“Tarting up” and “dumbing down” the news is how veteran reporter Dan Rather dubbed Katie Couric’s effect on the “CBS Evening News.” The job description does not belong exclusively to Couric. The many females manning the front desks on cable, Y chromosome carriers included, do their daily bit to entrench a shift from hard to soft-news stories.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper is a major culprit in changing the face of news. Forehead furrowed into a perpetual I-feel-your-pain frown, Cooper’s broadcasts are an interminable kvetch that elevates feelings above facts.
Needless to say, the Cooper/Couric effect has not enhanced the numbing presidential debates. Cooper presided over a Q&A session between YouTube users and the eight Democratic candidates. CNN’s Senior Vice President David Bohrman and Political Director Sam Feist, no less, were said to have helped Cooper and the crew handpick the cross-section of freaks and exhibitionists who debuted during the debate.
Here’s Cooper unraveling a skein of complex topics aimed at “keeping them honest” (a tagline he uses on his “Anderson Cooper 360º” sob-along): “Senator Dodd, you’ve been in Congress more than 30 years. Can you honestly say you’re any different? Congressman Kucinich, your supporters certainly say you are different. Even your critics would certainly say you are different… What do you have that Senator Clinton and Senator Obama do not have?” [A trophy wife?] And the deft follow-up: “Senator Clinton, you were involved in that [how-am-I-different] question. I want to give you a chance to respond. Senator Obama, you were also involved in that [how-am-I-different] question as well. Please respond.”
Asked by a YouTubester to define “liberal,” Hillary Clinton revealed that she knows the word originally denoted the classical liberalism of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, but then settled on “progressive” as the label of choice for her Fabian plank.
Classical liberals (this writer) are distinguished in that the only rights they recognize are the individual’s right to life, liberty and property, and the pursuit of happiness. The sole role of a legitimate government is to protect only those liberties. Why life, liberty, and property, and not housing, food, education, health care, child benefits, emotional well-being, enriching employment, ad infinitum? Because the former impose no obligations on other free individuals; the latter enslave some in the service of others.
Which is what Hillary and her fellow front-runners all want. Indeed, Clinton was correct to state that the old liberalism, which she knows of but doesn’t value, entailed “the freedom to achieve.” What Hillary failed to divulge is that the founding fathers were classical liberals; she is a Fabian socialist. Social democrats like Hillary (and the Republican candidates bar Ron Paul) presuppose a strong centralized state to ensure “effective” wealth distribution. State intervention, naturally, always leads to more of the same, beginning with selective nationalization of sections of the economy such as health care. Individuals unfortunate enough to have chosen medicine as a vocation will soon be turned into rightless serfs.
Contra Hillary’s illiberalism, the liberalism of the founders holds that the individual has the right to pursue happiness, but no right whatsoever to demand that government rope others into working to make him happy and healthy. Although the Hildebeest professed a belief in individual rights and freedoms, her idea of individual rights comports with what Harvard scholar Richard Pipes termed “the right to the necessities of life at public expense, i.e., the right to something that was not one’s own.” Her claim to the contrary notwithstanding, Hillary’s “progressivism” is as American as Jalal Talabani is Jeffersonian.
Next, a pontifically solemn Cooper announced that questions on race would feature prominently in his YouTube selection. Intrepid journalist that he is, Cooper swooped down for the kill. Did he raise the need to address injustices inherent in the fact that “blacks are an estimated 39 times more likely to commit a violent crime against a white than vice versa”? Did he take up the inequities that flow from blacks being “2.25 times more likely to commit officially-designated hate crimes against whites than vice versa”? Perish the thought! After all, Cooper has his finger on the political pulse: “Senator Obama, how do you address those who say you’re not authentically black enough?” (Ignore the syntactical redundancy; grammar is so yesterday.)
Then came shake-down time. The conscience of the nation (and the son of heiress Gloria Vanderbilt to whom money is no object), Cooper featured the following YouTubester’s demand: “Is [sic] African-Americans ever going to get reparations for slavery?” Most of the candidates disavowed reparations. But, coupled with assorted race-based redistribution plans, they vowed to continue to take “jobs away from one group in order to compensate a second group to correct injustices caused by a third group who mistreated a fourth group at an earlier point in history”—that’s Edwin Locke of the Ayn Rand Institute’s distillation of America’s discriminatory hiring practices.
The evening meandered into mindless prattle about Iraq—to stay or to go or to decamp to Darfur, That Was the Question. Cooper, however, was quick to retreat to less shaky grounds, preferring to plunge deep into the guts of the education crisis:
Cooper: “Who was your favorite teacher and why? Senator Gravel?”
©2007 By Ilana Mercer