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May. 6 2010 — 12:02 pm | 1,756 views | 1 recommendations | 15 comments

Requiem for Newsweek

In a blog posting last June, I wrote that due to its incomprehensible new business strategy of deliberately positioning itself as the laughingstock of American journalism, Newsweek would be out of business in eighteen months. The end has come sooner than I had predicted. As it continues to lose money, the Washington Post, the owner of Newsweek, has decided to put the once venerable newsweekly up for sale.

Although it is tempting for conservatives to engage in Schadenfreude and blame Newsweek’s demise on its inexorable lurch leftward, its decline is principally due to the rise and primacy of the internet. Many other newsweeklies in particular and long-established magazines in general have met the same fate. Newsweek’s 20th century business strategy was one that could not succeed in a fragmented 21st century media environment. Newsweek was a horse and buggy business model in an automobile world. In an age of Twitter, news aggregator sites and a plethora of commentary and opinion freely available on the internet, Newsweek’s business strategy was doomed from the start.

But one would be hard pressed to challenge the thesis that the hard-left shift (We are all Socialists now) of the magazine surely didn’t help it capture many new readers or retain existing ones. Readers on the left had The New Republic or Slate. Those gratified by journalistic obsequiousness and cheer leading for Obama could receive the same bill-of-fare by tuning into MSNBC. In terms of positioning, where did this leave Newsweek? It became an opinion journal without a home and without a core demand for its outdated product.

In hindsight, the inexplicable idea championed by editor Jon Meacham of cutting subscribers in half with the expectation of generating more revenue from advertisers was a recipe for disaster. Old subscribers left, never to return, and the cultivation and securing of a more refined audience never materialized. Meacham seemed utterly detached from the shortcomings of his new business model and the increasingly dogmatic, one-dimensionality of its commentary and reporting.

The ubiquitous presence of many of Newsweek columnists as regulars on the MSNBC talk show circuit made a mockery of Meacham’s intellectual pretensions of revamping the weekly into a “thought leader” along the lines of the Economist or The New Republic. The association with MSNBC simply further cheapened and debased its brand. In its quest for a more upscale readership, where did Meacham think Newsweek would go? Both the Economist and The New Republic are long-established journals with good reputations and loyal audiences. Meacham failed to differentiate his product, and instead provided a newsweekly that all but mirrored the viewpoint expressed by MSNBC.

Evan Thomas’ now infamous claim that Obama is a “sort of God”, is indicative of the fact that Newsweek’s unabashed swooning for Obama eventually morphed into farce. At times, it was difficult to discern if the magazine was anything other that a journalistic organ of Obama worship. Howard Kurtz notes, that he, “lost track of the number of Barack and Michelle covers.” In short, instead of becoming more exclusive, the new “thought leader” degenerated into silliness. On occasion, some of its content was nothing more than campaign advertisements for Obama masquerading as news articles.

Although it has a long and distinguished history, in the end, Newsweek is destined to suffer the same fate as liberal talk radio: both are products without a viable market.

Apr. 14 2010 — 3:45 pm | 614 views | 0 recommendations | 11 comments

Surprise! Henry Waxman cancels hearings for corporate CEO’s who disclosed unpleasant truths about Obamacare

Before the ink had even dried on the health care reform bill, many major corporations announced that the new law would have an adverse impact on their earnings. A peeved Representative Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, demanded the CEO’s of these corporations appear at a show trial before his committee to atone for uttering such heresy against the unequivocal blessings of Obamacare. Unsurprisingly, Waxman has suddenly cancelled the hearings.

Waxman’s initial decision was both precipitous and petulant: was he prepared to vilify these corporations for complying with the mandatory financial disclosure provisions required by both the Sarbanes-Oxley Act as well as federal securities laws? In order to avoid further fallout over the toxic reception Obamacare has received since its enactment, a Democratic colleague, whose head is screwed on straight, must have counseled Waxman against such foolishness. Also, in light of recent polling which has seen both opposition to Obamacare climb after its enactment and the president’s approval ratings continuing to plummet, did Waxman want to remind the nation why Obama and his fellow Democrats are viewed with such disfavor by the electorate?

As the decision to cancel the hearings demonstrates, continuing disclosure of the many unpleasant truths about Obamacare is giving new meaning to the law of unintended consequences. Just recently, the CBO revealed that certain provisions contained in the leviathan 2,700 page bill will mean that members of Congress and their staff may have their health insurance terminated before any alternatives are available. This embarrassing error prompted the New York Timesto remark that, “If they did not know exactly what they were doing to themselves, did lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill fully grasp the details of how it would influence the lives of other Americans?”

An excellent question…

Apr. 1 2010 — 2:11 pm | 130 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Will Mitt be undone by RomneyCare?

There is a specter haunting the presidential aspirations of Mitt Romney. It is the specter of defeat occasioned by his unapologetic role in implementing RomneyCare. When the Massachusetts universal health care plan was signed into law in 2006, it was neither a politically contentious issue nor one that many believed would come back to haunt the former Governor. Yet three years later, amidst the tumult created in the post-Scott Brown world, the political landscape has changed dramatically. If the present trajectory of opinion polls reflecting strong opposition to Obamacare remain unchanged, the issue will be front and center during the 2012 Republican presidential primaries and Romney has nowhere to hide.

The compulsory aspect of the 2006 universal plan notwithstanding, Romney can not comfort himself with the assertion that the principal reason for passing the legislation was to contain escalating costs. Health care costs in Massachusetts have not in fact decreased. Premiums have increased dramatically and per capita health care spending in the state is 27%  higher than the national average.

As a preview to the criticism Romney will face on this issue, perhaps the unkindest cut of all came recently from President Obama during an appearance with Matt Lauer on the Today show. While referencing his own health care plan, Obama gleefully noted that, “I mean, a lot of commentators have said this is sort of similar to the bill that Mitt Romney, the Republican governor and now presidential candidate, passed in Massachusetts.”

Romney’s rejoinder on the striking similarity between Obama’s plan and his own? “They’re as different as night and day. There are some words that sound the same, but our plan is based on states solving our issues; his is based on a one-size-fits-all plan.’’ But according to MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who advised both the Romney and Obama administrations on their health insurance programs, the two plans are nearly identical.

It has been painful to watch the rhetorical contortions in which Romney is forced to engage when questioned about the similarities between the two health care plans. Romney’s preemptive and increasingly desperate defense of the Massachusetts’ program is downright discordant. The fact is there are more similarities than differences between the two health care programs. The verbal gymnastics Romney employs to distinguish the two is unavailing, for at heart, it is a distinction without a difference.

It is hard to see how Romney helps himself with his argument that the plans are substantially different. It is disingenuous and easily susceptible to refutation. Is Romney prepared to argue that while it is impermissible for the federal government to force its citizens to purchase health care they may not want or need on pain of being fined, it’s unobjectionable for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to similarly coerce its residents? Romney doesn’t squarely address the potential constitutional issues at either the state or the federal level, because these issues, for him, may become philosophically insuperable. Conservative Republican primary voters will more likely view Romney’s role as a co-conspirator in the modern welfare state’s continuing assault on its citizens liberties.

Massachusetts’ conservatives may be more lenient towards Romney on this issue as they are acutely aware of the political difficulties presented to Republican Governors in a state whose legislature has for decades been controlled by Democrats. But conservative Republican primary voters in other states will not be so forgiving. And, while Romney is correct that the legislature modified his original plan, this justification will not resonate much beyond the borders of the Bay State.

The first rule of damage control for politicians is that when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. The more strident his defense, the more he attempts to distinguish what essentially is indistinguishable, the deeper Romney keeps digging the hole. Perhaps Romney would be better served by heeding the advice of  Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi, and simply come clean and admit mistakes were made.

Will Mitt be undone by RomneyCare? 2012 is a long way off and anything can happen between now and the Republican presidential primaries. After his pivotal involvement in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform debacle in 2007, many conservatives wrote off John McCain as a viable presidential contender. But, Lazarus-like, he returned from the dead to capture the party’s nomination.

But, unless the national antipathy surrounding Obamacare subsides by 2012, it will be hard to see how Romney can effectively respond as his detractors bestow upon him the unwelcome and unsolicited title as the intellectual father of national universal health care.

Jan. 14 2010 — 3:10 pm | 495 views | 0 recommendations | 8 comments

The state of the Senate race in Massachusetts

Since the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat has evolved into a horse race, in the end, the outcome next Tuesday will be decided by the composition of those who turnout to vote. Unsurprisingly, Massachusetts’ Republicans (all ten of them) are highly motivated and energized. But what bodes especially ill for the Coakley campaign is that according to the latest Rasmussen poll, her Republican challenger, Scott Brown, has captured independent voters by a wide margin.

Coakley for her part has become the candidate of the Massachusetts Democratic Party political machine, the unions and fellow Democratic state politicians. But this is a different political moment; there is widespread and palpable discontent in the air — even in Massachusetts — most visibly against the entrenched political party. The election has become a referendum on Obamacare, strongly opposed by most independent voters in the Commonwealth, and the wisdom of treating terrorists like criminal defendants. Coakley is in lockstep with the Obama Administration on these defining issues, Brown is not.

The central issue for the Coakley campaign is has she offered Democratic-leaning voters a compelling reason to vote for her? Cool, aloof and utterly detached from the retail campaigning in which Republican Scott Brown has engaged and excelled, Coakley has remained in seclusion, hiding from voters. At one point during the campaign, she seemed to denigrate Brown for pressing the flesh outside of one of the most inviolate and sacrosanct institutions in Boston, Fenway Park. She thus created the impression that meeting with and actively seeking the vote of Massachusetts’ residents is an activity that is not only unnecessary, but clearly beneath her. From the start, the race has been Coakley’s to lose, yet her campaign continues to falter, a seeming endless comedy of errors. She has cast her electoral fate with the party bosses, union leaders and the DNC. And it shows.

With less than a week to the election, while Scott Brown continued to drive his truck around the state meeting with voters, Coakley embarked on a mission to Washington DC to hobnob at a fundraiser with lobbyists for the health care industry. In tow was Democratic operative, Michael Meehan, on loan from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to assist the Coakley campaign with its “messaging.” After the event, Meehan was involved in an unprovoked altercation with John McCormack, a reporter from the Weekly Standard. Neither Coakley nor the Democratic Party came out of the incident unscathed: it made the Democratic Party machine look rather sinister; it made Coakley look foolish and complicit.

But Coakley kept digging the hole deeper. Despite an existing photograph of her looking at McCormack as he lay on the ground, she claimed she was not “privy to the facts.” At the same time she was offering her lame explanation to reporters in Boston yesterday, Michael Meehan was in the process of trying to contact  McCormack, to offer his apology for being a “little too aggressive.” Coakley thus managed, in an inexplicable act of self-immolation, to further erode her own credibility.

Coakley’s stance on the matter not only taxes one’s credulity, but it also, in light of the incontrovertible evidence concerning the incident that existed at the time she made her statement, insults the intelligence of the voters of Massachusetts. Her lack of candor on the assault incident and the many unforced errors she has committed throughout the campaign, is indicative of her political strategy. For Coakley has conducted her campaign with an overweening sense of entitlement. She is expecting Massachusetts’ voters to do what they are told, and like automatons, pull the lever come election day solely because she has a D after her name. But in the end, will this posture be sufficient to win the race?

We shall know the answer next Wednesday morning.

Jan. 13 2010 — 1:13 pm | 1,924 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Assault on reporter by Coakley aide won’t help her faltering campaign

If this YouTube video goes viral, it could spell real trouble for the lethargic Coakley campaign. For the incident it depicts is rich with symbolism about the manner in which Martha Coakley has conducted her campaign for Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. Since Coakley, as the Democrat in the race, feels entitled to the Senate seat, it is clear that she views earning the right to represent the voters as a nuisance that is beneath her. Not only has Coakley avoided retail campaigning by remaining utterly disengaged from the voters of Massachusetts, but her goons apparently are free to deal in a thuggish manner with pesky reporters attempting to ask her inconvenient questions.

And the reason for this inexcusable provocation? Weekly Standard reporter, John McCormack, wanted to ask Coakley why health care industry lobbyists were supporting her at the Washington, DC fundraiser.

Perhaps the bigger and more damning question, tellingly illustrated by this photograph as well as the YouTube video, is why does Coakley, as the highest law enforcement official for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, seemingly countenance an assault and battery incident perpetrated by one of her operatives?

Update 5:06 pm: Michael Meehan, the Coakley operative involved in the altercation, has apologized to Weekly Standard reporter John McCormack. When McCormack asked if Meehan  disputed any of McCormack’s written descriptions of the event, he replied, “No.”

I guess that puts the lie to Coakley’s stalker defense…

Update 4:39 pm: Coakley has responded to the incident by characterizing McCormack, the Weekly Standard reporter, as a “stalker.” She further told reporters today that, “I’m not sure what happened. I know something occurred, but I’m not privy to the facts. I’m sure it will come out, but I’m not aware of that.” This is a rather remarkable assertion in light of the fact that there is an AP photograph of Coakley looking right at McCormack while he lay on the ground.

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    I have primarily been practicing law in one capacity or another for the past twenty years. I have been blogging at beaconstreetjournal.com since 2006.

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