Goliath Has Nothing to Fear from These Davids

David Frum is promoting David Brooks’ latest column, in which Brooks says:

Just months after the election and the humiliation, everyone is again convinced that Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and the rest possess real power. And the saddest thing is that even Republican politicians come to believe it. They mistake media for reality. They pre-emptively surrender to armies that don’t exist.

They pay more attention to Rush’s imaginary millions than to the real voters down the street. The Republican Party is unpopular because it’s more interested in pleasing Rush’s ghosts than actual people. The party is leaderless right now because nobody has the guts to step outside the rigid parameters enforced by the radio jocks and create a new party identity. The party is losing because it has adopted a radio entertainer’s niche-building strategy, while abandoning the politician’s coalition-building strategy.

The rise of Beck, Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and the rest has correlated almost perfectly with the decline of the G.O.P. But it’s not because the talk jocks have real power. It’s because they have illusory power, because Republicans hear the media mythology and fall for it every time.

This is delusional on several fronts. Brooks’ claim that the GOP is at the mercy of talk radio is totally undercut by his own column’s earlier observation about John McCain’s primary success, despite the longstanding bad blood between McCain and the pundits. But that’s not to say his other claim, that the talkers have no sway with the actual voters, is much better — just ask Harriet Miers, the United Arab Emirates, or the Republicans who wanted to ram amnesty through Congress (all issues talk radio sounded the alarm on) how far they got.

It’s interesting that Brooks attributes the GOP’s decline to the rise of Glenn Beck (who didn’t really hit it big until after Obama’s victory), Sean Hannity (who was a superstar well before any discernible GOP decline, and was doing his usual routine during Republicans’ Congressional gains in 2002 and both of George W. Bush’s victories in 2000 & 2004), and Bill O’Reilly (an independent with hawkish defense and law-&-order sentiments, but also a global-warming believer who spends half his time demonizing oil companies and treating any politician who might give him an interview with kid gloves), and not to what these supposedly-kowtowing Republicans actually did:

Bush and the Republicans spent massively, especially in Bush’s first term. We opposed that, mightily. The president’s most cherished initiative, probably, was the Faith-Based Initiative. We opposed that. Then there was his education policy: No Child Left Behind. We opposed that (mainly on grounds that it wrongly expanded the federal role). He had his new federal entitlement: a prescription-drug benefit. We of course opposed that. He imposed steel tariffs—for a season—which we opposed. He signed the McCain-Feingold law on campaign finance—which we opposed. He established a new cabinet department, the Department of Homeland Security. We opposed that. He defended race preferences in the University of Michigan Law School case; we were staunchly on the other side. He of course proposed a sweeping new immigration law, which included what amounted to amnesty. We were four-square against that.

I am talking about some things that were very dear to Bush’s heart, and central to his efforts—and self-image, as a leader. NR, the conservative arbiter, opposed those things. The Republican party, by and large, supported them—with one glaring exception: the immigration push.

He might also do well to consider that McCain’s failed presidential bid was hardly in the mold of a Limbaugh broadcast, or, if he’s really feeling intellectually curious, he could ask himself what effect a primary field divided among multiple candidates with partial claims to certain aspects of conservatism (Romney on economics, Huckabee on social issues, Giuliani on terrorism, etc.) might have had.

David Brooks is dead wrong, but we shouldn’t be surprised that David Frum is enamored — these days Frum dreams of a new conservatism that looks suspiciously like liberalism, and spends more time hyperventilating about TV personalities’ occasional missteps than extremists in the White House.

(Cross-posted at The HF Blog.)

Movie Review: “An American Carol”

Lots of conservatives (me included) got excited back when David Zucker’s An American Carol was announced.  As a fierce, openly conservative film from mainstream Hollywood talent, it sparked hopes that it could bring conservative messages to segments of the population the Right doesn’t normally reach and bring about a larger conservative presence in American pop culture.  Unfortunately, it didn’t do all that well commercially.  I’ve seen it a couple times now, and have some thoughts on what worked, and what went wrong.

To recap for those unfamiliar, An American Carol tells the tale of a sleazy, America-hating director who has been recruited by two bumbling al-Qaeda terrorists to produce a recruitment video, but the spirits of past American heroes (plus, uh, Trace Adkins) intervene to teach him some much-needed lessons about the price of liberty.  Will Michael “Malone” come to his senses in time to foil the jihadists’ latest plot?

An American Carol does a few things right.  For one, the casting is absolutely superb.  Kevin Farley looks just like Michael Moore, and perfectly captures the boorish, self-serving creep (albeit far more likeable than the real thing).  Chriss Anglin makes a great John F. Kennedy, both looking like the president and capturing his distinctive voice without descending into parody.  Kelsey Grammar’s portrayal of General George S. Patton is confident and cantankerous, and while it won’t dethrone George C. Scott’s legendary performance anytime soon, it doesn’t need to—this is a comedy, not a biopic.  Jon Voight delivers an outstanding, albeit criminally brief, performance of President George Washington that’s so somber and dignified that I’d love to see Voight star in a Washington biopic.  Robert Davi is strong as the jihadists’ ruthless leader, and his two bumbling underlings provide lots of laughs (“All the really good suicide bombers are gone!”)  The supporting cast does fine, Bill O’Reilly has a couple amusing appearances as himself, and there’s Leslie Nielsen.  If you don’t love Leslie Nielsen, there’s something wrong with you.  The likeable cast keeps the movie going even through some of the weaker jokes.

There are plenty of laughs to be had—this is from the guy behind Airplane! and the Naked Gun movies, after all.  Most of the best material revolves around the two Taliban twits, and my favorite part of the movie was a simply brilliant sequence involving zombies (I’ll say no more so as not to spoil it).  Funny one-liners abound, and, of course, it’s just not a Zucker movie until bad things happen to children with severe medical problems.  On the other hand, the idea of a musical number featuring a pack of hippies-turned-academics certainly has potential, but its execution soon becomes almost painful.

Unfortunately, the film’s effectiveness at conveying a message falls flat.  Often the caricatures of left-wing fallacies such as appeasement, academic indoctrination, and anti-Americanism are so clichéd, unsympathetic and over-the-top that they come across as wooden, transparent, and sometimes even juvenile.  The dialogue put in liberal mouths is often little more than left-wing bumper-sticker lines strung together, with the worst offenders being an early conversation about war between Malone and his military nephew, and a talk show where Rosie “O’Connell” pushes her crackpot theory that “radical Christianity is just as dangerous as radical Islam.”

These caricatures lack the subtlety and natural flair that superior political satirists like Paul Shanklin, the Onion, and (even to some degree) the writers on the Daily Show and Colbert Report have mastered (I think this was the same problem that plagued Fox News’ short-lived Half-Hour News Hour).  It’s easy to knock down a straw man, but it’s not effective—I didn’t find Malone’s conversion to patriotism convincing because I didn’t find the film’s arguments persuasive, and I doubt anyone who doesn’t already know the underlying principles and arguments would be persuaded either.  And aside from entertaining, wasn’t that the point—to get the other side of the story into mainstream entertainment?  Keeping that in mind, conservatives shouldn’t be discouraged by An American Carol’s lack of success.  It still remains to be seen how a truly excellent, openly conservative film would fare at the box office, one that better balances silliness and substance.

An American Carol isn’t a bad movie—strong performances and classic Zucker wit make it an enjoyable 83 minutes, and conservatives will get a kick out of how mercilessly it skewers all manner of left-wing idiocy.  But sadly, it fails to be significantly more than just that—a right-wing guilty pleasure.

Bold Fresh Piece of Hypocrisy

Bill O’Reilly is looking out for you.  He’s above the petty fray of the ideologues on both sides, and immeasurably more reliable and responsible than mere “entertainers” like Rush Limbaugh—or so he says.  As part of his never-ending centrist-populist shtick, during a recent segment he lectured the conservative blogosphere for incivility toward Barack Obama and Judge Sonia Sotomayor, using as evidence some ugly “blog posts” from Free Republic and Hot Air.

Hot Air founder Michelle Malkin and HA bloggers Allahpundit and Ed Morrissey were not amused.  And for good reason—these are not “blog posts” at all, but comments on articles left by readers.  Anybody who’s ever spent five minutes on the Internet knows that any comment-allowing website with a significant amount of traffic is going to have its fair share of sleaze.  O’Reilly later admitted “I should have been more precise,” yet proceeded to chastise Hot Air for not editing their comments—“as we do on BillOReilly.com” As Allahpundit explained, this is insane:

Between Ed’s and my 20-25 posts plus the 40 or so Headline items, Hot Air must get, let’s say, 2,700 comments a day. To put that in perspective, if I worked 15 hours a day doing nothing but moderating them, in order to read and rule on each one I’d have to work at a clip of three comments per minute without taking a single break. That is to say, we’d need not one but two full-time moderators to do the job right, the cost of which would bankrupt nearly any blog given the realities of online ad revenue, especially in a recession. Add to that the endless headaches involved in deciding whether a given comment’s over the line and the inevitable haphazard, arbitrary standards we’d end up imposing on readers and it’s simply not worth it. Frequently we’ll get tips alerting us to really nasty stuff, like racist cracks or death threats, which we promptly clean up, but by and large, if other readers are willing to let a comment pass without mention — stupid and/or distasteful though they may find it — we’re willing too. There’s just too much else to do.

Meanwhile, conservative blogger Patterico decided to put O’Reilly’s words to the test.  He signed up for BillOReilly.com Premium Membership and posted the screen caption of the website’s disclaimer: “BillOReilly.com does not control or pre-screen the files, information, or messages (referred to collectively as ‘Information’) delivered to or displayed in the Message Boards, unless otherwise noted therein, and BillOReilly.com assumes no duty to, and does not monitor or endorse Information within the Message Boards.Accordingly, it didn’t take long to find similarly unflattering comments there, or on Fox News Channel’s Fox Nation site.  So now we can add “dishonesty” and “hypocrisy” to O’Reilly’s bold freshness.

AND, as if that weren’t enough, today Patterico found his BillOReilly.com account terminated, citing an unspecified Terms of Use violation.  It appears somebody at the Factor has a problem with flagrant acts of journalism (to steal a phrase from Charlie Sykes).

Around the Web

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is in hot water over bringing a global warming skeptic into his government.

Michelle Malkin calls attention to a disturbing case in which the Obama Justice Department has dismissed an uncontested lawsuit against a group of Black Panther thugs who intimidated Philadelphia voters during the 2008 election.

28-year-old Democrat living in Mom’s basement refuses to clean his room.  Film at eleven.

Audio: Mark Levin vs. David Frum on Frum’s hypocrisy, Levin’s civility, Rush Limbaugh, and the future of the GOP.  Despite his reputation for bombast, Levin comes across as remarkably patient and restrained in dealing with this whiny, filibustering hypocrite.

Anybody else getting tired of Bill O’Reilly’s crusade about what he arbitrarily deems “mean-spirited,” “partisan,” “personal,” or “name-calling”?

Robo-bama:  creepy.

Ross Douthat recently wrote an interesting column about “Dan Brown’s America.”