it’s pledging allegiance to the principles the country is founded on, and not only do those principles not conflict with Christian principles, they actually include appreciation for the Creator (as the source of our rights) and share several basic values with Christianity.

It’s completely possible to be 100% devoted to Christ and the flag simultaneously. In fact, the Pledge of Allegiance to which he’s objecting already explicitly says the nation is “under God,” so it doesn’t ask him to pervert or reverse his priorities in the slightest.

Ellis cites Massachusetts’ latest attack on religious liberty (forcing transgender dogma on churches) as an example of supposed conflict between allegiance to God and allegiance to America. But he misses the fact that by attacking religious liberty, Massachusetts is also attacking one of the constitutional principles the Pledge calls on Americans to support. So pledging allegiance to the flag doesn’t obligate us to support Massachusetts’ action, it calls on us to resist it.

For some much-needed sanity and perspective, let’s turn to one of the most beautiful commentaries on the Pledge of Allegiance ever spoken.

I desperately hope Christians don’t take the author’s misguided thinking as a reason to withdraw further from the political process; that will only give the secular radicals he fears less resistance to their efforts to extinguish religious liberty and stigmatize Christian values.

Harvard Republican Club Wants Hillary Clinton to Be President

They don’t say so, of course. In fact, the name Hillary Clinton doesn’t appear anywhere in their announcement that they won’t endorse Donald Trump. But that’s the inescapable conclusion of their sanctimonious, tunnel-vision screed.

“[F]or the first time in 128 years, we, the oldest College Republicans chapter in the nation, will not be endorsing the Republican nominee,” they declare…a decision so well thought out, with the consequences of the election’s outcome so carefully weighed, that not once do they mention who will become president if the Republican nominee does not. Continue reading