Search Results

TRUMP: SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS IS STEPPING DOWN AS PRESS SECRETARY AT THE END OF THE MONTH.

Running for governor isn’t just something Trump stuck in his tweets to be nice. According to Kaitlin Collins, Huckabee Sanders has been talking up the idea herself. Which makes sense. Between her father having served as governor for years and her own service as the face of Trump’s White House, she must have close to universal name recognition in Arkansas. How many local pols can say the same?

All she needs is for Trump to win reelection in 2020. The governor’s seat will be occupied until 2022 by Asa Hutchinson, who’s term-limited. If Trump wins a second term, she’s formidable and maybe the favorite. If Trump gets beat, eh. Maybe she’ll look like damaged goods as the GOP’s Trump personality cult transforms into something else.

Unlike George W. Bush’s press secretaries (much to his administration’s great regret, in hindsight), Huckabee was the first spokesperson for a Republican administration since the days of Spiro Agnew who actually called out the DNC-MSM media complex’s partisan biases. Or as Steve Hayward writes at Power Line, “She always treated the press with the mien of a kindergarten teacher angry and disappointed with a bunch of unruly toddlers. But the daily press briefing has outlived its usefulness. It is now mostly a forum for TV personalities like Jim Acosta to preen and prance.”

Speaking of which: ‘What bias tho?’ Andrew McCabe’s negative comment about Sarah Sanders cracks up MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace.

HUH? Schiff Says GOP has ‘Turned Itself Into a Cult’ of Trump’s Personality.

BETO-MANIA AND OUR CULT OF PERSONALITY POLITICS:

Everything about his candidacy feels like a triumph of nostalgia-peddling. The constant refrain that he’s this generation’s Robert F. Kennedy is an interesting play on the time-tested effort by Democratic candidates to claim the Kennedy mantle, though usually it’s John F. Kennedy, not RFK. Then again, it makes sense given that RFK moved left of JFK — and so has the Democratic party.

There’s also a shared authentic inauthenticity to O’Rourke. Joe Kennedy groomed his boys for the presidency from an early age. O’Rourke’s dad assigned his son the nickname Beto almost from birth, because he thought it would help win votes in El Paso.

Like a 1960s Kennedy, O’Rourke is an old person’s idea of what a young person is supposed to be like, albeit with a Gen X spin: skateboarding, membership in a punk band, etc. Sure, O’Rourke was born the same year that Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders first ran for the Senate, as a Democrat and social democrat, respectively. (Biden won.) But that only makes him young compared with those guys.

Then there’s the déjà vu. O’Rourke’s candidacy feels like a rerun, and not merely because the media covered his recently concluded Senate race against Ted Cruz as if it were a presidential contest. (A race, it’s worth nothing, that O’Rourke lost despite having raised more money than any Senate candidate ever, and despite the fact that his opponent was wildly unpopular.)

And speaking of déjà vu, as Scott Whitlock writes at NewsBusters, Time Cheers ‘Phenom’ Ocasio-Cortez: ‘Best Storyteller in the Party.’

Their encomium is merely their way of saying thanks, given that AOC’s party piece is a retread of a pair of decade-old Time magazine reruns, which itself are built upon decades of FDR nostalgia.

JIM TREACHER: I’m About Ready to Buy a MAGA Hat Just to Spite These Child-Hating A-Holes.

Remember when wearing a MAGA hat meant you were certain to lose an election to Hillary Clinton? Remember the days before a red baseball cap became a symbol of all evil in the universe?

I’ve been typing words on the Internet to pay the bills for, I dunno, 12-13 years now. I spent eight of those years disapproving of a cult of personality centered in the Oval Office, and I’ve spent the past few years disapproving of the subsequent cult of personality centered in the Oval Office. I don’t like tribal groupthink, and I’m as immune to Trump’s charisma as I was to Obama’s, so in 2019 that means I have even fewer friends and admirers than usual.

But as we head into week 2 of the MAGA Kid Saga, I’m finding common cause with my Trumpkin brothers and sisters. Whatever our differences, I’ve always agreed with them that the media is astonishingly biased and corrupt. The abject shamelessness of our moral, ethical, and intellectual betters, the self-appointed gatekeepers of the truth, has never been more apparent than it’s been over the past week.

If you attend a march in Washington, D.C. while wearing a cheap red hat that can be purchased at any gift shop or souvenir stand in the city, there’s every chance you’ll be branded a racist for maintaining your composure while complete strangers scream at you and pound drums in your face. And even when irrefutable video evidence proves you’ve done nothing wrong, a pack of bigots with press passes will still blame you for angering them. . . . See, this is balanced journalism. Yesterday, Savannah Guthrie asked the kid who didn’t do anything — he stood stock-still and did nothing — if he thought he should apologize. Today, she asked the fraud who lied to her whether the kid who didn’t do anything should apologize. Gotta get both sides! (And I just love being lectured by Guthrie, the woman who stood by and did nothing while her co-host raped half the building.)

You know, the Kavanaugh smears charged up the GOP base, and these smears seem to be taking things to another level. I wonder how much Roger Stone paid Nathan Phillips?

CONCENTRATE AND ASK AGAIN: Are Democrats Set To Win 2020, Or Are They Facing A McGovern-Style Blowout?

Late last year, at a New York City economic-policy conference, I ran into a friend who held a senior Clinton White House position. He was certain that Trump — whom he dislikes — would be easily reelected. I disagreed: with low approval ratings and a quarrelsome, unpredictable personality, Trump was undermining his 2020 chances and making it difficult to repeat his electoral romp through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. He was alienating, not attracting, independent voters.

My friend countered that Trump’s base remained solid, and his fellow Democrats would probably do something foolish, like nominate an extreme progressive. In 2020, he expected another 1972 McGovern-style blowout.

He might be right — but I’m not sure. The Democrats seem much smarter than that. Potentially.

2016 was decided by late-breaking Obama-to-Trump voters in the Rust Belt. If Trump can continue to deliver on jobs and wages, it might not matter how smartened up the Democrats get — assuming they don’t stay dumb and keep giving full rein to the crazies.

JOEL KOTKIN: Trump Is Not Crazy: The Middle Kingdom And The U.S. Economy.

In the poker match between President Donald Trump and China’s new all-but-emperor, Xi Jinping, it’s widely assumed that Xi holds the best hand. Yet President Xi’s hand may not be as awesome as it appears, while the United States, even under this very flawed president, may hold some fine cards.

Of course, Xi wields power in a way that Trump could only dream about. He has close to total control over the media, academia and the business community. In a way not seen in my over three decades of travel to China, Xi has fostered a cult of personality that looms over that vast country, and even has developed a strong cheering section among western business and intellectual leaders.

Yet Xi’s position is not as strong as it seems. His country, which has enjoyed one of the greatest booms in human history, is clearly losing its economic momentum. Its once all-powerful industrial sector has begun to wobble and now Trump’s tariffs, coupled with competition from other countries, threatens the principal driver of China’s economic ascendency.

This decline could exacerbate what is a growing class chasm in the country. A large portion of China’s population remains very poor, and the prospects for moving up even for the educated middle class have diminished. China now suffers a surplus of college-educated people for whom the economy has little place, a potential threat to the Mandarin elite that runs the country.

More serious still is unrest among China’s lower classes, particularly the over 200 million migrant laborers who drove much of the country’s remarkable growth. There have been mounting protests from this constituency, some supported by new Marxist clubs on university campuses. Detestation for the crony regime — 90 percent of China’s millionaires, notes Australian political scientist David Goodman, are the offspring of high-ranking officials — is already widespread .This is forcing Xi to focus more on economic inequality when he might rather be conquering the planet.

Dissatisfaction with corrupt, nest-feathering elites seems to be a global phenomenon.

CULT OF PERSONALITY: Harvard Poll: Obama more influential with Democrats than Trump with GOP.

LIFE AMONG THE RADICALS:

Radical communities select for particular personality types… They attract hurt people, looking for an explanation for the pain they’ve endured… However, radical communities also attract people looking for an excuse to be violent illegalists. And the surplus of vulnerable people attracts sadists and abusers ready to exploit them. The only gate-keeping that goes on in radical communities is that of language and passion—if you can rail against capitalism in woke language, you’re in…

Abusers thrive in radical communities because radical norms are fragile and exploitable. A culture of freewheeling drug and alcohol use creates situations predators are waiting to exploit. A cultural fetishization of violence provides cover for violent and unstable people. The practice of public “call-outs” is used for power-plays far more often than for constructive feedback… Having somebody yell at me that if I didn’t admit to being a white supremacist her friends might beat me up, and that I should pay her for her emotional labour, was too much for my ideology to spin.

As Norman Podhoretz once wrote about his time as a nascent anti-Vietnam War radical,  “Do you realize that every young person in this room is a tragedy to some family or other?”

#METOO AND THE DEATH OF AMERICAN MANNERS:

The #MeTooer of the moment is Rebecca Traister, a writer who relishes the broadside insult. In a recent New York Times interview, she was quoted on the beneficial effects of white-hot anger: ‘In early 2017,’ outraged by the defeat of Hillary Clinton, ‘I was walking with my husband, and I felt like my brain was going to boil. I was telling him how hard it was for me to think because I was so angry. He said to me, “Well, maybe that’s your book: anger.” I was like: “Of course, that’s my book.”’ The resulting volume is titled Good and Mad.

I also feel incoherently mad sometimes, but mostly I manage to keep it under wraps. One of those recent occasions was in a crowded elevator headed to a party on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where normally I could expect to meet lots of likeminded liberals. During the ride up, a left-wing editor with whom I’ve had friendly relations for years practically shouted at me: ‘Well, you’ve been in trouble lately. How’s it feel?’ She was obviously referring to the piece by the banished male malefactor, and I was frankly shocked at the aggressive tone and at her asking the question in front of strangers on the way to a social event. Suppressing the urge to rebuke her for rudeness, I used what’s become my stock response: I had published far more controversial pieces that provoked much more dangerous reactions, so the #MeToo Twitter storm wasn’t much to fear. Unsatisfied with my response, she shifted her attention to my wife: ‘How do you feel about the piece, as a woman?’ It was a rude question, given my female editor and I had published the piece, not my wife.

Once at the party, I thought I was safe. Almost immediately, however, I was introduced to another defenestrated ‘male aggressor’, a radio personality whose show I very much missed. Assuming he was an ally, I told him that I’d published the controversial piece by his former radio colleague, who happens to be paralysed and confined to a wheelchair. Rudely, he dismissed my writer’s case. ‘I didn’t do anything,’ he confided. ‘He [my writer] actually was culpable — he did some bad things.’ No solidarity among liberal victims, handicapped or not, but plenty of nastiness and no politesse.

As Glenn noted last year, “Bourgeois culture is bad because it limits the flexibility of the elites. When the middle class was ascendant, it had the power to force bourgeois norms on elites, and even many of the poor. This led to social goods that people miss now, but it was also experienced as confining by those so constrained.”

IT’S NOT ALWAYS GOOD TO BE THE KING: China’s new woes unravel Xi’s personality cult.

Extraordinary veneration of Xi and promotion of his glorification led David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong, who translated part of the article, to call it “China’s new science of sycophantology.”

Apparently, all praise of Xi now turns out to be not only sycophantic, but also false or even counterproductive.

Beijing is thus faced with a big dilemma. If the trade war escalates, then it will certainly greatly damage China’s economy and Xi’s ambition. The fundamental factor behind the country’s emergence as a major power is its impressive economic growth over the past four decades.

Such an economic performance is also the ultimate reason behind Xi’s overt ambition of transforming it into a global power and leader. His failure to maintain high economic growth and to achieve the “Chinese dream” that he has ardently championed will make many within the Party and wider society question his unalloyed power and indefinite rule.

If he blinks first and makes concessions, his country will also suffer, though perhaps less severely. But the greater damage will likely come to his reputation, as any concession to Trump could make the Chinese perceive their supreme leader is weak and outplayed.

A problem with one-man rule is that there’s only one man to the blame, and no easy or nice way to get rid of him.

THE PHILISTINE DESTRUCTION OF JOHNNY DEPPRolling Stone’s hatchet job shows little understanding of what makes a great artist:

The ‘reputation takedown’ has become the default of lazy journalists and Gawker-esque, click-driven media. The fact is, there is not an artist worth his or her salt who could not be damaged by revelations about their transgressive personality and their addictions. There is something medieval about the way our society seems to take pride in destroying the achievements of era-defining geniuses, especially when it comes cloaked in judgemental gossip and public shaming.

Bill Hicks once said that anyone who has a problem with drug-taking should collect all their favourite records and burn them, as great rock ’n’ roll is the product of dangerous lifestyles. Something similar can be said of an actor like Depp. His edgy sensitiveness, his weirdo, dreamlike on-screen creations come at a cost, and that cost is a manic and unstable personality. To moralise about his failings is to show a complete ignorance of the psychological trapeze act that great artists need to perform.

Underneath the piety and condemnation of Depp is a deep, self-congratulating philistinism. How we treat our artists is a sign of our values as a culture. Given all the superciliousness contained in Depp’s Rolling Stone interview, it appears that we value virtuous posturing over the flamboyant, risk-taking genius that is necessary for great art.

It’s particularly rich considering the err…unruly life that Rolling Stone’s founder has led.

KYLE SMITH ON THE CULT OF ANTHONY BOURDAIN:

Bourdain was a wickedly funny writer well-served by his Hunter S. Thompson–like flair for hyperbole and gratuitous venom: “Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn,” he wrote, calling them “the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for.” I salute him for exhorting his followers to go forth and revel in the delicious (except beer or wine, I suppose, which are just for getting buzzed). But for all of his Thompson-like stylings, he was more like the Anna Wintour of food. If he told everyone to wear cerulean, they’d wear cerulean. It was his personality that made his judgments stick, not the other way around. The judgments were beside the point; if he’d told people organ meat was vile and veganism was edgy, they would have happily switched sides and chided the tasteless losers who disagreed. Hey, he’s got arm tattoos, he must be right!

Read the whole thing.

Related: Jim Geraghty asks, “In hindsight, should we have been worried that Anthony Bourdain got falling-down drunk on camera multiple times?”

CHANGE: New Saudi TV station feeds into modernisation drive.

“This is a general channel that’s seeking to attract the new generation of Saudis,” said the station’s director Dawood Shirian, a frank-talking TV personality who previously hosted a talk show tapping into the public’s gripes.

“Most of the content, about 75 percent, is geared toward the youth between 15 and 35 years old,” Shirian told AFP, adding that SBC would “complement the changes seen in the kingdom in the artistic, cultural and entertainment spheres”.

Shirian was poached late last year from private rival MBC to head up the state-run Saudi Broadcasting Corporation, and to mastermind the launch of SBC.

The move was seen as a deliberate shock for the state broadcaster — one in a series of radical changes guided by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

The 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne, who declared to foreign investors in Riyadh last October that his generation of Saudis “want to live a normal life”, is seen as the guiding hand behind the lifting of longstanding social restrictions.

The real test will come when producers at SBC take a pitch for a Saudi reboot of Xena: Warrior Princess.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC: We’re People In Severe Pain. “The prescribing of opioids has dropped every year since 2012 and is at 10 year low — and yet drug overdose deaths have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, our public policy looks backward in time, intruding on the doctor patient relationship and burdening patient care. . . . Long-term, legitimate pain patients who have relied on opioid analgesics can no longer fill their prescriptions in the many states that set maximum dosage and supply limits, often of three to seven days. Even in states that contain exceptions for long-term pain care, insurance companies and pharmacy policies use such laws as a reason to deny coverage or fills. Pain patients are being denied treatment and involuntarily tapered off of opioid medications, even if they’ve never shown any risks of abuse.”

Flashback: Opiophobia.

Clinicians and researchers have long remarked on the link between opiophobia and undertreatment of pain. In a 1966 pharmacology textbook, the psychiatrist Jerome H. Jaffe, who later became Richard Nixon’s drug czar, noted that patients who take narcotics long enough develop tolerance (a need for larger doses to achieve the same effect) and physical dependence (resulting in withdrawal symptoms). But he cautioned that “such considerations should not in any way prevent the physician from fulfilling his primary obligation to ease the patient’s discomfort. The physician should not wait until the pain becomes agonizing; no patient should ever wish for death because of his physician’s reluctance to use adequate amounts of potent narcotics.”

Jaffe’s admonition suggests that undertreatment of pain was common, an impression confirmed in the early 1970s by two psychiatrists at Montefiore Hospital and Medical Center in New York. Assigned to handle “difficult” patients, Richard M. Marks and Edward J. Sachar discovered a very good reason why so many continued to complain even after being treated with narcotics: They were still in pain. “To our surprise,” they wrote in the February 1973 Annals of Internal Medicine, “instead of the primary issue being personality problems in the patient, in virtually every case it was found that the patient was not being adequately treated with analgesics and, further, the house staff for various reasons was hesitant to prescribe more.”

We need sensible prescribing, not over- and under-treatment fads.

I THINK HE SHOULD GET THE NEXT OPEN SUPREME COURT SEAT: Don Willett’s Lone Star Legal Show: The Texas Supreme Court justice is witty and approachable, and he’s huge on Twitter. He’s also one of the most influential conservative jurists in the country right now.

In the past few decades, the number of American jobs requiring a state license has exploded. Roughly one out of every four workers must seek a license to work. Now some institutions are starting to push back. Perhaps the most prominent — or at least most fervent — of these is the Texas Supreme Court. In 2015, the court struck down the state’s licensing requirement for eyebrow threaders (cosmetologists who remove unwanted facial hair using a thread), finding it unreasonable.

One of the justices, Don Willett, who has served on the court since 2005, went much further. The state’s regulatory requirements were not just extreme, he concluded, but “preposterous.” To pursue the low-paying job, prospective eyebrow threaders had to pay thousands of dollars in fees and were required to complete more than five times as many hours of initial training as emergency medical technicians. “If these rules are not arbitrary,” Willett wrote in a concurring opinion, “then the definition of ‘arbitrary’ is itself arbitrary.”

Willett’s concurrence in the case, Patel v. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, has been hailed as one of the most important conservative opinions of recent years. It was expansive enough to trigger talk about reviving a judicial approach to regulation that has lain dormant for decades. It’s one of the main reasons Willett’s name appeared on President Trump’s short list for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Willett is pretty blunt about his overall intent. He’s a champion of individual rights, claiming a central role for the judiciary in protecting those rights against state encroachment. “Liberty is not provided by government,” he wrote in Patel. “Liberty pre-exists government.” In that context, Willett wasn’t talking about speech or privacy rights. He was referring to economic liberty: the right to earn a living by unfettered free choice in a capitalist economy.

For someone in the important but relatively obscure position of state supreme court justice, the 51-year-old Willett has engendered an unlikely cult of personality. He’s hailed by conservative columnists and think tanks and has been profiled in The Wall Street Journal as one of the right’s leading legal thinkers. It’s hard to find anyone, even among his liberal critics, who won’t acknowledge Willett’s combination of legal acumen and down-home style.

Read the whole thing.

MICHAEL WALSH ON THE PRIEBUS/KELLY CHANGE:

Priebus was a bad choice for chief of staff (new presidents often screw this one up the first time), named solely for political reasons in order to placate the hostile GOPe wing of the party, led by Ryan and McConnell, and temperamentally unsuited to the demands of the job, especially give the president’s volatile and mercurial nature. Priebus’s portfolio had shrunk to the size of a cocktail nut, he couldn’t protect his own people (such as Sean Spicer) and he was hopelessly outclassed in the White House game of thrones.

His replacement, Gen. John Kelly, is a far stronger figure. Moving from Homeland Security to the West Wing, he will find the cast of characters no less difficult than the Muslim terrorists and Mexican drug gangs he was battling at DHS, and needs to bring order and discipline to the fractious courtiers. Most expect the next personality clash to come between Kelly and presidential adviser Steve Bannon, but that’s unlikely. Both are military men who understand not only the chain of command but the judicious use of force, emphatically applied when necessary; they ought to get along very well. Plus Kelly has the president’s trust and respect.

The big loser in all this, besides Priebus and the RNC, is speaker Paul Ryan, a fellow Wisconsinite and, despite outward appearances, Trump’s principal antagonist in Washington. Given the well-deserved failure of his superfluous “A Better Way” exercise in Big Government, Ryan should already be toast, and restive real conservatives in the House ought now to be plotting ways to oust him. Trump’s very public execution of Priebus ought to remind Ryan that uneasy lies the head…

Stay tuned.

BACKLASH: RIGHT WING TWITTER BEGINS DIGGING FOR DIRT ON CNN EMPLOYEES. “This is not the world I want to live in,” one of Ace of Spades’ co-bloggers writes, and I concur. “When I first saw that they’d embarrassed this guy, I laughed. I thought he was an on-air personality and at least a minor political player. After I realized he was just an editor, I cringed a little. I can’t bring myself to endorse it, but neither can I condemn it. This is what they’ve done to time and time again us and they won’t stop. What alternative is there?… This is only the beginning of an ever-growing pushback, one that’s only going to get nastier and more ugly. And everything that happens is on them. This is the rotten, worm infested harvest they have sown and they’re going to be choking on it for some time to come.”

As Ace himself warned the media last November, a week after Trump won, this backlash was coming. “You dominate this culture. You made the rules. You now get to live in the savage world you made brick-by-brick, media…The media loves to ride the tiger of Mob Hatred when that tiger is devouring a plebeian. Well, sometimes the tiger bucks, old chaps.”

Related: Regarding their actual news coverage, or the lack thereof, “Our Corrupt Media Is Now Haunted By All The Precedents They Set While Colluding With Obama.”

YES: You Want Checks And Balances? Stop Ignoring The Constitution When You’re In Power: The Democrats’ newfound adoration of separation of power isn’t credible. And that helps Trump.

Fact is, we’ve had (at least) two norm-busting presidents with authoritarian impulses in a row. Both believe in ruling with a pen and a personality, disregarding process whenever it suits their political purposes. One was a thoughtful-sounding, charismatic force, and a talented fibber; a virtuoso at erecting strawmen and offering false choices. He pushed his party farther to the Left than it has ever been. The other is a clumsy and transparent fibber, an incompetent novice, pushing his party into whatever ideologically untethered position is catching his fancy at the moment. Only one of these men, however, was given a free pass by most people in the institutional media because his progressive ideological outlook pleases their sensibilities.

You don’t trust Donald Trump to name an FBI director, even though it’s within his purview to do so? Well, I don’t trust Barack Obama to enter into faux treaties with a bunch of nations without Senate approval or to unilaterally legalize millions of people without Congress. I understand that you find those unilateral decisions morally comforting, but if process and norms matter they should always matter. (An example of the opposite would be an ACLU lawyer who argues that Trump’s immigration order might have been constitutional had Hillary signed it. This undermines trust.)

While there is plenty of hypocrisy to go around, Democrats’ newfound adoration of checks and balances simply isn’t credible. And once that trust has been eroded, it’s difficult to regain it. Most Americans aren’t impressed by procedure. So why would they surrender power when they’re certain you will abuse it again four years from now?

Yes, I have zero trust in — or respect for — all the people suddenly concerned about nonpartisan bureaucracies and the rule of law after eight years of Obama getting a pass. To hell with you people, to coin a phrase.

ED MORRISSEY: Senate Dems “paralyzed” over Gorsuch confirmation.

The problem for Democrats is as obvious as Gorsuch’s qualifications, and it’s that Gorsuch’s qualifications are so obvious. That hasn’t stopped Democrats from hammering Republican nominees to the Supreme Court in the past, such as John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Robert Bork. Gorsuch’s record gives them no real hook for those kinds of attacks on substance, and his personality makes it difficult to find a way to attack him personally, too. The charm offensive on Capitol Hill has been a rousing success.

So far, the only opening Democrats have is the Chevron doctrine, which Gorsuch has questioned. In Chevron, the Supreme Court held that where the law has ambiguities, deference has to be granted to federal agencies for interpretation. If Chevron got reversed by a later court more interested in forcing textual application of the law and forcing Congress to address ambiguities, it would cut sharply into the authority of these agencies, on which progressives rely for activist governance. (The irony of this, as Steven Hayward pointed out at Power Line, is that the environmentalists lost in the Chevron decision.)

Democrats are expected to hit Gorsuch on Chevron and on the application of stare decisis, as well as the usual issues of abortion and euthanasia, because … that’s all they’ve managed to dig up in six weeks — at least publicly. That esoteric issue won’t keep Americans glued to their TV screens during the confirmation hearings. If that’s all they’ve got, small wonder they’re “paralyzed.”

Senate Democrats have another problem. They had the Republicans over a barrel, or so they thought, when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill Antonin Scalia’s vacancy. Republicans could either confirm a sort-of right-leaning judge who was squishy on the Second Amendment, or risk dealing with the next Wise Minority Statist that President Hillary Clinton would surely nominate.

Instead, the GOP accepted the risk and stood firm — and now the Democrats are the ones over a barrel. Their choices boil down to two extremes. They can step aside and allow the “Scalia seat” to be filled by a justice who is about as conservative as Scalia was. Or they can stonewall/Bork Gorsuch, and risk the Republicans employing the Reid Option. The Democrats would lose their filibuster for the entire four-to-eight years of President Trump, during which they could probably expect the vacancies of one or two liberal SCOTUS judges.

In their situation, you might feel paralyzed, too.

LATE-NIGHT LEGEND DAVID LETTERMAN’S UGLY PERSONALITY NO LAUGHING MATTER, FORMER COLLEAGUES SAY:

The tale of Tim Long, one of several head writers hired during the show’s run, was typical. Unable to deal with the host’s constant rejections and dark moods, Long took to chewing Coke cans — and swallowing pieces of tin.

* * * * * * * *

Comic Rich Hall, a writer for Letterman’s NBC show, was floored by the host’s new, abrasive nature when he appeared as a guest. Hall followed actress Andie MacDowell, who had just flopped in her segment. Before the cameras came on, Letterman leaned over and snarled, “How’d you like to be married to that c—?”

* * * * * * * *

The feeling of foreboding was exacerbated by the 1980 cancellation of his NBC morning show, “The David Letterman Show,” within months of its debut.

His girlfriend at the time and for years to come, Merrill Markoe, was a brilliantly inventive comedy writer and instrumental in shaping the show…[Markoe] told the author about the resulting fallout.

“If it weren’t for you and your crazy ideas,” Letterman shouted at her on the street, “I’d still have a talk show like John Davidson!”

It’s a comment funny only in retrospect.

“A veteran staffer who served under Letterman through both his late-night shows” quoted in the article “observed that getting close to the boss was perilous: ‘There comes a moment when he turns on you.’”

Shades of Letterman’s idol turned boss Johnny Carson, who, by the end of the 1980s had dispatched both Joan Rivers and longtime business advisor Henry Bushkin to the Los Angeles-equivalent of Siberia, and whose inner-circle at the time of his retirement, at least as depicted by biographer Laurence Leamer was down to his wife Alexis and Ed McMahon. Both Leamer and later Bushkin describe Carson as a miserable man when the cameras weren’t rolling. As Rob Long, who knows a thing or two about television, wrote in his 2014 review of Bushkin’s book:

We’re all primed to hear stories of movie stars and celebrities and their creepy emotional problems. But for actors—who, after all, appear only on screen, in character, or in a few carefully stage-managed publicity appearances—it’s easy to cover up the seams of a psychotic or broken-down personality.

But Johnny appeared on television every weeknight. He was playing himself—or, rather, an idealized version of himself: jovial, chummy, witty, warm. The strain of that kind of acting must have been monumental. It’s no wonder that real movie stars—Jimmy Stewart, Michael Caine, a whole bushel of A-listers—respected him so much. In one of the best stories in a book filled with great stories, when Johnny arrives late to a very exclusive industry event filled with movie stars, he lights up the room. He wasn’t just the king of late night television. He was the king of managing not to appear like the rat bastard he clearly was.

Of course, in the ‘60s, every guy in America wanted to be as cool, handsome, and outwardly charming as Carson. (My businessman dad, who never missed at least the first half-hour of every episode of the Tonight Show during its entire run also owned a couple of Carson-branded sportcoats in the early 1970s, as I recall.) I doubt few guys watching Letterman, even during Late Night’s mid-‘80s peak, wanted to be Letterman, with his famously prickly on-air persona and all of its weird tics. But the brand of irony that Letterman’s show launched is absolutely omnipresent in American culture. Or as Markoe warned Salon in a 2015 interview:

More broadly: Does the knowing, ironic style you and the others traded in in the ‘80s seem to have filtered more deeply into comedy in specific and American culture in general? Do you see or hear echoes of it now as you go through your day?

Yes. It’s frequently the language of advertising and corporate P.R. now. It is the voice of what [musician Andy Prieboy of the rock group Wall of Voodoo, her longtime companion] calls “Your buddy the corporation.” Everyone’s hip. Everyone’s ironic. Everyone who is selling you something wants you to know they have the same limitations and daily strife that you do. You definitely should be wary when you hear this voice now. It’s not to be trusted. Unless you’re in the market for an aluminum cookware set or an Apple watch.

And politics as well – to those of us who didn’t drink the Second Coming Kool-Aid in 2008, Obama’s eight years frequently seemed like a postmodern Letterman or Saturday Night Live sketch come to life, from his Ten Commands-like shtick while receiving the Democratic nomination to his interviews with YouTube “stars” who bathe in milk and Cheerios to his vicious “The 1980s are now calling” Letterman-esque putdown of Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential debate, when Romney warned of the geopolitical dangers of Russia. And Obama flashed more than a hint of Jerry Seinfeld’s “it’s a show about nothing” detached wry bemusement throughout it all. (Perhaps the apocalyptic doomsday-fury of the hypersensitive SJW screaming campus garbagebabies* is in part explained as a reaction to a generation of detached leftwing irony — or nihilism with a happy face, to paraphrase Allan Bloom.)

And yet, between the earlier, funnier SNL of the 1970s, the 1980s-era Letterman, and Jerry Seinfeld in the ’90s having set the tone of the American overculture, the left seemed astonished that another veteran of NBC television could have bested the plonking Hillary Clinton. Funny, that.

* A registered trademark of Iowahawk industries.

NOAH ROTHMAN: The contrived campaign to make Chelsea Clinton a thing.

You might be surprised to learn that Clinton “takes down Trump” on Twitter on a regular basis, as Mashable helpfully informed its readership. In fact, Clinton is occupying a role that cannot be performed by either Hillary Clinton or even Michelle Obama: “a woman who doesn’t hold office but possesses both political power and the ability to speak forcefully about threats to American democracy.” The “political power” Clinton enjoys seems to have been conferred upon her exclusively by the reporters glowingly praising her snarky tweets.

Those tweets, by the way, are written entirely in her own voice. At least, that is the revelation provided to CNN by Clinton’s spokesperson. And it’s a “distinctive, sometimes sassy, voice America hasn’t heard before.”

Politico agreed. Chelsea Clinton’s tweets reveal “a spicy, sarcastic online personality” that contrasts mightily with “the uber-careful, wonky-like-her-mother” personality she cultivated on the 2016 campaign trail. Politico noted that Clinton has not “ruled out” a political career for herself, which is hardly a shock. Surely this barely concealed hagiographical coverage of what are a string of anodyne tweets softens up the beachhead.

If she runs, it won’t be Clinton’s connected handlers and the stories they place in influential news outlets that provide the next generation of Clintons with a national platform. It will be Clinton’s vaunted wit; the “spicy,” “sassy,” Casandra-like truth-teller the left needs so desperately in the age of Trump.

And it’s all about as genuine as her mother’s laugh.

DANIEL PAYNE: 16 Fake News Stories Reporters Have Run Since Trump Won.

We are in the midst of an epidemic of fake news. There is no better word to describe it than “epidemic,” insofar as it fits the epidemiological model from the Centers for Disease Control: this phenomenon occurs when “an agent and susceptible hosts are present in adequate numbers, and the agent can be effectively conveyed from a source to the susceptible hosts.”

The “agent” in this case is hysteria over Trump’s presidency, and the “susceptible hosts” are a slipshod, reckless, and breathtakingly gullible media class that spread the hysteria around like—well, like a virus.

It is difficult to adequately sum up the breadth of this epidemic, chiefly because it keeps growing: day after day, even hour after hour, the media continue to broadcast, spread, promulgate, publicize, and promote fake news on an industrial scale. It has become a regular part of our news cycle, not distinct from or extraneous to it but a part of it, embedded within the news apparatus as a spoke is embedded in a bicycle wheel.

Whenever you turn on a news station, visit a news website, or check in on a journalist or media personality on Twitter or Facebook, there is an excellent chance you will be exposed to fake news. It is rapidly becoming an accepted part of the way the American media are run.

Accepted by whom?

THE LEFT SPENT DECADES GIVING US A REALITY-TV CULTURE, AND NOW IT’S UNHAPPY WE ELECTED A REALITY-TV PRESIDENT: Donald Trump: The Showman President.

With the announcement of Trump’s triumphant (Trumphant?) Carrier deal, the word that occurs to me—not for the first time—is “showman.”

That’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, by the way. But it’s not something we’ve seen a lot of in recent years.

It’s not that previous presidents haven’t tried. Reagan was good at the speeches, as well as some sweeping gestures (“tear down this wall,” and the firing of the air controllers). Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and George Bush were abysmal; Clinton only so-so (playing the sax on TV comes to mind).

Obama tried and sometimes succeeded, particularly during his first campaign. Remember the Greek columns? . . .

But this is the water in which Trump swims. This is his most comfortable place to be: the showman, in the spotlight. He’s been doing it for his entire life.

That’s one of the reasons Trump preferred enormous rallies, and was relaxed when giving lengthy speeches without a teleprompter and ad-libbing extensively. He likes the spectacle of it all and realizes the important of the gesture and the symbol. And despite his more “presidential” demeanor since his election, I doubt this aspect of his personality will fade during his presidency; au contraire. And he understands the elements of surprise, of timing.

It does look that way.

NIALL FERGUSON: Donald Trump’s New World Order.

Donald Trump therefore enters the Oval Office with an underestimated advantage. Obama’s foreign policy has been a failure, most obviously in the Middle East, where the smoldering ruin that is Syria—not to mention Iraq and Libya—attests to the fundamental naivety of his approach, dating all the way back to the 2009 Cairo speech. The President came to believe he had an ingenious strategy to establish geopolitical balance between Sunni and Shi’a. But by treating America’s Arab friends with open disdain, while cutting a nuclear deal with Iran that has left Tehran free to wage proxy wars across the region, Obama has achieved not peace but a fractal geometry of conflict and a frightening, possibly nuclear, arms race. At the same time, he has allowed Russia to become a major player in the Middle East for the first time since Kissinger squeezed the Soviets out of Egypt in the 1972-79 period. The death toll in the Syrian war now approaches half a million; who knows how much higher it will rise between now and Inauguration Day?

Meanwhile, global terrorism has surged under Obama. Of the past 16 years, the worst year for terrorism was 2014, with 93 countries experiencing an attack and 32,765 people killed. 2015 was the second worst, with 29,376 deaths. Last year, four radical Islamic groups were responsible for 74 per cent of all deaths from terrorism: ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda. In this context, the President’s claims to be succeeding against what he euphemistically calls “violent extremism” are absurd. Much opprobrium has been heaped on Donald Trump in the course of the past year. But there was much that was true in his underreported August 15 foreign policy speech on the subject of Islamic extremism and the failure of the Obama Administration to defeat it.

The “Obama Doctrine” has failed in Europe, too, where English voters opted to leave the EU in defiance of the President’s threats, and where the German leadership he recently praised has delivered, first, an unnecessarily protracted financial crisis in the European periphery and, second, a disastrous influx to the core of migrants, some but not all of them refugees from a region that Europe had intervened in just enough to exacerbate its instability.

Take the time to read the whole thing.

Obama was elected in no small part because he was the “UnBush.” That and his near-personality cult with leftists around the world gave him something approaching carte blanche to pursue a naive (at best) and wildly destructive (almost everywhere) foreign policy. If he backs down from his silly campaign promises to shake down NATO, then as the UnObama, Trump may prove — even to his harshest critics in Europe and elsewhere — to be welcome and stabilizing change agent.

I DON’T THINK THAT “MAN CAVES” ARE A SIGN THAT MEN TOOK OVER AMERICA’S BASEMENTS. I think it’s more a case of the decline of male space elsewhere in the house.

RELATED (From Ed): This Acculturated article titled “The Case Against Man Caves” makes a useful distinction:

There is, of course, a long history of specifically male spaces in the family home; workshops and studies come to mind. So the man cave is neither unique nor problematic just for being an isolated male space. And while one might say that booze and sports represent a degradation not just of masculinity but of humanity from literature and craftsmanship, we won’t pursue that line of argument here.

What differentiates the man cave from these more traditional male spaces is that workshops and studies are designed to accommodate a particular, elevating interest. These rooms are only isolated inasmuch as the activities proper to them are best pursued without distraction. With the man cave, however, the isolation from the family—the escape—is the primary purpose of the space. The man cave, therefore, is the image of the traditional male space without its substance.

Of course, a workshop or study could become an escape—a place to hide from family duties or to indulge selfish habits. But this would be a misuse, or abuse, of a space set aside for humane recreations. By contrast, the man cave by its very name announces that it is for me. Whatever happens in the room is merely an artifact of my desires and my personality.

(Emphasis mine.)

DOES SIZE MATTER? Clinton has bigger ground game than Trump.

Reporting from North Carolina:

“My sense is we got a late start,” said Dan Gurley, former deputy political director and field director for the RNC. “We are playing catch up, but we are catching up.”

The Trump/RNC operation’s 11 field offices in North Carolina compare to 24 that Mitt Romney had in 2012, according to FiveThirtyEight.

But they say what they lack in bricks and mortar, they are making up with boots on the ground.

Although this is comparing apples and oranges, the RNC has said it had 61 staffers in North Carolina in 2012 and this year has 657 “staff/trained organizers,” a figure which seems to include a lot of volunteers.

Chairman “Robin Hayes at the N.C. GOP, along with the RNC and their large investments in North Carolina, have put together a strong ground game competitive with Hillary’s many offices,” said Jonathan Felts, former White House political director under President George W. Bush.

“But my observation is that Donald Trump doesn’t seem very interested in the ground game,” Felts said. “Whether intentional or not, Trump seems to have decided to run a grand experiment betting that earned media and a cult of personality is more important than grass-roots infrastructure. It’s not how I learned to win elections, but we’ll see who was right on Nov. 8.”

It’s been a year of surprises, to say the least — so who knows?

DEMOCRATS ARE STUCK WITH HILLARY, Richard Fernandez writes:

Washington is now beset by a bane once exclusively associated with monarchies and authoritarianisms. Washington has a succession problem that has been growing for some time. This is astonishing for a system which once surprised Adolf Hitler by taking Franklin Roosevelt’s death in stride.

It has become unaccountably fragile for reasons that are not hard to understand. The thinning bench of the Democratic Party, the replacement of a broad national consensus by a crazy quilt of identical political issues, the weakening of constitutional constraints, and the rule of law in favor of cults of personality have all contributed to make the system unpredictable. It is no longer the constitutionally constrained system of former times, but one dependent on the caprice and health of individual human beings. It has become like the USSR America laughed at in its last days, with Kremlin watchers eagerly waiting to see if Brezhnev could stagger to the podium without assistance.

Suddenly the politically easy things become hard. These are signs, like Hillary’s falls, of something progressively degenerative. The poverty of the presidential field is suggestive of seizure: despite the seething activity of millions of individual American who know something’s wrong all the political system can inarticulately utter is “Hillary” or “Donald.” It is almost as if the nation itself were standing beside the Scooby-Doo van of the history, helpless, waiting to be lifted by events to whatever awaited.

Read the whole thing.

SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU REVIEW: “Hagiographic retelling of Obama’s first date likely to disappoint those uninitiated into his cult of personality,” Sonny Bunch writes at the Washington Free Beacon, noting that the film comes complete with a funhouse mirror version of John Galt’s lengthy stemwinder near the end of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged:

Like Galt’s rambling ode to the Makers-Not-Takers Class, Obama’s vision of a world that works best when compromise is prized bears little relation to the world we’ve seen for the last few years.

The rest of the film is less annoyingly, but rarely more artfully, put together. It’s a lot of shot/reverse shot and slow walk-and-talks, with Barack and Michelle’s faces all-too-often draped in shadows. Oddly, the movie often works better when Michelle and Barack are not on screen together, as in the early going when the two of them discuss the evening’s events with their respective families.

There’s an interesting film to be made about Obama’s relation to his father, but director Richard Tanne doesn’t make much use of this fertile territory.

That’s OK. Bill Whittle already made it five years ago, in a video that moves at a much brisker pace than the 84 minute running time of Southside With You:

CNN: TRUMP WANTS A SPORTS STADIUM FOR HIS ACCEPTANCE SPEECH: “Shades of 2008. Remember how we mocked Barack Obama for hauling out the styrofoam Greek columns onto Mile High Stadium’s field for his acceptance speech as a demonstration of both his hubris and his supporters’ cult of personality?,” Ed Morrissey asks. “How many of us pointed out that a major-party convention venue provided plenty of glitz and spectacle without turning it into a circus? We laughed at Obama’s arrogance, and hauled out this picture every time he derided showmanship over substance… And, er … remember how Obama won two elections anyway?”

“Anyway?” It’s a reality TV show world; tough to fault Trump for playing by the rules the DNC-MSM established.

trump_obama_mask_9-10-15-1

MORAL NARCISSISM AND THE LEAST-GREAT GENERATION: Roger Simon has an excerpt of his new book, titled I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already, in the new issue of Commentary:

Whatever the case, the popularity of narcissism as a descriptive term for the behavior of our society is not a new phenomenon. As far back as 1979, Christopher Lasch published a now famous book The Culture of Narcissism that described the American behavioral patterns as largely narcissistic. According to Lasch, our family structure had produced a personality type consistent with “pathological narcissism.” We were constantly seeking attention from the outside world, making us a nation of insecure weaklings forever in search of validation to tell us we were alive, to give us a raison d’être. Lasch saw the radicals of the ’60s, like the Weather Underground, as manifestations of this pathology. He also cited the “personal growth” movements of the seventies—est, Rolfing, Hare Krishna, various forms of Buddhism, organic food, vegetarianism, and so forth. These belief systems and quasi ideologies continued to gain adherents during the ’80s and ’90s and on into the current century with writers like David Brooks and Charles Murray documenting how what was once youthful rebellion became the norms of the contemporary bourgeoisie. The Generation of ’68 and its followers had gone mainstream, transmogrifying radical symbols into specific forms of conspicuous consumption. Everything was smeared. A trip to Whole Foods in a Tesla became the equivalent of striking a blow against world hunger.

The election of Barack Obama was the apotheosis of this melding of lifestyle with political worldview. That he celebrated his victory in front of Grecian columns was symbolic in more ways than one. Narcissus was in the house—both on stage and in the audience. The “me” generation had found its perfect leader. Hope and change were never specified, because we all knew what he meant. How could it be otherwise? He was speaking, as was said in an earlier era, to “our crowd.” But our crowd had become everyone who saw himself as politically correct, even if we weren’t sure what that meant or implied. It sounded good. Whatever it was had to be true. Obama was cool and his adversaries were not. He was our image in the reflecting pool, preening in front of those Greek columns, nose slightly elevated.

When something obtains that much popular acceptance, one is tempted to think it is nonsense, mere cant, or at least overstated. Not true.

Read the whole thing; Roger’s new book will be available at Amazon and your local bookstore on June 14th. And if you’d like to meet Roger in person, he’ll be at Bullets & Bourbon in December in Texas, discussing his book in detail.

WELL, TO BE HONEST, THEY’RE NOT VERY GOOD AT ESTABLISHMENTING. Why Trump Beat The Republican Establishment.

For some tens of millions of American voters, it matters less that Trump is clearly not well versed in policy nuances than that he has somehow identified and targeted the weakest points of establishment conservatism.

For what has the establishment GOP accomplished for its voters—excepting those in its well-nurtured class of consultants and lobbyists? In early 2015, the veteran pollster and Democratic consultant Pat Caddell analyzed a poll of Republican and independent voters, and was shocked by the widespread of animosity respondents expressed towards their own leaders. “The GOP leadership, the lawyers, the lobbyists, the consultant class of the Republican party don’t understand that these people are angry” Caddell said, continuing “I’ve never seen anything like this at the base of a party. And that is why the analogy to the Whigs is not so far-fetched.” This was six months before Trump walked down the escalator at Trump Tower.

He wasn’t talking about social-issue anger, which has been around for two generations and may be ebbing, but the emotions of people slowly losing their standing in their country. And what can the contemporary Republican Party point to? The war in Iraq, its relentless cheerleading for a war in Iran; lower taxes for the very rich; for its most establishment leaders, legalization of illegal immigrants. These all are proposed against a backdrop of accelerating economic inequality, and the shocking demographic decline—early death through hopelessness one might call it—of less-educated white people. The latter are probably not Trump voters, who more or less match the Republican average in income. But you can’t go to a Trump rally and sense that Trump voters are not so far removed from those people who have given up, and likely feel a sense of shared destiny with them more than does the typical Obama, Hillary or Romney voter. Trump, many conservative intellectuals claim, is not a conservative; but the natural retort to them is what precisely, with their agenda of foreign wars, middle- and working-class job loss, and high rates of immigration, are they trying to conserve?

In Trump’s case, the answer probably is something like an Eisenhower conservatism, with big government and secure employment.

I don’t think Trump can deliver that — Ike didn’t deliver it, it was just the fruit of winning a big war that left competitors playing catch-up for three decades — but you can see why people want it. Even Democrats act nostalgic for Eisenhower-era economics, even as they reject Eisenhower-era values.

Plus:

Trumpism is also, as some have noted but the mainstream press has ignored, an American variation of a pan-Western phenomenon. A closely contended referendum about Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union awaits; Marine Le Pen (after purging her father and moderating her party) is the leading politician in France (though the National Front is smaller than the combined center-left and establishment right), and even Germany—deeply and for good reason suspicious of any antiestablishment conservatism, has produced its own “nationalist” conservative party. Ditto Sweden, The Netherlands, Austria, anywhere you look. Due to geography more than any other factor, Europe’s immigration crisis is more severe than America’s, but its newly ascending conservative parties are interested in approximately the same thing—a desire to conserve the best elements about the society of their parents and own youth, including such attributes as a secure and self-confident working class and a considerable sense of common and shared culture. One can denounce such aspirations as bigotry and xenophobia all one wants, but their durability suggests that they are universal, natural and deeply rooted in the human personality.

In the United States, the question of the day is to what degree will the Republican Party go to accommodate and support these aspirations, of which Donald Trump has improbably become leading vector.

The ruling class in the West needs to get over its need to feel — and, worse, act — superior to its own working class voters.

OH, TO BE IN ENGLAND: “Rotherham gang sentenced to 102 years in prison for abusing young girls,” John Sexton writes today at Hot Air. Note this detail: “According to the 2014 report, one reason police utterly failed to protect so many young girls was the ‘politically inconvenient truth’ that most the victims in Rotherham were white while most of the perpetrators were Pakistani men.”

As Sexton adds, “the perpetrators in Rotherham seemed to operate with impunity even when face to face with police.” And while the Rotherham perpetrators used race and Islam to their advantage in PC-obsessed England, as Jonah Goldberg notes today, England’s Jimmy Savile used celebrity and power:

A hugely popular DJ and TV personality in the United Kingdom for decades, Savile lived a double life as a child molester and rapist. He abused older victims as well. His victims, many of whom were patients in hospitals, ranged from five to 75 years old. As a major fundraiser for hospitals, he had free rein to prey on boys and girls. He assaulted one ten-year-old boy with a broken arm while he was waiting on a gurney for an X-ray. He assaulted teenagers recovering from surgery in bed.

All in all, at several hospitals and at nearly every division of the BBC where he worked, he raped or abused dozens of children — boys and girls — and scores of teenagers and adults.

Savile also reportedly did things to corpses best left unsaid.

He was so popular and so powerful, many victims felt comfortable coming forward only after Savile died in 2011 at the age of 84, to that point regarded as an esteemed member of the community. Sir Jimmy was even a knight.

The BBC has just published a nearly 800-page report detailing its complicity in Savile’s crimes. I haven’t read the whole thing, nor do I have much desire to. The main takeaway, however, is that the BBC shares blame for turning a blind eye owing to its “culture of deference” to celebrities. There was ample evidence that Savile was up to no good, but few were willing to say anything.

Let’s discuss the culture of deference.

Read the whole thing. (Perhaps as with Gloria Steinem in the earlier post, the photo of a young Savile burning a hole into the camera atop Jonah’s article should also merit a trigger warning.)

UPDATE: ‘Atmosphere of fear’ at BBC allowed Jimmy Savile to commit sex crimes, report finds.

BALTIMORE AND THE RIOT IDEOLOGY, REBORN. At City Journal, Fred Siegel writes:

Mayor Rawlings-Blake called in Al Sharpton and fired police chief Anthony Batts, who had tried to upgrade the police department but became the fall guy for the mayor’s failings. Baltimore today is demarcated by white enclaves and by those African-American areas defined by the gangsta rap culture where, in a parody of the segregated South, honor is all and disrespect requires the “satisfaction” of personally delivered revenge. But while the streets have been ceded to thugs in those neighborhoods, it’s not politically acceptable in Baltimore to describe rioters in such terms. At the height of the protests, when the mayor announced that the National Guard would be deployed and a citywide curfew imposed, she also referred to the rioters as “thugs.” She was then forced to apologize for her candor, reclassifying the miscreants as “misguided young people.”

For Ta-Nehisi Coates, the crews and the gangsta rappers singing about the need to “Fuck the Police” are preferable to the cops. The cops, complains Coates, “lord over” young black men with “the moral authority of a protection racket.” There is a touch of truth in this. But, Coates goes on, the problem with the police “is not that they are fascist pigs but that our country is ruled by majoritarian pigs.” The solution, he implies, is a black population released from the ideals of the American dream and from the “false morality” of white Americans. For Coates, blacks can only be freed from racism after whites have been emancipated from capitalism.

A man, a city, a movement, and a moment have met: West Baltimore has, for the time being, been liberated from American morality. Let’s judge Coates’s vision on how that plays out.

Read the whole thing. If you’d like a sneak preview as to how “Coates’s vision” might play out, those last two paragraphs sound eerily reminiscent of some of the passages from Zev Chafets’ brilliant 1990 book Devil’s Night: And Other True Tales of Detroit, including this quote from Arthur Johnson (1925-2011), at the time of Chafet’s book, the president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP and a vice-president at Wayne State University:

“Detroit has helped nurture a new black mentality,” Johnson said, pounding his desk for emphasis. “More than any other city, blacks here make an issue of where you live. If you’re with us, you’ll find a place in the city.”Whites often say, in their own defense, that many middle-class blacks also leave the city at the first opportunity. I mentioned this to Johnson, but he waved it away. “The majority of the black middle class is here. We are engaged in the most determined, feverish effort to save Detroit. Why? Because Detroit is special. It’s the first major city in the United States to have taken on the symbols of a black city. It has elected a strong, powerful black mayor, powerful in both his personality and his office. Detroit, more than anywhere else, has gathered power and put it in black hands.”

* * * * *

But [Coleman Young, Detroit’s Democrat mayor from 1974 to 1994] has done more than broaden access to the pork barrel. Under him, Detroit has become not merely an American city that happens to have a black majority, but a black metropolis, the first major Third World city in the United States. The trappings are all there— showcase projects, black-fisted symbols, an external enemy and the cult of personality. Detroit has even developed a quasi-official ideology that regards the pre– Young era as a time of white colonialism, ended by the 1967 insurrection and its aftermath. An official city publication describes the police department as having been “a hostile white army, entrusted by white authorities with the job of keeping nonwhites penned up in ghettoes.”

* * * * * * * *

[Ron] Hewitt is the planner for America’s sixth largest city, once the symbol of the country’s industrial power. But the old myths of the Arsenal of Democracy mean little to him. “As a people we have more soul, we are more spiritual than others,” he said. “Our technology will be tempered by that soul. If white folks could leave us alone and give us the resources, we could solve our own problems.”

That’s worked out perfectly fine for all concerned, right?

FUNDAMENTALLY TRANSFORMED: Reuters/Ipsos Poll: Majority of Americans Feel Like Strangers In Their Own Country.

According to the Reuters survey, 58 percent Americans say they “don’t identify with what America has become.” While Republicans and Independents are the most likely to agree with this statement, even 45 percent of Democrats share this feeling.

More than half of Americans, 53 percent, say they “feel like a stranger” in their own country. A minority of Americans feel “comfortable as myself” in the country.

There are no doubt lots of reasons underlying this feelings. Demographically, Americans holding these views tend to be white, older, live in the South and have less than a college education. Politically, they are cordoned off as the white working class. While they rarely attract much attention from the political class, they still represent an enormous block of voters.

Their numbers may be declining relative to the entire population, but they are still the largest single block of voters. In many critical swing states like Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina, they represent a significant base of voters that can determine the outcome of elections.

The reasons for their alienation are both cultural and economic. The economic anxiety sparked by the financial crisis in 2007-8 has likely pushed them further away from the mainstream political parties. This isn’t solely a phenomenon on the right, as the resurgent popularity of explicitly socialist policies on the left attest. . . .

The Democrat party, for now at least, has staked its future on appealing to young and minority voters.

Whether or not this is the politically smart play for the future remains to be seen. In the present, however, it means that a huge block of voters feel alienated and are up for grabs politically. Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is perfectly attuned to those voters who feel increasingly like “strangers” in their own country.

Panic breeds actions born out of emotions rather than somber reflection. The Republican establishment is understandably panicked at the thought of Donald Trump capturing the party’s nomination for President. It is convinced, perhaps incorrectly, that a Trump candidacy will doom the party’s chances next year.

Its zeal to derail his campaign carries huge risks for the party, however. The Trump phenomenon is not simply the product of a media-savvy, hyper-personality candidate. It is drawing strength from very real sentiments of a huge block of voters. The Republican party may take out Trump, but it alienates these voters at its peril.

True.

TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: Mizzou media maven Melissa Click’s CV is reviewed by John Hinderaker of Power Line in a post titled “The Fraudulence of Leftist Professors,” after which, John writes:

The astonishing thing is that Professor Click collects money from various sources to support her “research.” E.g.:

Women’s and Gender Studies Faculty Research and Creative Activities Grant, University of Missouri. Awarded to support research on readers’ reactions to the messages in the Fifty Shades of Grey book series. April 2013.

Richard Wallace Faculty Incentive Grant, University of Missouri. Awarded to support research on readers’ reactions to the messages in the Fifty Shades of Grey book series. April 2013.

From Fifty Shades of Grey to Thomas the Tank:

A&S Alumni Organization Faculty Incentive Grant, University of Missouri. Awarded to support initial research on the PBS children’s series Thomas the Tank Engine. February 2010.

If you put a gun to my head and made me read one or the other–Fifty Shades of Grey or Thomas the Tank Engine–I would go with Thomas. I do wonder, however, what the feminist angle on Thomas the Tank could possibly be.

Oh, that’s an easy one. Back in February a headline at — where else? — the London Guardian ran down the “Ten things feminism has ruined for me — Bras, bikes and Thomas the Tank Engine… Emer O’Toole mourns some of life’s simpler pleasures.” The previous year, someone else at the Guardian named Tracy Van Slyke wrote a piece titled “Thomas the Tank Engine had to shut the hell up to save children everywhere — Classism, sexism, anti-environmentalism bordering on racism: any parent who discovered these hidden lessons will be glad the show’s star just quit.” (The voice actor who played Thomas quit in a contract dispute; he was replaced by another actor):

And that’s not even to get started on the female trains. Well, actually it’s hard to get started on them, because they barely exist. Take a quick scan of the more than 100 trains and characters in the Thomas universe – it spans multiple books, toys and continents in addition to a TV show – and you can quickly count on two hands the number of lady trains that populate is Isle of Sodor. Emily – the only lady train to get name checked in the opening credits and the only one who regularly hangs out with the boy trains – is said to “know her stuff.” That’s the sole description of her personality. What does that even mean?

Last year, the British Labour shadow Transportation Secretary even called out Thomas for its lack of females, saying that the franchise setting a bad example for girl wannabe train engineers everywhere.

At first blush, Thomas and his friends seem rather placid and mild. And there are certainly a lot worse shows in terms of in-your-face violence, sexism, racism and classism. But looks can be deceiving: the constant bent of messages about friendship, work, class, gender and race sends my kid the absolute wrong message.

Witness the violence inherent in the HO* scale train system!

* And how dare the model railroad degrade sex-workers with these highly problematic initials!

YES IT IS, AND THE ENDGAME ISN’T LIKELY TO BE PRETTY: Turkey Is In Serious Trouble. “The source of Turkey’s dangerous polarization is Erdogan himself. Erdogan has won successive elections since 2002, and built a cult of personality, as a kind of authoritarian underdog, portraying himself as a victim who is forced to crack down harshly on those whose ‘conspiracies’ undermine his authority. On this basis, he has successfully targeted and politically brutalized the secular Turkish military, businesses, liberals, the media, Jews, left-wing voters, Alevis, and now the Kurds.”

Fortunately, America would never elect anyone like that to high office.

“F*** OFF,” HILLARY REPLIED:

‘​Good morning, ma’am,” a member of the uniformed Secret Service once greeted Hillary Clinton.

“F*** off,” she replied.

That exchange is one among many that active and retired Secret Service agents shared with Ronald Kessler, author of First Family Detail, a compelling look at the intrepid personnel who shield America’s presidents and their families — and at those whom they guard.

Kessler writes flatteringly and critically about people in both parties. Regarding the Clintons, Kessler presents Chelsea as a model protectee who respected and appreciated her agents. He describes Bill as a difficult chief executive, but an easygoing ex-president. And Kessler exposes Hillary as an epically abusive Arctic monster.

“When in public, Hillary smiles and acts graciously,” Kessler explains. “As soon as the cameras are gone, her angry personality, nastiness, and imperiousness become evident.” He adds: “Hillary Clinton can make Richard Nixon look like Mahatma Gandhi.”

Note this conclusion: Kessler’s “astonishment at Hillary Clinton’s inhumanity should reverberate inside every American’s head. As he told me: ‘No one would hire such a person to work at a McDonald’s, and yet she is being considered for president of the United States.'”

Well, McDonald’s expects its employees to be competent and have certain minimum skills.

SCIENCE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN “SOCIAL JUSTICE” STATUS POSTURING: Passions Supplant Reason in Dialogue on Women in Science: Would the same criticisms of our study have been made if it had revealed anti-women hiring attitudes?

In a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we published an article on data from five national studies that took us to an unexpected destination. The data showed that, in tenure-track hiring, faculty prefer female job candidates over identically qualified male ones.

Because that finding runs counter to claims of sexist hiring, it was met in the news media and in academe with incredulity and often panic. We have responded to those criticisms in five pieces in the Huffington Post (parts one, two, three, four, and five), as well as another essay in American Scientist and one on the website of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

Some critics saw in our findings a disavowal of their own experiences with academic sexism. Even though our study examined only entry-level hiring, they viewed it as invalidating biases they faced outside the hiring context and as an attack on their advocacy for women. But data from multiple studies using different methods kept revealing the same striking preference for hiring women. So we reported the empirical data, hoping to generate an honest, productive dialogue about modern discrimination in the academy. Since hiring is no longer a roadblock, where else might we need to direct efforts and advocacy to help more women succeed?

In the latest critique of our results, Joan Williams, a law professor, and Jessi Smith, a psychology professor, claimed that our hiring study was “plagued by five serious methodological flaws” that negated our conclusions. None of their claims are valid. Let’s examine them individually. . . .

In their zeal to impugn our methods and analyses, these commentators invoked the specter of methodological flaws to dismiss a message, ratified by real-world hiring, that they seem to find personally threatening. Until there is full gender-fairness, we cannot enjoy any “comfort food.” In the interim, we hope our critics realize there is plenty of crow to eat.

Read the whole thing. But it’s notable how many of the critics were more concerned with issues of their own personal self-image than with actual data. And, of course, there’s a lot of money at stake: If there’s not actually a women-in-science problem, Intel might quit redirecting hundreds of millions of dollars from research into the women-in-science field, and a lot of people might have to get real jobs.

SO IF WE’RE LIVING IN A SIMULATION, HOW DO I GET MY HANDS ON THE CHEAT CODES? Is Our Universe a Fake? “If you take seriously the theory of all possible universes, including all possible variations, at least some of them must have intelligent civilizations with enough computing power to simulate entire fake worlds. Simulated universes are much cheaper to make than the real thing, and so the number of fake universes would proliferate and vastly outnumber the real ones. And assuming we’re just typical observers, then we’re overwhelmingly likely to find ourselves in a fake universe, not a real one.”

Actually, if you live in a simulation, then there might genuinely be bugs, cheat codes, or Easter eggs to exploit. That might even provide a “scientific” foundation for things that look an awful lot like magic or religion.

UPDATE: Jim Bennett emails:

The real universe has all been converted to Type III Kardashev civilizations. We are in a sim, and the night sky is old wallpaper from before the stars were tamed. They don’t want to confuse us.

No matter how many resources they have, there will still be competition for them and a need to se them efficiently. Most of the people you see around you are wallpaper, too. They only have enough of a virtual computational capability to walk around. If you stop and ask a random stranger a difficult question, you notice they will look blank and pause a bit before answering? They are waiting to have the full personality kit downloaded to them.

Frighteningly plausible.

TRUMP ON THE 2008 FINANCIAL CRISIS: “I DON’T THINK THE DEMOCRATS WOULD HAVE DONE THAT:”

Giving Democrats a pass on the financial crisis is like giving Bill Clinton a pass on the rise of Al Qaeda in the years before 9/11. If you wanted to choose one single soundbite from the past two months to support the case that Trump’s a Democrat in Republican clothing, this would be it. On the other hand, the way populist hero-worship works is that whatever the hero says is true and correct whether it contradicts ideological orthodoxy or not. If Trump says Republicans alone were to blame for the crash, well … that’s just his way of reminding the Beltway RINOs that they’re complicit in the subprime crisis too. He’s trying to tear down the GOP establishment. Why would we begrudge him this hugely damaging lie in service to that noble cause? The most important thing now is to stop Bush; reminding the world that Jeb’s brother presided over the crash helps do that, even if Democrats are destined to pull this soundbite and beat the hell out of the eventual GOP nominee with it in attack ads. The reason it’s called a “cult of personality” is because, ultimately, it’s about personality, not about correctly apportioning blame for the biggest economic slump since the Great Depression in the middle of a presidential race.

Gee, I was really looking forward to Trump’s nuanced insights into Bill Clinton’s role in radically expanding the Community Reinvestment Act:

But as Allahpundit writes above, “The most important thing now is to stop Bush.” And play the role of stalking horse for Clinton. It’s deja ’92 all over again.

RELATED: The Donald is Still Hillary’s Best Friend.

JAMES TARANTO: A Celeb Is Not a Cause: The kids are all right. ObamaCare’s not so hot.

Obama’s 2008 campaign scarcely deserves to be called a “cause.” It was more a cult of personality. “His entire political persona is an ingeniously crafted human cipher, a man without race, ideology, geographic allegiances, or, indeed, sharp edges of any kind,” observed Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi in 2007. “As far as political positioning goes, his strategy seems to be to appear as a sort of ideological Universalist, one who spends a great deal of rhetorical energy showing that he recognizes the validity of all points of view.”

His slogans were vapid even by the standards of political sloganeering: “Yes, we can.” “Hope and change.” “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” He was often called a “rock star”–a celeb, not a cause. It’s as if the Beatles came to America in 1964 to run for president rather than to sell records, and got elected on slogans like “Let it be,” “Please please me” and “I want to hold your hand.” Half a century later, the Beatles’ tunes have an enduring appeal to their once-youthful, now-elderly fans. Had they been forced to face the exigencies of governing, it’s unlikely a Lennon-McCartney administration would be remembered much more fondly than Johnson-Humphrey is.

Obama might have made a serviceably good president had he proved to be administratively competent and ideologically modest instead of the other way around. His personality-based campaign of 2008 diverted attention from his ideological ambitiousness, which expressed itself most forcefully in the enactment of ObamaCare. But while “health-care reform” in the abstract can be characterized as having been a “cause,” what Americans, and especially young Americans, are rejecting now is something different: a product, one that is both shoddy and overpriced. . . .

Because ObamaCare prohibits insurance companies from charging different premiums according to sex, and because women tend to use more medical services than men–a disparity that is greatest among younger policyholders–the “gender averaged” premium increase is greater for young men than for young women.

That means young men are the most disadvantaged by ObamaCare’s price controls–and, as a corollary, that they are the group on which ObamaCare’s solvency is most dependent. And the hip Mainers think the way to appeal to them is with male nudity?

Obama supporters have a quaint faith in the power of marketing. They don’t seem to grasp that persuading people to vote for one politician over another–essentially a cost-free proposition–is a far smaller order than persuading them to purchase an expensive product, especially one that offers a poor value for their money.

Indeed.

JONATHAN TURLEY: Obama’s cult of personality has turned US into ‘a nation of enablers.’

CHRISTINA HOFF SOMMERS: What ‘Lean In’ Misunderstands About Gender Differences: What if difference between men and women turns out to be a phenomenon not of oppression, but rather of social well-being?

According to the authors, “Higher levels of human development—including long and healthy life, equal access to knowledge and education, and economic wealth—were the main nation-level predictors of sex difference variation across cultures.” New York Times science columnist John Tierney summarized the study this way: “It looks as if personality differences between men and women are smaller in traditional cultures like India’s or Zimbabwe’s than in the Netherlands or the United States. A husband and a stay-at-home wife in a patriarchal Botswanan clan seem to be more alike than a working couple in Denmark or France.”

Why should that be? The authors of the study hypothesize that prosperity and equality bring greater opportunities for self-actualization. Wealth, freedom, and education empower men and women to be who they are. It is conspicuously the case that gay liberation is a feature of advanced, prosperous societies: but such societies also afford heterosexuals more opportunities to embrace their gender identities. This cross-cultural research is far from conclusive, but it is intriguing and has great explanatory power. Just think: What if gender difference turns out to be a phenomenon not of oppression, but rather of social well-being?

Consider, in this regard, the gender disparities in engineering. An article on the Wharton School website laments the paucity of women engineers and holds up China and Russia as superior examples of equity. According to the post, “In China, 40 percent of engineers are women, and in the former USSR, women accounted for 58 percent of the engineering workforce.” The author blames workplace biases and stereotypes for the fact that women in the United States earn only 20 percent of the doctoral degrees in engineering. But perhaps American women earn fewer degrees in engineering because they don’t have to. They have more opportunities to pursue careers that really interest them.

Maybe women are different because they can be.

ABE GREENWALD: Democrats Should Be Doing Some Soul-Searching, Too. “Barack Obama ushered in America’s first large-scale experiment in personality-cult politics. The experiment continues apace. . . . When the personality at the center of the cult leaves the stage in four years, Democrats will own his results without the benefit of his appeal.”

THE NEW LEFT FASCISTS: At PJM, Robert Spencer writes:

This contempt for the freedom of speech is rapidly becoming commonplace on the Left. Washington Square News is the student newspaper of New York University, but it is editorially and financially independent from the university, and has a circulation of about 60,000 in lower Manhattan — one of the nation’s foremost epicenters of the far Left. An indication of how quickly the restriction of the freedom of speech has become a fashionable opinion among the Leftist intelligentsia at universities and elsewhere came last Wednesday, when the News ran a piece calling for restrictions on the First Amendment.

“It is difficult now to imagine a modern university intellectual saying something as simple and unequivocal as ‘I disagree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it,’’ Theodore Dalrymple writes. He would be more likely to think, if not actually to say out loud or in public, ‘I disagree with what you say and therefore rationalise to the death my right to suppress it.’”

Of course, in that regard, it’s not like they’re that much different than the old left fascists.

RELATED: John Hinderaker of Power Line wonders what Obama’s optics and creepy cult of personality says about his policies and the worldview of his followers.

INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY: Obama’s Creepy Cult of Personality. “Last week, the Obama campaign started selling a refashioned American flag with its logo replacing the stars, and then urged Americans to pledge allegiance to Barack. Did we just wake up in Mao’s China?”

ARTUR DAVIS:

It’s hard to imagine a more instructive couple of days for those who want to know where the Democratic Party’s head is at: its only high-profile African American moderate just got a brushback pitch for leaning in too close to the Independent thought zone; the Obama camp looks ominously like a cult of personality that tolerates no dissent; and the reelection campaign just doubled down on the European leftist notion that business is fair only when it operates in a sanitized, risk free manner.

As for Booker, my hope is that the pushback won’t turn him into just another faux centrist who won’t risk offending his base. He already looks a little less brave and a lot more conventional after the forgive me video from the bunker he released on Sunday. In fairness, a public servant with his gifts and history with Obama deserved much better.

Yes, Booker has diminished himself by backing down.

JOEL KOTKIN: Illinois: State Of Embarrassment.

Most critics of Barack Obama’s desultory performance the past three years trace it to his supposedly leftist ideology, lack of experience and even his personality quirks. But it would perhaps be more useful to look at the geography — of Chicago and the state of Illinois — that nurtured his career and shaped his approach to politics. Like with George W. Bush and Texas, this is a case where you can’t separate the man from the place.

The Chicago imprint on Obama is unmistakable. His closest advisors are almost all products of the Windy City’s machine politic: ConsigliereValerie Jarrett; his first chief of staff, now Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel; and his current chief of staff, longtime Chicago hackster William Daley, scion of the Windy City’s longtime ruling family.

All these figures arose from a Chicago where corruption is so commonplace that it elicits winks, nods and even a kind of admiration. Since 1973, for example, 27 Chicago Aldermen have been convicted by U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Illinois.

That culture of corruption affects the rest of the state as well. Both Gov. George Ryan (who served from 1999 to 2003 and and his successor Ron Blagojevich have been convicted a major crimes. So have four of the state’s last eight governors. Blagojevich’s felonies are part and parcel of a political climate that also includes the also newly convicted Antonin “Tony” Rezko, a real estate speculator and early key Obama backer, sentenced late last month to a ten-year prison sentence.

Crony capitalism constitutes the essential element of what the legendary columnist John Kass of the Chicago Tribune has labeled both the “Chicago way” and the “Illinois Combine”, not primarily an ideology-driven movement. The political system, he notes, “knows no party, only appetites.”

Read the whole thing.

RIGHT TO THE END: Steve Jobs Biography Reveals He Told Obama, ‘You’re Headed For A One-Term Presidency’.

Jobs, who was known for his prickly, stubborn personality, almost missed meeting President Obama in the fall of 2010 because he insisted that the president personally ask him for a meeting. Though his wife told him that Obama “was really psyched to meet with you,” Jobs insisted on the personal invitation, and the standoff lasted for five days. When he finally relented and they met at the Westin San Francisco Airport, Jobs was characteristically blunt. He seemed to have transformed from a liberal into a conservative.

“You’re headed for a one-term presidency,” he told Obama at the start of their meeting, insisting that the administration needed to be more business-friendly. As an example, Jobs described the ease with which companies can build factories in China compared to the United States, where “regulations and unnecessary costs” make it difficult for them.

Jobs also criticized America’s education system, saying it was “crippled by union work rules,” noted Isaacson. “Until the teachers’ unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform.” Jobs proposed allowing principals to hire and fire teachers based on merit, that schools stay open until 6 p.m. and that they be open 11 months a year.

Unsurprisingly, things didn’t go especially well thereafter.

VIRGINIA POSTREL: How Steve Jobs Made Business Cool Again:

To understand the cultural significance of Steve Jobs, you have to go back in time: to before the iPad or iPhone or iTunes, before Apple Inc.’s comeback products made candy-colored plastics and iAnything cool, before Jobs got kicked out of Apple, even before the Macintosh hurled a sledgehammer at Big Brother.

It’s 1981. Most people have never heard of Silicon Valley. The country’s most famous businessman is Lee Iacocca, the head of Chrysler Corp. He’s famous because in 1979 he engineered a government bailout — loan guarantees — that saved the company. He’s also famous because, unlike his peers, Iacocca is colorful. He seems to believe in what he’s doing.

In 1981, business executives aren’t known for either personality or passion. The general public sees business as a boring, impersonal, possibly suspect activity. Its significance seems purely financial. . . . That was all about to change.

Read the whole thing.

DON SURBER ON DON TRUMP: “He is an entertainer. Republicans can wait till fall to send in the A team. By then, President Obama will have dropped himself down to Donald Trump’s level. Already it has begun.”

UPDATE: Reader David Bell emails:

You linked to Don Surber’s piece labeling Trump an entertainer. I think he’s more of a promoter. His gift is creating the illusion of substance and competence., promoting the Trump brand, which is a personality cult, really. What is underneath the facade is subject to question.

In that sense, he is just like Obama.

Indeed.

AUSTIN BAY: The Megalomaniacal Style In American Politics:

Gadafi, Mugabe, and Chavez are charismatic figures – their charisma is now institutionalized as cult of the personality propaganda spewed by state controlled press agencies. Obama swept into office on personal charisma –a charisma reinforced by mainstream media idolatry. No, America is not Libya, Zimbabwe, or Venezuela. Anything but. We are, however, living with what results when personal charisma magnified by media adulation trumps executive management experience, demonstrated knowledge, proven judgment, the proven ability to coordinate and lead in crisis, practical private sector business experience, and the ability to forge a workable compromise.

Read the whole thing.

CATO: Parents, Mark Your Calendars: September 14th Is Obama Day At School! “White House sources confirmed that President Obama will deliver another back-to-school address aimed at all of the nation’s children. That’s right, the president will make September 14 the second-annual Obama Day at your local school!”

Funny thing is, a year ago people worried that he was building a cult of personality. Now, not so much!

JIM LINDGREN: “Asking millions of Americans to sign a birthday card for the President suggests a tone-deafness about the cult of personality. If we lived in a dictatorship, getting millions of subjects to celebrate the Dear Leader’s birthday would be routine, but in a free republic this appeal to get millions of citizens to celebrate a current president’s birthday strikes a discordant note to my ear. No, I am not saying we are in a dictatorship; I am saying that because we are not, we should not be emulating the trappings characteristic of that fundamentally different sort of regime. Nor do I think this is particularly ominous.” Just revealing.

UPDATE: Orin Kerr: Relax, it’s just campaign fluff. And from the comments, there’s this: “They’re pretty clearly trying to recapture the ‘spirit of ’08.’ In that way, this email serves as a nice reminder of how embarrassing the ‘spirit of ’08’ really was.”

THE CULT OF PERSONALITY.

THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL: “Given that Justices’ personal histories have become such a significant part of the confirmation process, and the Justices themselves are followed like rock stars, star athletes, or prominent politicians–all of whose romantic entanglements frequently find their way into the media–it’s little wonder that curiosity has been piqued about Kagan’s romantic life.”

CHANGE: Rasmussen: 43% now strongly disapprove of Obama, same as Bush when he left office. “Imagine how unpopular Obama would be if the press and the late night comedians (who are at least as important as the press) treated Obama as they treated Bush.”

UPDATE: Desperation time:

This was the candidate who created a cult of personality, who told us he represented the “New Politics,” who was going to eschew politics-as-usual, and who would be post-partisan, post-racial, and post-ideological. Now he’s a handful of votes away from a humiliating defeat. No wonder it’s desperation time. His possible failure would not be a mere political failure; it would be the obliteration of his own mythology.

Should he squeak it out, Obama’s “victory” would come with a heavy price. Gone is the image of a policy sophisticate (try watching that Bret Baier interview a few times without wincing). Gone is the “moderate” moniker. And gone is the notion that he’d usher in a new era of less contentious and less corrupt politics. (It’s a new era, perhaps, but hardly a better one.) There is no mistaking now the depth of the campaign deception. The public has figured out what he is all about. And increasingly, they dislike what they see.

Yeah, he’s even managed to disappoint me, and my expectations weren’t all that high.

WHATEVER HAPPENED to crazy? “Lasch’s insight about the connection between culpability and competence, and the way in which ‘therapeutic morality’ undermines self-sufficiency by negating personal responsibility, is essential to understanding the impact of a culture that fosters narcissistic personality traits. . . . Attempting to comfort people by flattering their sense of blamelessness — ‘It’s not your fault’ — therapeutic morality ultimately undermines the vital sense of agency, in effect telling people that they are neither culpable nor competent. It promotes the notion of innocent victimhood, the blameless self, and encourages people to avoid responsibility for their failures by wallowing in self-pitying rationalizations.”

I BELIEVE THAT ILYA SOMIN MISTAKES MY POINT: “Some, like Glenn ‘Instapundit’ Reynolds in his response to my earlier post, argue that we need ‘irrational affection’ for government in order for it to work well. I am skeptical. A population that values its government for purely instrumental reasons can still give it the necessary support and defend it against external enemies.”

I don’t think this quite responds to my point. I was suggesting that, in an evolutionary sense, a state whose populace feels irrational loyalty is more likely to prevail against states whose populaces are purely rational. This doesn’t strike me as much of a leap. A parent who values a child for purely instrumental reasons can still give it the necessary support, but I suspect that evolution has favored those who feel irrational loyalty to their kinfolks, too.

Furthermore, a state whose populace feels irrational loyalty probably has greater threat-value when dealing with states whose populace is only rationally loyal. This is not a defense of nationalism on any sort of moral grounds, of course — merely a suggestion that efforts to get rid of it will be difficult. This is particularly true if, as seems likely to me, evolution has favored irrational group-loyalty (for basically the same reasons) over periods extending long before the development of the state, so that such traits are largely hardwired. One might work with, rather than against, such hardwired traits by trying replace loyalty to the state with other forms of irrational group loyalty (to a religion, a philosophy, a leader) but it’s not clear that’s much of an improvement.

UPDATE: Science fiction writer Sarah Hoyt emails:

I was thinking about this today at breakfast, actually, because I’m plotting my second space opera for Baen (no, first hasn’t come out yet) which involves a revolution — and wondering if a lot of the blind partisanship as well as the tendency for people to fall into cult of personality (No, not a new thing, recall attachment to Washington in revolutionary times) aren’t evolutionary remnants.

I think humans were designed by evolution to be loyal to a small group, a “tribe” (though most groups when humans were evolving were smaller than most tribes. Somewhere between extended family and clan) and for reasons of cohesion within the tribe to fall into hierarchical order — i.e. to be loyal to the “big man.”

I think this is responsible both for people’s tendency to fall in with the opinions of their social group seemingly without thought and for the “celebrity president” thing (Yes, Obama is perhaps the most obvious celebrity president, but Reagan had a bit of that to — and used it.)

In the light of this, a government like the US’s — of ideals and laws — seems like an aberration that goes against our evolutionary urges. So how we survive is a puzzle, and the visceral hatred so many of our citizens have towards the constitution and which most of the world has towards us is no longer surprising.

We are the muties… :) Must be brought back down to normalize the species.

Very consistent with what I was trying to say above, with an interesting twist.

MARK STEYN:

On Friday, I had the rare honor of appearing in the pages of the New York Times, apropos President Obama’s plans to beam himself into every schoolhouse in the land in the peculiar belief that Generation iPod will find this an enthralling technical novelty. As Times reporters James C. McKinley Jr. and Sam Dillon wrote:

“Mark Steyn, a Canadian author and political commentator, speaking on the Rush Limbaugh show on Wednesday, accused Mr. Obama of trying to create a cult of personality, comparing him to Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader.”

Oh, dear! “A Canadian author”: Talk about damning with faint credentialization. I don’t know what’s crueler, the “Canadian” or the indefinite article.

As to the rest of it, well, that’s one way of putting it. Here’s what I said on Wednesday re dear old Saddam and Kim:

“Obviously we’re not talking about the cult of personality on the Saddam Hussein/Kim Jong Il scale.”

Close enough for Times work.

It’s almost as if they start by deciding on a storyline, and then don’t let the facts divert them.

LESSONS FROM DIJONGATE:

Seeing how my posts were distorted was not terribly surprising; that is how things go on the internet. The level of vitriol was something I knew existed, but had never personally experienced. As crazed as the published comments were, there were others I didn’t publish telling me to kill myself and do other things, and plenty of bizarre e-mails. All of these people made fools of themselves.

The reaction proved one thing I already knew: The cult of personality surrounding Obama is real. And many of the cultists are demented, dangerous or both.

Plus, another unflattering photo of a gay-marriage opponent!

UPDATE: Reader Joe Ware writes: “Professor Jacobson has restored my faith in the MSM’s ability to cut the mustard.”

ED MORRISSEY: “Organizing a door-to-door campaign to support a political leader already elected to office seems to tip over into that cult-of-personality territory, to which Organizing for America seems oblivious.”

UPDATE: Not exactly a juggernaut.

“It sends a message to President Obama that we still support you,” Shanise (a natural saleswoman) told a young couple. “It would be great if we could get a million names!”

After an hour, the group had gathered 26 signatures in support of Obama’s budget.

If you can’t do better than that at Ikea. . . . And I loved this line: “I support him, I voted for him, but I don’t want to sign any more forms.” Good luck with that! Plus this: Congress isn’t feeling much heat from Obama’s ‘army’.

CULT OF PERSONALITY: “I pledge to be a servant to our president and all mankind.”

And some related thoughts from Ann Althouse.

UPDATE: Related: “Obama worship is the flip side of Bush hatred. They love the one without knowing what he stands for and loathe the other while mispresenting his record.” Or even knowing it, as Jon Stewart demonstrated.

“CULT OF PERSONALITY 101.” If so, the results of Drudge’s poll suggest it’s not working yet . . . .

BRIAN DOHERTY: “I’ve watched with growing distress this past week as many interesting cultural iconclasts I admire for various reasons who can usually be counted on to be aware and skeptical of government power to at least some degree, from John Perry Barlow to Adam Parfrey to Oliver Stone, have swooned over the mighty Obama and his world-changing powers. . . . Being surrounded by a creepy-happy adoring Cult of the Great Leader makes me…uncomfortable, to be sure.” It’s the glamour. Or maybe a cult of personality.

OKAY, I GUESS MCCAIN COULD HAVE RUN this video after Obama’s infomercial, too. “Where the money comes from, Heaven only knows . . . .”

I still like Cult of Personality better, though. But then, as a “himbo,” I guess this song strikes too close to home . . . .

JOHN TIERNEY: “It looks as if personality differences between men and women are smaller in traditional cultures like India’s or Zimbabwe’s than in the Netherlands or the United States. A husband and a stay-at-home wife in a patriarchal Botswanan clan seem to be more alike than a working couple in Denmark or France. The more Venus and Mars have equal rights and similar jobs, the more their personalities seem to diverge.”

IN THE MAIL: The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality. Shockingly, it’s currently number one on the New York Times bestseller list.

I’M VOTING FOR MR. CLOUDO, PRESIDENT OF HEAVEN. I also like “Not just the president of the ShinySuit 3000 Club For Men, but also a client.”

But I don’t think either is what the Rolling Stone folks had in mind.

UPDATE: Matthias Shapiro emails: “One might think the people who have spent the last eight years telling us that the US is exactly like pre-war Nazi Germany would be a little more wary of cult-of-personality hero worship. But one would be wrong.”

MORE: Ace: “For how long will the racist media trade in age-old stereotypes about black physicality and bioluminescence?”

PAUL KRUGMAN ON THE VENOMOUS POLITICS OF . . . HOPE?

These days even the Democratic Party seems to be turning into Nixonland. . . . I won’t try for fake evenhandedness here: most of the venom I see is coming from supporters of Mr. Obama, who want their hero or nobody. I’m not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality.

Ann Althouse is surprised to see Krugman casting Obama in the Nixon role.

UPDATE: Reader James Ivers emails: “Boy, it’s a good thing the Clintons don’t play rough, or there’d be no one to stand as an anti-Nixonland exemplar.” Indeed.

BRIAN DOHERTY WRITES that those old Ron Paul letters have nothing to do with the “Ron Paul Revolution.” But he adds:

Still, his campaign’s reaction to this has been politically disastrous and given the third-rail nature of accusations of racism, Ron Paul’s campaign was likely fatally wounded today, regardless of the final vote totals in New Hampshire. Paul would have done better to more thoroughly explain how it happened, how it was dealt with at the time, and address how he as a politician would deal with any matters involving race–ideally, a fervent defense of equality under the law for all. If the ghostwriter has any respect for Paul and hope for the political future of the anti-state, anti-war movement that has coalesced around him, he’d do well to step forward and take responsibility.

That would be an interesting story. But there’s this comment:

Here’s my take: I’ll accept for the sake of argument the notion that he didn’t know that this stuff was in the newsletter. But I can’t imagine a responsible person permitting a publication under his name without reviewing it occasionally. I also can’t imagine a responsible person permitting a publication under his name without vetting the editor/publisher sufficiently to keep out the sort of whackjobs who would publish stuff like this. How can you expect anyone so careless with his own “brand” to be any more careful with the country’s “brand”?

Indeed.

UPDATE: Well, this bit suggests either that Ron Paul wrote this, or wanted people to think he did.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ouch: “In the end, Ron Paul was a cult of personality without the personality.”

Yeah, though I saw that as a positive, kinda.

MORE: A defense of Ron Paul, from Stephen Green.

LARRY LESSIG thinks that the Easterbrook firing is more evidence of the dangers of media concentration:

If ESPN fired Easterbrook because it overreacted to his comment, then that’s an injustice to Easterbrook, and a slight to society.

But it it fired Easterbrook because Easterbrook criticized the owner, that’s an offense to society, whatever the injustice to Easterbrook — at least when fewer and fewer control access to media. No doubt, anti-semitism has done infinitely greater harm than misused media mogul power. But if firing your critics becomes the norm in American media, then there will be much more than insensitivity to anti-semitism to worry about in the future.

Indeed. And that’s why I think that ESPN firing Easterbrook for dissing the head of its parent corporation is different from, say The New Republic firing Easterbrook for anti-semitism in the pages of TNR — which, interestingly, TNR has shown no disposition to do.

UPDATE: Reader Hunter McDaniel makes a good point:

If Easterbrook had worked for Fox and taken a shot at Rupert Murdoch, I don’t think anyone would have been surprised to see him fired. Notwithstanding its formal status as a public corporation, everyone knows that Murdoch’s empire is a family business.

The same is not true of Disney now, 40 years after Walt’s death. Eisner is just a hired hand, and for him to enforce a cult of personality within the business he has been entrusted to run is way out of line. This is as much about proper corporate governance as it is about free spech.

Indeed.

HOWARD KURTZ writes on the psychological quirks that lead people to run for President. My favorite quote:

“Anyone who is going to run for president has to be weird,” says Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia.

I think there’s something to this, and here’s an excerpt from a post on the subject that I made back in September of 2001:

But if Kaus is right, our system actually selects for people who love the job. And since, as most people (perhaps even Kaus) would agree, being President is a job no sane person could really love for eight years then what does that say about our Presidential selection system? Is it selecting for kooks? Certainly a lot of our Presidents have been, er, mentally less than admirable: Kennedy, with his risk-taking and narcissism, LBJ with his megalomania, bullying and, well, LBJ-ness, Nixon with his paranoia, depression and obsessive-compulsiveness, Clinton with his narcissism, sexual compulsiveness, and compulsive lying. Carter was/is clearly sane — and also stands as evidence for Kaus’s position. Ditto for Papa Bush. Reagan is a tougher question: he certainly wasn’t crazy. And as an actor, I suppose he was able to play the President in a way that made the experience more enjoyable for him than it would be for many others. (Yes, I know, there’s some reason to think that his mental faculties were already beginning to fail before he left office — but I don’t think that’s the same as the sort of personality-disordered thing that Nixon, Clinton, etc. had going on).

I guess I’d have to call the crazy-President corollary to Kaus’s theorem unproven, but with a lot of suggestive evidence. Hmm. Here’s a slogan for ’04, for whatever candidate wants it: ” ______ in ’04: JUST CRAZY ENOUGH TO WANT TO BE YOUR PRESIDENT!”

The slogan’s still available. . . .

CLAIRE BERLINSKI WRITES FROM PARIS THAT I’M WRONG:

The French media don’t seem to me to be ignoring the fact that the assailant was a Moslem. It’s been mentioned fairly prominently (and indeed with some exuberance) in every news account I’ve read. Anyway, this guy seems to be a complete nutball, more John Hinckley or Daniel White than Mohammed Atta. According to Le Monde, (link), the cops had at least 15 files on him, half concerning drugs, the others, theft. He’s been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. He lives with his parents; he’s evidently spent time in prison. So at first blush, the fact that he’s a Moslem appears to be irrelevant. However, the article continues — his is just my own crude translation — “At the foot of his building, about twenty young adults described their neighbor’s personality … Daniel remembered above all that this childless bachelor “didn’t much like homosexuals,” and that “he made this clear to everyone he hung out with.” On that matter, opinions among the group were unanimous. “He was a bit like us,” continued Abdel. “We’re all homophobic here, because it’s not natural,” or because “it’s against Islam,” adds Samir, for whom “gay Moslems, they don’t exist.”

So perhaps the assailant’s ethnic and cultural background is worth a bit of reflection after all.

In any event, Delanoë is recovering nicely, and I’m pleased to report that the rest of the city loves having an openly gay mayor. Ever since he came into office, the whole city has just been so festive. Readers may recall that he turned the Seine into a scene from beach blanket Babylon, complete with cute little cafe tables under parasols and a special beach for dogs. What other mayor would encourage the whole city to forget about work and party all night long?Free croissants for everyone who makes it to sunrise! (I’m not kidding.) City-wide scavenger hunts! Outdoor movies on a huge screen by Notre Dame, free to everyone! More rollerblading along the freeways by the Seine! Sound-and-light shows at Montmartre! Trapeze artists in City Hall! The ancien régime was more security conscious, to be sure, but having Delanoë in office is like having sex without a condom: It’s not so safe, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun.

Vive Delanoë!

Claire Berlinski

Interesting. The English language reports that I saw focused on the drug and mental illness angles, but didn’t even mention that he was a Muslim. As for the fun-loving character of the Delanoe mayoralty, well, I’m glad Claire’s enjoying it.

ERIC OLSEN contrasts NPR’s reporting on the middle east with its ongoing series on Yiddish culture and diagnoses a split personality.