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Ed Driscoll

Hey, remember when self-described liberals were for helping people out of the closet, were free-speech zealots, and reserved their harshest language for our overseas enemies, not the nation’s domestic disputes?

So much for that idea. But leave it to Joe Biden to ham-handedly create the perfect metaphor for the political atmosphere of the Obama era:

On Wednesday morning, Vice President Joe Biden attended a fundraiser for Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. The event was at the home of billionaire real estate developer Alan Ginsberg, a long-time Dem supporter. Ginsberg’s enormous lakefront home is in an exclusive section of Winter Park, an uber-upscale Orlando suburb. To give you an idea of the size and opulence of the home, it was originally built for Orlando Magic and NBA superstar Horace Grant.

The Orlando Sentinel assigned longtime reporter Scott Powers to cover the event. But when he arrived, Biden staffers decided they didn’t want him mingling with the 150 guests who had forked over $500 to meet Biden, so they locked him in a closet! A member of the Biden advance team even stood guard outside the door to prevent Powers from escaping.

Powers has all the details, even pictures of the inside of the closet where he was held; but it appears the Sentinel editors have refused to let him report on all the details of what some are calling a kidnapping! There was a very brief, and very “vanilla” mention of the incident in Thursday’s paper. One attendee later emailed the Sentinel to say “I was in attendance at the Fundraiser and enjoyed a nice lunch. If I had known there was a reporter stuffed in the closet, I would have been compelled to stand up and demand answers. I would also like to know if this is actually legal to treat people like caged animals. I’m disgusted by these actions.”

Despite this outrage, Sentinel editors have dropped the story.

Some longtime journalists are furious with Biden’s team over the incident. Some are more angry at Sentinel editors for downplaying the story. Others are asking “where was the Secret Service when a crime was obviously being committed?” Others appear to have no problem with it, since it involves their “Administration that can do no wrong.”

So far, none of the DC papers or TV networks has covered the story, but of course, they are the first to cry in outrage when dictators imprison reporters overseas. What have we become: Cuba, Iran, Libya, or Stalinist Russia, that we would allow such police-state tactics to muzzle the media?

Muzzling the media? Self-described media watchdog Howard Kurtz, free from the thin tissue of objectivity he employed while working for the Washington Post is pretty cool with that idea:

Kurtz quoted Breitbart telling The Daily Caller that the founder of Color of Change, former Obama aide Van Jones, is “a cop killer-supporting, racist, demagogic freak. And a commie. And an eco-fraudster.” Then in response to this quote, Kurtz concluded:

The Huffington Post said that Breitbart’s remarks violate the tenants of debate and civil discourse. You think? I’m all for people speaking their mind, but if you want to hang out in nicer neighborhoods, you can’t shout quite as loud.”

In addition to the obvious disapproval of his statements to the Daily Caller, the reference to a “nicer neighborhood” does seem to carry with it an implication that the conservative websites Breitbart runs– where he normally resides– aren’t as sophisticated as the left-leaning Huffington Post. A somewhat weird and possibly unintentional slam by Kurtz? Speaking to Mediaite today, Breitbart seems to find more disappointing that Kurtz “creates the false impression” that Breitbart’s comment was made in response to being called a liar by Jones. Instead, Breitbart argues his thoughts on Jones were only a result of Color of Change launching a “relentless, Soros-funded, now AOL-propagated campaign to systematically kick me off of mainstream media outlets.”

Breitbart tells Mediaite:

“Howard Kurtz cannot lecture people every weekend on the ethics of journalism and then fail to call me for a quote and selectively edit out the context of how Color of Change tried to silence me and get me kicked off of Huffington Post. He is tacitly endorsing an anti-free speech campaign to silence me by selectively editing out why I made my truthful criticism of Van Jones.”

The successful campaign to have him removed from the prominent position on The Huffington Post left Breitbart to conclude that “AOL is now a battlefront in the progressive war to silence conservatives, Tea Party, and mainstream media critics.” While Kurtz only addressed the relative civility of Breitbart’s comments, others pointed out to Kurtz via Twitter other questionable language, such as Aaron Sorkin calling Sarah Palin “deranged” and a “witless bully,” comments that did not get the boot from Huffington Post. So whether Kurtz likes it or not, he has entered a tough neighborhood called opinion journalism and he is probably not going to able to leave without taking a few punches.

Journalism’s tough neighborhood isn’t being helped by Media Matters’ playground bully-style rhetoric:

Media Matters, Brock said, is assembling opposition research files not only on Fox’s top executives but on a series of midlevel officials. It has hired an activist who has led a successful campaign to press advertisers to avoid Glenn Beck’s show. The group is assembling a legal team to help people who have clashed with Fox to file lawsuits for defamation, invasion of privacy or other causes. And it has hired two experienced reporters, Joe Strupp and Alexander Zaitchik, to dig into Fox’s operation to help assemble a book on the network, due out in 2012 from Vintage/Anchor.

And note this item:

The leaks are part of a broader project to take advantage of internal dissent, Media Matters Executive Vice President Ari Rabin-Havt said.

“We made a list of every single person who works for Fox and tried to figure out who might be disgruntled and why, and we went out to try to meet them,” he said. “Clearly, somebody in that organization is giving us primary source documents.”

Media Matters, he said, is also conducting “opposition research” on a dozen or so “mid- and senior-level execs and producers,” a campaign style move that he and Brock said would simply involve recording their public appearances and digging into public records associated with them.

These quotes sound like a cross between James Gregory in the Manchurian Candidate and Humphrey Bogart in the Caine Mutiny — you can almost hear the latter’s worry balls clanging in between the former’s Freudian boasts of the sizes of his lists. And both the Media Matters and the HuffPo are textbook examples of the pathologies that Jesse Walker brilliantly described in Reason back in the fall of 2009 on “The Paranoid Style in Center-Left Politics.”

Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard brings Walker’s thesis up to date, with a look at the left’s attempts to demonize the libertarian Koch Brothers:

By the time the Tea Party was getting started in 2009, the left-wing counter-counter-establishment was a juggernaut, investing vast energy in destroying the reputations of its favorite targets: Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh. Inside this Death Star were legions of twenty-something writers, most of them fresh out of college, tapping furiously at their keyboards, discoursing on the subtleties of macroeconomics and the depravity of American conservatives. An hour or so spent on Google was research enough to write a blog post that would be read by producers for Keith Olbermann and editors at the New York Times. Seemingly random accumulations of fact would be presented breathlessly in purple prose: Look at what the bastards are doing now! In a matter of hours attacks that originated in the bowels of the Center for American Progress Action Fund would traverse heaven’s ladder and reach White House speechwriters.

What happened to the Kochs was a classic example. A young researcher at the Center for American Progress noticed that some Tea Party rallies had been organized by Americans for Prosperity. On April 9, 2009, he wrote up his discovery and posted it on a Center for American Progress Action Fund blog under the headline “Spontaneous Uprising? Corporate Lobbyists Helping to Orchestrate Radical Anti-Obama Tea Party Protests.” Here was the definitive proof, he wrote, that the yokels in tricornes were only pawns of moneyed interests. A little googling revealed that Charles and David Koch had been active in politics for decades, that they’d given money to all sorts of conservative causes, that they operated—this was almost too good to be true—an energy company that had had run-ins with the EPA. Sound the alarm! Rachel Maddow is on line one!

Other sharks caught whiff of the chum. In March 2010 the environmentalists at Greenpeace released a report titled “Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine.” Its authors contained their fury long enough to conclude, “Koch Industries has become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition.” In the liberal mind, Koch had displaced ExxonMobil on the Top Ten Enemies of Gaia list.

While all of these leftwing shenanigans by design, sounds chilling, they hide a pretty fair amount of fear as well. As Jay Cost writes at the Weekly Standard, President Obama shouldn’t expect the same cruise to victory he received in 2008:

Liberals of an eschatological bent have long interpreted Obama’s victory in 2008 as the sign that the emerging Democratic majority – one based on African Americans and Hispanics, young people, urban professionals, etc. – had finally emerged. No doubt that Obama brought new voters out and pulled in a larger than normal share of each group, but that was only a part of the story. In fact, voters who backed George W. Bush in 2004 but then bolted to Obama in 2008 can account for the latter’s entire margin of victory in the national popular vote. Additionally, according to the exit polls, the big break for Obama came in September and October of 2008 – after Lehman Brothers fell and Congress passed the TARP. That doesn’t really square with the notion that he won because a new Democratic majority had finally emerged out of long-term demographic trends.Putting these figures together, Obama’s victory depended heavily on voters like my in-laws. My father-in-law is a retired steelworker and lifelong (soft) Republican; my mother-in-law is a teacher’s assistant and lifelong (soft) Democrat. They were both partial to Hillary Clinton, and were very uncertain of Obama, right up to Election Day. Even so, they voted for him because, as they told my wife, “It’s time for a change.” This succinct statement summed up the feelings of millions of swing voters: the political process in Washington was broken, this breakdown was hurting the state of the union, and even though Obama was a relative unknown, at least he was offering a new, fresh approach.

But the budget deficit makes the promise of the 2008 campaign seem like a cruel joke. Not only has Obama not changed the bad habits of Washington, he has sat idly by while the Congress continued pursuing the same, wildly short-sighted policies, even after it became clear that they would lead to an unprecedented fiscal hole.

Where, then, does all of this leave us? I’ll make the following prediction. If there is nothing that President Obama and his team can do to resolve the budget deficit problem between now and next November, and if it does indeed figure largely in the campaign, we should expect a highly negative reelection campaign from the president. Perhaps it will not be on the order of LBJ in 1964, but it probably will be more negative than what Bill Clinton put forth in 1996 or George W. Bush offered in 2004. Republican efforts to rein in the budget deficit will be cast again and again as the party’s perfidious attempt to realize its 80-year dream of destroying the social safety net.

Now, if only the GOP can find a resolute but happy warrior to counteract that highly negative reelection campaign, rather than a Dole/McCain retread who’s going to phone in his campaign for a year before the inevitable congratulation call to the other side at midnight on the first Wednesday in November next year.

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