Watching the media hissy-fit

Media-watchers and pundits have been debating liberal bias in the news media for decades. Now the debate is over. The national media are in full empire-strikes-back, hissy-fit mode in an increasingly hysterical campaign to not merely cover Donald Trump, but destroy his candidacy completely. They’re getting lots of help from Trump himself, of course, and the result may be mutual self-immolation.

Cue the hand-wringing. Is this the end of objective journalism? Maybe. So what?

The idea that journalists ought to report events with fairness, balance and accuracy did not occur to American newspapers until late in the 19th Century. Early American papers were political weapons, short on facts and long on opinion. Politicians used pen names to attack their rivals anonymously, though most readers figured out that “Phocion” was Alexander Hamilton exposing Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with a slave.

It got worse. In the 1828 campaign, Andrew Jackson was accused of murder and cannibalism. His wife was accused of bigamy and died soon afterward. Donald and Melania are getting off easy by comparison. So when today’s media echo-chamber the Democratic meme that Trump is temperamentally unfit and dangerous, it’s worth noting that America has seen worse.  And survived.

I pay attention to this stuff because I graduated from journalism school, worked briefly as a reporter and spent much of my public relations career fencing with the media. When I started out in the 1960s, the journalism profession had been working for more than half a century to establish credibility and erase the stain of Yellow Journalism.

So I was schooled in rigorous objectivity: Cover both sides, check facts, get the quotes right. Chicago’s legendary City New Bureau made it a slogan: If your mother says she loves you, check it out. But fairness and balance are not easy to achieve because covering the news requires a cascade of subjective decisions. If you go into journalism with a sense of moral mission, you may unconsciously slant a story. I did that myself a time or two.

Objective journalism still thrives at the local level, but has been eroding in the national media since Walter Cronkite decided the Vietnam War in 1968. News outlets are covering more complex issues with fewer resources, have substituted analysis and commentary for reporting, and are more easily manipulated by institutional media wranglers.

We’ve long accepted that the TV networks and national newspapers such as the New York Times are biased in favor of the Democrats (which has been a bonanza for Fox News). We saw a dramatic increase in this perception during the 2008 presidential campaign, when 70% of voters believed the news media wanted Barack Obama to win. Still, media bias has been expressed largely in commentary and editorial decisions to slant coverage while maintaining the appearance of objectivity. Until now.

What’s changed is that the “mainstream” national media now are weaponized as a component of the Democratic presidential campaign, with opinion fully integrated into news coverage. I find this disappointing – hard to forget all those journalism classes – but see no threat to American democracy. If anything, ripping off the cloak of objectivity will help voters better evaluate what they’re seeing and hearing.

In April, before the anti-Trump media jihad began, only six percent of Americans said they had a lot of confidence in the news media: roughly the same disrepute as Congress. Most folks no longer rely on traditional news outlets to stay informed, but use social media instead. That means many voters won’t notice the media attacks on Trump, and those who do are unlikely to believe them.

Most important, the proliferation of Internet news outlets and independent investigative reporters means the news media no longer are information gatekeepers. If the NBC Nightly News refuses to cover the Clinton Foundation scandal, we’ll get the story from the Daily Caller, the Drudge Report and perhaps Wikileaks. Fox News will get even higher ratings.

As I said, we’ve seen this before. Media mudslinging did not stop Andrew Jackson from winning the presidency in 1828 and is not likely to make much difference this year. So there’s no way the New York Times can defeat Donald Trump. He’ll have to do that himself.

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Where’s Ellis Island when we need it?

The immigration issue in this year’s presidential campaign boils down to two extremes: “Build a wall” and “let everybody in.” I keep thinking of the Casey Stengel quote: Can’t anybody here play this game?

The United States used to be good at the immigration game. For most of our history, we had a national consensus that (a) We need immigrants to strengthen our country; and (b) We decide who gets in.

By the time my grandparents arrived from Hungary in the early 1900s, immigrants went through a well-organized screening at places like Ellis Island. Our government was fussy: Only those who were healthy and able to support themselves were allowed into the country. Those who were not admitted (including unaccompanied children) went back across the pond immediately without lawyers or immigration hearings. The feds also tried to screen out Anarchists (that era’s terrorists) with no more success than the Europeans are having in stopping jihadists.

We still need immigrants to avoid the aging-population problems of Europe and Japan. But at a time when a labor surplus and job shortage have depressed wages for unskilled workers, adding millions of mostly unskilled immigrants to the workforce may not be the path to prosperity. We also have forfeited the ability to control who gets into the country and stays here. Whether or not we deport criminals or give my cleaning lady a path to citizenship is irrelevant so long as immigrants continue to cross the border illegally or overstay their visas without consequences.

Some countries manage immigration the way we used to. Canada matches immigrants to workforce needs and gives preference to skilled workers. So Democrats who threaten to emigrate if Donald Trump is elected may not get in. We can do something similar by re-thinking our approach to immigration, regaining control over our borders and setting up some sort of virtual Ellis Island to welcome immigrants who will build the economy.

The immigration issue nobody is talking about is assimilation. European multiculturalism has invited migrants to bring their traditions and cultures with them but has not assimilated them as full-fledged citizens. The result has been multi-generational Muslim ghettos and Sharia-law enclaves that have produced terrorists rather than hyphenated Frenchmen and Belgians.

The United States, by contrast, has been good at assimilating immigrants. Ethnic identity and culture run deep in places like my hometown of Chicago, but the Americanized kids and grandkids of immigrants intermarry with other ethnic groups. Everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day and Mexican on Cinco de Mayo.

So when we bring in refugees from the Middle East – and we should – we need to leverage our national expertise in assimilation. Security screening and delegating resettlement to nonprofit agencies are not enough: We’re seeing ISIS recruiting in a few immigrant enclaves in the U.S. such as Somali communities in Minnesota, and that should be a wake-up call.

Instead of dumping refugees on unwilling communities, the feds need to partner with state and local governments to provide a path to assimilation. That means resources for schools, social services, and a bunch of Syrian-American community workers to help immigrants get settled and join our society. We especially need to educate refugees in American customs and enforce our laws to avoid the kind of migrant rape crisis Germany is experiencing.

We’ve done this before. After the Vietnam War, around a million refugees from Southeast Asia passed through refugee camps that gave them a crash course in American customs, job skills and the English language.

There’s a national-security aspect to assimilation, too. No amount of security vetting, much less a ban on Muslims, will stop the occasional terrorist – any more than the Ellis Island screening prevented an anarchist from assassinating President McKinley. Assimilating refugees rapidly will reduce the appeal of ISIS, and establishing strong community connections will make it easier to root out the inevitable terrorists.

Deciding which immigrants to admit is only the first step. We also need a broader process to smooth the transition from immigrant to hyphenated American.

So far, I’m not seeing thoughtful solutions from either party. The Democrats still favor open borders to bring in new Democrats, and I’m not voting for Trump unless he promises to deport Justin Bieber.

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It’s the economy, stupid

Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the GOP convention got lots of criticism for presenting what was described as a “dark” view of the state of the nation. Trump struck a nerve on the economy (among other things) because he contradicted a widely accepted narrative that President Obama got us out of the recession and restored prosperity.

That’s what I might believe if I didn’t read business publications or check my financial statements. Trump presented the “plain facts that have been edited out of your nightly news.” Some of those facts were exaggerated, in typical Trumpian fashion, but most were not.

TV newscasts report the unemployment rate and numbers of jobs created without context. They rarely mention the low workforce participation rate, drop in family income, record numbers of business closures or shockingly low GDP growth. Trump’s speech provoked a reaction because, as he noted, it may have been the first time many viewers heard these facts on prime-time television.

The Potemkin-village media reporting is a symptom of economic divide. National media parrot government economic reports because (in addition to their customary liberal bias and superficial reporting) it’s the reality they see in New York and Washington. The economy has enriched the financial and government operatives with whom the media elite socialize and intermarry.

In addition to media reports, a well-organized social media campaign has been cheerleading for the Obama administration for years. Nearly every day somebody on Facebook posts a canned message with cherry-picked statistics that credit Obama with everything from record job creation to, incredibly, lower gas prices (because of his support for fracking, no doubt). So low-information voters get a steady flow of economic joy from all directions.

The message resonates with the Democratic base because the economy does work for some folks. Government employees, who now outnumber manufacturing workers, have been mostly exempt from the recession. Their job security and benefits are virtually guaranteed, they are not subject to Obamacare and much of the 2009 federal stimulus “created or saved” government jobs.

The perception of economic health also matches the reality of institutions that benefit from government subsidies such as academia, labor unions, film studios and politically favored companies such as Tesla.

Ordinary voters disagree, however. The Gallup Poll indicates that 61% of Americans believe the economy is getting worse. Gallup’s analysis of economic data points to a serious decline for small business. And polls consistently rank the economy as a leading campaign issue.

The disconnect between what people hear and what they experience fuels the claim by both Trump and Bernie Sanders that the system is rigged.

So we can expect the Democratic convention to blow a lot of sunshine. We’ll hear ecstatic reports that the unemployment rate is lower than ever (if you don’t count the underemployed and those who have left the labor force). We’ll hear that the economy added 14.4 million jobs but not that the working-age population grew by 15.8 million. And we’ll hear that the economy is stronger than ever, but not that GDP growth has been revised downward and that the Federal Reserve still believes the economy is too weak to raise interest rates.

All of which proves, they will say, that Trump is telling lies to scare people about the economy. It’s the logical Democratic defense against the potent campaign tactic pioneered by Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid.”


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Self-driving cars and Darwin

Self-driving cars are in the news these days as the technology starts to gel and businesses begin to make strategic investments.

self-drivingCarIt’s certainly an exciting breakthrough. Self-driving cars have the potential to reduce traffic jams and use the road system more efficiently. That could make an immediate difference in my neighborhood, where many drivers have trouble navigating a roundabout and are unclear on the concept of the four-way stop.

Self-driving cars could make a dramatic improvement in public safety by preventing many traffic accidents. Drunk driving could become a thing of the past, and senility would no longer limit mobility for senior citizens.

I have only one quibble. Driving motor vehicles is an opportunity for the least intelligent and most foolhardy members of our species to improve the gene pool by removing themselves from it. I’m a big fan of the Darwin Awards. Self-driving cars will allow the worst drivers to survive and reproduce. This may not be a good thing.

Darwin’s natural selection does not work in my adopted home state of New Mexico because motorists rarely encounter traffic. Our sparsely populated hinterland is safe for inept, inattentive and inebriated drivers who would never survive a big-city freeway. Bad driving may be genetic here, with entire families who have not used a turn signal in generations. That may be why my auto insurance rates went up when I moved from Chicago to Albuquerque.

JaywalkingI have similar reservations about jaywalking laws. In the city neighborhood where I grew up, jaywalking was part of our heritage. Our mothers taught us to look both ways when crossing streets or playing in the traffic, and children grew up agile and smart.

I once attended a conference in Seattle, which has particularly strict jaywalking laws. When I walked back to my hotel late at night, the streets were deserted with hardly a car in sight. Yet lonely groups of pedestrians were dutifully waiting at the curb for the traffic light to change. They gave me incredulous looks as I confidently strode across the empty streets. It was eerie.

I guess it’s compassionate to help people who do not have the sense to look both ways. But do we really want people who can’t cross a street to populate the next generation (or the next election)?

So I worry a little about the impact of self-driving cars and jaywalking laws, but the human race probably will continue to evolve. After all, we still have motorcycles.

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Breaking the partisan package deal

I’ve found it increasingly hard to identify with either political party because the basic principles that used to define Democrats and Republicans have evolved as both parties purged their moderates. Party members now must support an increasingly cumbersome package of rigid positions on a growing list of issues.

The Democratic party traditionally has stood for a strong central government, supported organized labor and, since the 1960s, has embraced civil rights and an anti-war foreign policy. That package has expanded in recent years to include:

  • Unlimited access to abortion without restrictions
  • Elimination of religious influence in government
  • Extension of civil rights to gay/lesbian and now transgender folks
  • Expanding government regulation to every sector of the economy
  • Higher taxes
  • Expansion of welfare
  • Government spending to stimulate the economy
  • Supporting government employee unions and resisting government accountability
  • Opposition to school choice
  • Reducing military budgets and placing restrictions on military operations
  • Support for the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements
  • Unrestricted immigration and legalization of illegal immigrants
  • An environmental agenda to eliminate fossil fuels
  • Neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Nor have Republicans been idle. The Republican tradition has included emphasis on private business as an engine of economic growth, a strong military and relatively muscular foreign policy. The Reagan era and hijacking of the party by right-wing Christians expanded the portfolio to include:

  • Absolute opposition to abortion
  • Incorporation of religious principles into law, including opposition to gay marriage
  • Tax cuts as a way of stimulating the economy
  • Reducing government regulation and increasing economic freedom
  • Restrictions on unions and support for right-to-work laws
  • Support for the Tea Party
  • Reducing welfare
  • Increasing military budgets and supporting overseas military intervention
  • Support for school choice
  • Taking Israel’s side
  • Border security and limited immigration
  • Energy independence and expansion of fossil fuel production

I keep thinking of more issues to add to these lists but do not want to spend the rest of the day doing this.

Regardless of which party you join, you’re obligated to support the whole package as an all-or-nothing proposition. The Chinese-restaurant-menu approach – one from column A, one from column B – is not an option in the voting booth. That may be why a record 43% of Americans now identify as political independents, outnumbering those who claim allegiance to either party.

But this year may be different. Republicans have their golf pants in a wad because Donald Trump, their presumptive Presidential nominee, has broken the party’s package. They’re howling because their candidate is NOT a conservative. He wants to rebuild the military but opposes military intervention, is pro-business but anti-trade. Trump’s position on social and religious issues can best be summed up as “whatever.” Pundits are saying this is the end of conservatism and they’re probably right. Blame it on those pesky voters.

Meanwhile, Democrats are expanding their package thanks to Bernie Sanders. Double the minimum wage! Free college! Transgender bathroom rights! Solar panels for coal miners after we kill their jobs! Not to mention a permanent state of obligatory outrage at whatever Trump says.

The irony is that after all the drama about candidates’ position on issues, and the unforgiveable sin of changing positions, voters will make up their minds about what really matters: whether Hillary Clinton is a crook or Trump is a racist.

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What democracy looks like

Democracy is a fighting word these days. The latest political brawl is over charges that selection of delegates to the Democratic and Republican conventions is undemocratic. Voters in both parties are angry because they believe the Establishment (whoever that is) is running things without the consent of the governed.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling for a revolution (without pitchforks and guillotines, I hope) to transform the country into a socialist paradise. Donald Trump is seeking popular support to make deals behind closed doors. A few years ago union supporters protested against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and chanted: “This is what democracy looks like.” Voters disagreed and demonstrated that democracy looks more like a ballot box than a mob.

My model of democracy has always been my hometown of Oak Park, Illinois: a Chicago suburb of about 50,000 that produced Frank Lloyd

Frank Lloyd Wright's digs

Frank Lloyd Wright’s digs

Wright, Ernest Hemingway and one of the country’s first fair housing laws. My parents moved there a few years after citizens tossed out corrupt politicians in 1952 and elected a new municipal government with a hired village manager and nonpartisan village board.

The Village Manager Association has dominated local elections ever since because it’s not a political party. Its function is to screen candidates for village office with an open, widely representative selection process that embraces insurgents. I once served on the 50-person nominating committee even though I was not a member of the association.

Citizen participation in Oak Park went on steroids in the late 1960s after racial change swept the adjacent West Side of Chicago. The village government responded with a commitment to integration and renewal, and mobilized the community to make it happen.

After I bought my first house in Oak Park in 1969, I was recruited for a village-sponsored citizen committee to guide a new comprehensive plan in a serious of fractious public meetings. My wife and I also joined an independent community organization that pressured the village to improve police protection and picketed local banks to fight racial discrimination in mortgages. The organization disbanded a few years later when all its objectives were met.

Oak Park launched a dizzying array of initiatives to upgrade apartment downtown-oak-park-il-435x326buildings, beautify the community, enforce fair housing, improve the parks and more. Every initiative was driven by a village commission, committee or task force of citizen volunteers working with village staff – including a task force on which I served to select new street lights. It was said that if all the committees were disbanded the divorce rate would skyrocket.

I wound up working on several initiatives and that was not unusual. Hundreds of ordinary residents did as much or more because village officials welcomed anybody who wanted to volunteer.

Virtually every segment of the community was engaged. A nonprofit association conducted a marketing program to attract new residents to racially integrated neighborhoods. My wife was in a church-basement women’s group that came up with a program to insure homeowners against loss resulting from racial change. Realtors supported a ban on for-sale signs even after the law was overturned in court. Local businesses formed an economic development partnership with the village, and I served on its board in the 1980s (with presidents of the banks I used to picket).

The result was a successful, lively, racially diverse community that continues today. The process was often disorderly, with impassioned arguments at every meeting. But it was democracy and it worked.

I think about Oak Park often these days. My adopted hometown of Albuquerque is pushing through a rapid-transit system that practically nobody wants while the rest of the city falls apart. I’d like to think that citizens can do what we did in Oak Park to turn around the city. Or the state, or the country.

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Bringing the Civil War to life in New Mexico

When we saw a couple of women in hoop skirts and sunbonnets walking across the dusty parking lot, we knew we were in the right place: the annual re-enactment of the Civil War Battle of Valverde near Socorro, NM.

The New Mexico campaign is a Civil War footnote. Confederate Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley invaded the New Mexico Territory with a brigade of Texas volunteers in a grand scheme to capture the Colorado gold fields and open a supply route to California. His force of 2,500 men met a Union force of about 3,000 from nearby Fort Craig at Valverde ford on the Rio Grande in February 1862.

highres_447302775Before the battle we wandered through the Union and Confederate camps, where re-enactors were living in rustic comfort with canvas tents and folding wood furniture. Womenfolk and kids in vintage costume were cooking hearty meals over campfires, though a few hardcore re-enactors subsist on coffee and crackers that simulate Civil War hardtack.

Despite their zeal for roughing it with historical accuracy, the re-enactors were more comfortable than their 1862 counterparts. The Confederate invaders were lightly equipped and learned that living off the land is not a good strategy in the New Mexico desert. Shortly before the battle of Valverde they lost some of their supply wagons and mules in a skirmish, and were desperately short of water because the Union battle line was between them and the Rio Grande.

Civil War re-enacting is a serious hobby. An “authentic” wool uniform costs around $200 and working-replica muskets are $700. Vintage tents start at around $200. One re-enactor couple even had a Matthew Brady-style camera and their very own cannon. A weekend Civil Warrior may need a fatter checkbook than the average golfer.

Re-enactors come from all walks of life. We met a history professor and a grad IMG_2223student. A few women wore uniforms instead of hoop skirts and carried muskets. There’s also a lot of fraternization with the “enemy.” The Confederate and Union camps were about 50 yards apart. One re-enactor told me he owns both Union and Confederate uniforms and joins whichever side needs to fill its ranks.

No re-enactor admitted to playing the role of Confederate Gen. Sibley, who had a drinking problem and was “indisposed” in his tent during the entire battle.

This year’s battle left much to the imagination. The re-enactment site is about 30 miles north of the Valverde ford, where shifting of the river’s course obliterated a battlefield that’s now part of Ted Turner’s wildlife reserve. Spectators set up folding chairs on a bridge overlooking the scene, and a narrator with a megaphone described what was happening.

By necessity, re-enactments are a microcosm of Civil War battles that involved tens of IMG_2228thousands of troops. On this day a couple of dozen re-enactors represented about 5,000 soldiers in both armies. Unlike the re-enactment I attended a few years ago, neither army had horses (and, happily, did not attempt to simulate cavalry with Monty Python coconut shells).

Still, the re-enactors soldiered on and accurately portrayed a Confederate infantry charge that captured a battery of Union cannon. The mini-armies exchanged cannon shots and musket volleys across an open field. Then the Confederates advanced and a few soldiers on both sides fell as “casualties.” (In larger re-enactments, participants draw cards to select casualties in advance.) A final Confederate charge overran the Union line and the battle was over. Then the casualties came back to life, and everybody shook hands and lined up to pose for pictures.

The original battle of Valverde was a costly Confederate victory. Sibley’s depleted force marched on to capture Albuquerque and occupy Santa Fe. They had expected local farm workers to rise up against their Spanish landlords and join their army, but New Mexicans disliked Texans more and supported the Union.

The final battle of the New Mexico campaign took place a month later at Glorieta Pass, northeast of Santa Fe. The Confederates again won the battle but a Union raiding party, guided by local Hispanics, attacked the rear of the Confederate force and destroyed its supply train – forcing the Confederates to retreat back to Texas.

This year’s battle had a happier ending. The re-enactors strolled back to their camps for lunch, to gather later in nearby Socorro for a Civil War fashion show and “fandango” party. My friends and I got in our cars and left the field in search of green chile cheeseburgers.

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New Year’s resolutions at the gym

I’m in the habit of going to the gym nearly every day. As the holidays drew to a close I was steeling myself for big New Year’s resolution crowds at my local Planet Fitness in Albuquerque, but so far have seen only a few more perspiring patrons than usual during my mid-morning workout.

That’s a welcome change from the chain health club I used to frequent in the Chicago suburbs. The large gym was busy, especially in the peak hours after work, but I always was able to drop in and work out with relative convenience.

Until January, that is. Every year the chain conducted an aggressive Christmas promotion with saturation advertising and discounts on gym memberships. I admired the savvy marketing but was dismayed at the resulting invasion of newcomers.

The post-holiday horde inundated the locker room and parking lot, forcing me to change at home and park at a nearby shopping center. Getting onto a treadmill was nearly impossible. The first couple of aerobics classes were downright hazardous, a demolition derby of randomly flailing limbs. I soon learned to just avoid the place the first few days of the year.

Fortunately, the crowds began to diminish after a week or two. According to national statistics, 80% of new exercisers stop coming to the gym by February. The aerobics program at my local gym saw even faster attrition because the instructor, a cheerful young woman with a sadistic streak, weeded out the faint-hearted in a matter of days by stepping-up the intensity of her classes.

Within a few weeks, the gym was back to normal and the chain’s managers were counting the money from new one-year memberships that went unused.

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Enduring the year-end story

Much as I enjoy the holidays, I’m always relieved when they’re over and we can stumble into the new year with renewed optimism. I always look forward to celebrating Christmas with family, and ringing in the new year with friends and festivities. But what gets me down are the year-end stories with which the news media bombard us from Christmas through New Year’s Eve.

Not that there’s anything wrong with reviewing the past year as we enter a new one. It’s part of human nature that shows up in every culture. I do it in my annual Christmas letter to friends and relations. The spirit of review and renewal wears thin, however, when the last days of every year bring a deluge of the year’s highlights in politics, crime, finance, fashion, entertainment, sports, celebrity deaths, etc. The only year-end story I genuinely enjoy reading is Dave Barry’s parody of the genre.

I am sensitive to this because I was a grudging perpetrator of year-end stories for much of my career as a newspaper reporter, publicist and employee publication editor. If there’s anything more tedious than reading year-end stories it’s writing the damn things. I suspect harried newspaper editors embraced year-end stories as a way of filling the expanded editorial space created by Christmas-sale advertising.

Whatever its origins, the year-end story has taken on a tradition of its own. I gritted my teeth and pounded out year-end news releases because employers and clients demanded them and newspapers occasionally published them to fill space. I ran year-end stories in company publications because my bosses and readers expected them and I had space to fill, too. TV stations and cable news outlets pre-record year-end roundups to fill airtime when reporters and anchors are on vacation. Even though space-filling is not an issue on the Internet, year-end stories abound online.

So every year professional scribes are assigned to write year-end stories just because it’s the end of the year and perhaps – perhaps – somebody will read them. I’m grateful that retirement has freed me from this annual chore. Except, of course, for that Christmas letter to friends and relations that I enjoy writing.

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Whose boots on the ground?

After a weekend of round-the-clock news coverage of the terrorist attacks in Paris, I am appalled by the depravity of the terrorists and dismayed by the reaction of politicians and pundits.

We’re seeing some stark contrasts. At the same time the president of France was calling the attack an act of war, Democratic presidential candidates were refusing to use the term “radical Islam.” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ claim that climate change is still the greatest threat to national security was downright bizarre.

A more hopeful sign, which received practically no news coverage, is that Muslim leaders around the world also condemned the Paris attacks.

I hope President Obama resists the pressure to commit American ground troops to the conflict in the Middle East. That would play into the apocalyptic ISIS narrative of a great battle with a Crusader army.

The greater danger is that President Obama has an unfortunate habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. If shamed into sending troops, he is likely to deploy an insufficient force with inadequate support. His aversion to waging war will hamstring our troops with restrictive rules of engagement and political micromanagement. The result will be needless loss of American lives.

More air strikes in Syria won’t solve the problem. ISIS will have to be defeated on the ground, preferably by pissed-off Sunni Muslim soldiers from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. The model for this is the coalition we saw in the Persian Gulf war in 1991-91, minus the massive commitment of American ground forces. The U.S. needs to lead this coalition because nobody else has the military capability to coordinate and support multinational warfare.

Middle Eastern ground forces have limitations on their own, but can be highly effective if they’re backed up by American and NATO air power, technology and support. The role of U.S. and European forces should be to provide close air support, advisers, search and rescue, logistics, special operations and coordinated communication and intelligence.

The Paris attack is motivating the world to undertake what is likely to be a generational campaign to eliminate the threat of radical Islam. Our allies in Europe and the Middle East appear to be willing and ready to join the fight.

All that’s missing is leadership.

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