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No Way, E.J.

From the Scrapbook.

Jan 18, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 17
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The Scrapbook enjoys a good chuckle every morning, to start off the day. And what better way to do it than to turn to the op-ed pages of the Washington Post and get a dose of E.J. Dionne Jr.? 

No Way, E.J.

Of course, The Scrapbook takes E.J. Dionne Jr. very seriously: He is, in addition to being an ex-Rhodes Scholar, twice-weekly Post columnist, and the author of three books, a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, a University Professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, and a commentator on (where else?) National Public Radio. 

He has also—there is no other way to put it—become an unapologetic partisan hack. It’s never very difficult to discern when Dionne has been the lucky recipient of a special briefing at the White House or club sandwiches in the Senate majority leader’s dining room. Republicans are forever “mouthing” outlandish notions or “claiming” something ridiculous or “shouting down” people of decency and otherwise disgracing the body politic; Democrats are the party of the sensible center, good ideas, clean living, and the wisdom of experience. Like any popular newspaper feature, a Dionne column is entirely, incessantly, unremittingly predictable.

Take his recent tribute to Nevada senator Harry Reid, Democratic boss and mastermind of the health care “reform” spectacle (“Two cheers for Harry Reid,” December 28). It would be difficult to find a more personally unpleasant or officially repugnant figure on Capitol Hill than Reid, whose prickly, defensive demeanor hides a nasty disposition and is likely to lead to defeat this fall. But tell that to E.J. Dionne Jr.! “You bet he made deals,” Dionne writes, to produce a bill “that is the most far-reaching piece of social legislation since the 1960s.”

That is one way to look at it, and Dionne is entitled to his opinion. But what caught The Scrapbook’s eye the other morning was the thoroughly disingenuous means by which Dionne set the stage for his fawning tribute. One common practice of journalism in Washington, he says, “involves almost everyone beating up on the same politician at the same time.” For awhile the victim of this ritual was Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who “was cast as a ‘San Francisco liberal’ out of touch with the ‘real America.’ ” But as Dionne points out, Pelosi is really like her late father, a 1950s Baltimore mayor, “a highly practical local politician more concerned with delivering the goods than with passing ideological litmus tests.”

Sounds like Speaker Pelosi to us! So having recognized the error of its ways about Pelosi, the capital press corps pushed her out of the crosshairs and substituted Harry Reid—which infuriates Dionne. “There is a rote quality to the attacks on Reid that flies in the face of what he’s accomplished,” he explains. 

To which The Scrapbook can only ask: Is E.J. Dionne Jr. living on the same planet as anyone who follows the news and reads opinion journalism? It is true that both Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have been subject to criticism—perhaps even derided as “out of touch with the ‘real America’ ”​—but not by Washington pundits, or the mainstream media. Conservative blogs, certainly, and right-leaning publications, no doubt—but the Washington press corps?

This is what is known, in the column-writing business, as setting up a straw man in order to accomplish what is otherwise impossible. Which, when you think about it, was the task confronting E.J. Dionne Jr. when he set out to write “Two cheers for Harry Reid.” 

The Archbishop Weighs In

Seldom has a country been more frightened by a number than Great Britain was in October by the projection of its Office of National Statistics that the country’s population would rise to 70 million by 2029—mostly due to immigration. Sixty million people now live cheek-by-jowl on that sceptred isle. An increase of 10 million means 15 percent population growth by the end of next decade, heavily concentrated in the most crowded parts of England, with the great bulk of it due to immigration.

A broad coalition has now been founded to reconfigure immigration policies to prevent that projection from becoming reality. Balanced Migration is chaired by Frank Field (a rather conservative member of parliament for the Labour party) and -Nicholas Soames (a Tory MP and Winston Churchill’s grandson). The group issued a declaration last week noting the worrisome rise of the fascistic British National party, which got a million votes in last summer’s European elections, including 10 percent of the vote in Yorkshire. 

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