Archive for the ‘The Media’ Category

Anderson Cooper and the Gaza War

December 30, 2008

Given all the criticism that takes place of the media whenever conflict flares in the Middle East, I have to single Anderson Cooper out for praise. In the midst of his tough questioning of all of his guests, Cooper demonstrated a sense of the context of it.

Here’s Cooper: “To give you a better idea of what Israel is dealing with, here’s the ‘Raw Data’ on Hamas. The group took over Gaza back in June of last year, after winning parliamentary elections the year before. Dating back to 1987, during the first Palestinian uprising, Hamas has never wavered in its commitment to Israel’s destruction, and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, and, obviously, Israel.

The organization is believed to have between 15,000 and 20,000 troops, thousands of short-range rockets, and ample funding, some of it coming from Iran.”

Cooper even referenced a CNN report from prior in the year which showed the tunnels Hamas uses to smuggle weapons into Gaza from Egypt.

Cooper’s smooth handling of a complicated issue contrasted with a Democratic strategist and Huffington Post contributor, Hillary Rosen, who was very much out of her league.

think the issue, though, is, you know, that there needs to be a — an agreement for a Palestinian state. Barack Obama campaigned on the idea of having a peaceful Palestinian state, living side by side within the — with the state of Israel. And, to do that, you have to go beyond Hamas. You have to deal with this more as a — as Palestinian issue, and not just as a — an issue of the immediate violence.

At this point, President Bush, President-Elect Obama and many Israelis all support a Palestinian state. Right now, the Israelis face two different — and opposing — Palestinian governments, one in the West Bank, the other in Gaza. With whom are they supposed to make peace?

I was also impressed with the perspective of Reza Aslan, who acknowledged that it was a complex problem. Here’s the exchange — which again reflects Cooper’s understanding of what is happening.

COOPER: Reza, where is there room between Hamas and Israel for some sort of agreement? I mean, unless Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist and — and stops firing rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas, it’s hard to see how any kind of a deal can be struck. 

ASLAN: Well, the truth is that the more elemental problem is to get an agreement not between Hamas and Israel, but between Hamas and Fatah, between the Gaza and the West Bank, because the idea of the two-state solution and of a — of a stable, economically viable Palestinian state is simply a pipe dream, unless we can figure out a way to create some kind of accommodation between these two parts of the Palestinian government. 

I’m also going to refer interested readers to my prior posts on Gaza after a visit to the embattled Israeli city of Sderot, here and here.

Dean Barnett: Blogger, Prominent Conservative, Red Sox Fan, 1967 – 2008.

October 28, 2008

Local conservative, sometime talk show host and Weekly Standard contributor Dean Barnett died today of Cystic Fibrosis. I wrote in praise of him after he did a guest stint on 96.9 FM in August.

I first met Dean a couple years ago at my favorite place — the NECN green room. He looked somewhat buff to me so I started to engage him in a conversation about weight lifting and going to the gym. It was only after several minutes of chit chat — I started to ask about treadmill performance — that Dean told me he had CF.

In a region of devoted Red Sox fans, he was one of the most passionate. It was love for the team that drew him into blogging.

In a way the whole conversation gave me an eery sense of deja vu. It reminded me of my first encounter with Harvard Crimson star reporter Teresa Mullin. I sat with Terri outside the Crimson — both of us sneezing and hacking. “I’ve got allergies too,” I said to her. She shook her head and bluntly said, “no, CF.”

She was the toughest, most courageous person I had — or have — ever met. Before she died in England at age 22 awaiting a lung transplant, she wrote a memoir, The Stones Applaud, about her experiences. Here’s my tribute to her from 1991.

Dean was luckier and lived twice as long as Terri. He was so productive online and guest hosting for Hugh Hewitt, he began to fool me. I started to think he might somehow actually escape this cursed affliction known for taking its victims young.

He will be missed.

Commonwealth Gets Topical

October 23, 2008

Commonwealth is using the space of its new blog, Commonwealth Unbound, as a forum for discussion on the economic crisis. The debate includes Boston College professor Alan Wolfe, former A & F Secretary and McCormack School DeanStephen Crosby, Harvard economics professor and former New York Sun columnist Ed Glaeser, among others.

The blog and ensuing debate are a great way to help Commonwealth escape the limitations of its quarterly format. Three months ago, after all, nobody had ever heard of TARP.

The Palin-Biden Debate

October 2, 2008

Undoubtedly tonight’s debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin will be among the most watched political events on television this year. Interest in Palin is huge, and voters will be watching to see if they will encounter the sassy, charismatic Palin of the Republican National Convention, or the stammering, unsure Palin of the Katie Couric interview.

I don’t think it matters. With the unraveling of the American economy during the last two weeks, the presidential race has fundamentally changed. While previously the campaign existed on the level of personality and atmospherics, now it is down to one very simple issue — the economy. The Republican, John McCain, comes from the same party as President Bush and owns the poor economy. Obama, the Democrat, represents something different — to use a phrase that has been worked to death, change.

Before Obama’s personal style — not race, mind you — served as an impediment to attracting votes in the Rust Belt; now, the economic upheaval has crowded out both the positive and negative aspects of his political persona. Obama’s grandiose speeches, his sweeping rhetoric, the slight mood of revolution surrounding his campaign — none of that matters any more. Obama may have needed those qualities to challenge Hillary Clinton, but now they just get in the way. For Obama to win, he needs merely to be a steady Democratic hand, a Hubert Humphrey.

That might be a tough sell for Obama, but, to his good fortune, he’s got Hubert Humphrey on the ticket. Well, Joe Biden, a reliable Democrat who can deliver a solid Democratic message at a time when American voters are fed up with Wall Street and a Repubilcan president. A restrained — but not robotic — Biden will do the job tonight. No dazzling displays of foreign policy are necessary. He shouldn’t overreach, which will risk turning some voters off. Merely show up.

The best Palin can do is make an emotional play to the Joe Six Pack audience. It won’t likely advance the cause of the McCain-Palin ticket, but it’s the best hand she has to play tonight.

New York Sun, 2002 – 2008.

October 2, 2008

As I made the drive from Roslindale to Natick for a Rosh Hashanah meal with my family, I got some disturbing but not entirely unexpected news: The New York Sun, a paper for which I had written since leaving the mayor’s office, was to be closed. As it so happened, I had written a column for Tuesday’s edition, which was to be the paper’s last.

There’s a lot out there about the Sun and its demise. I recommend these excerpts of the farewell speech of Seth Lipsky to the staff. I also identify with the sentiments in Hillel Halkin’s final column, where he writes about what it was like to be a Sun columnist (like me.)

My arc with the Sun was different from some of those I saw as its brightest lights, the members of its national reporting staff. From Washington, Eli Lake’s scoops on foreign policy and the national security establishment represented a form of path-finding for the D.C. press corps. Josh Gerstein cornered the national market on the intersection of the legal and political worlds; he was also the first reporter during this election cycle to concentrate on Bill Clinton, a political actor who helped do in his wife’s campaign. My roommate in Denver, Russell Berman, provided energetic coverage of New York’s political delegation and the 2008 election. I wrote a weekly column for the paper and took advantage of my New England vantage point to cover New Hampshire.

Often unrecognized are the younger editors who help craft pieces prior to publication. I had the good fortune to have my column handled for the bulk of my tenure by Katharine Herrup.

I’m grateful to the Sun’s two top editors, Seth Lipsky and Ira Stoll, for giving me a chance to write about the most interesting election in decades. They afforded me an opportunity to watch the rise of Barack Obama, whom I’ve seen speak countless times since October, 2006, the failure of Hillary Clinton and the complete electoral collapse of Rudy Giuliani. I attended John McCain’s first announcement of his campaign in April, 2007, then forecast how he could rebuild his campaign by regaining magic and momentum in the state he had won in 2000.

If you google the New York Sun and the name “Seth Lipsky,” you will find many pieces that reference Seth’s commitment to the craft of newspapering, his visionary status as a founder of newspapers, and even his personal sartorial style (i.e. he likes fedoras.) But I have something else to add: Seth is a fundamentally loyal man, loyal to his causes, such as Israel, loyal to his newspapers, such as, first, the Forward, and, second, the Sun, and, most importantly, loyal to people. In my book, that counts for a lot.

I’d also say a word about Ira Stoll. Ira edited me at the Forward and was the architect behind one of my greatest stories in journalism, the tale of Hillary Clinton’s Jewish step-grandfather. Ira has rigorous standards. He pushed me to write the best columns I possibly could up until the last possible moment. In that regard, I’d note that my column about the fiscal crisis, datelined Newton, ran yesterday and bears some resemblance to a Boston Globe piece of today. Ira, a talented writer as well as editor, will come out with his biography, Samuel Adams: A Life, next month. He is a Worcester native, and his book should be an important read for those interested in local history and enthusiasts of the Adams family.

As I drove up Route 9 reflecting on what happened, I remembered something that Pete Hamill had written in his masterful memoir, A Drinking Life. During a period of upheaval at one of the newspapers Hamill worked for — I think it was his first stint at The New York Post — an old-time reporter took Hamill out for a beer and gave him some advice I’ll paraphrase: Be careful about newspapers kid. They’ll always break your heart.

As far as how this development affects me, see my updated bio.

Lipstick on a Pig: Bill Clinton’s Revenge

September 10, 2008

A turning point in the primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama came after Bill Clinton used the words “fairy tale” to describe Barack Obama’s rise to fame. Hillary Clinton’s campaign sputtered after that, and Bill Clinton’s reputation suffered.

Clinton always maintained that Obama’s supporters, who sensed in the comment a racial remark, had it wrong. His comment, he maintained, was directed at the story of Obama’s opposition to the war in Iraq. “Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen,” Clinton said. Here per Politico is

Clinton’s explanation of what he said:

“I pointed out that he had never been asked about his statement in 2004 that he didn’t know how he would have voted on the war resolution,” Bill Clinton said.

“It disproves the argument that he was always against it and everybody else was wrong and he was right.”

Now — and here is the delicious part — Barack Obama finds himself in almost the exact same position over his use of the phrase “lipstick on a pig” while talking about Sarah Palin. And, also by way of Politico’s Ben Smith, Obama’s no happier about it than his erstwhile foe was.

“See, it would be funny, but the news media decided that would be the lead story yesterday. This happens every election cycle. Every four years, this is what we do. This is what they want to spend two of the last 55 days talking about…Enough!” he said.

Kindof like Bill and Hillary Clinton felt last January.

Blue Mass Group at the DNC

August 26, 2008

At around 8 p.m. Charley Blandy and David Kravitz of Blue Mass Group were heading into the convention hall along with the likes of foreign policy expert Graham Allison, documentarian Morgan Spurlock and New York Times columnist Frank Rich.

“Here’s the glitz. Here’s the glamour,” Blandy, who was covering his first convention, quipped.

David Kravitz and Blandy both said they were impressed at the effort to forge a sense of community among bloggers as part of The Big Tent.

“It’s a nice place for bloggers who would never get a chance to meet each other even online.”

Robert Casey on McCain Ads

August 26, 2008

I caught up with Robert Casey of Pennsylvania earlier today.

Senator Casey of Pennsylvania is suggesting that John McCain get a refund from his campaign consultant for his campaign ads. Asked about potential Republican attacks, Casey, who served as a surrogate for Mr. Obama in heavily Catholic and blue collar territory, unleashed his fury, a common reaction of Democrats in Denver.

“I’m always wary of what they might try. They’ve got the best fear and smear operation in American history. You need to be cognizant of what they’re trying to do to Senator Obama,” Casey said “If you try to fear and smear your way to the presidency, it ain’t going to work. Some of John McCain’s ads have been so over the top and pathetic, he literally should ask for his money back from his consultant because they’re just not going to work.”

Casey, whose father served as a governor of Pennsyvlania, said that Mr. Obama’s running mate, Senator Biden of adjacent Delaware, would be an asset in his state and throughout the industrial Midwest. “I think it helps enormously. It helps certainly in northeastern Penn. Senator Biden has real roots there,”  Casey said, adding that Biden also had appeal in western Pennsylvania as well as the Philadelphia area. “His ability to talk directly about economic issues will be very important for southwestern Pennsylvania.”

Spotted at the Sheraton

August 25, 2008

I’ve been hanging around the Sheraton and spotted a sprinkling of bright lights. The mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, was waiting in front of the lobby around 6 p.m. Congressman Charlie Rangel headed into Sheldon Silver’s party for the New York delegation around the same time.

And about fifteen minutes ago, I shook hands with one of the bright lights of newspapering, the great Jimmy Breslin. Breslin had taken copious notes and it looked like he was on his way to file.

Unpublished: Joe Biden on Obama and More

August 23, 2008

Back last Summer I scored an exclusive interview with Joe Biden, who is increasingly looking like the nominee. This piece ran in the New York Sun.

Here are unpublished portions that are now very relevant:


Why Biden, in his view, is a better presidential candidate than Clinton?  “I think I am much better positioned to win Kentucky, MO, Arkansas, West Virginia than any of the other candidates running.

Because of my positions on the issues, because I come from a state that is a border state, that the politics of having to reach across party lines matter, because my 34 years in the senate have been the opposite of polarizing, they have been uniting. So I think for all those reasons, I think I have the best chance of crossing over and picking up independent votes and keeping a democratic base. But again, time will tell that. That’s an assertion. It’s a judgment that democrats are going to make, but they will make that judgment of who they think we’ll be best able to win a general election.”

On Obama. “You know he’s a very smart guy…But I know for me that it was a learning experience. I worked very hard. I’m sure he’s working very hard too. I’ve watched seven presidents, and I’ve watched presidents who have come to office who haven’t thought through some of the areas that they’ve never worked in, for example foreign policy. I watched several presidents come in and they’re smart as the devil and they get here and unless you already know when you get here exactly what your foreign policy is, it’s awful hard to hit the ground running and not to make serious mistakes the first couple of years. I’m not saying that Senator Obama is where I was [when elected to the senate at age 29]. I was younger than he was when he got to the Senate. But I do think, I acknowledge that experience is not the issue, it’s whether your experience has been good or bad. Somebody with 34 years of bad experience isn’t perfectly qualified to be president, someone with 34 years of good experience that makes a big difference. So, again, I know it’s kind of difficult to master, it’s kind of difficult to feel sure-footed in a lot of areas that you haven’t spent a long of time dealing with.”

On Dennis Kucinich: “It’s a little bit like my friend Dennis Kucinich. Dennis, God love him, gets up in all these debates and says the Democratic Congress could end the war today. Dennis should read the Constitution. You gotta have 67 votes to override a presidential veto. Unless he’s figured out how to get 17 Republicans in the Senate to vote with us, I’m not quite sure how to do that. But it’s very appealing.”

On money in politics: “The third thing that’s different [since his 1988 presidential run] are the obscene amounts of money that are being It is radically different. The last time I changed this at the stage I left which was eight months before Iowa, I had raised $6 million and that was more than any other candidate had raised in the democratic process. Now you’re talking about these giant amounts of money, that it’s arguable that you need $100 million to run in a primary. It’s obscene. I think there’s going to be a backlash to it.”