Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
When it became clear that Senator John Kerry would be the nominee of the Democratic Party, Republicans saw an opportunity to recycle some of their best lines from the contentious Bush-Dukakis presidential campaign of 1988. Like Governor Michael Dukakis before him, they said, Kerry was an Massachusetts liberal, uttering the phrase as if it were a communicable disease. The goal was to depict Kerry as a extremist, advised by a boutique of Harvard intellectuals, whose views would prove unacceptable to the rest of America.
With Tuesday's announcement that John Edwards will join Kerry on the Democratic ticket, the Bush campaign's first response was to throw the L word at the North Carolina senator.
Will the liberal charge stick? More to the point, what exactly is a Massachusetts liberal, and how did it get to be such a pejorative term? Can the epithet still hurt John Kerry in 2004?
Remember Willie Horton
For those of us steeped in recent political history, the first image"Massachusetts liberal" dredges up is that of a convict named Willie Horton. Michael Dukakis had the misfortune to be governor when Horton was let out of a Massachusetts jail on a work release program and proceeded to rape a woman in Maryland. The Republican ads against Dukakis were brutal -- and effective.
Then, during a presidential debate, CNN moderator Bernard Shaw asked,"Governor, if Kitty Dukakis was raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?" In a bloodless reaction, Dukakis ignored the question about his wife and proceeded to defend his position against the death penalty. To a country sick of crime, Dukakis appeared to embody the kind of politician who cared more about the criminal than the victim -- proving himself (at least to those predisposed against him), too culturally out of step with the country to be president.
So one meaning of"Massachusetts liberal" is soft on crime. But in 2004 crime is not nearly the issue it was 16 years ago -- in part because President Clinton reversed both the image and the reality. Not only was Clinton in favor of the death penalty, but as governor of Arkansas he ordered a convict executed in the year he first ran for president. He then promised to replace 100,000 bureaucrats with 100,000 cops -- a promise he kept. During the '90s, crime began to drop to record low levels. John Kerry, a former prosecutor, is not likely to be tagged with the Massachusetts liberal"soft on crime" rap. That day has come and gone.
Welcome to `Taxachusetts'
A second meaning for"Massachusetts liberal" was"tax and spend" liberal. But like the"soft on crime" rap, the"tax and spend" rap has also seen better days....
Wal-Mart is facing the largest class action lawsuit ever been brought against a private company. As many as 1.6 million women may join the suit and the possible payout could exceed $1 billion dollars. What are class action lawsuits, and why have they become so prominent in the news?
Class action lawsuits are an aspect of tort law, which addresses harm or loss that is caused either deliberately or through carelessness by the actions of another. A class action suit is brought by one or more plaintiffs on behalf of a larger group that has a common interest, a common harm. For example, if a product is defective and injures a consumer, that consumer can bring suit against the producer on behalf of all consumers similarly injured. After attorneys’ fees, any settlement or court award is divided among those participating in the suit.
In the Wal-Mart case, six women filed the original action in June 2001, claiming that the giant retailer discriminated against women in salaries and promotions. Approximately 1.6 million women who have worked for Wal-Mart since 1998 are eligible to join the suit.
There are several reasons why class action lawsuits have proliferated over the last few decades. Changes in legal procedure have favored the growth.
A comprehensive study from the Rand Institute for Justice entitled “Class Action Dilemmas, Pursuing Public Goals for Private Gains” explains one such change. “[T]he current controversy over class action roared to life in 1966 when Rule 23, the procedural rule that provides for class actions in federal courts, was significantly revised. . . . Whereas previously, all individuals seeking money damages with a class action lawsuit needed to sign on affirmatively (‘opt in’), now those whom the plaintiffs claimed to represent would be deemed part of the lawsuit unless they explicitly withdrew (‘opted out’).”
In an instant, the scope of lawsuits and the financial liability of defendants “multiplied many times over.” (Rule 23 has been subsequently amended, largely to increase the role of judges in every aspect of class action suits.)
In short, class action suits became tremendously more profitable, especially for lawyers whose contingency fees sometimes exceeded the money paid out to successful plaintiffs. Contingency fees are commonly viewed as a necessary device by which poor plaintiffs can access the court system. In 1971, the Florida Supreme Court stated, “It is irrefutable that the poor and the least fortunate in our society enjoy access to our courts, in part, because of the existence of the contingency fee.”
But the excesses of contingency fees have become infamous, leading critics to label class action suits as “jackpot justice” for lawyers. One critic is Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who has spoken out against “out-of-control class action lawsuits and outrageous contingency fees, which have turned some lawyers into ‘overnight millionaires.’”
You can't say the fixation with John Edwards' looks is just a media phenomenon ("His dazzling smile" — Wall Street Journal;"His hair is a beautiful shade of chocolate brown with honey-colored highlights" — Washington Post;"Each tooth is an ivory treasure, perfectly polished and aligned" — Slate). Not when Republicans refer to him as"the Breck girl" or when John Kerry, who selected the North Carolina senator as his running mate, gazes upon him in a manner that would make even a Breck girl blush.
Kerry has repeatedly made the joke that, in their match-up against George Bush and Dick Cheney, he and Edwards have"better hair." Kerry even acknowledged Edwards' selection as People magazine's sexiest politician. What's next, candidates for office showing up at MTV's plastic surgery show,"I Want a Famous Face," holding pictures of John Edwards?
But politicians' looks have always mattered — they become a shorthand way of capturing someone's character. Even the least vain of people instinctively know this. With the election of 1860 weeks away, Abraham Lincoln received a letter from an 11-year-old girl, Grace Bedell, that read in part,"If you let your whiskers grow … you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband's [sic] to vote for you and then you would be president."
Lincoln replied,"As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affect[ta]ion if I were to begin it now?"
He grew the beard.
In 1920, Warren Harding, an undistinguished Ohio senator, won the Republican Party nomination, and the presidency, in large part because, as the U.S. Senate's website says, the"tall and handsome" Harding"fit the popular image of what a president should look like." His presidency was brief and scandal-plagued. As for those good looks, portraits of the 29th president show a jowly, white-haired man.
Edwards' looks coincide with a cultural moment in which, as the New York Times recently pointed out, the new leading man is"soft of cheek." You can imagine, if he loses the race, Edwards taking over for Tobey Maguire in"Spider-Man 3." Despite Edwards' youthfulness, at 51 he is not actually young. But how many candidates for vice president could say convincingly,"If I'm elected, I promise to reach puberty before my swearing in?"
Of course, Edwards' glow only underscores Kerry's dullness. Kerry's face — once considered dashingly attractive — has been a constant source of unflattering comment, from his resemblance to the television character Lurch to the"Why the Long Face?" jokes, to the speculation that Botox is behind his lack of animation. The insults seem not simply gratuitous because they get at a dreariness of personality....
Robert Bork, in the WSJ (July 12, 2004):
The Supreme Court has just endorsed lawsuits against American and foreign individuals and corporations under a supposed "human rights" component of the "law of nations," two amorphous and shifting concepts that give little warning of what conduct may result in liability for damages. Although the Court gave assurances that there will be stringent rules to control the more adventurous lower courts, those assurances are highly dubious and the results promise to be anything but happy.
The center of controversy is the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) which provides that "The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States." No legislative history exists and, as a prominent judge once remarked, "this old but little used section is a kind of legal Lohengrin. . . . No one seems to know whence it came."
When I first sat on a case involving the ATS, my thought was that it must be a modern excrescence, but then I saw that it was enacted in 1789 and made sense at the time. It slumbered peacefully for 200 years until a federal appeals court in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala resurrected the statute in 1980 by awarding damages to Paraguayans for the torture-murder of a Paraguayan in Paraguay by a Paraguayan official. Though that seemed remote from any conceivable interest of the U.S., the court, as Jeremy Rabkin wrote, "cheered on by a host of international law scholars, insisted that 'customary international law' has greatly expanded and now incorporates an international law of human rights." That raises the question of whether Congress's 1789 understanding of what it intended to enact can properly be amended by judges to mean something else. The answer should be a resounding no.
One thing is certain: In 1789, the law of nations had nothing to do with human
rights. According to Blackstone, with whom Americans were very familiar, the
principal offenses were infringements of the rights of ambassadors, violations
of safe conduct, and piracy (included because the offense took place on the
high seas beyond the reach of any nation's laws). The ATS may also have been
designed to deal with prize law, which allowed private vessels having a marque,
or license, to capture enemy ships. The law of nations, in other words, was
just that, a law about relations between sovereignties. It would have been preposterous
for a small, weak nation clinging to the Atlantic seaboard to have given jurisdiction
to its courts to entertain, for example, human-rights suits by Britons against
the British crown for actions taken in Britain. Rather than soothing foreign
nations by protecting their emissaries, such tort actions would have inflamed
them. Yet that is what our courts are doing now, and under the same statute.
There is no justification for that result....
Robert Fisk, in the Independent (July 12, 2004):
The Americans could learn a lot from Sheikh Jouwad Mehdi Al-Khalasi. A tall, distinguished man who speaks with eloquence and humor, he has the same forehead and piercing eyes of his grandfather - the man who led the Shiite Muslim insurrection against British occupation in 1920.
He brings out a portrait of the grand old revolutionary, who has a fluffy but carefully combed white beard. One of the most eminent scholars of his day, he ended his life in exile, negotiating with Lenin's Bolshevik government and dying mysteriously - poisoned, his supporters believed, by British intelligence. Sheikh Jouwad's shoulders shake with laughter when I suggest that there are more than a few parallels between the Iraqi insurrections of 1920 and 2004."Exactly", he says.
"In 1920, the British tried to introduce an Iraqi government in name only - it looks like a copy of UN Security Council Resolution 1546. Sheikh Mehdi Al-Khalasi had become the grand 'marja' (the leading Shiite scholar) after the death of Mohamed Al-Shiazi and he issued a fatwa telling his followers and all Shiites in Iraq not to participate in elections, not to give legitimacy to a government established by occupation forces.
"Not only the Shiites responded to it but the Sunnis and the Jewish, Christian and other minorities as well. The elections failed and so the British forced my grandfather to leave Iraq. They arrested him at his home on the other side of this religious school where we are today - a home which many years later Saddam Hussein deliberately destroyed." It was a familiar colonial pattern, of course. The Brits were exiling troublesome clerics - Archbishop Makarios comes to mind - throughout the 20th century, but Sheikh Mehdi turned out to be as dangerous to the British abroad as he had been at home. He was transported to Bombay, but so great was the crowd of angry Indian Muslims who arrived at the port that British troops kept him aboard ship and then transported him to the hot, volcanic port of Aden.
"He said to the British: 'You don't know where to send me, but since the pilgrimage season is close, I want to go on the 'Haj' to Makkah.' Now, when Sharif Hussein, the ruler, heard this, he sent an invitation for my grandfather to attend the 'Haj'. He met Sharif Hussein on Arafat Mountain at Makkah. And then he received an invitation to go to Iran, signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Mossadeq. And in Iran, waiting for him, were many religious leaders from Najaf." Thirty years later, the Americans would topple Mossadeq's Iranian government, with help from Col. Monty Woodhouse of MI6. Sheikh Jouwad uses his hands when he talks - Shiite prelates are far more expressive with their hands than Anglican clergymen - and each new episode in his grandfather's life produces a pointed finger.
"When Sheikh Mehdi Al-Khalasi arrived at the Iranian port of Bushehr, he received a big welcome but an official of the Iranian Oil Company fired 10 bullets at him. Many people said at the time that this was a plot by Col. Wilson, who had been the head of the British occupation in Iraq in 1920. All the great religious leaders from Qom in Iran were waiting for him - Al-Naini and Al-Asfahani, Sheikh Abdulhalim Al-Hoeri Al-Yezdi, who was the professor of the future Ayatollah Khomeini - and then King Faisal, who the British had set up in Baghdad, announced that exiled religious leaders could return to Iraq, providing they promised not to interfere in politics."
Sheikh Mehdi angrily dismissed the invitation as"an attack on our role as religious leaders and on the independence of Iraq." Instead, he traveled to the northeastern Iranian city of Mashad where he established an assembly"to protect the holy places of Iraq," publishing treatises in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Russian and Turkish....
... Today, it is common to hear Westerners, who have read a few polemical articles and imagine themselves great experts on Islam, calling for "an Islamic Reformation," and an "Islamic Luther." Other such are horrified to hear the argument, which is quite widespread among informed non-Muslim scholars as well as Muslims, that Islam already has a movement comparable to the Reformation, and had its Luther, or better, its John Calvin, in the form of Wahhabism and its founder, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. That is, the Islamic Reformation exists in the ultraextremist cult that is the state sect in Saudi Arabia and the inspirer of al-Qaida. Wahhabis themselves are quite pleased by the comparison. Is this really so difficult to understand?
Calvin believed that a community of the elect had been chosen by God and made up the Calvinist congregation. Before the arrival of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the Hanafi-Sunni Muslims of the Ottoman empire believed (as Hanafi-Sunnis still believe) that Allah would judge individuals on their faith, and that salvation could not be claimed in this life. Is Calvinism, with its insistence on its adherents' election, so easily distinguished from Wahhabism, with exactly the same fanatical belief in its acolytes' own goodness? Both produced iconoclasm and theocracy. Is it not fascinating that the followers of Calvin and Ibn Abd al-Wahhab both fostered the rejection of pleasure, song and dance, decoration of sacred buildings, and spiritual culture beyond simple prayer?
We are told incessantly that without "our Protestant heritage" Americans would not be free. Have Americans really become so thoroughly indoctrinated in this simplistic and bigoted a view of our history, according to which every liberty is due to the influence of "Anglo-Saxonism" and "the Protestant ethic," as to have forgotten that decades before Ibn Abd al-Wahhab was slaying Sufis in Arabia, Puritan Massachusetts hanged a Catholic woman as a witch? (Look up the case of Ann "Goody" Glover on google, if you don't believe me.)
Or that Roger Williams had to flee Puritan Massachusetts to shelter among the Narragansett Indians, on his way to found an oasis of religious liberty in Rhode Island? Or that Catholics were deprived of rights in nearly all the early Anglo-American colonies, except for Maryland? Can we today imagine Boston without a Catholic archdiocese? Yet there was no Catholic bishop in Boston until 1808. Early America happened to be a place where adherents of the Roman Catholic church, libeled for generations as subservient to the Pope -- a slander whose echo we hear subtly repeated today, in discussions about the suitability of Catholic political candidates -- were in truth courageous heroes of religious liberty.
In New England, with the exception of Rhode Island, the Congregational Churches long enjoyed an absolute monopoly on faith, and in most of the southern colonies, the Church of England had the same status. New Hampshire permitted nobody but Protestants to hold office or teach school until 1877, 14 years after the Emancipation Proclamation ended the slavery of Blacks! The Carolinas, by contrast, have the honor of proclaiming freedom of religion to "Jews, heathen, and dissenters," beginning in 1669, under the original colonial charter written by John Locke, although it was not ratified. England itself, worshipped as the mother of our liberties, denied full rights to Catholics until 1829!
Americans have lately been perturbed by the arguments of Samuel Huntington, according to whom, "There is only the American dream created by an Anglo-Protestant society," a dream that can be shared only by those who "dream in English." No place in this scheme for the Catholics of Maryland, to begin with. But how does this impend on the question of the future of Islam?
Joshua Spivak, in the Chicago Tribune (July 9, 2004):
Every four years Americans are subjected to political conventions, a relentlessly hyped, expensive event paid for partly by public funds. Despite the avalanche of coverage given to these events, the most important story is
missed: While once critical to our political system, the quadrennial conventions are a useless, pointless bore. In fact, they are now the multimillion-dollar vestigial tail of American presidential politics.
Reporters and pundits spin tales of important moments from the conventions that will supposedly shape our nation's future. However, viewers and voters are not fooled. In 2000, even though the major networks devoted much of their nightly coverage to the conventions, only 16.1 million households tuned in on the average night. Expect that figure to drop, and for good reason. Though the parties will do their best to make it look like they are presenting their take on the big issues, the conventions are actually run to make sure absolutely nothing of interest will happen.
It didn't used to be this way. Political conventions once were excitement personified, a place where "one lives a gorgeous year in an hour," according to acerbic commentator H.L. Mencken. The dreams of presidential hopefuls rose and fell in a moment's notice. But those days are long gone.
The last time a convention even went past the first ballot was in 1952. The convention's usefulness breathed its last in 1956, when, in a fairly successful attempt to enliven an otherwise dreary campaign, Adlai Stevenson threw the choice for his vice president to the delegates. Since then, due to the use of primaries and caucuses, the presidential candidates have all been known before the convention, even if some of their opponents did not realize it.
The convention is now used for political theater. While there is a grand tradition of memorable conventions in American history, from William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold speech in 1896 to Hubert Humphrey's 1948 call for the Democrats to "walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights," none of those are really remembered anymore. There is but one overriding convention moment that sticks in the mind today: the Chicago riot in 1968.
Conventions are now run with the prayer that nothing will go wrong on national television, a focus that removes all points of interest from the proceedings....
Every presidential ticket is a snapshot of a party, a particular political moment, a particular political need.
Often, it shows politicians scrambling to pull together various regions or ideological wings of a party, like Franklin D. Roosevelt paired with the conservative Texan John Nance Garner, the speaker of the House, in 1932. Sometimes, the politicians are trying to reflect (and capitalize on) a major social or demographic change - notably Walter F. Mondale, hoping to galvanize his decidedly uphill campaign by naming a woman, Geraldine A. Ferraro, as his running-mate in 1984.
So what does a John Kerry-John Edwards ticket tell you? Forget, for a moment, the obvious attempt at regional balance, or the tactical advantage of adding a skilled campaigner to the ticket. In deeper ways, the selection of Edwards signals the extent to which this campaign will revolve around class - more specifically, which party represents the aspirations, values and economic interests of hard-working middle America.
There is an obvious paradox here; Mr. Edwards is the fourth white male millionaire to join the national tickets. Three of them went to Yale, and two (Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush) are descendants of old and patrician New England families.
But Kevin Phillips, the political historian and Bush critic, notes that there are class differences even among the millionaires. To begin with, as is now widely known, Mr. Edwards is the son of a millworker, the first generation in his family to go to college (and it was not Yale). He made his own fortune, and he did it as a trial lawyer."Edwards is a member of one of the relatively few professions where you can make a lot of money blasting the avarice of big corporations," Mr. Phillips said.
"Republicans worry about him going up and down the Ohio Valley, and winning over a lot of people just like he won small-town juries in the border states," Mr. Phillips added. (Atticus Finch with an attitude.)
With the help of Mr. Edwards's full-throated economic populism, his up-by-the-bootstraps biography and his case against the"two Americas," Democrats hope to strengthen their connection with white working- and middle-class voters. Mr. Kerry has already laid down some detailed policy prescriptions to ease what he describes as the"middle-class squeeze," from a major program to expand health insurance coverage and hold down its costs, to new assistance with college tuition....
LAST THURSDAY, CNN's Larry King asked John Kerry whether he would want former President Bill Clinton to campaign on his behalf. Kerry said yes."What American would not trade the economy we had in the 1990s, the fact that we were not at war and young Americans were not deployed?"
Kerry's answer is revealing. We were, in fact, at war. The Clinton administration, with the exception of a few cruise missiles, had simply chosen not to fight back. Osama bin Laden, a sworn enemy of the United States, had launched attacks on our embassies and on a warship of the U.S. Navy. Saddam Hussein had defied U.N. weapons inspections, repeatedly threatened America, and attempted to assassinate former President Bush.
Furthermore, where does Kerry object to young Americans' being deployed? Afghanistan? But Kerry has criticized the Bush administration for an insufficient commitment of troops there. Iraq? But Kerry voted for the war and has said he would not cut and run.
So Kerry was simply indulging in demagoguery. He's not the only one. The Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on pre-Iraq intelligence failures last Friday. Jay Rockefeller, the committee's ranking Democrat, claimed that, because of the flawed intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction,"Our standing in the world has never been lower. We have fostered a deep hatred of America in the Muslim world, and that will grow. As a direct consequence, our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before."
Consider the extremism of Rockefeller's statement. Our global standing has never been lower? Our nation is more vulnerable than ever before? Then consider the facts. Since the 9/11 attacks, the United States and its allies have deposed the Taliban in Afghanistan and overthrown Saddam Hussein's Baathist despotism in Iraq. The Pakistani/Libyan international nuclear weapons bazaar has been shut down. Al Qaeda operatives not already killed or captured are on the run, with no safe base of operations remaining in the world. All this has made us more vulnerable? If that's true, then it is the position of Senator Rockefeller that the American and allied soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq not only have accomplished nothing but have been counterproductive. This is a slander the Bush administration must answer--if not for its own sake, then for the honor of those who have sacrificed so much to make this country less vulnerable than it has been for years.
As for hatred of America, al Qaeda leaders were planning their attacks on New York and Washington back in those halcyon days of the Clinton era that John Kerry recalls with such nostalgia. Indeed, al Qaeda was left unmolested as it trained thousands of terrorists at camps in Afghanistan. And of course, lest we forget: On October 12, 2000, al Qaeda bombed the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, killing 17 American sailors. On August 7, 1998, al Qaeda struck two U.S. embassies in East Africa killing 257--including 12 Americans--and injuring 5,000. During the 1990s, numerous other attacks were planned (the Millennium attack on the Los Angeles airport) or executed (the Khobar Towers attacks, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing). Those were the good old days when, by Jay Rockefeller's reckoning, America was less hated and less vulnerable....
John Kerry thinks he knows the Australian accent pretty well."Oz-TRY-le-an," he says with emphasis as we meet mid-air aboard his Boeing 757, modestly emblazoned"John Kerry President". Half an hour earlier we'd raced out of Denver, Colorado, our police motorcade ablaze in blue and red. Now we should be heading south for New Mexico, where more voters wait to be wooed. But instead of another stop on the trail Kerry hopes will end at the White House on November 2, the jet's nose suddenly points east to Washington DC, where the Republicans are planning an ambush in the Congress.
It's been a long day for the 60-year-old Democrat and his growing entourage. He left Nantucket on the north-east coast at 6am, reached the Rocky Mountains by mid-morning, and now, after a day's campaigning, he's due in the nation's capital at 2am. Total distance: about 6300 kilometres.
After a few hours' sleep, Kerry will be stalking the ornate corridors of the Capitol, making a rare return to his Senate duties to vote on a bill vital to one of his key constituencies - Vietnam War veterans. All the time he's thinking - about money, policies, a vice-president. Clearly, he has a lot going on. For the moment, though, he looks relaxed as he wanders out from his curtained compartment.
An aide introduces us."Oz-TRY-le-an," Kerry says. But when I suggest he picked up the accent on an R&R trip to Australia during the Vietnam War, there is no response. Instead, he heads back to his compartment.
It's a strange moment: Kerry has given a firm handshake, smiled, registered my nationality, made a mild joke about it, and then completely switched off. He hasn't been unfriendly. He hasn't been aloof - the most common criticism of him. He's just tuned in for a second, then disconnected. He knows I can't win him a single vote.
Backtrack 18 months to an icy Washington evening in January 2003 - a night for indoors, for politics and plots. At the White House, George W. Bush is mulling over a speech that will set the US on course for war in Iraq. Across town at a swank city hotel, six men attack him relentlessly as they begin manoeuvring for his job. One of them towers above the rest, still slim at six foot four (193cm), still good for the odd ice hockey game or a scoot across the waves on his windsurfer. Big-headed with a thicket of greying hair and a lantern jaw, he has a slightly melancholy look. His voice is deep, his tone serious. The message is clear: I'm presidential material - just look at my initials. JFK.
This is John Forbes Kerry, the widely travelled, well-educated son of a diplomat; Kerry, the decorated war hero whose anti-Vietnam campaign rattled the Nixon White House; Kerry, the four-term Massachusetts Senator who speaks French and specialises in foreign policy; Kerry, the guy who married one of America's richest women....
A NEW decency is at play in American popular culture - and it coincides with the rise of a new generation that is more conservative than their rebellious Sixties-era parents.
The outcry over Janet Jackson's breast-baring stunt is one vivid aspect of a new American primness, ephemeral or not, and it has also defined decency as one wedge issue in the elections.
Post-Janet, the annual Victoria's Secret lingerie show was cancelled on national television.
Then, certain 'live' broadcasts such as the Oscars were aired only after safe five-minute video delays.
Amusingly, a recent New York Times headline declared: Sex Doesn't Sell: Miss Prim Is In.
American fashion designers like Oscar de la Renta were subverting the runways with Peter Pan collars and prim coats, and to be uptight was 'edgy', the report said.
The Federal Communications Commission made the most of this Victorian moment in the national mood by punishing Clear Channel for radio shock-jock Howard Stern's on-air comments on anal sex.
Clear Channel agreed last month to pay US $1.75 million (S$3 million) in fines.
All this while, radical Madonna, always ahead of trends, has been penning children's books, dressing demurely in Laura Ashley florals, and exalting motherhood.
Indeed, the quarterly City Magazine, which is mined by policymakers and the media for ideas and trends, highlighted America's cultural pendulum swing in its Spring 2004 edition: 'Americans have been self-correcting from a decades-long experiment with 'alternative values'.
'During the last 10 years, most of the miserable trends in crime, divorce, illegitimacy, drug use, and the like that we saw in the decades after 1965 either turned around or stalled.
'What is emerging is a vital, optimistic, family-centred, entrepreneurial, and yes, morally thoughtful, citizenry.'
Mr Phillip Longman, who researches demographics and public policy, linked the Janet Jackson backlash to a magnified parental protectiveness and moderate cultural currents.
'Culturally, the US is beginning to know a brand-new generation that is more modest sexually and more committed to family,' the New America Foundation senior fellow said.
'Their parents typically wanted them really badly. They invested unprecedented amounts of attention and money on their kids, who are highly protected. People objected to Janet Jackson because their children are so precious.'
These young people belong to the new Millennial Generation of 70 million young Americans, a populous cohort born after 1980....
John Edwards can't get the high-beam smile off his face.
Picked this week as putative Democratic candidate John Kerry's running mate, his joy at the notion of becoming U.S. vice-president fairly leaps off the TV screen.
But has the junior senator from North Carolina thought it through?
He's important now. Some say his open-faced affability is, in fact, crucial if Kerry's so-far plodding campaign is ever to catch fire. But if the Democrats win Nov. 2, what then?
Will Edwards step in to the second most important job in the land, a heartbeat away from the presidency? Or, having served his purpose, will he be at a political dead end?
The first American vice-president, John Adams, called the job"the most insignificant office ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." Rather more succinct was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's three vice-presidents, John Nance Garner, who bitterly remarked that it"isn't worth a pitcher of warm spit."
That's been the case more often than not.
It's widely acknowledged that a vice-president has a far more significant role before the election, not after, hence the term, running mate.
He's expected to broaden the appeal of the main contender, not overshadow it because it's the top of the ticket that people vote for, analysts say, not the bottom. And Kerry's choice of a running mate is textbook. Edwards' blue-collar southern roots and trial-lawyer speechifying will counterpoint the Massachusetts senator's own blue-blood East Coast dispassion.
U.S. President George W. Bush also needed a counterpoint when he chose Dick Cheney in 2000, and almost certainly will do so again next month. Cheney, secretary of defence in George H.W. Bush's administration and ultimate Washington insider, added ballast to Bush's inexperience at the federal level.
Presidential historian Allan Lichtman notes it's a myth that running mates are picked to balance the ticket geographically or to deliver a key state or region. It rarely happens because it rarely works."Only Lyndon Johnson did that, back in 1960, when he was credited with winning Texas for John F. Kennedy."
Traditionally, once past the inauguration, vice-presidents are more or less sidelined, limited to attending the funerals of foreign dignitaries, playing host to less important White House visitors and chairing the occasional commission. Indeed, the role has only two officially mandated duties. The first is to serve as president of the Senate, though the V-P may vote only when there is a tie. Someone else actually runs it on a day-to-day basis.
The second is to succeed if the president dies or resigns, as in 1974 when Gerald Ford took over from the disgraced Richard Nixon. Nine of the 46 U.S. vice-presidents have replaced their boss before the end of his term, a fact that apparently enticed Johnson to sign on with Kennedy.
"Lots of presidents die in office," he noted in graceless foreshadowing,"so why not?"
The vice-president does attend cabinet meetings and sits on the National Security Council, the president's chief advisory panel on foreign relations and national defence policies.
That's only because of Harry Truman; as Roosevelt's third V-P, he was kept so far out of the loop that he knew nothing about testing of the atomic bomb. When he took office on FDR's death in 1945, with war in the Pacific still raging, Truman vowed no vice-president would ever be so ill-prepared again....
WHEN IS the last time you heard Donald Rumsfeld insult an ally? The defense secretary used to insult an ally a week. The men from Mars in Rumsfeld's inner circle had nothing but contempt for the un-warlike Europeans from Venus, as Robert Kagan famously put it. But in recent months Rumsfeld has become strangely quiet. The Bush administration never admits it has made a mistake, but you can detect shifts in policy by signals sent out, and one of them may be a muzzled Rumsfeld.
The fact is that the administration needs allies now. Iraq has gone so badly that the old go-it-alone neoconservatives have had to take a back seat, and the Bush forces are out courting countries it formerly disdained. So intensive was this effort to internationalize Iraq in the month of June that John Kerry began to see one of his key issues being coopted.
The Bush administration came into office with a big chip on its shoulder, and long before 9/11, America's allies watched in dismay at what wags called the bonfire of the treaties -- Kyoto, the International Criminal Court, et al. But it was Iraq that caused the great divide between the United States and its European allies, and not all the fault lay with the Americans. The French saying they would veto any UN resolution to go to war against Iraq no matter what the circumstances ended any chance for a united international effort to prod Iraq into compliance with UN Resolution 1441.
We now know that Saddam Hussein doubted Western resolve to disarm him, and even though the overall French position on Iraq certainly looks better in hindsight, it began to seem at the time that the real fight was about curtailing American power, not Iraq's. Rumsfeld's crack"old Europe" being less important to the United States as the new Europeans who had just emerged from Soviet power further inflamed trans-Atlantic sensibilities.
Last month, however, President Bush traveled from Washington no less than four times to meet with and to soothe ruffled allies. He went from the beaches of Normandy, where the 60th anniversary of D-Day was being celebrated, to the G-8 summit in Georgia, to Ireland for a European Union meeting, and lastly to Istanbul for a NATO summit....
Senator John Kerry's political advisers plan to dispatch his new running mate, Senator John Edwards, to rural areas in critical states across the Midwest and the West, in the belief that Mr. Edwards could be an unusually powerful advocate for the ticket in regions viewed as President Bush's stronghold.
For all the attention to Mr. Edwards's Southern roots, Mr. Kerry's aides said that his strongest appeal was likely to be among rural and independent voters, two of the most vital segments of the electorate this year, because of his upbringing in a small North Carolina town and his political identity as a Southern Democrat. Mr. Kerry's aides and some outside analysts said he could be a strong presence in a dozen battleground states outside the South, from Ohio to Oregon.
''From looking at how he performed in the primaries, it is clear he did well with the rural vote," Steve Elmendorf, Mr. Kerry's deputy campaign manager, said."We're going to send Edwards into rural states and Southern states because we think he can help us close the gap there."
The Democrats' emerging plan for Mr. Edwards comes at a time when Democratic and even some Republican officials suggest that Mr. Kerry's vice-presidential selection has the potential of being the most politically significant choice since another Massachusetts Democrat, John F. Kennedy, turned to another Southerner, Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1960. Many experts say the choice of Johnson pushed Texas into the Democrats' column and ensured Kennedy's victory.
Although Mr. Edwards is likely to sway a relatively small number of votes, Democrats and Republicans noted that the contest was likely to be determined by a sliver of voters in a handful of states, and said that Mr. Edwards appeared particularly strong among those voters the White House and Mr. Kerry's campaign had seen as pivotal to the outcome in November.
"I think it's going to help him," Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster, said of Mr. Kerry's choice of Mr. Edwards."The picture of him and all the kids and the rest of it.
"He appeals to the Southern moderates, who in the past may have voted for the Republicans," Mr. Fabrizio added."He's got a populist message, so it can go to union members; a sizable number of union members might have voted for George Bush. I think Edwards is appealing to female voters."
Mr. Bush's aides said they did not believe Mr. Edwards would make a significant difference, arguing that voters end up making their decisions in presidential elections based on the top of the ticket....
DOES SENATOR CARL LEVIN believe in preemption?
The Michigan Democrat, one of the fiercest partisan critics of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq, held a bizarre press conference Thursday to criticize the Senate Intelligence Committee's not-yet-released report on prewar intelligence. Levin faulted the exhaustive document for failing to include a critique of the Bush administration for its alleged"exaggeration" of the connection between the former Iraqi regime an al Qaeda.
No one in the Congress has had more to say about the Iraq-al Qaeda connection than Levin. And no one has been as misleading.
Here is Levin, in an appearance on CNN on July 8, 2003:"There is some evidence that there was an exaggeration by the intelligence community about that relationship," he alleged."We need them to be credible. That means no exaggeration. That means they have to give the unvarnished facts to the policymakers."
That claim--the intelligence community exaggerated the Iraq-al Qaeda connection--were a dilation of comments Levin had made in a June 16, 2003, interview on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."We were told by the intelligence community that there was a very strong link between al Qaeda and Iraq." [emphasis added]
By February 2004, Levin was saying precisely the opposite.
"The intel didn't say that there is a direct connection between al Qaeda and Iraq," he told John Gibson of Fox News."That was not the intel. That's what this administration exaggerated to produce. And so there are many instances where the administration went beyond the intelligence . . . I'm saying that the administration's statements were exaggerations of what was given to them by the analysts and the intelligence community."
Why did Levin shift the blame? Only he knows. But developments between his contradictory assessments seem relevant. Initially, of course, the Bush administration was accused by critics of pressuring intelligence analysts to shape their findings to fit predetermined policy goals. Just days before Levin refocused his critique, chief weapons inspector David Kay testified that he had seen no evidence of such pressure."I had innumerable analysts who came to me in apology that the world that we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed and that they had estimated," Kay told the Senate on January 28, 2004."And never, not in one single case, was the explanation, 'I was pressured to do this....'"
Some years ago the Harvard sociologist Nathan Glazer declared that"we are all multiculturalists now." One's initial response to such an unwanted announcement is to say:"What do you mean, 'we'?" Yet, even if"we" do not subscribe to that sentiment, it cannot be denied that over the last twenty years multiculturalism has become the ruling idea of America, incarnated in every area of society ranging from educational curricula to the quasi-official establishment of foreign languages, to mandated racial proportionality schemes in private employment and university admissions, to the constant invocations by our political, business, and intellectual elites of"diversity" as the highest American value. How, so quickly and effortlessly, did this alien belief system take over our country? In this article, I look at multiculturalism as an ideology that has advanced itself by means of a set of propositions. My intent is to examine the false arguments of the multiculturalists themselves, and to see how they have used these arguments to fool an all-too-willing American majority to go along with them.
The Fraud of Inclusion
The first principle of multiculturalism is the equality of all cultures. According to its proponents, America is an assemblage of racially or ethnically defined subcultures, all of which have equal value and none of which can claim a privileged position.
It follows from this that the main goal of multiculturalism is inclusion. Multiculturalists argue that minority and non-Western cultures have been unjustly excluded in the past from full participation in our culture, and that in order to correct this historic wrong we must now include them on an equal basis. In other words, these minority cultures must be regarded as having the same public importance as America's historic majority culture. Moreover, we are told, this equal and public inclusion of different cultures does not threaten our culture, but"enriches" it. By this reasoning, if we became (say) an officially bilingual society, with Spanish appearing alongside English on every cereal box and street sign in the land (as is done with the two languages of Canada), our culture would not be harmed in the slightest. We would only be including something we once excluded. We would have become something more, not less. What could be more positive? How could any decent person object?
To begin to answer that question, let us imagine a scenario in which a Western cultural group—say a large population of Italian Catholics—moved en masse into a Moslem country and demanded that the host society drop all public observance of its majority religion and redefine itself as a multicultural state. When the Moslems react in fear and outrage, the Catholics answer:"What are you so uptight about, brothers? In challenging Islam's past exclusionary practices, we're not threatening your religion and way of life, we're enriching them." Of course, as even the multiculturalists would admit, such"enrichment" would change Islam into something totally unacceptable to the Moslem majority. By the same logic, if the U.S. Congress were required to conduct all its proceedings in Chinese or Spanish alongside English, that would obviously not"enrich" America's political tradition, but radically disrupt and change it. To say that a majority culture must"include" alien traditions on an equal basis in order to prove its own moral legitimacy is to say that the majority culture, as a majority culture, is not legitimate and has no right to exist.
Since multiculturalism claims to stand for the sanctity and worth of each culture, the discovery that its real tendency is to dismantle the existing European-based culture of the United States should have instantly discredited it. Yet it has not—not even among conservatives. A leading reason for this failure is that modern conservatives are themselves ethnicity-blind, democratic universalists. Their conservatism consists in seeing multiculturalism as an attack on their universalist tenets. They fail to understand multiculturalism as an attack on a particular culture and people, namely their own, because as universalists they either have no allegiance to that particular culture and people or their allegiance is defensive and weak. Thus the typical conservative today will say that multiculturalism is bad because"it divides us into different groups"—which is of course true. But he rarely says that multiculturalism is bad because"it is destroying our culture"—America's historic culture and civilization—since that would imply that he was defending a particular culture rather than a universalist idea. Because conservatives are unwilling to defend the very thing that multiculturalism is seeking to destroy, they are unable to identify the nature of multiculturalism and to oppose it effectively.
Several caveats are in order before proceeding with a discussion, which will inevitably incite the multicultural left and invite its characteristically unscrupulous attacks. When I speak of America's"dominant Western culture," or of its"majority culture and people," these are not intended as code words for whites. Individuals of non-European ancestry are and can be full members of America's majority Western culture. At the same time, it is a historical fact that America’s defining political culture is Anglo-Saxon and Protestant in origin and character. A Japanese-American can become an American by embracing this culture—this culture shaped by Anglo-Saxon and Protestant traditions—as his own. (And I write this as a non-Anglo-Saxon Jew.) The same is true for individuals of any ethnic or racial group.
In this article I refer occasionally to whites as well as to generic conservatives, mainly because whites, as the American majority population and the historic ethnic core of the dominant culture, are the particular targets of multicultural propaganda. Whites as a group are never spoken of today except in negative terms. This is the case even as liberal white elites worship at the altar of blacks as a group, of Moslems as a group, of Mexicans as a group, and so on. Many whites have so absorbed today's anti-white attitudes that they consider it"racist" even to think of themselves as whites or to speak of whites as a category at all. Not only does this represent a malignant double standard, in which nonwhites are empowered in their anti-white racism while their white targets are silenced, it doesn't even make sense. How can we speak intelligently about the fateful issues of multiculturalism and national identity if we are not even allowed to mention one of the main parties (though most of its members decline to think of themselves as a party) to those controversies?
My occasional use of the present tense to portray the respective sides of the diversity debate should not be taken to suggest that any meaningful debate on that topic is still going on, at least in mainstream venues. As has been increasingly evident since the mid-1990s, the multiculturalists have pretty well won their war against America's former dominant culture, in the sense of supplanting it as the prevailing national idea. Multiculturalist agendas and the rhetoric of diversity inform the key institutions and official expressions of American society. It is now an unquestioned credo both in the schools and among the elites that the central purpose of our society is the inclusion of other peoples and cultures, rather than the preservation, flourishing, and enhancement of our own people and culture. Multiculturalism is embraced in the highest precincts of the establishment right as well as the left. Thus George W. Bush, casting aside Ronald Reagan's belief in immigration with assimilation, has celebrated the growth of unassimilated foreign languages and cultures in this country, while his closest aide, Condoleezza Rice, who ten years ago told radio host Bob Grant that she was a Republican because Republicans treated her as an individual instead of as a black, now supports minority racial preferences in college admissions and throws around diversity rhetoric with the best of them....
When Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina suspended his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in March, my Carolina Journal colleagues and I engaged in a Wall Street Journal-inspired"bye-ku" competition in remembrance of his campaign. His"Two Americas" and"son of a mill worker" themes were popular targets, but so was the media love:
The"Breck Girl," still coiffed, Reluctantly exits race Raleigh's news rag sad.
Big teeth and coiffed hair Touchy-feely Marxism Of course the press swooned.
His other home-town paper, the News & Observer, was less jaded. After all, they had stoked the Edwards-for-president fervor, so his withdrawal met with commensurate gloom. But the announcement on Tuesday that Edwards will run as vice president with John Kerry restored the News & Observer editorial board's faith yesterday, as they gushed that Edwards"appealed to voters with a positive, forward-looking campaign" and that"one reason Edwards seems to hit home with [working families] is that his message has been a positive one.""Edwards's response to [opponents]," they beamed,"generally has been to stick to his positive themes."
Looks like the endorsement has already been written.
EXPECT MUCH OF THE SAME from the national media. Like the Raleigh paper, the major press and broadcast outlets like to think that Edwards is right where they believe they are: in the middle. Look for reporters to use terms, as they have in the past, such as"moderate,""middle-class,""populist,""small-town appeal,""working families,"" common," and"folksy" in articles describing Edwards. Oh, and"mill," too--they love those downtrodden factory origins.
For such an average, middling guy, Edwards possesses the pizzazz that the media has wanted from the Kerry campaign. Journalists use descriptions that include"fresh-faced,""vigorous,""engaging,"" crisp,"" charismatic,""eloquent,""uplifting,""appealing," and"youthful." It sounds like a focus-group dream. John Edwards: He's Mountain Dew, chicken Caesar salad, and raspberry sorbet all rolled into one.
Need a role model? Edwards is your man. He was the first in his family to attend college--as reporters are fond to repeat--and is the son of the now-most famous, yet unnamed small-town mill worker in the world. Biographical articles about Wallace Edwards's son have characterized him as"overachieving," because he overcame an alleged disadvantage by coming from a blue-collar small town.
Meanwhile, in the coming months criticisms of Edwards's inexperience will likely be relegated to a single short paragraph or two, and attributed to a Republican. Almost all other unfavorable adjectives will also be attached to his political opponents. Don't expect an"objective" challenge to Edwards's lack of"gravitas."
Edwards's opponents will also be the ones who apply the"liberal" label, rather than reporters, although the Boston Globe bucked this tendency yesterday in an analysis of his record....
Back in 2002 I went over to see John and Elizabeth Edwards at their house in Washington. We had lunch, salads for us all, the pundit sizing up the prodigy with the usual Beltway questions about this or that, when suddenly Edwards set the agenda. He talked passionately about racial injustice.
I won't go into the particulars of that conversation -- it doesn't matter anyway -- but suffice it to say that I found it an unexpected turn of events. Edwards was even then known for rhetoric that was to become his stock campaign speech about"two Americas":"We're going to build an America where we say no to kids going to bed hungry, no to kids who don't have the clothes to keep them warm, and no forever to any American working full time and living in poverty." This is the rhetoric that has earned him the label"populist."
It is also the rhetoric that comes right out of his background as the son of a textile worker -- working class, blue-collar, always an accident away from financial disaster. Edwards's story is by now well known: the first in his family to go to college, the trial lawyer who sued the pants off rich corporations and lousy doctors, making them pay for maiming people in the grand cause of profit.
But over lunch in his house, little of that came out. Instead, it was civil rights, race and the ideology of some of George Bush's judicial appointments. Edwards spoke with a passion you don't often hear in Washington anymore, referring to his boyhood in the South and the degradation and humiliation of African Americans that he had witnessed -- a Southerner out to make amends. Either he felt it keenly or he was putting on one hell of an act.
Edwards is often likened to Bill Clinton, and the comparison is in some ways apt. They are both political wunderkinds who felt no obligation to punch the conventional ticket -- city council, state legislature, etc. -- and instead decided to start where other men are glad to finish. They both have tongues that are hard-wired to their brains, punctuating their thoughts with verbal commas and periods and not with the grunts and hmmms of most politicians. Both Edwards and Clinton studied their betters -- and bested them.
There is yet another way in which Edwards is like Clinton -- the quality, if that's the right word, of his wife. I will never forget sitting at a lunch counter in New Hampshire with Bill and Hillary Clinton as they answered questions from a waitress about various programs for single mothers. If Bill Clinton paused while putting some food in his mouth, Hillary Clinton took over. It may not be true that she knew as much as Bill. She probably knew more.
It was something similar at lunch with John and Elizabeth Edwards. That day, it was clear that if John Edwards needed to pause in the middle of a sentence, his wife could finish it, maybe adding a detail or two that he forgot. She, too, is a lawyer. Together, they are a firm.
The Edwards firm is now in competition with the Clinton one. If, as every Democrat in New York believes, Bill and Hillary have their eyes on a Clinton Restoration (Hillary as president in 2008 or 2012, depending) they now have to contend with the Edwardses. The brand new vice presidential nominee is just 51. Nothing is certain in politics, but an Edwards-Clinton showdown seems destined....
It has come to this: The crux of the political left's complaint about Americans is that they are insufficiently materialistic.
For a century, the left has largely failed to enact its agenda for redistributing wealth. What the left has achieved is a rich literature of disappointment, explaining the mystery, as the left sees it, of why most Americans are impervious to the left's appeal.
An interesting addition to this canon is"What's the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America." Its author, Thomas Frank, argues that his native Kansas -- like the nation, only more so -- votes self-destructively, meaning conservatively, because social issues such as abortion distract it from economic self-interest, as the left understands that.
Frank is a formidable controversialist -- imagine Michael Moore with a trained brain and an intellectual conscience. Frank has a coherent theory of contemporary politics and expresses it with a verve born of indignation. His carelessness about facts is mild by contemporary standards, or lack thereof, concerning the ethics of controversy.
He says"the pre-eminent question of our times" is why people misunderstand"their fundamental interests." But Frank ignores this question: Why does the left disparage what everyday people consider their fundamental interests?
He says the left has been battered by"the Great Backlash" of people of modest means against their obvious benefactor and wise definer of their interests, the Democratic Party. The cultural backlash has been, he believes, craftily manufactured by rich people with the only motives the left understands -- money motives. The aim of the rich is to manipulate people of modest means, making them angry about abortion and other social issues so that they will vote for Republicans who will cut taxes on the rich.
Such fevered thinking is a staple of what historian Richard Hofstadter called"the paranoid style in American politics," a style practiced, even pioneered, a century ago by prairie populists. You will hear its echo in John Edwards's lament about the"two Americas" -- the few rich victimizing the powerless many....
No one can accuse documentarian and bedraggled, beer-bellied gadfly Michael Moore of having a hidden agenda. He has raised a firestorm of controversy and generated a torrent of publicity not only by bludgeoning President Bush with his feature-length attack,"Fahrenheit 9/11," but also by declaring that he made the film in hopes of booting Bush from office.
In the end, he isn't likely to affect the presidential race. But"Fahrenheit 9/11" may have an altogether different effect: a change in the practice and the values of journalism. What Moore and the film have done is take dead aim on one of the most sacred of journalistic shibboleths: the idea that journalists are supposed to be fair and balanced. This isn't just a function of Moore having a point of view to push; there have always been provocateurs. Rather it is a function of the film revealing the harm that balance has done to our public discourse and the distortions it has promoted.
The words"fair and balanced" have been largely discredited in recent years because of the Fox News Channel, which uses them to mean not that Fox takes an objective, evenhanded approach to the news but that the cable channel is redressing the purported liberal bias of the mainstream news media, balancing them. But Fox aside, the idea of"fair and balanced" is still a mainstay of most journalistic practice, at least in theory. Reporters are not supposed to take sides. For every pro on one side of the scale there must be a con on the other. If the 9/11 commission declares that there is absolutely no credible evidence of any collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, the press must also prominently post Vice President Dick Cheney's view that there was a relationship, whether he provides evidence or not. If the preponderance of scientific opinion says global warming threatens the environment, the press must still interview the handful of scientists who dismiss it. That's just the way it is.
And then into this staid and carefully counterpoised media culture came Moore, who chortled on"The Daily Show" recently that he was unfair and unbalanced. But he was only half right. Obviously"Fahrenheit 9/11" is not balanced in its approach to Bush. There are no Bush spokesmen giving the Bush spin. But by the same token, virtually every factual statement in the film, as distinguished from Moore's interpretation of those facts, is accurate. In short, the film isn't balanced, but it may be fair.
Even before Fox appropriated them, the words"fair and balanced" had been yoked as if they were somehow synonymous, but if by"fair" one means objective and unbiased, then more often than not"fair" and"balanced" may be mutually exclusive. To cite one glaring example of just how balance can transmogrify into unfairness, there is the story of a television host who once invited Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt on his program and then had a Holocaust denier as a counterweight, implying that the two sides were equally credible.
It should come as no surprise that conservatives have increasingly relied on this little journalistic loophole. They have come to realize that they can do all sorts of things, the more egregious the better, and the press will not call them out because balance, if not fairness, requires that the press not seem to be piling on. So the Bush administration can fashion a prescription drug program that is a shameless giveaway to the industry or continue to insist that the war in Iraq is the front line in the war on terror, knowing full well that the press will not report a giveaway as a giveaway or a trumped-up link to terror as a trumped-up link without also giving at least equal measure to the administration's own spin, even if it is demonstrably false.
At the same time, the adherence to balance that has so clearly aided conservatives has made liberals seem like the hapless fellow in a science fiction movie who keeps trying to convince everyone that the kindly new neighbors are actually aliens, only to be dismissed as a paranoid. Take Bill Clinton. However one felt about Clinton, it was perfectly obvious that the right had conspired to gang up on him just as he and Hillary said, though the press shrugged off the charge. After all, to privilege it wouldn't have been balanced....