Perhaps for the first time since the dust storms of the 1930s became a bigger story than “the gathering storm” overseas, the weather is becoming a bigger story than, well, the gathering storm overseas.
One can rightly care about both, but those who speak about these threats in planetary terms (“global” warming, “world” war) seem to force a choice, particularly along party lines. Those who are apocalyptic about global warming tend to be less so about World War IV, as Norman Podhoretz calls the war with radical Islam. (In the February issue of Commentary, Podhoretz again makes the case for the United States, if not Israel, to bomb Iran).
On the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts the threatened environment is quickly catching up
to the terrorist threat. A new Tyndall Report (an ongoing study of the networks’ evening news) revealed stories on terrorism were allotted 483 minutes in the past year (down from 1,192 minutes in 2006); stories on the environment were allotted 476 minutes (up from 302 minutes in 2006).
With the new priority on weather reporting (wildfires, snowstorms, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and any indication of climate change), Israel, the canary in the terrorist mine, dropped out of the network’s top 20 most covered stories entirely. For years, Israeli advocates have complained about too much coverage. Now, most folks seem to go along with the old Paul Simon lyrics, “I get the news I need on the weather report.”
According to Tyndall, foreign news bureaus in general are experiencing their lightest workload since 2001.
Israel’s military response to rockets and kidnappings from the north was the second biggest story (behind Iraq) on the evening news in 2006. Since then, more than 1,000 rockets have landed from the south, the captive soldiers are still captive, Israel is threatening to launch a full invasion of Gaza and yet coverage of Israel has dropped out of the network news top 20.
But if Israel is less of a story on the tube, Jews are becoming a growing story in the Barack Obama campaign. It is a campaign that is developing a “Nixonland” atmosphere, writes Times columnist Paul Krugman (Jan. 11): “I won’t try for fake evenhandedness here: most of the venom I see is coming from supporters of Mr. Obama.”
Though he doesn’t address the attacks on Jews, a lot of that venom is being dished out at Jewish voters who dare ask questions about Obama’s exotic childhood with a Muslim father, a Muslim stepfather, a Muslim-majority public school where, according to his sister “the religious education was cursory” — and his Muslim middle name, Hussein.
When you’re the first, and have only been in the national light for a brief time, there are a lot of first-time questions.
Nevertheless, we’re told by Roger Cohen in The New York Times (Feb. 11) that Jews are “scaremongering,” being “hateful,” that e-mails mentioning Hussein are “attacks.” The New Republic (Feb. 4) called Jewish e-mails about Obama “racist,” tantamount to “libel.” Shmuel Rosner, in Haaretz online (Feb. 12) called e-mails about Obama “vicious.” Michael Chabon, in the Huffington Post (Jan. 15), says that Jews who ask questions about Obama are trying “to frighten me and every other Jew in America.”
The Anti-Defamation League has demanded apologies for less.
Such is the “venom” for the very reasonable quest of some Jews for answers they don’t have. That’s what a campaign is for, one might think, a chance to get to know a candidate better. Except, as Krugman writes, “I’m not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality.” Cults don’t like questions. Krugman says it is “particularly saddening” the way Obama supporters seem happy when the media treats “any action or statement by the Clintons, no matter how innocuous, as proof of evil intent.”
But then Krugman brings up the “hopeful” fact that Jewish leaders last month signed a letter condemning the smear campaign claiming that Mr. Obama was a secret Muslim.”
Why is it a smear, in a time of war, to wonder? As for the name “Hussein,” let’s simply point out that in recent decades we’ve been led by such middle names as Delano, Fitzgerald, Baines, Horatio, Milhaus, names that would get lesser men teased in a playground. Each of those names is instantly recognizable only because all of those strange names were publicized by the media despite those names having no importance at all.
Hussein is a name with echoes. If Ronald Reagan’s middle name was Fidel, you can bet Democrats would have let you know it. People would have naturally asked, and maybe would have had a laugh. Instead, pro-Obama columnists are treating Obama’s name like he’s a boy named Sue, responding to Jewish e-mails by “crashing through the wall and into the street, kicking and gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.”
Meanwhile, substance is ignored. Many media outlets, from big-city papers to the newscasts doing a terrific job with the weather, have taken a pass on a recent interview Obama gave to Paris Match in which Obama said that if he’s elected he would organize a summit meeting with the Muslim world for a discussion of “misunderstandings.” Said Obama, “We must also listen to their concerns.”
Of course, Israel is the misunderstanding. And if you were a chicken you’d be e-mailing other coops if the farmer said he loved you but was going to have the foxes over to discuss their concerns.
The New York Sun (Feb. 11) pointed out in an editorial that there are major differences between Hillary Clinton and Obama on precisely this point. Earlier in the campaign, said the Sun, when Obama said he would meet with the leaders of Iran, Clinton’s campaign was all over him “for offering a prestigious platform in return for nothing.”
More recently, the Sun noted, Clinton voted to impose tougher sanctions on Iran, including declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to be terrorists. Obama voted against it.
The Washington Post covered Obama’s call for a summit with a brief reprinting of the Reuters report and then a longer piece (Feb. 6), headlined “Dirty Tricks,” about Jewish reaction, as if the Jews were the only Americans who be thinking twice.
One of the “dirty tricks” referred to in the headline was when an L.A. lawyer got an e-mail from “her aunt in New York” with a message from the Republican Jewish Coalition. It referenced Obama’s call for a summit and criticized Obama for not saying more in support of Israel.
A summit featuring Obama and the Islamic world is a serious one for the media to explore. Instead, The Washington Post and too many others have decided the real story is Jewish “dirty tricks” — a worried Jewish aunt sending e-mails.