Signs and Wonders
U.S. Rep. James Lankford announces his run for the U.S. Senate.
Associated Press/Photo by Paul Hellstern/The Oklahoman
U.S. Rep. James Lankford announces his run for the U.S. Senate.

Signs and Wonders: How conservative is conservative enough?

Newsworthy

Challenged on the right. One of the most conservative members of the House of Representatives, James Lankford, is running for retiring Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn’s seat.  But he’s not conservative enough for some in the Tea Party, as this Washington Post article points out. Speaking out against Lankford is Heritage Action, the Club for Growth, and the Senate Conservatives’ Fund. This opposition is especially interesting since Lankford is unassailable on social issues such as abortion and marriage, and he was the only member of House leadership to vote against the Omnibus Budget Bill two weeks ago, saying it didn’t do enough to cut spending. In short, very few members of Congress are to the right of Lankford, and none of them are in leadership. So, just how conservative is conservative enough? (Listen to my interview with Rep. James Lankford on our new radio program, Listening In.)

The spin begins. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union (SOTU) address tonight will attempt to put a positive spin on what was a disastrous year for him. If this speech is any reflection of past speeches, it will also itemize a laundry list of initiatives he hopes to accomplish. SOTUs have evolved into these laundry lists because of special interest groups: A mention in the SOTU is a sound-bite that advocacy groups can replay when touting their effectiveness to donors. They are also calling cards for the president: Groups and causes he mentions—even if he ends up being unable to implement policy related to them—allow Obama and his party to go to these groups to host fund-raisers. Former President Bill Clinton perfected this dark art, with SOTU speeches that went on and on throwing bones to various groups. It’s important to note, though, that President George W. Bush was not above using Clinton’s techniques. The bottom line: Look for tonight’s State of the Union Address to be not so much about the state of our country, but the state of the presidency.

Below average hurricane season. Last year was one of the lightest Atlantic hurricane seasons in a generation or more, despite the fact that most predictions said it would be above average. When the original predictions came out last spring, many pundits blamed the above average activity on global warming. These stories, taken together, highlight the limits of our ability to predict the outcome of massively complex systems, and the extent to which ideology creeps into even “straight” science reporting. It’s also interesting to note that 2012 was an active year. In fact, it tied for the third most active year on record. Now, you may be asking, tied with what years?  2011, 2010, 1995 and—wait for it—1887, long before global warming was supposed to be a factor in hurricane strength and frequency. The point is that this stuff is complicated and doesn’t easily bend to ideological will.

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Media bias. More than 100,000 people showed up for the March for Life in Washington last week, but you would have been hard-pressed to find the mainstream media in the crowd. According to the Family Research Council, CNN and MSNBC ignored the event, and the NBC Nightly News devoted just 22 seconds to the event. ABC devoted 24 seconds to it. It’s important to note, though, that this silence is in some ways a victory for pro-lifers. Without the March for Life, it’s likely that the mainstream media would run endless stories “celebrating” the annual anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The annual Washington demonstration at least makes that all but impossible.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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