Sad Puppies Victorious

Science fiction is full of stories of a rag-tag group of rebels taking on the Big Bad Empire. These rebels, using a combination of wits, pluck, and determination, inevitably manage to take the Empire down and bring a new era of peace to the galaxy.

Rarely, however, does such a thing happen in real life.

The Hugos are the Oscars of science fiction and fantasy, an award with a long and pedigreed history of honoring the greatest visionary minds in the genre. However, in the last few years the Hugos have become the exclusive playground of a clique—the “Mean Girls” of genre fiction—who have tried to use the Hugos as a political statement rather than a celebration of the incredible diversity of science fiction and fantasy. Instead of being awarded on merit, the Hugos were passed out to members of the clique, led by a powerful and influential publisher, and restricted to only those who towed the political line.

Cue the rebels.

A group of science fiction authors had enough. They founded “Sad Puppies 3,” a slate of deserving works and authors long passed-over by the Hugo clique. These works were not picked on politics, but on their merit.

The fans—the fans that have been neglected, insulted, or ignored by the ruling clique—won. The plucky rebels defeated the Empire.

Just like the great sci-fi epics, the rebels won—the Sad Puppies slate dominated the Hugo nomination process, along with another fan-driven slate. The old system of exclusion was broken by a flood of new entrants.

Of course, the Empire tried to strike back. As SF author Brad Torgersen put it:

It’s been most of a full day since the final Hugo award ballot was announced, for the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention. If you’re tuned in to this thing — and if you’re reading this, you probably are — you’ve no doubt seen the small mountain of verbal outrage which has flooded forth. Because the SP3 slate didn’t just do well with nominating voters, it did overwhelmingly well. A raft of notions has been forwarded by different critics, to explain the “discrepancy” in the 2015 ballot. Most of the critical commentary takes the form of very earnest protestations focusing on violation of etiquette — though, again, SP3 broke no rules — and seem intent to make SP3 out as nothing more than a “fringe effort” by a minority.

. . .

You, gentle SP3 supporter, are not good enough. The refined arbiters of the field all say so. Your politics are wrong, your taste is wrong, your reading habits are wrong, your affiliations within fandom are wrong, you like the wrong things, you go to the wrong fan meetings, you are part of the wrong circles, you like the wrong publishers, and you vote wrong when you cast your ballots. You’ve been told this for years, in variously subtle and sometimes unintentional ways. But now your intellectual and moral betters in the field are getting more explicit about it.

But the self-appointer arbiters lost out this week. The fans—the fans that have been neglected, insulted, or ignored by the ruling clique—won. The plucky rebels defeated the Empire.

The Empire would rather blow up the Death Star than let it get captured—there’s an organized campaign to vote for “No Award” rather than let us heathens sully the Hugos with our doubleplus ungood badthink. However, even though nominations are closed, for $40 you can be entitled to vote on which work you believe deserves a Hugo. Anyone with a love of science fiction and fantasy is welcome—and the more people who vote for the Hugos, the more representative it will be of the entirety of fandom, not the ruling few.

There is a lesson to be learned here. Too often those of us on the right-leaning side of the political spectrum just throw our hands up and say that we can’t change the culture. We spent inordinate amount of time trying to change the political system while forgetting the culture moves politics, not the other way around. So many of the issue for which we advocate are cultural issues, not political ones.

Despite this, we barely show up to the fight in the culture wars. We give up the battle before it even begins, and the Empire takes over.

What the Sad Puppies campaign teaches us is that we can make a difference—we can change the culture. All we have to do is show up. We think that culture is built from the top down, when more often than not it comes from the bottom up.

How big a difference could be made if small book clubs featured more conservative or libertarian works? How big a difference could some political diversity make on local library boards? There are countless little opportunities for change that those on the right neglect because they become so focused on the narrow canvas of politics. Meanwhile, the other side began its “long march through the institutions” fifty years ago and have burrowed their way into nearly every facet of American life. What strategy is more effective?

Sad Puppies is an excellent reminder of the difference that individuals can make if they band together, work towards a goal, and execute. Cultures do not change overnight, but they can change.

As a die-hard science fiction fan, growing up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and reading Asimov, Bradberry, and Clarke, I loved stories about the brave rebels defeating the Empire. Those stories were designed to inspire, empower, and teach important lessons about courage, initiative, and determination. The best science fiction and fantasy holds a mirror up to our society and gives us the opportunity to look at our world from an entirely new perspective. The Sad Puppies movement is in the spirit of the best of the genre, and serves as a valuable reminder that we are only powerless if we choose to be so.

UPDATE: Entertainment Weekly published a shameless hit-piece on the Sad Puppies campaign. Glenn Reynolds has a compendium of links to the original EW piece and reactions from the Sad Puppies organizers. Of course, EW got it entirely wrong, slimed the Sad Puppies organization, and never bothered to ask for the other side. In other words, the typical practice of the mainstream ideological media. This is why groups like Sad Puppies not only need to exist, but must be willing to speak out against the agenda-driven journalism that would try to marginalize them.

The Massacre At Newtown

The murder of 20 innocent children and 6 innocent adults in Newtown, Connecticut is nothing short of heartbreaking. As the world turns toward the Christmas season, it is fitting that we reflect on the tragedy of this shooting. Twenty-six lives cut short in a senseless act of carnage. The image of those empty places at dinner tables, the Christmas presents that will never be unwrapped by their intended recipients, the grieving families, all of them bring a sense of undeniable tragedy at a time that should be about peace and family.

Yet like nearly everything else in society today, the Newtown atrocity has become yet another excuse for the crudest of partisan politics. Mere minutes after the shootings, the predictable calls for gun control were echoing online. We are being told, in that typically histrionic style, that opposition to gun control might as well be the same as siding with the murderer. The political-media complex are already in full swing, doing all they can to shape the narrative in favor of more firearms restrictions.

Blame the Person, Not the Object

The problem with this convenient narrative is that it misses the points. Guns didn’t kill 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut. Guns are inanimate objects, not evil talismans that possess innocents and turn them into mindless killing machines. The Newtown atrocity was committed by a deeply disturbed person with what appears to be a substantial history of mental illness. It is easy to try and “control” firearms—at least on paper. But admitting that this country has a crisis in mental health is a much harder debate. Instead, the focus is on the longstanding objective of the left: disarming the American populace.

For one, that will never work. Guns exist. High-powered assault rifles exist. We can make them marginally harder to obtain, but criminals will still find a way to get them. The idea that Congress can pass a law banning certain weapons and those weapons will magically disappear is childish thinking. Indeed, we’ve already tried with the Assault Weapons Ban. But when that ban expired in 2004, the number of shootings remained constant.

The anti-gun crowd keeps making predictions of imminent disaster: if the Assault Weapons Ban is not reauthorized, blood will run in the streets! The ban was not reauthorized, and the level of violent crime continued to go down. We heard that if states adopted Concealed Carry laws, that the result would be the Wild West all over again—but the hard evidence shows that concealed-carry permit holders are in fact less likely to be involved in violent crime than the general population. The fact is that as terrible as mass shootings like the ones we have seen this year are the exception, not the rule.

Culture Matters, But Not in the Way You Think

Saying that America’s “gun culture” is to blame is equally facetious. For one, it’s not like these shooters are card-carrying members of the National Rifle Association. The people who care about Second Amendment rights tend to be people who have a healthy respect for firearms. The NRA itself is diligent in promoting safety training and the responsible use of firearms.

There is a cultural problem here, but it has less to do with guns and everything to do with the media. The media breathlessly reports on these mass killings, even going so far as to ghoulishly shove their microphones into the faces of traumatized children from Sandy Hook School. And these killers, almost always mentally ill young men who feel ostracized from society, get exactly what they want: publicity and notoriety.

At The Week, Matt K. Lewis has a deft takedown of the media’s irresponsibility over the Newtown shootings:

To be sure, a transparent society demands reporting newsworthy incidents — and this definitely qualifies. But it should be done responsibly. And that is not what we have witnessed. We have instead a feeding frenzy that is all about beating the competition — not disseminating information.

It’s about being first, beating other media outlets, and making a name for themselves. It’s a ghoulish mentality that stokes controversy and violence — for business purposes. It’s a sort of “if it bleeds it leads” mentality that causes cable networks to create logos and theme music for such tragic events (all the while, they feign maudlin concern and outrage.)

Come to think of it, the media is guilty of doing what they criticize big business for — putting money (in this case, ratings, newsstand sales, and web traffic) ahead of humanity and decency. Just as greedy businessmen put profit and personal gain ahead of ethics, so too do our media outlets.

It is a commentary on our media that there’s a mad rush to repeal the rights protected by the Second Amendment, but none to restrict the dangers of the First Amendment. After all, the Founders never envisioned a world where irresponsible mass media could broadcast falsehoods and misinformation across the globe in a matter of seconds. The Founders could not have envisioned a world when a handful of media outlets would have such control over the public discourse and could use their power to advance their own agendas. In their time, the press consisted of numerous small region publications that could check the excesses of one another. Should not the freedom of the press be restricted only to reasonable technologies such as a basic Gutenberg press? After all, that would be more in tune with what the Founders really intended, wouldn’t it?

Of course that’s a silly argument—but why then are the same arguments used in the context of firearms? Yes, the Founders lived in a time when firearms were relatively crude and cumbersome. But that is not the point of the Second Amendment. The point is that the last and most crucial bulwark against despotism is an armed and capable populace—a nation of riflemen is far more resilient than a nation that has been thoroughly disarmed.

Our culture is the problem, but its a culture that is created by the very same media that wants to disarm the rest of us. If we want to reduce the incentives for these horrific attacks, then the media should have policy that the name of the shooter is never released, the focus is only on the victims, and sensationalism is to be avoided at all costs. Fat chance of the media ever agreeing to that, even in principle.

As The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf points out this country has already had an in-depth conversation about guns, and the pro-gun side won decisively, with anti-gun efforts failing across the country. The right to self-defense has been recognized as such, and the American people have spoken. We value our ability to keep and bear arms, and that is a choice that represents the democratic will of the American people.

Does that mean that gun violence will continue to be endemic in America? Only if you assume that the availability of firearms is the biggest factor, rather than mental illness, the breakdown of the American family, a failing prison system, etc. The fact is that the number of firearms in this country continues to rise while restrictions on firearms have been loosened—and violent crime continues to decrease.

What happened in Newtown was undeniably a heartbreaking tragedy. But using it as a launching pad for another campaign to restrict the rights of tens of millions of law-abiding Americans is not only a poor way of honoring the dead, but ultimately counterproductive as well.

Postscript: Oddly enough, it is Saturday Night Live that had the most appropriate reaction to this tragedy: having their cold open this week be a children’s choir singing “Silent Night” in front of a single candle. That a comedy show showed more class and dignity than their news operation says a great deal about the media today.

The Lesson Of Sarah Palin

Ross Douthat has the best take on the Sarah Palin brouhaha out there:

Palin’s popularity has as much to do with class as it does with ideology. In this sense, she really is the perfect foil for Barack Obama. Our president represents the meritocratic ideal — that anyone, from any background, can grow up to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School and become a great American success story. But Sarah Palin represents the democratic ideal — that anyone can grow up to be a great success story without graduating from Columbia and Harvard…

Here are lessons of the Sarah Palin experience, for any aspiring politician who shares her background and her sex. Your children will go through the tabloid wringer. Your religion will be mocked and misrepresented. Your political record will be distorted, to better parody your family and your faith. (And no, gentle reader, Palin did not insist on abstinence-only sex education, slash funds for special-needs children or inject creationism into public schools.)

Male commentators will attack you for parading your children. Female commentators will attack you for not staying home with them. You’ll be sneered at for how you talk and how many colleges you attended. You’ll endure gibes about your “slutty” looks and your “white trash concupiscence,” while a prominent female academic declares that your “greatest hypocrisy” is the “pretense” that you’re a woman. And eight months after the election, the professionals who pressed you into the service of a gimmicky, dreary, idea-free campaign will still be blaming you for their defeat.

All of this had something to do with ordinary partisan politics. But it had everything to do with Palin’s gender and her social class.

Douthat has it exactly right: Sarah Palin was despised by the left because she represents a culture that is alien to the left’s worldview. She’s a female, she’s attractive, she’s actively pro-life, she’s rural, she’s plain spoken, and she’s conservative. To the left, such a thing just should not be. She embodies values that stand in very clear contrast to those of the left, and were she to obtain national popularity she could be very influential.

The former governor was not prepared for the race in 2008, and the McCain campaign did an extremely poor job of preparing her for what she would face. Douthat is right that she would have been wise to turn down McCain’s offer, although it is understandable that she did not.

But, Douthat notes, Palin is still relatively popular. She has a net positive approval rating, even after 10 months of constant fire. If Palin wanted to return to politics—and perhaps she does not—a Sarah Palin that had spend some time learning policy and crafting her positions could still be a potent political force.

Right now the lesson of Sarah Palin is that if you’re not prepared for the national stage you will be eaten alive. But there is a possibility, however small, that the lesson down the road might very well be that counting Sarah Barricuda out is a very unwise idea.

The Decline of TV Political News

Stuart Rothenberg, one of the nation’s preeminent pollsters has a scathing indictment of the current state of TV political coverage. Rather than providing an opportunity for viewers to get a wide range of opinions, TV political coverage is now largely about attracting the most rabid partisans:

Chris Matthews is a smart, politically astute observer of politics, but my last appearance convinced me that “Hardball” has evolved from a straight political news program with quality guests to one that has more in common with its network’s prime-time slant. Like most of the evening programming on MSNBC and the Fox News Channel, “Hardball” has become a partisan, heavily ideological sledgehammer clearly intended to beat up one party and one point of view.

During the show on which I appeared, Matthews referred more than once to Republicans as “Luddites” and took every opportunity imaginable to portray them as crackpots. The show’s topics inevitably pander to the most liberal Democratic viewers and present Republicans and conservatives in the least flattering of terms.

I don’t mean to single out Matthews for criticism because he actually understands politics and I believe that he would prefer to do a serious political show. Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and the newest addition to MSNBC’s unfortunate lineup, Ed Schultz, are far worse than “Hardball.”

The reality is that TV news is based around appealing to the lowest common denominator—and there are a dwindling number of worthwhile TV news programs available. For example, while FOX is famous for the blowhards Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, they do have some very good straight political coverage and Brit Hume’s nightly show was one of the best in the industry. However, their bread-and-butter was in “opinion journalism” (an oxymoron if ever there was one). FOX had good political coverage, and for all their supposed conservative bias they did a good job of reporting on serious matters as well.

MSNBC, however, decided to become a cargo-cult version of FOX News with a leftward tilt. They managed to find an ego as big as Bill O’Reilly’s with an even bigger chip on his shoulder in the form of Keith Olbermann. Olbermann has all the tact and grace of a rabid pit-bull that just ate PCP-laced dog food. In his world, Republicans make Nazis look like Boy Scouts—making him unwatchable by anyone who doesn’t share a similarly rabid worldview. The execrable Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow are in a similar vein.

Sadly, there just doesn’t seem to be an appetite for hard news on TV these days—if you want to be informed about the world, you use the Internet and get the facts for yourself. Right now, TV news is used in the same way a drunk uses a lamppost—for support rather than illumination.

Perhaps if Chris Matthews had declined to allow himself to be prostituted out to MSNBC’s brand of acid-drenched partisanship it would have saved Hardball from becoming a mockery of itself. If more journalists wanted to report the facts rather than spin them the state of TV journalism would be better. However, that would require some serious intellectual diversity, and journalism in general is a monoculture. FOX has done yeoman’s work in allowing a different perspective to have a voice, but it’s set a standard for valuing kneejerk “opinion” over strong journalism. The rest of the TV networks are copying the worst of that model.

TV news networks are hemorrhaging viewers, and given this race to the bottom, it’s not hard to understand why.

Bush’s Legacy

Tomorrow, George W. Bush rides off into history. The left is breathing a sigh of relief, their Emmanuel Goldstein is gone (although soon they will find another). Bush leaves an unpopular President—but so did Harry S. Truman. In many ways, Bush and Truman have had similar trajectories. Both began their terms in a time of war, and both made unpopular decisions. Like Truman, Bush will likely be vindicated by history. The narrow-mindedness and ravenous partisanship of Bush’s critics will become less and less relevant as time goes on, and a more fair-minded exploration of Bush’s legacy can begin.

George W. Bush has been systematically turned into a monster by the media. Bush the man has been obscured.

As a point of disclosure, I am only partially a fan of the President. His performance after September 11 was a masterstroke. The decision to invade Iraq was the correct one based on what was known at that point in history. At the same time, Bush’s second term was a disaster. When the President nominated the comically unsuitable Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, it was clear that Bush’s instincts for loyalty had become a flaw rather than a benefit. It was Gen. Petraeus and Sen. McCain that pushed for the surge against a recalcitrant Rumsfeld and Bush. The surge is what won the war in Iraq, and Bush only belatedly endorsed it. The Katrina disaster should not have been laid at Bush’s feet, but putting Michael Brown as the head of FEMA was unquestionably bad judgment. Bush’s tax cuts helped restore the U.S. economy and created millions of jobs. His wasteful spending and statist policies hurt the economy.

Where Bush has failed the most is where he abandoned conservative principles. The left wants to paint him as a radical conservative activist. The truth could not be more radically different. Bush dramatically expanded the size and scope of the federal government. He pushed for a massive increase in entitlement spending under Medicare Part D. He dramatically increased federal spending at nearly all levels. Hardly a fan of deregulation, it was under Bush’s watch that the ill-considered Sarbanes-Oxley bill was passed into law, a bill which dramatically increased the regulation of business. The picture of George W. Bush as laissez-faire radical could not be further from reality.

At the same time, Bush’s tax cuts helped keep the 2001-2003 recession from deepening. They helped America create millions of new jobs. Without them, it’s likely that Bush would never have been reelected. Those tax cuts put money back into the hands of working Americans. While Bush’s economic policies were flawed at best, it was not because of the tax cuts, but because of too much emphasis on state action.

The war in Iraq remains controversial, and will for some time. It seems quite possible that the Hussein regime systematically misled the entire world into believing that they had WMDS. It seems quite possible that the Hussein regime was lying to itself about what it really had. That is unsurprising for an dysfunctional autocracy like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. What did not happen is some sinister conspiracy to “lie” about WMDs to settle some personal score or gain access to oil. The Bush Administration weighed what evidence it had and made a decision based on that evidence. The evidence turned out to be deeply flawed. But the image of a Bush Administration hell-bent on war that was discarding mountains of contradictory evidence has no basis in reality. If Leon Panetta tells President Obama that a country has WMDs and terrorist ties and there is a “slam dunk” case for it, the same principle should apply. A President should never give the benefit of the doubt to this nation’s enemies. A President’s job, first and foremost, is to act on the evidence available and act decisively. President Bush did that, and President Obama should do the same.

This war against Islamist terror will continue. The supposed excesses of this war have led to an America that has not suffered another attack, no less a greater one than that visited upon us on September 11, 2001. We are not living in a fascist dictatorship, the Constitution has hardly been shredded, and our civil liberties remain. The hysteria and fear over this war came less from the President and more from his critics. Yet one unassailable fact remains: we have not been attacked since that fateful day. The plans of terrorists have been foiled, their leaders captured or killed, their hideouts destroyed, their money supply imperiled. Modern terrorism is sui generis, and the Bush Administration responded not be repeating the failed methods of the past, but by treating it as the serious threat it was. Did they always get it right? Of course not, but no Presidency could have been expected to. In facing an evolving and dangerous threat, this Presidency did what it could to keep this country safe. After the attacks, it seemed almost assured that we would be attacked again, and harder. Today, those attacks almost seem like a distant memory. We have the vigilance of the Bush Administration to thank for that. For all the flaws of their approach, it worked.

George W. Bush has been systematically turned into a monster by the media. Bush the man has been obscured. Yet George W. Bush is hardly an unfeeling monster. He is not the caricature that he has been made to be. That he has not defended himself is curious, but perhaps he does not think it his role to do so. Instead, the real George W. Bush is a complex character, motivated by an abiding sense of loyalty and faith, but also harmed by those same instincts. Hardly the unfeeling party-boy of the media’s funhouse-mirror image, the real President Bush is the man who would go to Walter Reed and comfort injured vets, rarely making a media event out of it. If we are to learn anything from the past eight years, we must first move beyond the crude image of President Bush painted by an ideologically homogenous media and see the real George W. Bush.

Sadly, it will likely be years before that happens. But history will judge the 43rd President of the United States with far less ideological rancor than there is now, and when his legacy is remembered it won’t be through the distorted lens of a partisan media, but with the hindsight of history. With that hindsight, the legacy of George W. Bush may be far different than what we would think. Like Truman, Bush may be remembered as a President who did what was right, but not what was popular.

The Media Watchdogs Have Become Obama’s Poodles

A recent Rassmussen poll shows that nearly half of all those surveyed think that the media is in the tank for Obama.

Proving that the other half haven’t been paying attention, The New York Times has refused to print an op-ed by Sen. McCain responding to Obama’s Iraq piece. The Times refused to print the piece partially on the grounds that McCain would not specify a timetable withdrawal—denying him the right to uphold his own position.

If the roles were reversed, the left would be demanding a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine and rushing to hold Congressional hearings. For the right, the Times being a sycophantic propaganda organ of the left is about as surprising as the sun rising in the East. Yet having a media that is uncritical of one candidate or party is hardly a good thing for a democratic society. The American people are losing faith in the media, and for good reason. The media is supposed to be a watchdog against spin and deception. Now, they’ve become a virtual one-party state, leading to the Balkanization of the media into left and right as people wanting to get both sides are left to pick and choose.

The Times’ snub of McCain is just a symptom of a larger problem of media bias. The media is not fulfilling its function, and yet they can’t see why they are bleeding money and readership by the day. When half of the electorate can’t trust you to be objective, it’s not surprising that they’re not interested in hearing what you have to say.

How To Offend Everyone In One Fell Stroke

The New Yorker has given both Senators Obama and McCain something to agree on: their latest cover showing a turban-clad Obama and his wife brandishing an AK-47 is simply tasteless.

The cover is supposed to be a reflection on the supposed “right-wing smear machine” that the left loves to invent, but ends up being a case of friendly fire from the left wing. Its crude stereotype of both Obama and those with legitimate questions about his choice of associations manages to be offensive on a bipartisan level.

It is ironic that the ones that have been using the “fear tactics” that The New Yorker decries are not from the right. Sen. McCain treats Sen. Obama as He Who Must Not Be Middle-Named lest anyone accuse him of racism. The money spent by GOP-leaning 527 groups is a pittance compared to what is spent by groups like, and the truly harsh attacks against Obama tended to come not from the “vast right-wing conspiracy” but from the paranoid mind of Sen. Clinton—who ironically enough invented the idea. Sen. Obama constantly lashes out against a “smear machine” which exists largely in the minds of the Senator and his supporters.

If Obama were smart, he would embrace his heritage and defuse the “Muslim” issue. The more he runs, the more he looks like he has something to hide. It seems unlikely that people who won’t vote for a candidate with a Muslim middle name are numerous enough to matter or sufficiently likely to vote for Sen. Obama to be bothered with. Obama should run on who he is—someone who is multicultural and can reach out to the rest of the world. The political costs of such a move are unlikely to hurt him, and the potential benefits are substantial. Why not proudly announce that he is Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a Kenyan Muslim who is a committed Christian and American, just as many Americans of foreign descent are? To hear him boldly proclaim his heritage defuses the issue and lets the political debate refocus on what matters—not false issues of patriotism, but substantive questions of judgement, integrity, and experience.

Remembering Tim Russert

Douglas Kmiec has a wonderful, heartfelt tribute to Tim Russert:

One thing I know for sure, St. Peter is in no position to give Tim a hard time at the gate. If there is any delay whatsoever, look for Tim to sit the onetime fishermen and early church organizer down at the table and with that smiling but tenaciously prepared look ask, as heavenly PowerPoint goes up on the screen of judgment: “Isn’t it true, Peter, that earlier on the night before he died, you denied him three times, and yet here you are today the keeper of the gate of the kingdom. How do you explain that?” Like so many other guests on Meet the Press when confronted with the thoroughness of Tim’s preparations revealing an undeniable inconsistency of their own words, I suspect Peter might be tempted to bob and weave his way to some sort of answer. Advice to the first pontiff: Don’t try it. Just wave Tim on through—he more than deserves it.

There aren’t many journalists with the professionalism of Tim Russert, a man who created the real “no spin zone” long before any of the pretenders to the throne. He was relentless, but fair, and our media needs more of his kind.

On Iraq, A Change In Tune

The success of the “surge” in Iraq has apparently become so blatant that even the Obama-infatuated Andrew Sullivan can’t help but see it:

The WaPo reflects what I’ve been trying to understand better: the surprising success (after a rocky start) of the Iraqi Army in Basra, the neutralization of the worst parts of the Sadr forces in Sadr City, increasing success in Mosul, and four-year lows in sectarian violence. The caveats are still there and should never be discounted: Sadr’s militias are still strong in the shadows, sectarian tensions can still flare up, national reconciliation (with a few recent bright spots) remains elusive, Iran is meddlesome, etc. But that the Maliki government is stronger now than anyone anticipated a few months ago seems beyond doubt.

Sullivan counsel Obama not to be unduly pessimistic about Iraq. However, Obama and the other Democrats are invested too heavily in a narrative of defeat to accept anything else. The radical antiwar faction of the Democratic Party has taken the reigns of the party, leaving little room for any heterodox opinions. To speak for the war is to invite the wrath of MoveOn and the rest of the new leftist machine in America.

Even though the progress on the ground speaks for itself, the Democrats do not have the ears to hear it.

Put Down The Waffle And Meet The Press

TalkLeft has some interesting criticisms about how Barack Obama is handling the press. Obama hasn’t held a press conference in 10 days, has limited his appearance to friendly outlets like The Daily Show, and snapped at a reporter who gave him a foreign-policy question at a Pennsylvania diner.

Senator Obama has never run a truly competitive campaign in his life, and while Hillary Clinton is hardly a model of transparency, John McCain certainly is. Even though the press is on Obama’s side, he can’t expect to dodge them forever—especially if he wins the nomination and has to face up against someone who knows how to work the press corps.

Democrats are taking a risk on a candidate who is likable, but untested. It’s their choice to make, but the kneejerk defenses of Obama aren’t exactly the way a party should vet a candidate for national office.