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March 26, 2010


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Listeners of Michigan Public Radio: Make no mistake about it, Jack Lessenberry is now engaging in what is currently a popular strategy on partisan left-wing news outlets. He is trumpeting stories about alleged acts of intimidation against legislators who supported Barack Obama's purely partisan "Health Care Reform," in the hope of marginalizing the debate and criminalizing political dissent in opposition to the political party that currently holds the White House and Congress.

You can get the same message by watching MSNBC, or reading Leonard Pitts' column in the Detroit Free Press (today), or reading any of the far-left political blogs, or any of the other noted leftist partisans in the popular American. This is not news. It is advocacy. And worse; it is agitprop.

I challenge Jack Lessenberry, now. Back up any cleaims of serious, organized, systemic and/or institutional racism or hate-speech on the part of the right, versus the left.

And, lets' carefully break it down:

Of the members of the Michigan Democrat Congressional delegation, particularly Bart Stupak, have any recieved any serious or organized or institutional threats? Stupak is a good case to examine. In the weeks leading up to his health care vote, when he flipped to Obama's side in the last 24 hours, Stupak remarked publicly that he had been getting lots of abusive communications, and that life was hard for him and his family. Life in those days had been made hard, of course, by the left-wing proponents of Obamacare, who were furious that Stupak was going to possibly derail Obamacare based on his opposition to abortion provisions in the Senate bill he was being asked to vote for. They called him every obscene name in the book on the left-wing websites. They wished that Stupak be "aborted" himself.

No one has asked Michigan Republicans to scour their in-boxes to copy their abuseive e-mails for the consumption of a credulous press, as far as I know. That failing is a basic journalism failure, and it is a mark of the miserable one-sidedeness of outlets like the Detroit Free Press, MSNBC and National Public Radio.

Then, we have the national stories. Supposedly, in the shadow of the Capitol dome, Rep. John Lewis was called a word contining the letters n----r. Online columnist Andrew Breitbart has offered a $10,000 reward for proof that that actually occurred. He's offered Rep. Lewis the chance to earn a $10,000 scholarship to be donated by Breitbart to the United Negro College Fund if Lewis will take and pass a lie detector test on the subject of whether he truly heard the n-word.

It goes on; the alleged "spitting" incident involving Rep. Cleaver, also at the Capitol, has been reduced to an understanding that he was hit with the saliva spray from someone who was yelling. Police had the man who was doing the yelling; no charges, not even a misdemeanor, were pressed. Had the man "spit" in the way we would all understand as an offense and an assualt, I'd have expeted the man to have been charged. He wasn't.

There's Missouri Rep. Russ Carnahan, who fed news reports that a coffin was placed on his lawn at home in Missouri. Was it a death wish for Rep. Carnahan? No, it was a coffin from a pro-life rally that featured a lineup of multiple coffins. And it was never on his lawn.

And so it goes. A form of hysteria, stoked by partisans in the news media, like Jack Lessenberry. And clearly, no accident.

Jack Lessenberry decries the fact that none of the critics of Obamacare have read the bill and may not properly understand what is even in it.

Do not believe what Mr. Lessenberry is telling you. He is pulling a fast one, and he's not even diong it very well. If Jack Lessenberry and his comrades on the left really thought that an understanding of Obamacare would serve the interest of public popularity for the bill, he'd talk about the bill. The fact that he is talking about alleged hate-crimes means that he has no understanding himself, or that he is fearful that public understanding of this bill will equate to the public's hating it.

This is partisanship in the 21st Century. And it is offensive and disgusting to me that this is what passes for political commentary on the website of a public radio network in the State of Michigan. With this sort of one-sided political diatribe as an exemplar, people like me would be absolutely nuts to consider donating to Michigan Radio. It would be like my asking Jack Lessenberry to donate to the Fox News Channel. Except that Fox pays its own way, thank you very much, as well as its taxes.

This ain't the Metro Times, Jack. Actually, my complaint isn't even with Jack Lessenberry so much -- he has a right to free speech. (Of course, as the Political Analyst for Michigan Radio, he'd have an arguable responsibility to be fair and balanced.) But when does Michigan Radio give voice to an oppsoing view? Are there ANY conservative voices on NPR? Who are NPR's conservative "News Analysts"? Who are NPR's conservative program hosts? Who within NPR News represents a conservative voice?

Don't think too hard. There are none. It may be the way that NPR listeners want it; since the network has self-selected its audience (and radio audiences are highly demographically stratified), Michigan Radio is what it is; Liberal Radio, by Liberals, for Liberals.

Anyway, as for the destruction of the phony claims of "initimidation" and "hate speech", here are links:

Michelle Malkin, at the National Review Online:


James Taranto, at the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com:

Andrew Breitbart:


To quote that star of conservative talk radio, Mitch Albom, in today's Free Press: "When did the dialogue get so hateful (and misleading?) Maybe it's blogs ... tha allow cowards their anonymity."

"Don't listen to those one-sided leftists; they're wrong! Listen to us, the one-sided Rightists! We're the ones telling the truth! And here are a few right-wingers' opinions that prove it!"

Thanks, Anonymous, I'll keep that in mind.

Jack: Perhaps you would like to respond to the substance of the post rather than be so dismissive. The poster makes some points that seem to undercut your argument pretty effectively.
And when you say that the protester abuses that have been reported are comparable to the tactics of the Nazis, that comment is so over the top that it is hard to take you seriously if you truly believe that. Which, if you reflect on it, I'm sure you don't.

Also, I'm far from a Tea Party member, but I know that the Michigan state rep's last name is McMillin (not McMillan). It sounds like he wants a vote asking people if they want to opt out of the program. If that's what he wants, its meaningless. Sounds like a waste of money to me.

Also, I read your op-ed in The Blade this morning. I was kind of surprised to see the ombudsman writing an op-ed. It doesn't seem kosher to me but you're the ombudsman so you should know.

One last comment. In your op-ed you quoted Professor Sedler as saying that the AG's lawsuit is grandstanding because "States can't invalidate federal law." Of course that's true but that totally misses the point because that is not what the lawsuits are about. The lawsuits are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to determine the contitutionality of the legislation. States can't invalidate federal law but the U.S. Supreme Court certainly has that authority. As I understand it, the AG's argument is that the bill is not authorized by the Constitution. Although I don't like the bill, I disagree that is unconstitutional. It will probably be found to be a legitimate exercise of federal government power under the commerce clause. Even though I think the lawsuits will fail, they are not frivolous and it would be good to have the court issue a definitive statement.

Thanks for listening.

I very much appreciate Jack Lessenberry quoting Mitch Albom this month.

March, as you know, is the month in which we all annually celebrate the anniversary of Mitch Albom's fabricated column in which he chatted with Mateen Cleaves in a stadium at the NCAA basketball tournament.

Naturally, the Free Pres could not fire Albom for that act of journalistic malpractice; Albom, we presume, is the Freep's cash cow. That is, if the Freep still has any cash.

I do apologize. Re-reading my post above, I realize that some viewers of this web page will not understand the context of the Mateen Cleaves story. ("What's wrong with interviewing a former star basketball player for the Spartans courtside at an MSU tournament game?", they might rightly ask.)

Albom quoted Cleaves; described the sweater he was wearing -- it all supposedly took place in the stands at the game. Except, uh, that Mateen Cleaves never attended the game. And alert readers notified the Free Press. To Albom's enduring embarassment. (Albom had 'mailed it in' before the game,and had thought that Cleaves would be there.) The Freep ended up suspending Albom and giving him an enormous, heartfelt, positive, community-supporting... slap on the wrist.

Anonymous 1: We can, and should, attempt to present facts to substantiate alleged "hate acts(?)". But do you really think citing Michelle Malkin is going to support your position any better than Mitch Albom for Lessenberry? She may not spit when she raises her voice, but I have heard her use the same mean and nasty style of skewed rhetoric that is inciting an undeniable trend of greater Uncivil discourse. My momma said good people don't spray saliva as they scream in someone's face.

BTW, my experience with public radio is that many voices are given air time; many issues are given more consideration from more political perspectives, than one will ever hear or see on most ANY other TV or radio outlet. I can't think of an NPR host I would call right wing OR left wing. But you will hear many Right wing guests. If thoughtful discussion is now derided as "Liberal" then we are all doomed.

ymtc -

First, let's remember the terms of this particular issue. It began, and it exists, because people like Jack Lessenberry are talking about an "outpouring" of "violent threats" against Democrats who supported Obamacare. Jack didn't cite any particular threats; indeed, I'm not certain that anyone has given us the specifics on any particular "threats." I am aware that one Congressman's brother's outdoor barbcue grill's propane line was cut. By persons unknown. Uh, okay. (That's a hard one to even recite correctly.) And there were rocks that were thrown through the office windows of two Democrats (NY and VA, I think), and through the windows of one party-headquarters in Cincinnati. (Compare, if you will, to the outlandish violent rioting, with crowds of gangs causing sitywide lockdowns in Minneapolis at the 2008 Republican Convention.)

In any event, the fact that I suggest that we all should agree on is that there have been lots of instances of insults, flame-mail, etc., directed at many members of Congress. That fact should surprise no one in this internet age. "Serious threats" need to be taken seriously, of course, by local police and national security officials, but ture serious threats get handled quietly, and not as fundraising opportunities at MoveOn.org or at DemocraticUnderground.com.

I stand for two points in this particular debate:

1. Most of the mainstream media hasn't bothered to check with Republicans, to see if what the Obamacare-supporting Democrats are getting what is merely an extension of what other Congressmen (Dmocrat and Repbulican) who opposed Obamacare are getting. Bart Stupak is a truly wonderful test-case, because Stupak himself said that he and his family were getting lots of abuse back when he was a pro-life opponent of Obamacare. That abuse was being directed toward Stupak by the pro-Obamacare crowd on the left. And there are plenty of examples you can find for yourself. It took me about five minutes to find such an example at Salon.com, where someone urged "aborting" Stupak because it was thought that he'd vote against Obamacare. This is a point that, apparently, Jack Lessenberry and most of the mainstream media seem determined to deny or ignore.

2. There are a few in the mainstream media who are challenging the notions that Jack Lessenberry wants us to accept, concerning this business of an "unprecedented...outpouring of...violent threats." Nolan Finley and Paul W. Smith in today's one-page "Detroit News" editorial section in the back of the print edition of the Sunday Free Press come to mind. And, I linked to Michelle Malkin, James Taranto and Andrew Breitbart, not because I thought that they represented political balance. Rather, because they represented a hard-edeged counterpart to the hard-edged (and reckless) allegations made by people like Jack Lessenberry. Those three conservatives are merely examplars of voices in rebuttal to Jack Lessenberry's lone opnion voice on Michigan Radio.

Michigan Radio's listeners are apparently allowed only one Political Analyst, and the chosen one is Jack Lessenberry, who uses this public space to give the public audience one side of an exceedingly contentious debate. Someone at Michigan Radio apparently thinks that an extension of Jack Lessenberry's Metro Times columns is "okay" as stand-alone political commentary for southern Michigan's public radio network.

We've all come a long way from the old "fairness doctrine" imposed on commercial broadcasters by the FCC. Those days are gone forever, and good riddance. But does anybody doubt for a moment that a "fairness doctrine" should apply to public broadcasting's forays into political commentary? Even public broadcasting's administrators and advocates would say that fairness and balance needs to be a central part of their core mission. But it is lip service only, compared to the reality of what kinds of news and commentary are actually aired on Michigan Radio, and NPR, to say nothing of the wildly left-wing BBC.

Well,I am sorry that I can't compete with the "wildly left-wing BBC." However, I do sign my name to whatever I write and say, and there is an age-old principle, once stressed by my fellow commie Dwight D. Eisenhower, that someone ought to have the right to be confronted by their accuser. Dick Headlee, even less of a left-wing type, once told me never to pay attention to anything printed anonymously. "They are all cowards, you know, or in the pay of somebody and want to hide it." I didn't always agree with Headlee, but I do know he never took money from the BBC.

Jack thanks for this article. I appreciate your bringing all sides to task (right and left) over many years on many different issues. Don't worry Jack, just keep calling 'em as you see 'em!

Friggin' birthers! F'em Jack. Keep up the good work!

What do they say? Hate fear, etc sells. Unfortunately the right wing have to lay in the bed they made. May be my opinion, but listening to both right and left wing talk, there is a big difference. I confess I only listen to the top right and top left shows but I only have so much time in a day.

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