Is MSNBC Giving Up on the Hard Left?

Chronically low ratings have led to a major shakeup at MSNBC. The network announced a week ago that it is canceling the shows hosted by Ronan Farrow and Joy Reid. Variety now reports that those programs will be replaced by a two-hour show called “MSNBC Live With Thomas Roberts.” Variety says:

Beset by significant ratings declines, MSNBC has been emphasizing reports on breaking news, rather than the issues-based discussion for which Farrow and Reid have been known.

Meanwhile, Al Sharpton may also be on the way out:

The Rev. Al Sharpton may soon be booted from his weeknight television host role on Politics Nation and relegated to the pile of less-watched weekend fare, one source within MSNBC’s ranks said, citing the need for the cable provider to bolster sagging audience numbers.

Company President Phil Griffin said that the outlet’s Republican-bashing days are pretty much over — and that as part of the image overhaul, it’s now being surmised that Mr. Sharpton’s show may move from its prime 6 p.m. Monday-through-Friday slot….

MSNBC’s Republican-bashing days are over? I’ll believe it when I see it.

“Going left was a brilliant strategy while it lasted and made hundreds of millions of dollars for Comcast,” one MSNBC source told the Daily Beast. “But it doesn’t work anymore. The goal is to move away from left-wing TV.”

So, why doesn’t the far-left strategy work anymore? Are liberals disillusioned with the Obama administration? Are the old lefties dying off? Are younger liberals realizing that the Republicans were right after all? Or did viewers just get tired of the endless stream of bile and vituperation emanating from MSNBC?

I don’t know, but, as another observer put it, “Everybody in the [company] food chain, from top to bottom, understands that the [Keith] Olbermann era is over.” That can only be a good thing.

The SecState who couldn’t shoot straight

Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday. In response to a question posed by Rep. Gerald Connolly, Kerry cast doubt on the adverse judgment rendered by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the deal in process with Iran. As described by the AP, the terms of the coming deal will put Iran on a glide path to the lawful acquisition of nuclear weapons over a period of years.

Kerry’s response to Connolly did not defend the wisdom of the coming deal on the merits. Kerry’s response did assert that the interim deal has frozen Iran’s nuclear program. Not true.

Rather, Kerry offered a strictly ad hominem response to Netanyahu’s criticism of the coming deal (C-SPAN video below). “The prime minister was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq,” Kerry said. Netanyahu, he added, “may have a judgment that just may not be correct here.”

Iran, however, has been the focus of Netanyahu’s concerns over something like the past 20 years, and his judgment on that score has been amply vindicated. The New York Times reviews Netanyahu’s 2002 testimony in this article today by Robert Mackey. Mackey notes that Netanyahu linked his support for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein with the possibility of inspiring the implosion of the ruling theocracy in neighboring Iran and puts this quote in that context: “It’s not a question of whether Iraq’s regime should be taken out but when should it be taken out; it’s not a question of whether you’d like to see a regime change in Iran but how to achieve it[.]”

If we’re speaking to the credibility of the man, however, John Kerry is probably not the guy to be advancing such an argument. In 2002, when the authorization for the use of military force to depose Saddam Hussein was debated in Congress, Benjamin Netanyahu was not even in office. He was a private citizen. Netanyahu testified to the House Foreign Affairs Committee as a private Israeli citizen.

John Kerry held office as a United States Senator in 2002. Kerry voted in favor of the authorization of the use of military force against Iraq on October 11, 2002, on the basis of the same kind of intelligence Netanyahu relied on for his testimony. Kerry’s ad hominem critique of Netanyahu applies even more so to Kerry himself than to Netanyahu.

By his own purported lights, Kerry’s views should not be taken seriously. He may be right about that, but not because he supported the Iraq war (before he opposed it, of course).

In his dystopian comedy Sleeper, Woody Allen inserted a joke about the devastation that took place “when a man named Albert Shanker got hold of a nuclear warhead.” Shanker was only the politically incorrect leader of a militant teachers’ union.

Now we are to acquiesce in, and facilitate the acquisition of, nuclear weapons by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The mullahs have been at war with the United States since 1979, have a lot of American blood on their hands, and continue to proclaim that the United States is the Great Satan. Who in his right mind, with the best interests of the United States at heart, thinks that relenting in our opposition to the mullahs’ acquisition of nuclear weapons is a good idea?

John Kerry’s testimony betrays the depraved soul of the Obama administration. These people will say anything in a bad cause. Despite its bad faith and misplaced logic, Kerry’s critique of Netanyahu before Congress yesterday warrants the closest consideration.

While Grijalva grates

Former CBS News investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson asks herself how the media would treat a given behavior if it were practiced by a Republican. If the media would go ballistic, Attkisson suggests, the same behavior ought to be deemed newsworthy when a Democrat practices it. As she explains in her memoir Stonewalled, she calls it The Substitution Game.

There is more than one reason why Attkisson resigned her employment with CBS News. Her use of The Substitution Game is one of many signs that she was not a team player and why by early 2014 she found herself preferring to pursue other interests beyond CBS News.

Now comes the wretched Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva to give us the opportunity of playing The Substitution Game. Grijalva has sent letters to seven university presidents based on his concerns about the heterodox climate-related testimony of professors at the institutions. He seeks “detailed records on the funding sources for affiliated researchers who have opposed the scientific consensus on man-made global warming,” as the Washington Post’s Joby Warrick puts it in “House Dems: Did Big Oil seek to sway scientists in climate debate?”

It’s early, but let’s take a moment for The Substitution Game. If we were talking “House GOP,” that’s not how Warrick’s story would read. The story would seek responses from the targets of the inquiry. The story would note the unusual nature of the correspondence. The story would ask what is really going on here. The story would intimate the underlying threat to academic freedom.

Our own Steve Hayward has proclaimed his membership in the Magnificent Seven. Steve has outed himself and posted Grijalva’s letter to the president of Pepperdine University in “Are you now or have you ever been a climate skeptic?” Professor Roger Pielke, Jr., another target, has posted his comment on the inquiry in “I am under ‘investigation.’”

Steve is a happy warrior; I’m sure he’ll have more to say with gusto in his usual style and he’ll punch back twice as hard. Professor Pielke, however, presents a striking contrast. The likes of the grating Grijalva have taken their toll on him, precisely as intended. He candidly confesses as much.

How would the mainstream media react if a Republican congressman lobbed threatening inquiries hounding seven university presidents regarding the funding of professors’ research? They would recall the ghost of McCarthyism in the spirit of Steve’s post.

Yet today the proverbial crickets chirp, with the exception of National Review editor Rich Lowry. Rich takes note in the Politico column “A shameful climate witch hunt.” Thank you, Mr. Lowry.

Will the Clintons’ Greed Do Them In?

It has long been remarked that a certain Dogpatch air hangs over Bill and Hillary Clinton. They have, apparently, led separate lives for quite a few years, but one quality that they share is greed. Indeed, they seem unable to restrain that grasping instinct even when it undermines their presumably more important goals–as, for example, when Hillary extracts $300,000 from universities for 45 minutes of platitudes.

Tomorrow’s Washington Post reports that while Hillary was Secretary of State, “[t]he Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments.” How many millions? Weirdly, the Post doesn’t say. It does tell us that as of 2008–before Hillary became Secretary of State–”Saudi Arabia had given between $10 million and $25 million.”

Accepting donations to a family foundation from foreign governments while serving as Secretary of State represents extraordinarily bad judgment. Sure, most of the money went to bona fide charitable causes. But there are any number of ways to donate to, say, earthquake or flood relief. Does anyone seriously think that a foreign government would choose the Clinton Foundation as its preferred charitable vehicle unless it sought to curry favor with a) a former president and still leading figure in the Democratic Party, b) the Secretary of State, and c) a possible future president? How dumb do the Clintons think we are?

Moreover, there is reason to suspect that the Clinton Foundation has served as a slush fund to finance the Clintons’ private enjoyments. The New York Post reported in 2013 that the Clinton Foundation had spent more than $50 million on travel expenses since 2003. Think about that: $50 million! That would cover a lot of the globe-trotting for which the Clintons are famous.

Presumably when Bill rode the Lolita Express, the bills were paid by his convicted sex offender pal Jeffrey Epstein. But who knows what discreditable episodes may have been funded by the Clinton Foundation and its overseas donors, if any journalist took the trouble to check?

The Clintons’ problem is that they are, in fact, greedy. They are bound together by their lust for money. It isn’t a stretch for the average voter to understand that when Hillary extracts $300,000 per speech from public institutions–a laundered campaign contribution that would otherwise be illegal–and the family foundation rakes in millions from foreign governments while Hillary serves as Secretary of State, the Clintons are more interested in cashing on on their position and their notoriety than in serving the American people. You could compare them to the Kardashians, except that the Kardashians don’t pretend to be pursuing some higher goal.

Three Non-Muslim Lone Wolves Arrested En Route to Join ISIS

Three men, two in Brooklyn and one in Florida, have been arrested as two of them were about to depart for Turkey to join ISIS. Their names are Abror Habibov, Abdurasul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhmetov; Juraboev and Habibov are from Uzbekistan, while Saidakhmetov is from Kazakhstan. Saidakhmetov is a legal permanent U.S. resident. Habibov entered the U.S. legally, but overstayed his visa.

As has usually been the case with domestic would-be terrorists, these three don’t seem very formidable. They talked about hijacking an airplane and assassinating President Obama, but seemingly had little ability to carry out any but the most primitive attack. The authorities have been tracking them since August 2014.

Attorney Adam Perlmutter, who represents Saidakhmetov, claimed that the arrests reflect badly on the government:

“This case really makes us question the federal government’s approach…to young Muslim men in America,” he told reporters. “They are very ham-fisted tactics. There is no attempt to intervene, to speak, to explore, to understand. There’s just the rush to prosecution, to arrest, and to conviction.”

Maybe that will change if Hillary Clinton becomes president and follows through on her pledge to “empathize” with our enemies. For now, I think the rest of us are happy that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are eavesdropping on suspicious characters and tracking them on the internet, which, apparently, is how these particular ISIS recruits were caught.

Are You Now or Have You Ever Been a Climate Skeptic?

Let’s start by axing a simple question: If I say “two plus two equals four,” does the truth of that proposition depend on whether I’ve received a grant from the Charles G. Koch Foundation? Apparently it does for Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), the ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources. He has sent letters to seven universities targeting seven academics who, according to the Democratic spokesman for the committee, were chosen because they seem “to have the most impact on policy in the scientific community.”

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And one of the Magnificent Seven is . . . me! I have to say I’m flattered to have been elevated to the ranks of Richard Lindzen, John Christy, Judith Curry, and Roger Piekle Jr. as all-stars in the climate field, and it was very nice of them to aggregate all of my congressional testimony (a grand total of five times in 15 years—yeah, that really makes me a “go-to” guy doesn’t it?) in one location (scroll down to the bottom). You can see Grijava’s letter about me nearby, or download it here if you’d like your very own copy. (Send it to me with a self-address stamped envelope, and I’ll autograph it for you!) More seriously: it appears I’ve really gotten under the skin of the climate cultists (almost certainly Greenpeace, the John Birch Society of the environmental movement, is behind this).

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Pepperdine’s administration will produce their own proper response since the letter is addressed to them rather than to me, but Rep. Grijalva and his McCarthyite witch hunters are in for a disappointment: there are no undisclosed financial supporters of my writing. I’ve received—and am receiving—no grants, honoraria, consulting fees, good karma baubles, or even Christmas cards from any fossil fuel interest, though I’d be proud and open about it if I did. And I didn’t consult anyone for the content of my congressional testimony over the years, though so what if I had? Is the good congressman really telling us that he is incapable of assessing factual claims and judgments about the wisdom of policy on the merits alone? That doesn’t speak well of his probity.

I do hope the House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing on this topic, because I’d love to ask Rep. Grijava some questions in return, such as which contacts at Greenpeace ginned up the particulars of his complaint (since I doubt the worthy Rep. or his staff actually read Power Line, which is cited in his letter). Further, it will be fun to ask a series of questions about the incentives of government-funded scientists, such as what might happen to their government research grants if they didn’t report a result congenial to Rep. Grijalva. More to the point: why pick on the seven of us at universities?  Does he really just say “how high?” every time Greenpeace asks him to jump?

Got to hit the road for the rest of today and tomorrow, but I’ll have much more to say. In the meantime, Roger Piekle’s response is classic, and exposes the full dimensions of the absolute ritual conformity demanded by the climate cult today (since Roger is not a climate skeptic in any way, shape or form).

Another Shot of Oakeshott

Following up on my first installment a few days ago from Michael Oakeshott’s classic essay “On Being Conservative,” herewith my second-favorite passage from the essay, which I find can be effective in getting students to understand why Aristotle (among others) thinks the young are unsuited to the study—let alone practice—of politics:

Everybody’s young days are a dream, a delightful insanity, a sweet solipsism. Nothing in them has a fixed shape, nothing a fixed price; everything is a possibility, and we live happily on credit. There are no obligations to be observed; there are no accounts to be kept. Nothing is specified in advance; everything is what can be made of it. The world is a mirror in which we seek the reflection of our own desires. The allure of violent emotions is irresistible. When we are young we are not disposed to make concessions to the world; we never feel the balance of a thing in our hands—unless it be a cricket bat. We are not apt to distinguish between our liking and our esteem; urgency is our criterion of importance; and we do not easily understand that what is humdrum need not be despicable. We are impatient of restraint; and we readily believe, like Shelley, that to have contracted a habit is to have failed.

These, in my opinion, are among our virtues when we are young: but how remote they are from the disposition appropriate for participating in the style of government I have been describing. Since life is a dream, we argue (with plausible but erroneous logic) that politics must be an encounter of dreams, in which we hope to impose our own. . . [Dreams From My Father perhaps?]

For most there is what Conrad called the “shadow line” which, when we pass it, discloses a solid world of things, each with a fixed shape, each with its own point of balance, each with its fixed price; a world of fact, not poetic image, in which what we have spent on one thing we cannot spend on another; a world inhabited by others besides ourselves who cannot be reduced to mere reflections of our own emotions. And coming to be at home in this commonplace world qualifies us (as no knowledge of “political science” can ever qualify us), if we are so inclined and have nothing better to think about, to engage in what the man of conservative disposition understands to be political activity.

Just a hunch: I’m betting Barack Obama never read a word of Oakeshott.