SYNDICATED COLUMN: Independents Go Home

Open Primaries Are Killing Democracy Check out this political mystery: Liberals, a.k.a. the Democratic base, are angry. They’re so angry that they tried to unseat senior senator and former vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman in 2006, who had become synonymous with bipartisanship. Bipartisanship, hell. They’re in the mood for payback. So why is Barack Obama, a bipartisan accommodationist who promises to appoint Republicans to his cabinet and praises Ronald Reagan, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination? Why is Hillary Clinton, militant centrist of the DLC, running a close second? Mystery #2: Liberal primary voters are obsessed with choosing a nominee who can win the general election in November. And yet, according to a hypothetical head-to-head match-up, neither Obama nor Clinton qualifies. The most electable Democrat, found the most recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. match-up poll, is John Edwards. “Edwards is the only Democrat who beats all four Republicans, and McCain is the only Republican who beats any of the three Democrats…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Who’s Afraid of John Edwards?

Media Freezes Out a Threat to Corporate Owners In 2004 Democrats were determined to pick the presidential nominee who had the best chance of defeating George W. Bush in the general election. That man was the feisty former governor of Vermont, Howard Dean. One could easily imagine him mercilessly flaying Bush in debates before trouncing Yale’s least favorite son in November. Primary voters, mistakenly betting that blandness and moderation would be a better sell, chose John Kerry instead. The party of Hubert Humphrey and Michael Dukakis seems poised to make the same mistake again, whether with Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Polls show that two-thirds of Americans think the country is ready for a female or black president. But I’m a glass-third-full guy. When a third of the electorate tells you “we’re” not ready for a woman or an African-American commander-in-chief, they really mean that they won’t vote for one. John Edwards is more likely to beat Romney or McCain…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Politics of Dopes

Barack Obama, Empty Suit Barack Obama’s supporters compare him to John Kennedy, another great orator whose youth and short political resume opened him to complaints that he didn’t have enough experience to be president. But there’s no comparison. JFK served two terms in the House and won two terms in the Senate before asking us not to ask what he could do for us. If Obama wins, he will only have had four years in Congress, next to Kennedy’s fourteen. (Hillary Clinton, running as a grizzled veteran, would have eight.) Ted Kennedy is a better analogy. At the start of his 1980 Democratic primary challenge to incumbent President Jimmy Carter, Kennedy was riding high in the polls. But when Roger Mudd of CBS News asked him why he wanted to be president, he fumbled. “Kennedy’s problem,” Paul Waldman wrote in The American Prospect in July 2007, “was not that he didn’t have a good reason to run–he had plenty of…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Idiots (Heart) Huckabee

The Media’s Dangerous Tolerance of Anti-Intellectualism Mike Huckabee isn’t qualified for public office. He may not be smart enough to hold a job. Yet he could become our next president. Huckabee’s upset victory in the Iowa caucuses is cited as evidence that American democracy still works. “At a Friday night event,” right-wing columnist William Kristol opined in the New York Times, “[Huckabee] played bass with a local rock band, Mama Kicks. One secular New Hampshire Republican’s reaction: ‘Gee, he’s not some kind of crazy Christian.” Huckabee is an affable, funny, ordinary Joe on a shoestring budget who trounced a slick multimillionaire. But he’s also a crazy Christian. And he won because crazy Christians motivated by anti-Mormon bigotry voted for him. In the Republican Party, hate trumps cash. If Huckabee were Muslim, he’d be a radical Islamist. Denying separation of church and state, he said at a Baptist convention in 1998 that he got into politics because he “knew government didn’t…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: An Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove

How American Democracy Relies on Fascism What would you do if you learned that Bush Administration officials wanted to round up thousands of Americans and throw them into concentration camps? For all we know, there is no slippery slope. It’s entirely possible that extraordinary rendition, eliminating habeas corpus, and the torture camps at Guantánamo and elsewhere are exactly what the government says they are–tools for fighting terrorists, not domestic political opponents. But how likely is it? History is clear: Over and over again, the U.S. government places fascists in powerful positions. Once in office, they exploit wars and national tragedies to roll back hard-won freedoms. They’re Democrats as well as Republicans. As has happened with increasing frequency in recent years, another blockbuster story revealing the anti-democratic impulse within the top echelon of the U.S. government has appeared and vanished overnight. According to Cold War-era files declassified last week, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover repeatedly advised President Harry Truman to arrest…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Unfunny Pages

Artsy Comics Are Alienating Readers Love them or hate them, people react to cartoons. Comic strips like “The Far Side,” “Peanuts” and “Doonesbury” inspire devotional cults. Political cartoons, such as the recent Danish Mohammed illustrations and my own post-9/11 Bush-bashing scribbles, can arouse hateful mobs. What’s weird is when cartoons elicit no reaction at all. Which is what has (not) happened since 2005, when The New York Times began running “The Funny Pages,” a literary supplement to its Sunday Magazine section that includes a full-page comic strip in every issue. First up was “Building Stories,” a graphic novel by Chris Ware serialized in 30 weekly installments. To call Ware an award-winning graphic artist is like calling a cockroach prolific; the only accolade he hasn’t won is the Nobel. Yet. Comic book fans had hoped that The Funny Pages would convince normal adults, who limit their graphic art consumption to political cartoons and comic strips, to buy graphic novels. (Articles espousing…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Democrats—The Other White Meat

Let’s Fight a Doomed War in Afghanistan, Not Iraq! NEW YORK–There is too a difference between the two major parties. Republicans want us to spend, die and lose in Iraq. Democrats want us to spend, die and lose in Afghanistan. There’s a difference between the two major wars, too. Afghanistan is even less justifiable than Iraq. It’s also less winnable. The lily-livered libbies’ “Bush took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan when he invaded Iraq” meme is back. “Six years after we took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan–the origin of the 9/11 attacks–we still don’t have our priorities straight,” Barack Obama said in Des Moines this week. That followed an October speech in New Hampshire in which he described George W. Bush’s response to 9/11 as “perfectly reasonable.” “I supported the invasion of Afghanistan because the Taliban had been supportive and the base camp for Al Qaeda,” Obama said. “So I had no problem with that.” In…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Future Imperfect, Part III

Last week, I pointed out that print still accounts for more than 90 percent of newspaper revenues. This week, the third of a three-part series on the future of newspapers. Buy Stock in Newspapers, Weep For America In his book “The Vanishing Newspaper” Philip Meyer predicts that 2043 will mark the death of printed newspapers in the United States, “as the last exhausted reader tosses aside the last crumpled edition.” Not a chance. Media companies report that their Internet editions are newspapers’ fastest growing sources of revenue. But the Web isn’t why I’m bullish about the industry.First, there is no Internet–not one that makes money for newsmongers. “Newspapers are growing the amount of revenue they derive from their Web operations,” reports E-Commerce Times, but “that revenue stream is growing too slowly to replace the losses represented by plunging circulation.” Merrill Lynch estimates that online ads generate seven percent of newspaper income. The firm’s media analysts say it’ll take at least…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Future Imperfect, Part II

This is the second of a three-part series about the media. Blind Newsman Gums Internet Dog Last week, I discussed the blind faith that is leading media executives to invest heavily in online ventures at the expense of print. This week: will the Internet ever be profitable? Americans are optimistic to a fault. Overthrow Saddam, we thought–yeah, that “we” includes a lot of liberals–and whatever came next would be better. I was skeptical. You couldn’t ask for a worse government than the Taliban, yet what followed them in Afghanistan–anarchy, chaos, rape, genocide–was even worse. Which is what happened in Iraq. Optimism is for suckers. Entropy rules the universe. In the absence of a powerful positive force to counterbalance it, things usually get worse. Media executives are like the neocons, in their blind faith that a brighter future will inevitably emerge from the rubble of the crumbling edifice of print media. Sometimes the old order just goes away. Sometimes there is…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Future Imperfect, Part I

When Media Content is Free, It’s Worth Every CentThis is the first of a three-part series. August J. Pollak was thrilled when the Huffington Post asked him to blog for them. Joining the widely-read liberal website was a great break, thought the astute political cartoonist/blogger whose work appears at the perfectly-named “Some Guy with a Website.” Then they told him about his salary: Zero. “I love the Huffington Post, and I love the exposure I get from them,” Pollak told me. “But it’s never going to pay my rent.” He’s right. The Huffington Post, capitalized to the tune of $10 million, employs 43 full-time employees, all of whom presumably receive actual cash money, and health benefits, and maybe even a 401(k), for their efforts. But, USA Today reports, “it has no plans to begin paying bloggers. Ever.” Ken Lerer, company co-founder, former Time Warner executive, and probably himself in it for the money, says: “That’s not our financial model. We…
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