On My Desk: Weekly Standard’s New Book

I just received a new book in the mail from the folks at the Weekly Standard, The Weekly Standard – A Reader: 1995 – 2005. Edited by William Kristol, it provides a number of the highlights published by the highly-respected conservative magazine over the past ten years. Writers like P.J. O’Rourke, John Podhoretz (one of my favorites), David Gelernter, Christopher Hitchens, Fred Barnes, and many more find themselves well represented in the book’s 500+ pages. Some of these articles will read like long-lost friends, while others will provide fresh perspectives on new topics. I suspect that in the same way that reading out-of-date magazines in medical offices occasionally gives one a perspective on new and pressing issues, this new book will provide a similar experience in most of its essays.
Since we at CQ are all about full disclosure, I should point out that I received a review copy for free — and later on, I will talk about a couple of other such books I’ve received from others as well. Also, I do have a regular gig at the Daily Standard, which pays me very nicely for a weekly on-line column. Tomorrow’s entry talks about the disconnect between reality and fantasy for the left-leaning film critics and Hollywood movie studios, to which I’ll link later tonight or early tomorrow.
Now, some CQ readers might get the impression that I’m sucking up. No! If I wanted to suck up, you’d know it. I’d probably go out of my way to point out that the editor of the Daily Standard, Jonathan Last (also of Galley Slaves), has an essay in the book, “Brotherly Losers.” Seeing as it comes at the end of the collection, I’d likely offer the witticism that they saved the best for Last.
But you won’t catch me doing that here.

Goldberg Goes For Number Nine

Bernard Goldberg appeared on The O’Reilly Factor, which for conspiracy theorists makes his ninth appearance on Fox since the release of his book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is #37). Bill O’Reilly and Goldberg mostly appeared amused at the debacle, with O’Reilly wondering why Goldberg bothered to appear on Donny Deutsch’s show in the first place. Apparently, its overnight Nielsen rating was a whopping 0.1, or around 70,000 — and that after this blog and others “promoting” Goldberg’s appearance for 30 hours or so. Goldberg’s tongue-in-cheek response: “Well … it seemed like a good idea at the time.”
The tone remained light throughout the interview; when the satellite feed dropped out for a few seconds, both joked about Deutsch pulling the plug. Not as funny, though, was Goldberg’s revelation that the Deutsch show edited down the segment. The show’s 30-minute run time last night (when it normally runs an hour) makes it look like the Big Idea producers decided to do some heavy-duty whittling. That explains why it appears that Goldberg lost his temper so quickly with Linda Stasi. Interviews on cable news shows rarely edit content unless it violates FCC or libel/slander restrictions, and those who do reveal it. It looks like another example of a serious ethical lapse on the part of The Big Idea’s producers and Deutsch.
I wrote to the producers to ask them if the segment would be edited yesterday, and they have chosen not to respond to my question.
You can see the segment yourself at the Political Teen. I thought it was pretty funny, and at least this time you can actually hear Goldberg’s responses.

Book Review: Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

I refrained from running out to purchase the new Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, during the midnight madness sales at the local bookstores. Last time, that meant serious delays in getting a copy of the book. However, either Scholastic produced a more realistic first run or the initial enthusiasm may have been overestimated. When I went to the bookstore on Saturday, I found several dozen copies at 40% off available and almost no shoppers in the store. I took advantage of the opportunity and picked up my copy, and after finishing a couple of other projects this weekend, tore through the new installment.
* SPOILERS — BEWARE! *
In my opinion, J. K. Rowling improves with each new outing, and Half-Blood Prince follows in that tradition. Rowling plays around a bit more with the formula here, just as she started to do with Goblet of Fire, and starts us off with several vignettes before the normal look at the abnormally normal Dursleys and their maltreatment of Harry, this time getting a good scolding and a lesson in manners from Professor Dumbledore before taking Harry with him. Unfortunately, unlike earlier volumes, Harry’s trip to Hogwarts does not portend happier times — as the first vignettes make crystal clear.
The war has not gone well for the Order of the Phoenix. After the loss of Sirius Black in the last battle, the Death Eaters captured remain in Azkaban. However, the others have made their presence felt in a number of attacks; Lord Voldemort has called his old allies to his side, such as the Dementors and possibly the Giants as well. His victories against the law-abiding wizarding world threaten to expose their existence to the Muggles, and the uproar has forced the Ministry of Magic to change hands. Security has tightened everywhere, but especially around Harry and Hogwarts.
As in Order of the Phoenix, Harry and his friends work less on solving schoolyard mysteries than in preparing to fight a war, but some of the same dynamics still remain. Quidditch plays a central role in life at Hogwarts, and the halting steps at romance first seen in GoF come back into more prominence here. The same antagonisms remain in play as well. Draco Malfoy still wants to thwart Harry and his friends, and Severus Snape seems as awful as ever — only with the war and the nature of the enemy at hand, no one can know how dangerous these old antagonisms can get, or who a wizard can trust.
HBP resolves a number of storylines that Rowling has carefully constructed through the first five installments. As one might expect in the penultimate installment of the series, we learn much more about the origin of Voldemort. Most interestingly, Harry and Dumbledore team up to determine how Voldemort achieved his evil form of immortality, which holds the secret of his undoing. Before they can get to it, both must face betrayal and attack — and as in the last book, a character dear to readers will meet a bitter end.
Some reviewers have taken to noting allegories between the Potter stories and real history, comparing Dumbledore to Churchill and Harry to America, as did Jonathan Last in last week’s Opinionjournal.com. Those looking for such connections will probably not find disappointment in HBP, although the parallels may appear closer to the current war rather than WWII. The Death Eaters have taken to attacking Muggle civilians to force the wizards to both protect themselves and the Muggles simultaneously. The Ministry only appears to care about being popular rather than effective against Voldemort’s growing gang of murderers and bloodthirsty lunatics. Keeping Death Eaters out of Hogwarts has become a high priority for everyone, but turns out to be much more complicated than anyone knows, and the threat might turn out to be closer than Dumbledore guesses.
HBP provides a gripping and quick read, a hallmark of the Harry Potter stories. Rowling appears to have improved her technical skills in writing, one of the weak points of the series but easily overlooked in favor of her excellent storytelling abilities. As the series continues to get more complex and serious, the improvement in technical skill comes none too soon. HBP is an excellent foundation for the final installment — where Harry will have to take on Voldemort and only one of them can survive. I highly recommend the book for Potter fans.

Klein’s Chickens Come Home To Roost

Ed Klein perceives a conspiracy in his inability to get bookings on television to promote his new biography of Hillary Clinton. Howard Kurtz notices that Klein hasn’t received nearly the attention given to Kitty Kelley for her load of tripe about the Bush family:

Despite the enormous hype surrounding Edward Klein’s scathing and hearsay-filled book about Hillary Rodham Clinton, the author has been ignored by all but two television talk shows.
This collective cold shoulder hasn’t stopped “The Truth About Hillary” from hitting No. 2 yesterday on the coveted New York Times list. “It’s the biggest example to date of how major media censorship doesn’t stop a book anymore from being a bestseller,” Klein declares. …
Klein says that MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews, CNN’s Paula Zahn, Fox’s John Gibson and ABC’s “Good Morning America” were among those who had tentatively booked or expressed strong interest in him, only to drop him like a hot potato. “I can’t prove this,” he says, but “the Hillary people” have told the networks “she would be mightily displeased if I got on.” …
Kelley’s book “The Family” also relied on numerous unnamed sources. Bush’s former sister-in-law, Sharon Bush, disputed allegations of past drug use by the president that were attributed to her, and the White House communications director dismissed the book as “garbage.” Yet Kelley was granted a three-part interview on NBC’s “Today” and appeared on a spate of other television shows.

That does appear to indict the media, but not in the way that Klein wants people to believe. As Kurtz points out — and as Bernard Goldberg also pointed out when asked for reaction to Aaron Brown’s cancellation of his interview last week — the media does not have an obligation to promote Klein’s book. Ignoring Klein does not equate to censorship. They have the right to determine which guests will appear on their broadcasts — after all, the shows belong to them, not Klein and certainly not the government. Censorship by definition involves government intervention, and the idea that the Bush administration would want to suppress a book painting Hillary in a negative light is just laughable. Klein’s statement that “he can’t prove” that Hillary has abused her position to keep him off the air and his publishing of the notion regardless of his inability to offer proof speaks volumes about his book and his publication standards.
However, the red carpet that the media rolled out for Kitty Kelley does show a bias in their approach to truth in publishing. I think that based on the exemplars I’ve read of Klein’s book, the media has made the right choice in refusing to promote it. Too bad they couldn’t have had those same scruples when Kelley wrote her similar tome on George Bush. She rounded up rumors and innuendo, offered no substantive proof, and published them in a book almost indentical in ethics to Klein’s — and yet the media couldn’t get enough of Kelley. In her case, the blame goes deeper, as she has a track record of writing poorly-sourced and ethically challenged biographies of famous people, usually dead, and almost always in no position to defend themselves.
Did the media freeze out Kelley? No. As Kurtz points out, she made almost all of the usual television shows, eagerly pimping her book during Bush’s re-election campaign. It might be nice to think that Kelley’s discreditation has played a part in the media’s reluctance to grant Klein the same platform for his muckraking. However, I doubt that to be the case. Klein simply picked the wrong target for his literary mudslinging. If he now acts surprised that all of his former friends in the national media have no use for him, then Klein learned nothing from his years working alongside them.

Bernard Goldberg Interview Summary

I had the opportunity to interview Bernard Goldberg this morning as we drove around Washington DC, as he kicked off the publicity campaign for his new book, The 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is #37). Unfortunately, my very full schedule today kept me from posting about the interview until now — and that’s too bad, because Goldberg has definitely declared himself on a mission with this book.
Most of the people who frequent the blogosphere have read his seminal book on media bias, prosaically titled Bias. When I mentioned the fact that the book inspired me and many others to take action to combat the pervasive cultural bias in the media, he told me that the problem is much wider than that. “This takes on a much bigger subject, and this is the culture at large,” he said. “Whether we are Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, I think we can agree — I hope we can agree — that we’ve become a nastier, less civil, more selfish America than we ought to be.”
Goldberg talked extensively about the other portions of the culture that he sees eroding standards in the public arena, apart from the news media, and he makes clear that he believes it to be a critical issue for American culture. He allowed that a list book tends to make the book more fun, but he spent a lot of time researching the people on his list.
When he wrote Bias, he described himself as an old-fashioned liberal, the way Hubert Humphrey and John Kennedy promoted liberal values. Now he has openly declared himself as a conservative, because as he puts it, the liberals make it impossible for him to stay with that association. “I am not — underline not — a liberal the way Al Franken and Michael Moore are liberals. … Look, I think most liberals in America are decent people. The issue is that the people speaking loudest for liberals, the voice of liberal America, they are the ones doing the harm to this culture.”
One other issue popped up in our talk. A source informed me that CNN scheduled Aaron Brown to interview Bernard Goldberg tonight on its prime-time broadcast, but Aaron Brown personally refused to do the interview. CNN later rescheduled Goldberg for an interview tomorrow morning. When I asked Goldberg for confirmation, he did tell me that CNN had canceled the prime-time interview. “I have no Constitutional right to appear on CNN, and Aaron Brown has every right to refuse me,” Goldberg replied. “However, I think we can all agree that this is an important subject. Brown has no trouble interviewing Al Franken … I think this says something about Aaron Brown.”
Our interview was supposed to run fifteen minutes, but Goldberg graciously allowed me to keep him going for over 30 minutes this morning. I will start posting the transcripts of this interview after dinner, where you can hear his thoughts on debating race, his next projects, and how you can help him rethink his top 100. Keep checking for updates, as Goldberg does not hold back at all during our conversation, as you can certainly see from this taste of it.

Book Review: 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America

Like a great many people in the blogosphere, Bernard Goldberg’s book Bias resonated deeply with me. His honesty about the institutional biases of the mainstream media outlets, especially at his former home at CBS, confirmed what many of us argued for years: that the liberal mindset of the editorial filters at these institutions directly impacted what we read and saw in their output. Goldberg described himself in that book as “classically liberal,” arguing that liberalism in America had taken a sharp left turn and left him and many others behind, allowing him to see the bias closely from the inside out.
That self-categorization may not apply any longer after the publication of 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is #37. In this effort, Goldberg effectively outs himself as a conservative-libertarian as his roster of American embarrassments overwhelmingly takes on the Left. From its first pages, Goldberg assails the loss of civility and rational discourse that used to exist in the public debate and the screamfest and obscenity-laced dialogue that has replaced it. Goldberg, in his introduction, predicts that people will complain that his bias affects the list, which he freely acknowledges in his traditional blunt style:

And it won’t take you long to notice that there are a lot of liberals on the list, which, of course, is just how it ought to be. If I were compiling the list years ago, say, when I was in college, there’d be a lot of conservatives on it. But this isn’t years ago, and besides, I’m smarter now than I was back then.

Goldberg goes after the pillars of liberalism, not just in its spokespeople, but in its central tenets. He attacks non-judgmentalism, not surprising for a book of this nature, but points out the intellectual stupidity of taking the concept to its extremes. Instead of promoting tolerance of the “right things”, we have promoted what Goldberg calls “indiscriminate tolerance” — where we not only have to tolerate the offensive (such as Chris Ofili and Britney/Madonna liplocks), but get castigated if we don’t celebrate it as well. (Not that conservatives escape scot-free; the tiresome Michael Savage makes an appearance, as do a handful of other extremists from the right.)
While this is a list book, and Americans love list books, it’s fair to say that the meat of Goldberg’s intent can be found before page 55, when readers get to Rick and Kathy Hilton, hilariously occupying the final slot at #100. A series of essays sets up Goldberg’s selections ends at page 54, but in that brief overture, Goldberg writes mightily against the prevailing idiocies of modern discourse. He takes on America-bashers and the purveyors of “Punitive Liberalism”, those people who feel America must suffer punishment for its past and exacts it on American policy today. Hollywood celebrity idiots come in for a roasting; in fact, he makes room for many of them in his list, and on top of that includes three generic slots for the Dumb Celebrity, The Vicious Celebrity, and the Dumb and Vicious Celebrity. He takes on television, especially television news, gangsta rap, lawyers promoting the culture of litigiousness, white-collar criminals, sex warriors, and literary radicals.
Most interestingly, Goldberg takes on race relations. As a rich white man — and arguably a conservative voice, now — conventional wisdom suggests he should remain silent on this issue. But he not only brings it up, he debates it numerous times in his book, even hauling out the ‘N’ word as a point in the debate. It provides a measure of his courage that he willingly ventures into this territory, and it shows that Goldberg means to have this work taken as seriously as Bias.
In essence, the book serves its main course in that first 54 pages, and offers the reader 100 servings of dessert afterwards. It might be easy for people to gin up a list of 100 Americans they’d like to see on a slow boat to anywhere else, but Goldberg writes meaningfully about each one of them in explanation — except for three celebrities, where he uses brevity for wit and who really need no explanation anyway. He also goes past the obvious to get to the real driving forces behind the cultural changes that made this book necessary. The top 10 will surprise you; most readers will not be familiar with all 10. I found the inclusion of Jonathan Kozol highly illuminative, and perhaps the best teaching moment of the entire book. I will not reveal where Kozol falls within the top 10 (or any other specific positions on the list), but I can guarantee you that the New York Times will not enjoy this book. I can’t wait to read their review.
For those of us who openly speculated on the book, I can report that the wait was worth it. Goldberg has delivered a new volume in his cultural reporting that may not have all the impact of Bias but will certainly capture the imagination. I highly recommend it for all readers — and not just because Markos Moulitsas is #52.
Coming later today: an interview with Bernard Goldberg.

Who Are Bernard Goldberg’s Top 10 Screw-ups?

Bernard Goldberg, the former CBS reporter who blew the lid off institutional media bias with his book Bias, will name the top 100 American screw-ups in his upcoming publication, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken Is #37). A press release sent to bloggers (such as Bill at INDC Journal, who also blogged about it this morning) has us guessing at the other denizens on Goldberg’s list. Amazon has the following description posted:

Bernard Goldberg takes dead aim at the America Bashers (the cultural elites who look down their snobby noses at “ordinary” Americans) … the Hollywood Blowhards (incredibly ditzy celebrities who think they’re smart just because they’re famous) … the TV Schlockmeisters (including the one whose show has been compared to a churning mass of maggots devouring rotten meat) … the Intellectual Thugs (bigwigs at some of our best colleges, whose views run the gamut from left wing to far left wing) … and many more.
Goldberg names names, counting down the villains in his rogues’ gallery from 100 all the way to 1 — and, yes, you-know-who is number 37. Some supposedly “serious” journalists also made the list, including the journalist-diva who sold out her integrity and hosted one of the dumbest hours in the history of network television news. And there are those famous miscreants who have made America a nastier place than it ought to be — a far more selfish, vulgar, and cynical place. …
This is serious stuff for sure. But Goldberg will also make you laugh as he harpoons scoundrels like the congresswoman who thinks there aren’t enough hurricanes named after black people, and the environmentalist to the stars who yells at total strangers driving SUVs — even though she tools around the country in a gas-guzzling private jet.

The release gets more specific, naming Ludacris, Jerry Springer, and Michael Moore along with Franken as recipients of Goldberg’s dubious honors. Having read his other works (Bias was one of my inspirations for this blog), I know that Goldberg will not spare the fringies on the Right, either. I suspect that Fred Phelps and Pat Robertson might inhabit a couple of slots, and perhaps more mainstream people like Sean Hannity might get a mention from the classically liberal Goldberg.
What I do know is that between now and the book’s release on July 5th, we should have fun trying to predict the fools Goldberg names; the mystery will be good for a few laughs. So how about it? Who do CQ readers see as the Top 10 Screw-Ups In American Culture? Leave your list in the comments section, and let’s have some laughs over the next few weeks.

Ed Klein Goes Too Far

I’m no fan of the Clintons, but the Right has had its problem reining in its vitriol regarding Bill and Hillary since 1992. The last five years have seen that mostly disappear (and reappear as Bush hysteria on the Left), but with Hillary running for re-election to the Senate in 2006 and probably for President in 2008, everyone expected it to return sometime. However, no one could have predicted that former Newsweek editor Ed Klein, of all people, would fan the flames of Clintonosis with a disgusting personal attack that purports to dissect Chelsea’s conception (hat tip: Strata-Sphere):

“I’m going back to my cottage to rape my wife,” Klein quotes Bill Clinton as saying during a Bermuda getaway in 1979.
In the morning, the Clintons’ room “looked like World War III. There are pillows and busted-up furniture all over the place,” an unnamed source tells Klein.
Klein source claims Bill later learned Hillary was pregnant reading about it in the ARKANSAS GAZETTE.
“The fact that his wife didn’t tell him that she was pregnant before she told a reporter doesn’t seem to phase him one bit, because he says, ‘Do you know what night that happened?”
“‘No,’ I say. ‘When?”
“‘It was Bermuda,’ he says, ‘And you were there!'”

If Drudge has this quote and context correct, it’s a mind-boggling anecdote to put into anyone’s biography — and a completely inexcusable and ridiculous claim. It’s difficult to think of a more personal, disgusting, and indefensible accusation to toss at someone than to claim he raped his wife. Adding that they conceived their only child out of an act of violence adds another dimension of shamelessness to Klein’s allegation.
Drudge reports that Hillary plans to sue Klein for libel, and it’s hard to blame her. In the first place, Hillary may have put up with Bill’s philandering for Chelsea’s benefit and Bill’s career, but she’s hardly a woman who would have stuck around with someone that casually violent. On the other hand, it’s one of those have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife allegations that put the Clintons in an impossible position. Now that the smear has been made public, how exactly are they supposed to prove otherwise? Who would think that an author would someday require them to prove how their child was conceived? It’s a cowardly accusation — and note that the former Newsweek foreign editor (and former NY Times Magazine editor-in-chief) uses an anonymous source for his authentication.
Someone needs to ask Ed Klein why he felt it necessary to include this accusation as part of his biography. It’s hardly germane to her politics, or to her life in politics. It’s the kind of tawdry Weekly World News gossip/hit piece that serves no purpose but character assassination. It also makes Hillary into a victim, this time almost certainly for real — not of this purported rape, but of Klein’s base attack.
If this is the level of professionalism we can expect from former Newsweek editors, small wonder we end up with Qu’ran-flushing frauds from the magazine now. Whether Ed Klein absorbed the Newsweek standards for sourcing and newsworthiness during his tenure or set those standards himself, the two are not unrelated. And regardless of whether Hillary or the Bush administration gets targeted by these reckless, irresponsible, and repulsive attacks, the public should respond by denying them their payday.

Me! Me! I’m Unintelligible! No, I Am!

Hugh Hewitt traveled to New York, braving hours of delay, to make two short appearances on national TV this morning. He first appeared on Fox and Friends, which I think I TiVo’d for later viewing. Hugh went from there to CNN and an appearance on American Morning. Unfortunately, his appearance there was all too brief:

HEWITT: Well, I’ve been a broadcast journalists for 15 years. I’ve worked in print and television and radio. And the blogosphere is by far the most accurate and the most objective in terms of accountability. Because the moment you make a mistake, you get jumped on by your colleagues and your adversaries in the blogosphere. Dan Rather got brought down by bloggers.
O’BRIEN: I was going to ask you about that.
HEWITT: Yes. Powerline found it. A number of us jumped on to the story, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and others.

All right — who wants to take credit for being “Unintelligible”?
Don’t forget to order your copy of Blog, soon to be available in audio CD as well.

Another Great Way To Read Blog

You say you don’t have time to read Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World by Hugh Hewitt, soon to be a best-seller? I’d tell you that even though the book is a brilliant look into the transformation of information markets, it’s also incredibly accessible and very quick-paced, laced with the erudition and wit of its author that is evident in his radio show.
But if you really mean that you simply cannot stop and read books the traditional way, readers can now order the upcoming audio CD of Hugh’s book. Now you can get the skinny on how blogs have changed the dynamics of the media marketplace, decentralizing the flow of information from a small group of decisionmakers to the wide and diverse realm of the bloggers. For the first time since Guttenburg, technology has unleashed the consumers of information and put them in charge of its use — and we’re the better for it.
Be sure to read Blog, and make sure your friends and colleagues do as well.