Slumming It: the Manhattan Institute edition

The following is adapted from a comment I left at www.city-journal.org.

Shooting a large fish in a small barrel is a solemn affair.

Let us begin.

There’s a lot to take issue with here. The task seems overwhelming at first, but upon immediate re-consideration it becomes clear that while there might be a lot of rhetorical boxes to unpack, all of them are in fact empty. And opening them reveals that the existential-crisis inducing void that confronts is does not result from Obama, but rather the gaps between Andrew Klavan’s reasoning and his evidence.

First Klavan introduces his thesis via a stark contrast. His argument is that,

“It was not that Obama had done nothing to deserve these outsized comparisons and honors—it was not just that he had done nothing—it was that he seemed for all the world to be a blank screen on which such hysterical fantasies could too easily be projected, a two-dimensional paper doll just waiting to be dressed in leftist dreams.”

This he makes all the more dramatic by positioning the President’s supposed achievements along side the sycophantic but-kissing employed by the press in response to the first black person to hold that office.

The assertion immediately gives way to assumption though, as evidenced by his next line. “This weird quality of emptiness” is what Klavan is supposed to prove, and yet it immediately becomes a forgone conclusion, not to be  defended at any point later on in the post.

One thing that puts up a red flag immediately is this,

“And such previous Obamas as the race-baiting, black-talking demagogue of a 2007 video recently covered in full for the first time by The Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson are not at all apparent in the Obama of the Oval Office or the campaign trail…”

Writing this demonstrates that Klavan is either 1.) extremely misinformed, and unaware that he is, or 2.) a hack.

The 2007 speech was covered extensively at the time. Many news sites transcribed and reported on it, many blogs reacted to it. If Klavan is being ironic here—well, he could stand to do it better.

Next he does something even more asinine, which is reference Podhoretz,

“But I think the real Obama has been more or less plain to see. Norman Podhoretz described him best in a 2011 Wall Street Journal op-ed: a typical product of the anti-American academic left, committed to transforming U.S. capitalism into a social-democratic system like Sweden’s.”

Podhoretz is a neocon hack who writes for Commentary, a super right wing publication that is run by a nefarious mix of millionaires and nepotism. And instead of quoting another writer who offers evidence to support his claim, Klavan quotes another writer’s thesis and claims it at his own, the effect of which is to show that at least someone else agrees with Klavan, and that someone’s Op-Ed appeared in the Wall Street Journal, so we’re probably right.

The little evidence Klavan does marshal in his favor, doesn’t even support the claim that Obama is a ineffectual shade, it’s to support a subsidiary claim that the news media peddles in left wing fantasies.

 “The active frauds—NBC’s dishonest editing of videos to reflect a leftist worldview, ABC’s allowing Democratic operative George Stephanopoulos to masquerade as a newsman, the Los Angeles Times’ suppressing even the transcript of the video in their possession that shows candidate Barack Obama at a meeting with a PLO-supporting sheik—these are only egregious salients of the more consistent, underlying dishonesty.”

Notice no links, no clear references. And, if this was the modus operandi of the news media, you’d think he’d be able to find more examples, and ones that are more endemic to the system he’s critiquing—not individual instances which can each be better explained by a push for ratings (the editing he mentions, and Stephanopoulos) than a political agenda.

And notice how he invokes the following specters without actually explaining what their inclusion in his rambling is suppose to demonstrate:

“The real steady-state corruption is revealed in the way Obama scandals like Fast and Furious, Benghazi-gate, and the repeated breaking of federal campaign laws have been wildly underplayed, while George W. Bush’s non-scandals, like the naming of Valerie Plame and the firings of several U.S. attorneys at the start of his second term, were blown out of all proportion.”

Fast and Furious was a botched FBI ATF operation, not a cover-up, and it has been covered extensively. Benghazi-gate, to the degree that one believes the White House conspired to mislead, rather than being simply uninformed, was also covered in detail. If he wants to claim that federal campaign laws have been broken, he should probably mention which ones, and by whom, and oh yea, include some actual links so we can figure out what exactly he’s talking about.

All of which is to say: maybe Klavan would do well to watch, listen to, and read more of the news media he is condemning so he could do so without revealing his own ignorance.

Instead, Klavan’s only reliable tool is repetition. Maybe if he repeats the same claim, in enough different ways, it will be true!

“And it is revealed in Obama’s blankness, his make-believe greatness, and the suppression, ridicule, and dismissal of any evidence that he is not the man this powerful media faction once wanted so badly for him to be.”

From here he proceeds to tilt at windmills,

“No other modern president could have associated so intimately with lowlifes like Wright and Ayers and the now-imprisoned Tony Rezko and not had those associations exposed in every detail.”

Is there information that Klavan is still waiting to be exposed in any of these cases? If so, what is it? The argument he’s making relies on the syllogism: The Media does not investigate Obama’s record and past associations, and Obama is actually a vacant-eye-ed political husk, ergo the news media has manufactured Obama’s image, rather than trying to show the man as he really is.

Unfortunately, Klavan does not even attempt to prove either of his supporting premises. He merely asserts them over and over again, providing only casual references and off-the-cuff non sequiturs in his defense.

The thing reads like a nonsensical rant motivated by bigotry and partisan wish-fulfillment. Why does he spend so much time focusing on Obama’s supposed racial hatred (Wright/Katrina remarks) if it’s really his economic agenda that Romney disemboweled in the debate? Why does he not mention a single one of the President’s policies, i.e. his actual record, if he thinks the man is such a fraud?

It’s a joke. Whoever published it is a joke. Whoever agrees with it is a joke. It only demonstrates the provinciality of the City Journal that they can’t afford their url (low blow, I know) and couldn’t get an actual thriller author (Brad Thor, Tom Clancy?) to fill their digital op-ed page with conservative propaganda. Instead they got the next best thing: a young adult (read: tween) fiction author.

And had the editor put Klavan’s byline at the top, so we could all see that he writes young adult thriller fiction, more people might be able to save themselves the waste of time that is reading it.

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16 thoughts on “Slumming It: the Manhattan Institute edition

  1. Fast and Furious was a botched FBI operation, not a cover-up, and it has been covered extensively. Benghazi-gate, to the degree that one believes the White House conspired to mislead, rather than being simply uninformed, was also covered in detail.

    It’s not that irrational to suspect that, were a Republican in office, these two stories would have had different coverage. Now, it’s fair to ask whether Klavan would cheer this hypothetical coverage under a hypothetical Republican presidency… but so is it fair to wonder why these stories have not been given this hypothetical level of coverage.

    Of course, if you look at the two issues and shrug and say “that’s how they’d be covered under a Team Red presidency”, I guess you’d see no real issue at all.

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    • How do you think they would be covered, or how do you think some one who might think that might think they would be hypothetically covered differently?

      I think liberal pundits would have been going crazy over these events. But I don’t think the traditional news media (ABC, NBC, NPR, PBS, WaPo, WSJ, etc.) would have devoted substantially more or less time to it.

      There is always the google test. One can search these events and find no shortage of information detailing who supposedly knew what, and when, and what their motivations were, and who was trying to spin it this way or that, and what officials were involved and what they said or didn’t say and when that or this was said…all in the same article.

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      • “How do you think they would be covered”

        They’d be covered the same way that Abu Ghraib was covered–with unchallenged assertions that the President (or, at least, the Secretary of Defense) knew about it from the get-go, approved of it, probably in fact ordered it, and ought to take personal responsibility for the affair and resign as an apology.

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    • It doesn’t really change your or Ethan’s point, but F & F was ATF, not FBI I think. Also, calling it a ‘cover-up’ is at least debatable, no? Even if one thinks the House Oversight Committe’s ‘contempt’ suit against Holder is pure political theater, the fact that the President invoked Executive privilege to avoid compliance with the document subpoena doesn’t look good. When does what sure looks like ‘foot-dragging to minimize political damage’ turn into ‘cover-up’?

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      • Which would leave me wondering, what is it we still want to know?

        http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-atf-guns-20110902,0,7480365.story

        Traditional news media like the above have vigorously pursued the story, the White House knew more than they want to acknowledge, and the President is as responsible as anyone.

        Now you do raise a good point about when something becomes a cover up. The White House, red or blue, actively resists any amount of transparency. So I would reserve the use of “cover up” for moments when admins are being exceptionally forthcoming.

        Whether or not that is the case here, I’ll fall back on the fact that if someone wants to take issue with the Pres for F&F, they should–which is completely different from saying the media is unwilling to look into it because they are to busy manufacturing a perfect president to fit their liberal fantasies.

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  2. “The active frauds—NBC’s dishonest editing of videos to reflect a leftist worldview, ABC’s allowing Democratic operative George Stephanopoulos to masquerade as a newsman, the Los Angeles Times’ suppressing even the transcript of the video in their possession that shows candidate Barack Obama at a meeting with a PLO-supporting sheik—these are only egregious salients of the more consistent, underlying dishonesty.”

    Notice no links, no clear references.

    Very clear and familiar references to those on Klavan’s side of the aisle: Wawagate; “journalist” Stephanopoulous calling 8 of the last 9 debates for the Democrat, then this last one a tie; and The LA Times’ refusal to make public the

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/in-wake-of-secret-romney-vid-los-angeles-times-reaffirms-it-will-not-publish-mysterious-obama-recording/

    Rather proving Klavan’s point here–asking for links and footnotes for what is or should be common knowledge is a sign of being out of touch.

    It’s a joke. Whoever published it is a joke. Whoever agrees with it is a joke.

    Oh, in that case I agree with you then, Ethan. Never mind. ;-)

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    • Steph is not a journalist though, he does interviews and political analysis, i.e. a pundit that talks to people. He is also there not because he’s liberal, but cause he gets the ratings, or did you think him being on GMA is part of some elaborate scheme to indoctrinate America’s kids and stay at home moms?

      Klavan wants to say that the media is party to and in many ways the facilitator of a mass liberal delusion. If that’s the case, I’m going to need more than 1.5 instances to be convinced.

      You think the “media” doesn’t live and breathe scandal? And wouldn’t pursue one in the Obama admin even if it bit them in the face?

      You think the “media” hated Bush? And wouldn’t follow him to Iraq, on a road paved with misinformation and distortion?

      The “media” has all kinds of flaws, but endemic *partisanship* (as oppose to having fundamental philosophical beliefs you don’t agree with) is not one of them.

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      • George is presented as a journalist though. He interviews politicians and has anchored the nightly news. He isn’t introduced as a pundit. And as far as I know, the network’s ratings are falling just like the other two.

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    • What exactly is it that people want to know in the L.A. Times conspiracy anyway?

      http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/29/mccain-blasts-la-times-for-withholding-tape/ seems to give a pretty good overview of everything that happened at the dinner.

      Their reason, good or not, for not releasing the tape is that the source who provided it to them did so under the prior agreement that they would not release it.

      My question to you Tom is why you or anyone else doesn’t find the context damning enough?

      And do you really think that if there was something juicy in the video, the times wouldn’t release it in return for the millions of hits that they know they could get traffic wise?

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      • ECG, your condemnation was formal: Klavan’s lack of clarity. But he was quite clear; now I’m unclear whether you were aware of what he was speaking about—you seem to understand just fine now, but perhaps that’s just because of my kind interlocution. ;-)

        As for litigating everything Klavan wrote, I would prefer not to start with his weakest arguments, the LATimes tape certainly being one of them—if we knew what’s in it, we we’d be talking about that rather than the Times’ refusal to reveal it, eh?

        As a roundtable host and debate moderator, I certainly do think ABC puts Stephanopoulos out there as a journalist, and frankly, his calling the Obama-Romney debate a tie is more more stupid and outrageous than anything Klavan wrote here.

        http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2012/10/04/Stephanopoulos-embarrasses-himself-spins-debate-as-tie

        Were I more the polemicist, I’d probably write a post about it, but such media stupidity and bias is too dog-bites-man to rate more than a passing mention, which indeed is all Klavan gives it. As for Klavan’s main thesis, that Barack’s not all that, we’re beginning to see it’s not just a creature of the right.

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  3. Is the video significant? Does it display important aspects of Obama’s character? WHATEVER DUDE IT TOTALLY GOT REPORTED ON LIKE FIVE YEARS AGO.

    Yes, but wouldn’t you agree that it’s worth discussing? Isn’t the extremely recent personal history of candidate statements important? WHATEVER DUDE IT TOTALLY GOT REPORTED ON LIKE FIVE YEARS AGO!!

    So Romney’s “forty-seven percent” thing, that doesn’t mean anything because it happened a while ago? NO THAT’S TOTALLY DIFFERENT BECAUSE THE RECENT PERSONAL HISTORY OF CANDIDATE STATEMENTS IS IMPORTANT AND THEY DISPLAY IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF ROMNEY’S CHARACTER!

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    • DD-

      I don’t know that folks are objecting to discussing the video so much as they are objecting to the context in which some seem to want to discuss the video, which seems to be that the video was hidden and never reported on and never talked about because the liberal media knew how damaging it was and they are in bed with Obama so they sat on it.

      That’s simply not true.

      If you want to talk about how it wasn’t reported on, you’re wrong and serious people won’t engage you.
      If you want to talk about how the media knew this was damaging, you’re wrong and serious people won’t engage you.
      If you want to talk about how the liberal media is involved in a conspiracy to get Obama elected/re-elected, you’re wrong and serious people won’t engage you.

      If you want to talk about what he said and how it might be relevant to how he’ll govern, serious people will engage you.
      If you want to talk about how he said what he said and what that might reveal about his character or his intentions, serious people will engage you.
      In fact, we had some of those conversations right here on these very pages!

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  4. Love how, in the NYT article, McCain makes the unsubstaniated claim that William Ayers was at the dinner and gets away with it. And he knows this – how? Probably came to him in a dream.

    The desperation on the part of some people to “prove” that Obama – one of the most stolid, least passionate people in American politics – is a raging angry black man would be comic if it didn’t have real-world consequences. People like Klavan are a joke on the surface but what is his underlying problem? Is he paid to be stupid? Is he freelancing? Does he do it for the love of the stupid? Or does he look at Obama and genuinely see an angry radical? Because if he wants to see an angry radical, he might be better off looking in the mirror.

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  5. Sadly I wish I had a shotgun to hit all the points as I know my tolerance for all things political will end quickly…

    Overall theme: Hack disputing Hack. Yawn. Where’s the nuance?

    Specifics: F&F: Proof or not, you KNOW there’s a cover up–there always is. I’ve read some of Holder’s testimony. He’s either incompetent or covering someone’s ass, either his own, or someone else, and therefore, BOB owns this, as all this stonewalling occurred on his watch. Holder owes the public a FULL accounting, no matter where it leads. Not to do so is a disservice to his employers.

    Stephanopoulos: My first reaction to seeing him on TV after he left gov’t employ was “why did they hire this hack?” He’s obviously not unbiased. Then I realized what his position was and didn’t give a damn, BUT switched back when I further realized that other folks might get confused and consider him a reporter. I still think it was a bad move.

    BOB’s Nobel Prize: Sorry, on the list of undeserved awards for Nobel’s, he’s on it, along with a whole lot of other tools as well. That still doesn’t reduce my outrage. His award was indeed due to the fantasy of a new era from the committee.

    The Mystery Obama: “the hollow receptacle of out-sized fantasies left and right”. This is indeed true. The same could be said for Mitt as well, and Bush. This is a sad commentary on our society. And I do remember the coverage of BOB as a candidate. I got sick of the fawning by the media, of the deluded voters who JUST KNEW he was going to change EVERYTHING. It was much worse than I’d ever seen it, going back to after Reagan.

    The media indeed had a hand in fashioning BOB. He does fit into the majority media’s more leftward leanings, so naturally they will support him. There’s been enough documentation of reporters/media in bed with gov’t, politicians, etc., all for the coveted need for “access”, that I consider them all whores willing to sell the first born child for more “access”, so they’ll do all they can to suppress a potential controversy if /when they can, if it benefits them. However, regardless of their leanings, left or right, they support the status quo and the statist structure of the country, and in that sense, you can find them jumping on various “right wing” issues too: Iraq, WMD, etc.

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