It is time to finally settle the argument about public broadcasting: End federal funding now. Congress had no business offering it in the first place. Lost in all the noise now about the peril to Big Bird and Barney is the indisputable fact that public broadcasting is part of the press, and the press is supposed to be independent of government. The Founding Fathers recognized this with the First Amendment, and everyone else should now recognize it, too. There is simply no way around this. The arguments about public broadcasting will remain, intractable and insoluble, so long as it stays on the dole.
ONE OF THE MOST UNUSUAL ASPECTS of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding Obamacare was the speed with which journalists punctured the court’s secrecy. Three days after the ruling in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, CBS’s Jan Crawford, citing “two sources with specific knowledge” of the court’s deliberations, re ported that Chief Justice John Roberts had initially voted to hold the individual mandate unconstitutional, then changed his mind. Two days after that, lefty law prof Paul Campos reported at Salon.com that “a source within the court with direct knowledge of the drafting process” had confirmed the Roberts flip but also claimed, contrary to Crawford’s account, that the chief justice had drafted much of what ended up being the dissenting opinion of four associate justices.
Whatever the truth of the details in dispute, and apart from the legal merits of the case, the leaks reflect poorly on Roberts’ management. The Court looked like a dysfunctional executive agency or political campaign, with aggrieved players pleading their cases anonymously to the press.
POLITICS MAKES STRANGE BEDFELLOWS. Just ask Rand Paul and Tina Brown.
Two days after President Obama made the dramatic yet unsurprising announcement that he supports same-sex marriage, Paul, Kentucky’s junior senator, joked to an Iowa crowd: “Call me cynical, but I wasn’t sure his views on marriage could get any gayer.” Then Brown, editor in chief of Newsweek, dubbed Obama THE FIRST GAY PRESIDENT on the magazine’s cover, which featured a photo illustration—at least one assumes it wasn’t a straight photo—of the president with a rainbow halo.
Paul’s joke was widely condemned, with the lefties at ThinkProgress.org crowing that “even Tony Perkins” of the conservative Family Research Council found it “unacceptable.” Of course, although Paul and Brown made essentially the same joke, the tone was different. Paul’s jest was mocking, while Brown’s was a sympathetic in-joke. The Newsweek article was written by Andrew Sullivan, who had made “The Case for Gay Marriage” in a New Republic cover story way back in 1989.
Linda Greenhouse is something of an institution of legal journalism. She became the New York Times’s Supreme Court correspondent in 1978. Thirty years later, when she accepted an early-retirement package from the financially stressed newspaper, Legal Times reported that a 7–2 majority of the justices threw a going-away party for her, “complete with cheese, desserts, and prosecco wine.” She is also the namesake of the Greenhouse Effect, the hypothesis that “swing” justices like Anthony Kennedy trended leftward in the hopes of garnering positive coverage from her.
Greenhouse still writes for the Times, only she’s moved to the editorial page’s “Opinionator” blog. The week before the high court heard oral arguments about Obamacare’s constitutionality, she weighed in with a revealing post. She began with a close examination of her own venerable navel:
Last month in this space I discussed the New York Times editorial page’s enthusiastic support for the Obama administration’s birth-control insurance mandate. Since I filed that column, liberal politicians, reporters, and commentators have turned the issue into one of the most vivid examples of the Taranto Principle since John Kerry’s campaign for president.
The Taranto Principle holds that the liberal media often ill serve liberal politicians by creating a feedback loop in which both sides reinforce each other’s prejudices while public opinion goes its own way. In retrospect, the contraceptive mandate was perfectly suited to trigger the principle. Birth control is widely practiced and almost universally accepted, so Democrats figured as long as they could obscure the issue of religious liberty, the public would take their side.
New York Times editorials are often worth reading—stop laughing, I'm serious!—because they provide a window into the mindset of the liberal left, the ideological tendency that dominates many major cultural institutions and, for at least the next nine months, the executive branch of the federal government.
Times editorialists write for people who think alike and seek reinforcement of their prejudices. Unconstrained by any need for compromise or sensitivity, they provide an honest distillation of left-liberalism, something you can't always get from politicians who need to appeal broadly enough to win electoral majorities. What you learn from reading Times editorials is that the fundamental attitude of left-liberalism today is one of contemptuous ignorance.
Hilarity ensued in mid-january after Arthur Brisbane, "public editor" of the New York Times, posted a blog entry titled "Should the Times Be a Truth Vigilante?" He was compelled to publish a follow-up post hours later to reply to his "large majority of respondents" who answered his question "with, yes, you moron, The Times should check facts and print the truth."
Being a "truth vigilante" turns out to mean something different from being truthful. Something very different, as we can see from the two examples in Brisbane's initial post. Here is the first, "mentioned recently by a reader":
As cited in an Adam Liptak article on the Supreme Court, a court spokeswoman said Clarence Thomas had "misunderstood" a financial disclosure form when he failed to report his wife's earnings from the Heritage Foundation. The reader thought it not likely that Mr. Thomas "misunderstood," and instead [thought] that he simply chose not to report the information.
Because my deadline for this column is two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, I can only guess at the shape of the Republican presidential race by the time you read it. As I write, it appears Newt Gingrich may be on his way down after emerging as the most serious challenge so far to Mitt Romney's seemingly inevitable march to the GOP nomination. Gingrich's rise was in large part a result of his skillful use of the media. It should serve as a cautionary tale to conservatives that they may be more susceptible than they realize to mainstream media myth-making.
This past year's primary campaign, perhaps more than any other, has centered on a seemingly endless series of debates. They began in May 2011, eight months before the first convention delegates would be chosen. While Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain were flaming out, and Tim Pawlenty and Rick Perry failing ever to catch fire, Gingrich burned steadily and brilliantly. As the other candidates bickered, he kept the focus on President Obama.
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times was dazzled when he visited Occupy Wall Street in early October. "The protest reminded me a bit of Tahrir Square in Cairo," Kristof exulted. "There is the same cohort of alienated young people, and the same savvy use of Twitter and other social media to recruit more participants."
The quinquagenarian Kristof is quite the fogy if he finds it amazing that 20-something Americans are able to figure out how to use Twitter. But that wasn't the least impressive element of Occupy Wall Street as Kristof described it. "Where the movement falters is in its demands," he wrote:
It doesn't really have any. The participants pursue causes that are sometimes quixotic--like the protester who calls for removing Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill because of his brutality to American Indians.