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Dave Weigel seems kind of exhausted here, and I sympathize:

OK—the entire argument is about Rhodes mentioning, hours after the CIA had suggested the Benghazi attack grew out of demonstrations in several countries, that the immediate inspiration for the demonstrations was a video. That’s the scandal—that by giving the video all this credit, the administration was distracting people from the real story that terrorism was surging again. Even though the subsequent 19 months have seen no more attacks on embassies. Even though reporting at the time said the excuse for the protests was said video.

I’m convinced Republicans think that Benghazi! is going to be Obama’s Watergate. If you’re wondering why they never give it up, that’s why. There are some similarities from their point of view. Both the incidents took place a little before a big presidential election but failed to sway the outcome, for example. Both had to be pushed hard by dedicated people and the process was a slow burn, to say the least. Republicans are completely convinced that Barack Obama is a lawless president and have latched onto this as the tipping point, which is what Democrats in the 1970s believed and also did.

Of course, this is completely absurd. Richard Nixon was an embittered, drunken monster whose taste for revenge and chasing after ever more power provides a cautionary tale for gripping the reins too tightly. At this point, it’s impossible to argue otherwise, but the media of the time portrayed him in such a way that the public had no idea what the man was really like, and saw him as a basically trustworthy and decent man. I remember my mother telling me how shocked she was when transcripts of Nixon’s tapes were released, just all the anger and delusion and (shocking for the times) profanity were finally all out there, and people just had no idea. The media back then took a near-paternalistic role that no longer exists and can’t exist, which is good, but it also means that blindsiding events like Watergate are less likely to occur since the agenda-setting power that created Nice Nixon no longer exists. Also, you see the divergence between right-wing media and everyone else in the assumptions, since they take as a given that Obama has run a Nixonian Administration and deserves not even the slightest benefit of the doubt. Of course, this is due more to the Validity Effect more than anything else, of just repeating endlessly that Obama is lawless, aggressive, etc. Obama isn’t a drunk, he’s not known to be vindictive (by power politician standards especially so), and if anything he’s been too hands-off with his governance. Which means you need to do more than tear away the veil, you actually need to present a reasonable hypothesis and give evidence, which isn’t known to exist, of course. The basis for a Nixon-like exit from office does not exist for all these reasons. But Benghazi! really has become something of a feedback loop, in which failed investigations and a fathomless hatred of this president lead to more pressure for a “truth” more to their liking.

It’s not incredibly surprising that this has gone on this long. What is surprising is that Benghazi! is gaining momentum rather than plateauing. Is Speaker Boehner’s creation of a Benghazi! select committee is merely the first step? It marks a clear escalation–since Republicans are convinced there’s been wrongdoing, I’m not sure how impeachment is off the table after a few more trips around the feedback loop. I would prefer they try before the midterm if they’re going to, as we could really use a 1998-style midterm boost.

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I’m aware of the pundit fallacy and generally try to avoid pretending that everyone in the country agrees with my views on things. But I do think that the public really would just as soon America never get involved in foreign wars again, a proposition for which there is some real evidence, and increasingly it looks like a permanent thing, even a growing thing. And I think a large part of the reason why this perspective has been able to grow is because Washington is so dedicated to Freedom Bombs that it simply doesn’t even bother to try to address these different ideas. Elite consensus has drifted so far from what the public wants that anything more than strawman talk of “creeping isolationism” could lead down a path these guys do not want to go. It’s a bipartisan consensus: the left wraps it up in talk of human rights and liberal guilt, the right wraps it up in the language of nationalism and toughness, but it’s the same shitty present regardless of the wrapping paper, and the people just don’t want it anymore. Also, there’s obviously a money component with hawkish donors, defense contractors and so on. And probably a lot of people in the executive branch simply want to be able to say they did something about the crisis of the day, though given the past fifty years I’m unwilling to give Washington policymakers the benefit of the doubt, and ultimately I just don’t care if John Kerry and Samantha Power can sleep at night. It’s not really something I worry about.

What’s interesting is that this grassroots consensus, while it hasn’t seemingly affected the hawkish mindset of D.C. decisionmakers, has made actually conducting a hawkish foreign policy functionally impossible. I really think 2nd Term Obama has tried his best in that regard but even the half-loaf of a half-loaf he wanted to do in Syria was roundly, witheringly rejected, as it should have been. The Administration trotted out all the fear-inducing greatest hits (even Munich!) and they had no impact. Obviously I have no idea how this will go, but if the hawks are so out of touch with the emotions of the electorate that they are unable to scare people into taking rash action then I have no idea how they can retain any kind of influence at all over the long run. Absent enormous fear there’s no real way to sell foreign policy escapades to the public, and without that insulation, politicians will tend to be disinclined to do it.

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NoIEWhat can I say:

The Department of Homeland Security is telling people not to use Internet Explorer. A security breach in the Internet browser can leave your computer at the mercy of a hacker. This flaw affects more than half of all PC users.

Engineers at FireEye discovered this security problem with Internet Explorer on Friday. They immediately alerted Microsoft, but so far, there’s no fix.

Zheng Bu helped uncover the flaw that impacts Internet Explorer versions six through 11. A hacker can gain access if you click on a bad link and have control of your computer. Hard drive, key strokes, Internet history, everything can be exposed.

“The security firm that discovered the flaw says the problem is really targeted at defense industry and financial industries, so chances are Mom and Pop aren’t going to be targets, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be exploited,” said Seth Rosenblatt, CNET’s senior news writer.

That’s one hell of a bug. Anyway, if you’re still using Internet Explorer, take heed and just a friendly reminder: it’s not 1996 anymore.

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I totally understand why lots of traditionalist Catholics aggressively defend their church despite the endemic corruption and horrific recent history: humans are tribal and if your tribe is getting attacked, you defend it. And unlike evangelical churches who just raise money to continually build more (boring) buildings, Catholics do take charity and good works seriously, so I’ll agree there’s something worth defending. But isn’t making John Paul II into a Saint kind of the “Kissinger getting the Nobel Peace Prize” of our time?

Just seems like a mistake to me.

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A little bit of schadenfreude about the racist statements of famous scofflaw Cliven Bundy is inevitable (and warranted), but I am also interested in the episode because it confirms my theory about the decline of the conservative media. I’ve explained this before but briefly put: demand for conservative media has peaked and will soon enter into heavy decline. It’s inevitable given the numbers. The top dogs in this sphere will then be forced to compete ruthlessly with each other for the privilege of continuing to work. Just as the first half of the decade saw a huge boom in conservative media, given the cyclical nature of markets it’s not hard to imagine the latter half having a corresponding bust, as the bubble bursts and the Obama Administration inevitably ends. As this occurs, conservative media personalities will be compelled to push the envelope further and further in attempts to retain their consumers, which will create a vicious cycle in which ever-increasing levels of inaccuracy and ugliness marginalize conservative media even further. It won’t all go away, but within ten years, it will be unrecognizable.

Bundy’s story might well be an inflection point along this arc. Conservatives ran with his story of resistance to the federal government because it hit a couple of right-wing nerves. But from their perspective it wasn’t a very good cause to champion: conservatism loses any sort of appeal when it’s linked to anarchy and lawlessness, as safety and stability are its key selling points. Historically, the biggest conservative victories have been won by men promising boring old stability during times of anxiety and chaos: Harding, Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan. Who obviously did not have the same views on all subjects, but all represented the mainstream of conservative opinion during their respective times. On the other hand, Barry Goldwater’s radical campaign and epic defeat suggests the public has little interest in reckless, purist conservatism. A second thought would have told these folks that this might not be the best icon for them, even absent the knowledge of his racial views, but that second thought was never thought. The end result is a massive, earned humiliation on conservative pundits and politicians desperate to find new sources of furious anger to keep their base engaged, one that puts attention exactly where they do not want it, and it proves to an even greater degree that top Republicans don’t really understand the selling points of their own philosophy. Bundy’s story is a cautionary tale but I don’t expect the people who championed it to learn any lessons from it. And onto the next one.

insertpaperI know people who like New Jersey but I can’t say I’ve ever heard any of them hold the state up as a sparkling land of modesty and temperance.  But there’s always Gov. Chris Krispy:

For the people who are enamored with the idea with the income, the tax revenue from [legalized marijuana], go to Colorado and see if you want to live there. See if you want to live in a major city in Colorado where there’s head shops popping up on every corner and people flying into your airport just to come and get high. To me, it’s just not the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey and there’s no tax revenue that’s worth that.

Somehow this reminds me of a joke from Miss Congeniality:

Vic: Why is New Jersey called “The Garden State”?

Gracie: Because “Oil and Petrochemical Refinery State” wouldn’t fit on a license plate?


I agree entirely with DougJ. I just think that Gregory is the wrong kind of boring, whereas Bob Schieffer is the right kind of boring. Schieffer is a decent newsman who simply lacks much in the way of dynamism (i.e. the right kind of boring for that audience), while Gregory lacks dynamism and journalistic skill. It’s impossible to even pretend you’ve been informed after watching him talk about politics, so why would you bother? Also, the Times article notes that under Gregory the show has “modernized” by shortening segments and making them discrete, while it fails to mention is basically how all cable news is structured, so this “modernization” managed to eliminate the show’s major distinguishing feature: long-form interviews. Hell, all of cable news has handsome hosts and panel discussions. Groupthink is not a strategy.

Doug also brings in the late Tim Russert, and while I never cared one way or the other for the guy when he was alive, I do kind of realize why people made a thing about him back then. Losing him meant losing one of the only famous MSM personalities who actually enjoyed confronting powerful people and was reasonably good at it. And he was willing to stay with a single person for a while. I could really go for a smarter version of Russert’s show with more diverse guests, but there I go again, dreaming.

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