The Spectacle Blog

A Balmer in Gilead

By on 7.26.06 | 5:10AM

I hope Mark Tooley's analysis of Randall Balmer's book, provocatively subtitled "How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament," adds to the critical momentum of Ross Douthat's piece in First Things about that book and other similarly themed tomes.

I'm not sure what Balmer thinks he is doing writing a book like that. He's an academic, someone who has deep knowledge of American evangelicals, and should by no means have the ability to don ideological blinders sufficient to write a hit piece. As a guy who has enjoyed some of Balmer's previous work and one who is sympathetic to the religious right if not a card-carrying member, I was shocked to find out he'd written a book-length political pamphlet.

This is the sort of project that breaks up friendships. Hard to imagine it was worth it. Either the book contracts for this kind of work are really fat or the levels of what my friend Tom Van Dyke refers to as Bush Derangement Syndrome have risen well past the point of reason and fairness.

Anonymous Botch

By on 7.25.06 | 5:49PM

If you've been reading The Corner, or TKS, or The Note, or Wonkette, or The Plank, you know that the buzz in Washington today has been all about Dana Milbank's Washington Post column, in which an anonymous GOP Senate candidate laments the drag that Bush's unpopularity has on his candidacy. It's pretty obvious that the candidate is Maryland's Michael Steele (ABC is apparently reporting as much). I called Steele's campaign to get a confirmation or denial; they haven't called back.

Trebek, You Dirty Robot

By on 7.25.06 | 5:33PM

Jeopardy uber-champ Ken Jennings--er, Mormon Superstar?--dons his Angry hat and inexplicably sinks his teeth into the hand that fed for several weeks in 2004. Apparently $3 million doesn't buy the kind of respect it used to. Millions of dollars for trivia game show? What a country!

UPDATE: Jennings' website is back up after traffic crashed it. Here's the naughty post. And here's his ornery response to Michael Starr's rip on him, which talked about feeding hands being bit way before I did here. My failure to be clever was unorginal. Harumph.

Re: How To Be Somewhat Unelectable

By on 7.25.06 | 3:12PM

David: Since the difference between those two poll results is statistically meaningless, I see no reason to conclude that Casey's real lead is slipping. As for the ads, they're disingenuous -- especially the immigration ad, which connects Casey to McCain to burnish centrist credentials while suggesting that this puts him to the right of Santorum -- but I'm not sure they won't be effective with voters who aren't paying close attention. I doubt the Schiavo position hurts him with many people who aren't already solidly in Santorum's camp, and standing silent seems like a reasonably smart way of handling the abortion issue (a pro-choice campaign, besides being a complete flip-flop, would fire up Santorum's support, but running as an unapologetic pro-lifer would depress Democratic turnout). I'm not saying Santorum can't win, but that's not the way I'd bet.

How To Be Somewhat Unelectable

By on 7.25.06 | 2:11PM

A poll from last week shows that Bob Casey's lead over Rick Santorum was about 11 points, and one from yesterday shows it at about 9. If Casey's lead is shrinking, perhaps it is because of the ads he is running.

You can listen to this radio ad that criticizes Santorum on immigration but then states that Casey supports the McCain bill. Umm…has anyone told Casey that the McCain bill was unpopular? Then there are the TV ads, which try to paint Casey as favoring fiscal responsibility, but then call for reducing the deficit in a way that only a moron would mistake as anything other than raising taxes. Hasn't anyone on the Casey campaign heard of the "bridge to nowhere"?

Minnesota Mudslinging

By on 7.25.06 | 10:08AM

Other than maybe the guys at Powerline, this story probably won't get too much attention, but it should get more.

The skinny? Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch discovered that a political competitor had hired a team to do opposition research on Hatch and his family. Apparently the Star Tribune, a notoriously Democrat-friendly publication, received the opposition research file, or at the least was told the bulk of its contents, and a couple of reporters asked Hatch questions specific to the details revealed in the files.

Hatch refused to answer the questions, and filed a complaint with a state journalism organization. In response, the Star Tribune published an article about the complaint, and made it clear that it knew about the contents of the opposition research file. So without publishing it, it smeared Hatch anyway through hints and innuendo, even though the paper has no corroboration.

We don't know Hatch, but it's this kind of backdoor leaking and smear work of the MSM that is giving it a worse name than it already had.

Karnick on Culture

By on 7.24.06 | 10:15PM

S.T. Karnick is one of the journeyman writers of the conservative-libertarian (or as he would say, classical liberal) movement. His work has appeared just about everywhere, including TAS online. Some of you may remember him from his editorship and co-creation of American Outlook, which was a very good policy and culture magazine put out by the Hudson Institute for several years. He and Wlady gave me my first opportunities in freelance writing a few years ago. (Thanks to both for helping through a couple of lean years in Waco.)

Although Karnick has written about just about everything between his freelance work and his regular editorial pieces for the Hudson magazine, he really shines when opining about popular culture. After years of encouraging him to focus on that area, I am happy to report that Karnick on Culture is now in business. After only a few short days, Karnick has written posts covering Mickey Spillane, Monk, Psych, the Beach Boys, Touching Evil, Nero Wolfe, The Closer, and Superman Returns. Spend a little time with S.T. Karnick before you make another CD, DVD, or fiction purchase. You'll be glad you did.

Re: Woods, DiMarco…

By on 7.24.06 | 4:26PM

Although TV always overplays such situations, the most unusual, indeed saddest thing about this year's British Open was that the two players who finished one-two were deep in mourning for a parent. For a while it seemed that each had a different take on his loss. DiMarco seemed the more religious, noting earlier in the tournament, "I've got someone watching over me. I've got some divine intervention. I just know it." Woods by contrast was more inconsolable. "After the last putt, I realized my dad's never going to see this again, and I wish he could have seen this one last time," he said at the trophy presentation. By tournament's end, DiMarco himself was hit by death's finality. "That's the hardest part -- that I know I'll never see her again," he said. Even among the world's finest, the here and now is all we know.