Too Cool for J-School

How very gratifying it was to read on Sunday that Fox News chairman Roger Ailes had advised a group of journalism students to change majors, especially after we’d spent the past few weeks helping to raise money for journalism scholarships.

The fund-raising was entirely inadvertent on our part, of course. Every year we write and perform a few skits in the annual Gridiron Show, a satirical musical revue presented by the Wichita chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and featuring a cast of local media workers, and although the show has raised more than $100,000 for scholarships over the past 45 years we’re in it strictly to get a few laughs.

At some point in every three-night run the show introduces the lucky recipients of the scholarship funds, and we always stand in the wings looking at these fresh-faced, wide-eyed young people and wonder what they could possibly be thinking. There’s a temptation to grab them by their starched collars and shake them vigorously, telling them it would be better to get a degree in horse-and-buggy repair or telegraphy than to prepare for a career in the newspaper industry, but we always let it pass and allow them their futile dreams.

It’s not just that newspapers everywhere are losing readers and advertising revenue and any hope for the future at a rapid pace, although that probably should figure into any young person’s career planning. It’s also that journalism schools are the worst possible places to learn how to be a journalist.

Newspapers would be far healthier today if the hired people with economics degrees to write about economics, agriculture degrees to write about agriculture, military training to write about military affairs, and so on. General assignment reporters, we believe, should have a broad general knowledge acquired outside of any school. One of the many peculiar conceits of the modern journalism biz is the notion that journalism is hard, and that anyone who can master the daunting logic of the inverted pyramid should find that everything he writes about is relatively easy. This is why there so much insufferable haughtiness among the press corps, and so many mistakes. One of the better reporters we ever worked with had a divinity degree, and he covered the religion beat for the local paper so naturally he was one of the first to go in a series of lay-offs that have more decimated the staff there. Another reporter we came to respect had majored in mathematics, and we suspect he’s still on the job mainly because the rest of the staff is hopelessly innumerate and relies on him to figure out how big that tax hike is going to be as a percentage of an average income.

Worse yet, journalism schools churn out a hopelessly like-minded bunch of reporters. After 32 years in the news business we’ve yet to meet a journalism major who didn’t have the exact same opinions as the rest. The Gridiron Show, which wouldn’t have told a single Obama joke in the past four years if not for our tireless and much-resented efforts, is an annual reminder of how drearily uniform reporters are in their thinking.

Lest we seem too harsh toward our colleagues, this year’s show also provided a reminder that there are still good people in the media. Saturday night’s performance was stopped shortly after intermission by a calamitous prairie storm that dropped a tornado nearby and flooded the streets surrounding the downtown theater. While we waited out the storm in the theater’s flooding basement several cast members headed off to work, and when we finally made our way to the sparsely-attended cast party we heard our friend Ted Woodward already on the air with KNSS-AM advising us of the safest routes to our destination, another example of his indefatigable work ethic and journalistic integrity.

We’re not sure if Ted’s a journalism major, though.

— Bud Norman


Score One for Mom and the GOP

The Democrats appear to have lost the latest battle in the culture war, and by a rout.

Hillary Rosen, a former recording industry lobbyist who until Thursday was always described as “Democratic strategist” during her frequent television appearances, fired the opening salvo in the media skirmish while chatting with newsman Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” Eager to press her party’s perceived advantage with its accusations of a Republican “war on women,” and hoping to counter the Romney campaign’s riposte with the candidate’s telegenic and personable wife, Rosen said that stay-at-home mom Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life.”

The response from the Romney campaign, and its friends in the conservative media, was quick and devastating. Ann Romney immediately “tweeted” her answer, making the obvious point that raising five children and running a home is indeed hard work. Mitt Romney expressed his understandable umbrage that the opposition had taken a swipe at his wife. Conservative commentators piled on, noting the blatant hypocrisy of a self-described feminist, supposedly a philosophy devoted to giving women a wider range of life choices, showing such disrespect for another woman’s choice. Even the liberal pundits were forced to admit that attacking stay-at-home motherhood was ill-advised, even if Rosen hadn’t added an insult to apple pie and the American flag.

By Thursday afternoon the Obama campaign was in full retreat. They first sought to distance themselves from Rosen, despite her role as an advisor to Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has been outspoken in claiming the Republicans are waging a “war on women,” then started issuing their own denunciations. Obama himself finally weighed in, saying that political wives should be entirely off-limits, thus washing his hands of the incident while also making a preemptive strike against any criticism of his own wife’s controversial statements. By the end of the day, even Rosen was offering an apology.

It’s all just another one of those media brouhahas that quickly fade from the public’s memory, of course, but the Democrats were shrewd to make their tactical retreat and re-group. The “war on women” theme had already had mixed results, with their contraceptive coverage ploy firing up their feminist base but angering the Catholics who were being bullied into acting against their long-held beliefs, and their attacks on Rush Limbaugh’s ill-advised “slut” remarks drawing attention to the even more vile language routinely employed by their advocates, and there was no way to defend a slur against such an iconic archetype as the stay-at-home mom.

The downside to stereotyping Republicans as old-fashioned fuddy-duddies is that it plays right into a stereotype of Democrats as the natural enemies of all the old-fashioned American virtues. Hillary Rosen should have known that, and we expect that she does now.

— Bud Norman

Corporate Jets and the Common Man

The big story here in Wichita, Kansas, is the expected bankruptcy filing of the Hawker Beechcraft Company. It would be hard to overstate the devastating effect that such a move would have on the “Air Capital of the World,” where the venerable airplane manufacturer has been a mainstay of the local economy and a source of civic pride ever since the legendary aviation pioneer Walter Beech started his world-famous company here back in 1932.

Various reasons have been offered for the company’s financial difficulties, but the ones most often mentioned are the sluggish state of the economy and stiff competition from the rest of the corporate aviation industry, including such local firms as Bombardier Learjet and Cessna. Many Wichitans can’t help thinking, though, that it didn’t help one bit to have the President of the United States and many of his party’s congressional members demonize corporate jet owners and seek to make corporate jet ownership prohibitively expensive.

The rhetorical assault on corporate jets began in the early days of the Obama administration, when Chrysler and General Motors executives were widely criticized by some of the news media and several Democratic congressmen for flying in corporate jets from Detroit to Washington, D.C., to plead for a bail-out. The critics were all in favor of the bail-outs, of course, but apparently felt that the plan would be less offensive to an outraged public if the executives had been forced to endure a Greyhound bus trip in order to gain the money.

With corporate jet ownership thus established as the epitome of wretched corporate excess, Obama proposed eliminating several tax laws that made corporate aviation more affordable and began to feature corporate jet owners prominently in his speeches. He even went to far as to suggest that corporate jet ownership would cause students to lose college scholarships, dangerous storms to go unreported, and tainted food to poison helpless consumers.

It was all nonsense, of course, as the proposed changes in the tax code would have raised only $3 billion or so over 10 years, a mere pittance compared to the $7.2 trillion in deficits that Obama proposed to rack up over the same time span. That’s not counting the tax revenues that would have been lost if the corporate aviation industry were to go bankrupt, or the cost of unemployment compensation and welfare payments to the industry’s former workers.

Hawker Beechcraft might well survive after a Chapter 11 reorganization, but the process would be a humbling blow to Wichita nonetheless. People motivated more by envy than reason in other communities would possibly derive some satisfaction in the knowledge that those corporate jet-flying fat cats had suffered, but they should stop to consider the blue collar types whose welfare would also be adversely affected. They should also look around their own towns and cities to consider how much of their own local economies are dependent on the business of people who are flying in to make a deal.

— Bud Norman

Sayonara Santorum

Rick Santorum has dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination, and that’s probably best for both him and his party.

The stated reason for the former Senator’s withdrawal is the poor health that has recently afflicted his young daughter, and that might even be the real reason, as one of the several admirable qualities that Santorum has demonstrated during the long campaign is an uncommon devotion to his family. There were other good reasons for Santorum to call it quits, however, and it is almost certain they also played a part in the decision.

Santorum had already lost the nomination, barring some uncharacteristic self-inflicted catastrophe by front-runner Mitt Romney, and it was becoming increasingly likely that he would suffer a humiliating and potentially career-ending loss in the primary of his home state of Pennsylvania. Dropping out of the race and ceasing his attacks on the party’s all-but-certain nominee now, especially with a plausible reason having to do with his family, will allow Santorum to remain an influential figure in the GOP and perhaps even make another and more practiced run for the presidency in the future.

Santorum’s withdrawal also allows the Republicans to begin repairing some of the damage that has been done by the internecine fighting that has marked the primary campaign. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul will remain in the race, for reasons known only to them, but the former has ceased his sniping at Romney and the latter has avoided any attacks on Romney from the outset, so the Democrats shouldn’t get any more help making a case against the Republican nominee.

There were a few less-than-admirable qualities that Santorum also revealed during the race, and they all helped the Democrats and their media allies caricature the Republicans as a party of religious zealots. Although Santorum spent most of his time on the campaign trail talking about how to fix the country’s broken economy, by far the most important issue to voters, he too often allowed hostile reporters to lure him into pointless statements about banning contraception, Puerto Rican statehood, John F. Kennedy’s 62-year-old speech about separation of church and state, and other red herrings that fit the contrived narrative of the opposition.

The downside of Santorum’s withdrawal, of course, is that Romney’s many enemies in the news and entertainment media will not be able to focus their efforts entirely on his campaign. After going to such lengths to emphasize the extremism of Romney’s opponents, though, the media will at least have a harder time convincing the uninformed voter that he’s dangerously far to the right.

— Bud Norman

An Extraordinary Coincidence

Try as we might, we just can’t imagine how NBC might have accidentally edited the tape of George Zimmerman’s now famous 911 call on the night of the Trayvon Martin shooting into the version that it aired on the “Today Show” and other network programs.

In the actual call, which is widely available to anyone who wants to hear it, Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher that “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about.” The dispatcher then asks, “OK, and this guy — is he white, black or Hispanic?” Zimmerman then replies, “He looks black.”

The way that NBC’s viewers heard it, Zimmerman told the dispatcher that “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

NBC has fired the unnamed producer responsible for the editing, but nonetheless insists that it was simply a honest mistake. That Zimmerman sounds far more racist in the edited version than in the actual call, network executives say, is just one of those unfortunate coincidences that will happen from time to time in the pursuit of the truth.

Maybe so, but it does seem a most extraordinary coincidence. Had the change occurred as a result of a simple slip of the finger on a machine or a glitch in the tape the call most likely would have wound up as “This guy looks like he’s up to black,” or “This guy looks like he’s raining,” or “It’s raining black,” or any of the many other incomprehensible possible outcomes. That it should accidentally result in the only possible elision that makes Zimmerman seem an unabashed racist, and fit so neatly into the version of the story that NBC and its affiliated networks have been presenting since the beginning of the controversy, does seem suspiciously convenient.

Readers of a certain age will recall the ridicule that was directed toward President Richard Nixon when he claimed that an 18-and-a-half minute gap in the Watergate tapes was caused by his secretary’s accidental switch of a button while transcribing the tape. The gap occurred just as a conversation between Nixon and his advisors was getting interesting, and some curious reporters found that the location of the tape machine and the typewriter being used for the transcription would have required some unusual contortions for the story to be true, so the incident did much to contribute to the public’s disbelief about Nixon’s honesty.

We doubt that NBC will be subjected to the same sort of scrutiny, however, nor that the network will endure the same public disdain that fell on Nixon. They’re not the Fox network, after all.

— Bud Norman

L’Commedia e Finita

These are hard times for the left-wing humorist.

The observation is prompted by a story over at the invaluable’s Big Hollywood site, gloating over the surprisingly paltry ratings for “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” both of which are attracting fewer viewers than such fare as “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” “Bad Girls Club,” and professional wrestling. The paltriness of the shows’ ratings is surprising because both “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are widely hyped by other media, and their stars are often lauded as the modern days heirs to Jonathan Swift or Mark Twain, but upon reflection it is not difficult to believe that the shows have a limited appeal.

Left-wing humor has been a rather smug and self-righteous genre since at least the late-‘60s heyday of Lenny Bruce, The Smothers Brothers, Dick Gregory, and Mort Sahl, but in recent years it has become especially tedious, predictable, and downright mean. The left-wing comic continues to think himself a brave and intrepid iconoclast, challenging the stale conventions of an uptight and conformist society with devastating wit, but they never challenge the assumptions of their like-minded audiences nor seem to notice that it’s no longer the 1950s and that all of the conventions of that era have already been quite thoroughly demolished. Lenny Bruce did indeed run afoul of the law by dropping a few naughty words into his stunningly un-funny routines back in the pre-cable days, and has been hailed as a champion of free speech ever since, but these days an equally un-funny comic such as the execrable Louis CK can devote an entire set to a stunningly vulgar rant about Sarah Palin’s daughter having Down’s Syndrome and instead of an arrest he gets an invitation to address the Radio and Television Correspondents Association.

The past three years or so have been particularly tough for the left-wing comic, not just because they lost their favorite whipping boy in George W. Bush but because it’s so glaringly absurd for a comic to pose as brave and cutting edge while speaking truth to the out-of-power.

One of the last episodes of “The Daily Show” we bothered to watch was during the early days of the Obama administration, when the euphoria of hope and change was still rampant in the popular culture, and we tuned in merely to see how Jon Stewart would continue his anti-establishment pose now that his hero had become the establishment. The big headline story of that day was Obama’s executive order to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and we were curious to see what humor he might find it that. Predictably enough, the joke was that there were still a few Republicans left in Congress and they were so laughably absurd as to raise questions about the decision. The show aired some footage of a Rep. Pete King wondering if the prisoners would be set free to continue their terrorist activities, transferred to an American prison in a community that would become a natural terrorism target, tried in a court with the defense given access to top-secret anti-terrorism protocols, or some other problematic solution, followed by a cut back to Jon Stewart responding with one of his “can-you-believe-this-guy” stunned expressions. The audience howled at this Swiftian riposte, but we couldn’t help thinking that King had raised some reasonable and not at all funny questions, and we now can’t help noticing that three years later the best and brightest minds of the Obama administration are still trying to come up with better answers than a comically stunned expression.

Stewart probably hasn’t noticed, his attention no doubt being diverted by a Republican primary campaign that has undeniably provided some grist for the left-wing comic to mill, but he’d probably find some good material if he were to look at his side of the aisle from time to time. Of course there would probably be boycotts, denunciations by respectable society, and presidential phone calls to the targets of his barbs, but at least he’d be able to claim he was an iconoclast with a straight face.

— Bud Norman

Dueling Budgets

That Rep. Paul Ryan sure is an awful, horrible, low-down, mean person, at least to hear President Barack Obama tell it.

Speaking before an adoring audience of editors and reporters at an Associated Press luncheon on Tuesday, Obama said that the Wisconsin congressman’s recently proposed budget plan was “thinly veiled social Darwinism.” He further stated that the Ryan plan is “so far to the right that it makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal.”

The latter charge was presumably meant as a disparagement, although it is unclear which of the two programs is being disparaged. The New Deal failed to lower the unemployment rate below 14.6 percent until World War II, and burdened future generations with such fiscal calamities as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Social Security, while the Contract with America included a welfare reform bill that is widely regarded as one of the more successful laws of the past generation, as well as tax cuts for small businesses such as the president now claims to champion. It also had some rather unexceptional reforms that were never passed into law, such as term limits and an independent audit of Congress, and some ideas that weren’t passed, such as a balanced budget amendment, that might have saved us from a number of current problems. Few Americans will remember anything that was included in the Contract with America way back in 1994, much less be able to name anything extremely right-wing in it, but Obama seems hopeful that many will vaguely recall the bad press it got from his adoring audience of editors and reporters.

The “thinly veiled social Darwinism” line is a more unambiguous insult. While Darwinism as a biological theory is so fashionable that to question any aspect of it marks one as a hopeless rube, Darwinism as a social theory is universally despised. Obama elaborated on the charge by claiming that the Ryan budget would “end Medicare as we know it,” deny mothers and children healthy food, dirty the water and air, and generally impose widespread misery on the populace. Hearing Obama describe the plan, one can imagine Ryan twirling his moustache and cackling a maniacal laugh as he ties the poor mothers and children to the train tracks, his murderous scheme thwarted only because the Amtrak subsidies have been slashed and no train is coming.

The Medicare trustees concede that the program as we know it will end with insolvency in 2024 anyway, so Ryan’s plan to replace it with a voucher system doesn’t seem very socially Darwinian, but the other charges do sound quite dreadful. Looking at the actual Ryan proposal, however, reveals that it would actually increase government spending, doesn’t actually balance the ledgers for decades, and that by 2022 the government’s budget as a share of gross domestic product would actually be higher than in the last two years of President Bill Clinton’s administration. Those years were the good old days, according to Democratic legend, and even Clinton’s most bitters foes don’t recall them as an era of starving mothers and children, dirty air and water, widespread misery, and survival of the fittest.

Ryan’s plan is undeniably stingy when compared with Obama’s budget proposal, however. The Obama plan is to rack up another $6.4 trillion in debt between 2013 and 2022, or nearly $11 trillion under the more realistic “alternative fiscal scenario,” and hope that it all works out in the end. Just for yucks the House actually voted on the proposal, and it failed by a rather lopsided vote of 0-414. When even Nancy Pelosi can’t bring herself to vote for such a budget, it might be considered, well, so extreme that it makes the New Deal look like the Contract with America.

— Bud Norman

The Oh-So-Polite Press Corps

By now almost everyone has heard about the controversial answer Obama gave to a question about the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on the constitutionality of Obamacare, but few people have noticed what wasn’t asked at that press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

With Harper standing right there next to Obama, it seemed a perfect opportunity to ask a question or two about the Keystone XL Pipeline. Harper was reportedly confounded and infuriated by Obama’s decision to block construction of the pipeline, and is proceeding with plans to sell his country’s oil to China despite Obama’s compromise decision to build the pipeline only halfway to Canada, so a joint appearance by the two heads of state could have shed some light on the situation. Instead, the ladies and gentlemen of the press chose to ask about the more anodyne matters of a free trade agreement and a minor squabble over visa requirements.

With Calderon standing right there next to Obama, it was also a perfect opportunity to ask about the Fast and Furious fiasco, a Department of Justice operation that allowed the sale of thousands of weapons to Mexican drug gangs. The botched operation reportedly infuriated the Mexican government when they found out about it long after hundreds of Mexicans had died as a result, yet not one reporter had the temerity to ask either leader about it. A member of the Mexican press did ask about the flow of weapons into Mexico from the United States, giving Calderon and Obama a chance to lament the Second Amendment, but without any mention of Fast and Furious.

The fact that one question prompted such a controversial response that Obama spent days trying to explain it might suggest that the reporters in attendance weren’t entirely deferential, but consider how the question about Obamacare was phrased: “If it were to be ruled unconstitutional, how would you still guarantee health care to the uninsured and those Americans who’ve become insured as a result of the law?” The query, posed by a reporter identified in the transcript as Julianna, as the president is apparently on a first name basis with the White House press corps, was framed as a compliment. The resulting controversy was a result of Obama’s clumsy response, not a hard-hitting question.

White House press conferences used to be more rought and tumble affairs, of course. Somewhere in Texas, we suspect, George W. Bush is wondering when these get-togethers became so chummy.

— Bud Norman

Romney and the Shouters

The race for the Republican presidential nomination is all over but the shouting, to resort to an old cliché, but there still seems to be a good deal of shouting left.

Mitt Romney’s clean sweep of Tuesday’s primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., only put him a bit more than halfway to the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination, but it nonetheless made clear he’ll have a smooth ride through the other half. The contest in D.C. can be easily dismissed, as there are only a half-dozen or so Republicans living in the capital city and at this point most of them are probably employed by the Romney campaign, while the win in neighboring Maryland is barely more impressive. The respectable four-point victory in Wisconsin is more convincing, though, because if former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s blue-collar image and pro-manufacturing message can’t win there it is hard to see what states left to be contested he can win.

Yet Santorum vows to remain in the race, as do long shot candidate Newt Gingrich and no-shot candidate Ron Paul, and there is still considerable grumbling among a significant portion of the party about Romney’s candidacy. Tune into any of the conservative talk radio shows and you’ll hear it from every other caller, or surf your way through the right side of the blogosphere and you’ll read it in every other post. The discontent also shows up at the polls, where Romney is still falling short of 50 percent in many states.

Much of the opposition to Romney is based on the health care reform bill he implemented while governor of Massachusetts, a valid complaint for conservatives fuming about the suspiciously similar Obamacare law, but there also seems to be a more visceral resentment on the part of Republicans who consider themselves outsiders that the perceived candidate of the “elites” is winning the nomination. Romney’s well-groomed, well-educated, and well-heeled persona also seems to be a problem with a certain segment of the party.

Some disgruntled Republicans might even sit out a general election between Romney and Obama, but Democrats would be well advised to not overestimate their number. Despite his frequent deviations from conservative orthodoxy Romney remains far to the right of Obama, and once the race is officially over that will become clear even to the most disappointed conservatives. It should also become clear, once Romney has sewn up the nomination, that the vast majority of Republicans who did vote for him could not possibly all be “elites.” Nor should the Democrats overstate how much damage the protracted Republican battle is doing to the party, as most voters have stopped paying attention to the anticlimactic race and won’t hear the criticisms being leveled against Romney by his remaining rivals.

The barbs of Santorum, Gingrich, and their many supporters might even prove an advantage to Romney in the general election. It won’t be easy for the Democrats to caricature Romney as an extreme right-wingers after so many months of extreme right-wingers shouting that Romney isn’t one of them.

— Bud Norman

Supreme Hooey

President Barack Obama says he’s confident that the Supreme Court will uphold his health care reform law, but he also seems to be preparing a campaign argument in case they don’t.

Speaking to reporters Monday during a rare press conference, this one forced by the visits of the Canadian and Mexican heads of state, Obama said it would be “unprecedented” and “extraordinary” for the court to strike down the law. He contended that a ruling against the law would be a betrayal of conservative principles regarding “judicial activism” and “judicial restraint.” He also suggested that overturning the law would violate the entire country’s democratic principles because “the law was passed by a strong majority of a democratically-elected Congress” and the Supreme Court is “an unelected group of people.”

It’s all hooey, of course, and one needn’t be a former editor of the Harvard Law Review or a former teacher of constitutional law at the University of Chicago to know it.

The Supreme Court striking down a law as unconstitutional is by no means “unprecedented.” Indeed, the precedents stretch all the way back to 1803 and the Marbury v. Madison decision that established the principle of judicial review, a fundamental fact of the American system that every high school student was once required to know in order to pass a civics course. Nor are such decisions at all “extraordinary,” as they’ve happened during almost every presidential administration since Marbury. The most famous example is the Supreme Court decision striking down Franklin Roosevelt’s National Recovery Act on the grounds that the constitution doesn’t empower the federal government to micro-manage every aspect of the economy, something that a self-described FDR buff such as Obama should know.

Equally absurd is the argument that a decision overturning Obamacare would be an affront to any principles that conservatives hold dear. Conservatives define “judicial activism” as courts imposing their policy preferences on the country rather than interpreting the law, such as the state courts that attempt to dictate how much the legislatures should be spending on education or welfare programs, or the judges and justices who have argued with a straight face that the people who wrote and ratified the constitution clearly intended for it to ensure the right to abortion or gay marriage. The only intellectual inconsistency and dishonesty is on the left, which has long applauded such activist court rulings but will object to a ruling based on the actual text and clear intent of the constitution.

It is hooey, too, to say that a ruling against Obamacare would be the least bit undemocratic. Justices aren’t elected, but they are chosen by people who are elected, their appointments are approved by people who are elected, and it is all done according to a constitution that was written by elected officials and ratified by the elected officials of the states. Furthermore, it is not just hooey but an outright lie to say that Obamacare passed with “strong majorities” in Congress. The majorities weren’t so strong that they included any Republicans, and many Democrats even defected when the bill squeaked through the house with a “strong” majority of 219-212, and in the next mid-term elections the people tossed many of the Senators and Representatives who did vote for it in order to replace them with candidates explicitly opposed to the law, including the first Republican to win a Massachusetts Senate seat since dinosaurs walked the earth. Obama does seem so concerned with the will of the people that he’ll accept the verdict of that election.

Obama’s rhetorical attacks on the Supreme Court might work, given the sorry state of high school civics courses in recent years, but history isn’t on his side. Franklin Roosevelt was the last president to wage a similar against the Supreme Court after the NRA decision, and public opinion turned against him to the point that the Republicans regained a toe-hold in Congress the next election. Even Roosevelt’s most worshipful hagiographers still regard it as a low point of presidency. Obama should know that, too, but given the state of Ivy League education in recent years perhaps he doesn’t.

— Bud Norman