Dark Days, Bright Corners

As Tim Grieve points out on Salon’s War Room blog, it’s been a depressing week for Democrats. Shirley Chisholm and Bob Matsui died, new Republican lawmakers were sworn in, Albert Gonzales began the confirmation process to become our new attorney general, and — the horror, the horror! — Trent Lott announced that a singer from “The Lawrence Welk Show” would perform the John Ashcroft-penned anthem “Let the Eagle Soar” at Bush’s inauguration.

“But even in the darkest night,” writes Grieve, “there is hope: CNN just fired Tucker Carlson.” He acknowledges it’s a small event, one that “won’t stop needless wars, keep abortion legal or speed help to the starving people in Indonesia.” But Democrats don’t have much to be happy about these days, and, Grieve says, “the forced departure of [even] one sanctimonious Republican twerp offers at least a little reason to smile.” (Bonus blogsnark from Jesse Walker at Reason’s Hit & Run, who mentions a possible “Crossfire” cancellation before lamenting the fact that “Hannity and Colmes” — “where the formula seems to be ‘just like “Crossfire,” but with dumber hosts’” — soldiers on.)

There’s a lot of smiling going on over on The Corner at National Review, where all eyes are on the Gonzales hearing. “Nobody is better at sounding outraged in every single syllable than Ted Kennedy,” writes Jonah Goldberg. “He could read a phonebook and the moral indignation and rage would be implied without ever being explained: Fred Katz! Sam Katz! John Katzen! …” Gonzales himself “is doing fine,” says Rich Lowry. “He has a nice manner and seems to have been prepped to dodge and weave enough to avoid traps.” One reader, however, takes issue with the belief of many Cornerites that “the hijinks at Abu Ghraib were not torture,” as Andy McCarthy puts it:

What’s most disturbing about reading the NRO Corner thread today is how little it seems NR writers have actually dealt with reports of torture in the war on terror. This is not just noogies and name calling; people have actually been murdered in custody. Not to mention cigarettes extinguished in ear canals, anal rape, and dog bites. I’m just breathless to read how little this seems to move conservatives, the anointed repositories of the Jesus light.

After looking over a leaked memo written by Karl Rove’s deputy, Peter Wehner, which “strongly argues that Social Security benefits paid to future retirees must be significantly reduced,” according to the Wall Street Journal, Josh Marshall concludes:

This entire debate is about ideology — between people who believe in the benefits Social Security has brought America in the last three-quarters of a century and those who think it was a bad idea from the start. There is an honest debate to have on this point, a values debate. Only, the White House understands that the belief that Social Security was always a bad program isn’t widely shared by Americans. So they have to wrap their effort in a package of lies, harnessing Americans’ desire to save Social Security in their own effort to destroy it.

Finally, Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds excerpts Alex Beam’s Boston Globe piece on news coverage of tragedies. Writes Beam: “There is an old, politically incorrect saying in newsrooms: How do you change a front-page story about massive flood devastation into a 50-word news brief buried inside the paper? Just add two words: ‘In India.’” But Reynolds says it hasn’t gone that way this time, in part because of “the new media effect.”

“It’s not just blogs, of course, but all the new media — making parts of the world that used to seem distant seem much closer,” he writes. “And so I think that Beam’s analysis, while not entirely wrong, isn’t nearly as right as it would have been ten or twenty years ago.”

Considering the media’s role this time in raising awareness of the tragedy and spurring people to contribute to help the victims, that’s one of those rare facts that should elicit smiles from both the left and the right.

Brian Montopoli

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.