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David Steinberg

David Steinberg is the New York City Editor of PJ Media. Follow his tweets at @DavidSPJM.

The Excellent ‘McArdle/Hinderaker Rule’: Bring Your Own Camera to MSM Appearances

While these outlets are by no means dead and sold for parts, the networks and print referred to by conservatives as “the MSM” have been bleeding audience share for almost two decades. However, they haven’t been marginalized to a size commensurate with America’s poor opinion of them, and for a while I’ve felt this is a fault of certain “content providers” who should, by now, have a better grasp of these outlets’ practices, intentions, and greatly diminished influence.

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(Even Gob gets it.)

Conservatives, or their handlers, should also better understand the tools now available, and the changing cost-benefit analysis those tools have nudged. For example: a camera, Twitter, and a colleague with a steady hand on retainer sure beats having that “crisis management” PR firm on retainer.

Yesterday, John Hinderaker of Powerline wrote of his recent experience considering whether or not to appear with Bill Maher:

Bill will head up a panel that includes two conservatives, one old and one young, and two demographically similar liberals. The producer told me that they have already lined up my old friend Ana Marie Cox as the senior liberal, and they very much wanted me to participate as the senior conservative. The event will not be televised live, but it will be filmed. The producer told me that Maher will use clips from the program on his television show and will post them on YouTube.

I had misgivings — the last thing I want to do is act as a foil for the likes of Bill Maher — but she argued persuasively that it would be helpful for me to take part, and that we conservatives would get an even break. I said I would think about it overnight and call her back in the morning.

Think rationally about why New Media — such as PJM and Powerline — even exist, and why studies have confirmed what Twitter users generally observe, which is that conservatives dominate liberals in trending topics on that medium: there is an audience that understands conservatives simply do not get a fair shake in the MSM, stretching back to the New York Times of the early 20th century, pre-television.

So our new products filled the vacancy, and further, that’s where all the market share the MSM bled has gone. People didn’t tune out altogether — instead, they tuned in to Fox News and Roger L. Simon and John Hinderaker.

The truth regarding the media landscape is self-evident. So why would a conservative ever agree to have his or her message strained through an MSM colander? Rationally, what are the pros of appearing taped on an outlet or with a specific host known to distort conservatism in general and individual messages in particular? Through a Maher producer’s eyes, what are the pros for them in extending you an invitation?

Here’s what Hinderaker did:

I decided to participate in the event and do my best to support John’s candidacy, but on one condition: that I be given a copy of the video promptly after the event so that I, too, can post clips on Power Line and on YouTube. After all, if you have an hour or two of video to work with, and you want a 15 second clip that will make you look good or the other guy look dumb, you will surely find it. If I had a copy of the video, not only could I post useful footage, but I could also–to some degree–keep Maher honest. I also intended to promote the event and try to get Power Line readers and others to attend so that the crowd reaction would be balanced.

The next morning, I called the producer and conveyed that offer. It got a rather icy reaction. The producer said that giving me a copy of the video could be a problem; she would look into it and get back to me by the end of the day. The day came and went with no call from her, as did the day after. Finally, at 5:19 on Friday, I received this email:

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Posted at 10:51 am on September 30th, 2014 by David Steinberg

What Type of Syrian Jihadist Rebel Are You? Take This Quiz!

Fox News is reporting that President Obama, according to a White House aide, intends to arm the, eh, “moderate” Syrian rebels so as to use them as ground troops should the U.S. conduct airstrikes within Syria:

One year to the day since addressing the American people about possible strikes against the Assad regime in Syria over its chemical weapons attack, President Obama is coming back to the American people with a drastically different — and strategically complex — plan to combat a drastically different enemy.

The president, when he speaks from the White House Wednesday night, is expected to on one hand seek Congress’ support in arming and aiding the moderate Syrian opposition. But he is also keeping the door open for possible airstrikes in Syria, something that might require tacit cooperation from the Assad regime.

The target this time is not the Assad government, but the Islamic State, which has in the year since Obama’s last address evolved into Assad’s most formidable enemy — as well as a threat to the Iraq government and the West.

The result could be Obama’s trickiest task yet in the Middle East.

The circular reasoning and preposterous on-the-ground situation stem directly from Obama’s months of dawdling with Assad last year, his “Red Line” period, during which he had a moment to crush Assad with the aide of a burgeoning, legitimately moderate force. Yet by the time he was ready — strike that — forced to act to save his reputation, the moderates had been all but left out of the equation, as what would balloon into ISIS was taking shape. Had Obama armed the Assad opposition at that point, he would have been arming ISIS.

The lesson to be learned here: Obama fundamentally misunderstands the Middle East. He fundamentally misunderstands Islam, jihadism, and the motivations of every single actor in the Middle East, including Israel. As such, if there is a military action to be taken in the Middle East that is in the best interests of the United States — or the collective consciousness of the world that rejects evil, rejects the atrocities of both Assad and ISIS — then the United States is going to have to do the job itself, or at least lead the force.

That’s right: the U.S. needs to take the lead, and you’re with us or against us. Right, John Kerry? Eh … :

The effort to defeat the Islamic State taking hold in Syria and Iraq could involve “nearly every country on earth,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on Wednesday. He was speaking in Iraq, one of the stops on his coalition-building trip:

“Nearly every country on earth could have an ability and an interest to join in this effort, whether by providing military assistance, by helping to track and stop the flow of foreign fighters, helping to track and stop the flow of money — all of these are things that sustain ISIL’s terrorism and all of them are things that are subject to impact by other countries in the world,” Kerry told a news conference after meeting with the new Iraqi leaders.

Obama intends to literally repeat his tentative, morally subjective policy from last year with a fresh enemy. What does it take to convince these men that the rest of the world’s actors tend to operate with their own agenda, and that their agenda invariably involves gaining ground on the United States?

Arming the Syrian opposition so as to reduce the footprint of the United States in the conflict is not ethical. It’s a policy that traces directly to a leftist world view of the United States as the world’s bully. Yet the smaller we get, the more tentative, the harder it gets to distinguish who we can trust elsewhere.

You don’t need every country in the world to crush ISIS, Mr. Kerry. You need moral clarity.

Posted at 12:46 pm on September 10th, 2014 by David Steinberg

State Dept.’s Marie Harf Issues Firm Rebuke to … Bill O’Reilly

The commentariat has thoroughly exhausted every analogy for measuring the State Department’s astounding inability to measure the sound of their comments. I’ll just post this here as the latest example:

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Does she believe she’s doing a wonderful job? Is she getting commendations from her colleagues behind the scenes? References to the State Department’s self-parodizing seem redundant at this point.

Posted at 11:31 am on September 4th, 2014 by David Steinberg

Little League Coach Fits Everything Good About Life Into Two-Minute Speech

Take a break sometime this evening to watch this, then let us know in the comments if Coach Dave Belisle from Cumberland, Rhode Island didn’t just make your day.

This is why I watch sports. Or anything, really:

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Posted at 4:05 pm on August 19th, 2014 by David Steinberg

INTERVIEW: Author Brad Thor Talks Act of War … and Culture War

Brad Thor, bestselling author of 13 military thrillers and an unabashed conservative, is currently touring the country to promote his latest: Act of War. I caught up with him to discuss the inspiration for the book — in promotional material, he mentioned his desire to explore the Marcus Luttrell tragedy — and to have him share his thoughts from the tip of the spear of the culture war. 

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Steinberg: You’re not overtly political in the book, you don’t refer to liberals or conservatives, the words “Democrat” and “Republican” don’t appear in the book, but you certainly come away with a strong message about which orientation has their facts right in terms of national security. Do you have a prime motivation of shaping the culture, or are you focused on writing excellent military thrillers?

Thor: Yes, it’s important that we start from the beginning, which is first and foremost that I am an entertainer, David. I would never open a deli that says no blacks, no Jews, no gays, no libertarians, no Republicans. I would never hang a sign on my business — I’m a small-business owner — that says this group is not invited. That’s number one.

Number two, do I have a particular view of the world, of what I think is successful and what history has proven successful? Yes, I do. I write political thrillers, so politics are part of the thrillers, and it just so happens that certain political parties have certain ideals. I’m not going to hide it — I’m a conservative through and through.

I’m in the business of making money, not necessarily statements, with the books. Can you find a particular point of view in certain characters in the books? Absolutely. Now those particular opinions matter in D.C., and those opinions are prevalent in the military and other spots in the intelligence world. The same problems we have battling liberal ideology in social media and the popular culture, that battle exists in the intelligence world, it exists in the military world. That is the great clash of ideas — what ideas are going to advance our republic. Is it liberalism, is it conservatism, is it something else?

I would be derelict in my duty of writing authentic political thrillers if I didn’t put those ideas on the field of battle, and allow everyone to sit back with me and watch how they play out.

Steinberg: The big reveals, the big plot turns in the book, you are pulling them precisely from present day news. Now, it’s not the Law and Order example, where they draw from some event that occured that isn’t necessarily political, and just go from there. What I see in Act of War is, you’re taking the news of the day, the policies of the current administration, and then you try to nail exactly how those policies are affecting national security personnel.

Thor: My job as a thriller writer is to beat the headlines.

I want you to read one of my books, and first and foremost be entertained, say “wow, that was a great thriller.” But I want you to close the book a little bit better informed, maybe with some questions of your own.

One of the nicest emails I get from readers is when someone says “wow, I read your thrillers with my laptop open” — I like to call my style “faction,” David — the nicest emails are when people say “I like to read your thrillers with my laptop open because I don’t know where the facts end and the fiction begins.”

Yes, it’s not Law and Order. I’m not taking a case that already happened. What I’m doing is looking at the state of affairs. I wrote this book over the last year, so I was sitting at my laptop back then, thinking: “Where are we going to be a year from now? How do I make this book as current as possible when it comes out? How do I write a book 12 months before it comes out and make sure that its current?”

So there’s a lot of trying to peer over the horizon and read the tea leaves. You know, I nailed the whole NSA thing before Snowden in my book Blacklist.

In my book The First Commandment, on page one, it’s not four high-value Guantanamo detainees we swapped, its not six, it’s five, exactly five, on page one of the First Commandment. (Ed. note: I checked up on this. Whoa.)

So I pride myself on being able to beat the headlines, and I do that by just being a voracious consumer of the culture, the news, I watch Washington. I’m saying to myself “history doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes,” and history is a good guide of where we’re headed because people ignore it.

Steinberg: If PJM readers aren’t familiar with your background: you’ve done precisely this in a more clandestine manner before, correct? You’ve worked with the Department of Homeland Security.

Posted at 11:42 am on July 16th, 2014 by David Steinberg

EXCLUSIVE: Dave Brat Slams Obama Administration on Israel

Yesterday morning, I reached out to the Brat team to see if they would be making any statement on the situation in Israel today. I forwarded along a link — then hosted at the top of the Drudge Report – to yesterday’s statements by Philip Gordon, the White House’s coordinator for the Middle East, in which Gordon criticized the Israeli government for not currently negotiating with Mahmoud Abbas. (PJ Media’s Ron Radosh criticized Gordon here, and The Times of Israel editor David Horovitz did so here.) I had heard from some — very few, but some — conservatives who were concerned about the loss of Eric Cantor regarding the only issue they trusted Cantor on, and I thought asking for a response to the statements by Philip Gordon might yield a good barometer of Brat’s Middle East intentions.

Moments ago, Brat’s team emailed back with his comments:

Statement of Dave Brat regarding the recent speech at the Israel Conference on Peace in Tel Aviv given by Philip Gordon, the White House coordinator for the Middle East:

“I am deeply troubled by the remarks from the Obama Administration, both for the incompetence in Middle East affairs that the remarks demonstrate and for the narcissism inherent in suggesting that the Obama administration knows how to protect Israeli citizens better than Israel does.

“The White House just rebuked Israel for supposedly ‘not taking advantage’ of the opportunity to negotiate with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas just weeks after Abbas welcomed Hamas — the terrorist organization now attempting to murder Jewish civilians with missile strikes on their cities — back into his ‘unity government.’

“The White House has criticized Israel’s government for not offering concessions to the very terrorists who have driven Israeli citizens into bomb shelters and who choose to operate from residential areas, using innocent bystanders as human shields.

“Most Americans recognize Israel’s right to defend itself from the terrorist regime sworn to its destruction. Unlike the administration, we reject the idea that terrorist missiles are somehow the fault of Israel’s government and that all would be well if only Israel sacrificed even more of its security.”

Posted at 10:41 pm on July 9th, 2014 by David Steinberg

Scorched Earth: Eric Cantor’s Staff, Supporters Drain Cash From Virginia GOP, Dave Brat

After the skin-crawling exploitation of black voters in Mississippi, the GOP’s current leadership wing gives a second demonstration, this time in Virginia, of just how committed they are to “a big tent,” or to the GOP’s vitality in general. The Senate majority matters, the House majority matters. But this party’s leadership is infested with the same disregard for Washington’s intended purpose as any Clintonian.

Third parties fail. But what cost does remaining aligned with this generation of GOP leadership take from the cause of liberty and transparency?

Recall, last week Eric Cantor said: “Of course I’ll vote for David Brat … I want a Republican to hold this seat.” Video:

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This week? He sends Ray Allen — read anything I’ve published at PJM the last few months for background on this Tammany Hall-style thug — to proxy a budget vote for the seat Cantor really really earnestly hopes the GOP holds. On the next page is  local Virginia blogger and grassroots organizer Jamie Radtke with the details. Do read to the end — as a member of the GOP, of any stripe from McCain to Cruz, I do hope Radtke’s coverage encourages you to reclaim your party from these rent-seeking parasites…

Posted at 3:31 pm on June 26th, 2014 by David Steinberg

Cantor Fallout: Will ‘Amelia Island Tactics’ Doom Richard Hanna, Too?

Back in March, Redstate’s Erick Erickson revealed that Republican Main Street Partnership — a PAC headed by liberal Republican Steve LaTourette – would be sponsoring an early April weekend retreat at Amelia Island in Florida. The retreat’s sole purpose was to discuss strategy for Republican incumbents facing primary challenges from conservative/tea party upstarts. (Shortly after receiving the exposure from Erickson, the listing from Main Street Partnership’s “Events” page disappeared.)

John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy were all slated to attend the retreat; Boehner dropped out at the last minute. But Cantor did attend, headlining the event. Main Street Partnership has done a bang-up job of keeping the event’s occurrences under wraps since then — little information and no recordings have leaked from the conference. However, Eric Cantor’s campaign stands as a useful guide to the goings-on back in April.

Cantor was the headliner, and his campaign took a definable tack following the event. Again and again, Cantor labeled Dave Brat a “liberal” — a “liberal college professor”; a guy serving on Tim Kaine’s economic board; etc. — and Cantor presented himself as an anti-amnesty champion. Essentially, Cantor’s game plan for the campaign was to consistently describe his challenge from the right as a challenge from the left. While his campaign carried out a number of dubious tactics at the grassroots level and at GOP district conventions for winning the support of politically active Seventh District Virginians, his plan for reaching the “low-information voter” was to reframe the contest.

That is, to fabricate the contest. Cantor did not make any attempt to convince voters that his “moderate” path was the best way forward for the district; he instead assumed a mantle of constitutional conservatism that bore no resemblance to his actual record or platform. And he absolutely refused to debate or to respond to Brat’s charges or platform in any manner.

And that was it. He lost terribly, for various reasons I’ve covered for months here, but he primarily lost because his ads and mailers didn’t fool a soul, revealed him to be a dishonest politician to anyone paying even a moment’s attention, and because he gave Brat a tremendous boost in name recognition among people who already knew Cantor had no business claiming to be a conservative warrior.

So: based on Cantor’s campaign, we have to assume Amelia Island’s “summary for policymakers” consisted of the following:

a) Label your opponent a “liberal.” The conservative base won’t turn out if the opponent is assumed to be, well, another version of you. And your likely underfunded opponent will not have the resources to combat the charge.

b) Tie your opponent to a well-known Democrat whom the district’s GOP voters universally despise.

c) Don’t debate.

I’m sure they prettied it up with pseudo-professional D.C. lingo to pass themselves as experts — “executables,” “achievables,” etc. — but the above three points must have been Amelia Island in a nutshell. And we have significantly more evidence of that based on the current campaign of Richard Hanna (R-NY), the Main Street Partnership member from New York’s 22nd facing a tough combatant Tuesday in stalwart conservative Claudia Tenney. Hanna also happens to be the second-biggest recipient of donations from Main Street Partnership for this election cycle.

Posted at 4:48 pm on June 23rd, 2014 by David Steinberg

Anatomy of Victory: Why No One Is Getting Brat’s Story Exactly Right Yet

Plenty of uninformed-to-inane coverage is assumed when a big event occurs that most reporters have little background on, and it is always assumed from the practitioners of “conservative anthropology” — see the expected lunacy from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and the Huffington Post’s “Crusaders!” angle. However, most of the Fox News coverage last night on Dave Brat’s victory demonstrated a decent grasp on the race, though no one has really nailed the story yet.

The best angle I’ve seen so far came a short while ago from local Virginia blog The Bull Elephant; blogger and locally prominent conservative Jamie Radtke offered the “Top Ten Reasons Eric Cantor Lost.” She is perfectly correct in that Brat’s victory was not simply a matter of amnesty or anger at the “GOP establishment,” but a perfect storm of several factors, including timing, and the most important factor being local anger at the behavior of Cantor’s campaign team.

Think of the Villanova-Georgetown championship in 1985, or even the Red Sox taking out my Yanks in 2004: everything had to go perfectly. The majority leader does not get resoundingly defeated for the first time in American history any other way.

Bret Baier, Sean Hannity, et al focused heavily on immigration last night, including the very recent and horrifying images of hopeful DREAMers being abandoned in Arizona. These images very likely proved to seal the deal for Brat, as he was able to connect Cantor’s comments last week of it being time to finish negotiating with Obama on an amnesty deal. Brat’s response received national — read “MSM” — coverage, and Cantor’s comments, reported at Breitbart, lived in the upper right corner of Drudge for several hours over this past weekend. (Interestingly, the link connecting Cantor’s quote to the Arizona shelter fiasco disappeared at some point, though the other links stayed up.) 

The Daily Caller commissioned a Vox Populi poll that showed Cantor leading 52%-40% with 9% undecided. They released the poll on June 6, and the results dated back to June 2. This was the one and only poll released to the public regarding this race. Believing that the Arizona images affected the race in Brat’s favor following this poll is a very small leap of faith, especially considering the poll itself is assumed to have accomplished two goals for Brat, according to Brat insiders:

1. The Daily Caller poll results came a week after Ray Allen, Cantor’s blustery campaign chief, had stated that his internal polling showed Cantor up by about 34 points. Whether or not Allen was telling the truth — I believe he was not, as his concurrent choice to spend bazillions on direct mailings smearing Brat as a “liberal college professor” are not the actions of a man thinking he is comfortably ahead — the Daily Caller poll allowed Team Brat to tell supporters that, according to Allen’s own admission, Brat had just made up 22 points in one week.

Don’t underestimate the message that sent to Brat’s grassroots. A 22-point swing is an Anthony Weiner-level cratering of one’s support.

2. Undecideds break 80% for the challenger. The Daily Caller poll reasonably placed Brat in a 52%-48% race, with a stated 4% margin of error.

Trust me: the Daily Caller poll was huge in Brat’s office. At that point Friday evening, all informed observers knew the worst possible outcome for Brat was losing by five or fewer. If you were completely caught off-guard, you likely hadn’t seen that Daily Caller poll.

About that potential 22-point cratering: I believe it was a much smaller drop in support, though I cannot know for sure, yet I definitely know that the cause of that horrible stretch for Cantor was only mentioned tangentially so far in the major wrap-ups of the elections.

Laura Ingraham — who headlined a pro-Brat event on June 2 — mentioned last night that one of those Ray Allen mailings made the wildly dishonest claim that Cantor was “stopping the Obama/Reid plan to give amnesty to illegal aliens.” As evidence, she referred to the fact that just last year Cantor took a three-day speaking tour with the chief amnesty supporter in Congress, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and that the intent of tour was discussing their shared ideas for “comprehensive immigration reform.”

But the key event of the election, which occurred during the Cantor crash week, was this: on May 28, Rep. Luis Gutierrez came all the way to Richmond to appear at the Virginia Capitol building for the purpose of declaring Eric Cantor to be “the one man standing in the way of immigration reform.”

Of course, the Allen mailers proclaiming the exact same message had gone out just a day or two before.

Posted at 1:04 pm on June 11th, 2014 by David Steinberg

Dave Brat Defeats Eric Cantor, and Writes the New Conservative Playbook

The candidate who did not lie in his campaign material, did not attempt to disenfranchise voters at several county conventions, did not help install a paid advisor as party executive director, did not headline a retreat discussing how to effectively marginalize his party’s base, and did not employ a crooked, Tammany Hall thug as chief adviser just won, and the Republican Party, having chosen the path Cantor exemplified, has the opportunity to be a more representative party and to change course before November.

Over the past few months, I have done little but cover this race and the Renee Ellmers/Frank Roche race in North Carolina. I intended to expose for PJ Media readers the insiders game that the “GOP Establishment” vs. conservative/Tea Party rift has become, putting it this way back on March 18:

Were my money and resources at stake, no current House GOP member better embodies the party’s leadership rot than he: his incessantly measured, strategically incoherent tacking reveals a party now guided by advisor-class tutelage, not conservatism. Additionally, his status as party-protected and groomed future speaker establishes the taking of his seat as a viable means for delivering a message to leadership.

Eric Cantor has earned his primary challenge, and I would suggest to national donors that Dave Brat is the predictably conservative challenger worthy of your interest. And with Cantor’s favorables low and VA-7 possessing a conservative soul, Cantor’s incumbency doesn’t present the imposing challenge the party might otherwise assume of it.

The tenancies of Cantor and other “establishment” Republicans deserve sunlight. I intend to provide some here at Self-Evident over the following weeks with this “Moderate Danger” series. I expect these postings will expose the situation in a manner not generally considered during the typical “RINO” vs. conservative debate, at least in terms of winning:

Always, we argue of which strain of Republican is more palatable on Election Day. Instead, we should first be discussing and exposing — from local sheriff races to presidential primaries — just how many roadblocks the GOP lays down in the path of viable conservative candidates.

And this, on March 19:

The problem with a GOP leadership consisting entirely of moderates arises in its tendency to muscle out conservative representatives from conservative districts — and I believe this stems from moderate ideology being more slanted towards statism in general, though that’s a separate topic. But leadership simply is not allowing conservatives to be accountable to their electoratesAnd worse, the establishment is violating its pledge to remain neutral during primary season. 

Leadership does not allow Tea Party/conservative representatives to serve their districts in the manner each district prefers, and with accountability to his or her campaign platforms and promises which secured electoral victory.

That’s the root. Tactics.

I figured the Cantor/Brat primary would exemplify the muscling-out of conservatives, and I was right. I received pressure individually, I began to hear skin-crawling accounts of behind-the-scenes thuggery, and I was able to expose some of it for you. I wrote about 50% of what I heard, I wish I could have written all of it to give you a better picture, but trust that there was quite a bit I held back with to protect sources.

I also have confirmation that these pieces did manage to put a stop to some of the chicanery, and wish I could share that as well.

Posted at 8:59 pm on June 10th, 2014 by David Steinberg