The WaPo vs. David Horowitz

For some perverse reason, I've always found it easier to write with the sound of talking in the background. If there's nobody around, I put on a podcast or an episode of some cable TV series. The other day I put on All the President's Men. I've probably seen it half a dozen times, beginning with its original release in 1976.

The movie, directed by Alan J. Pakula from a script by William Goldman -- based, of course, on the book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about how they brought down President Nixon -- is a brilliant piece of work. It tells a complicated, potentially dry story in a riveting manner. The actors, starting with Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein, are terrific. And thanks to the work of first-rate cinematographer Gordon Willis, it's visually arresting throughout, with individual camera shots (such as the slow vertical pullback from our intrepid reporters as they sift through hundreds of loan slips at the Library of Congress) that are well-nigh unforgettable.

But even as Pakula and company were creating a cinematic masterpiece, they were also pulling a fast one ideologically. That film fooled almost every member of my generation into having a ridiculously high opinion of the news media. It depicted journalists, from the scruffy Washington Post neophytes Woodward and Bernstein to their legendary managing editor Bill Bradlee (who in one sequence is seen in a natty tuxedo, presumably on his way to a tony Georgetown shindig), as heroic figures who not only worked overtime to report the news in a scrupulously fair and unbiased manner but also, when challenged to do so, put their lives on the line to safeguard our freedoms.

The movie, which came out when I was a college student, convinced millions of us of at least two big things. One: politicians (at least Republican politicians) were slimy. Two: journalists were noble – especially those at the Washington Post, and especially the twin saints, Woodward and Bernstein.

It took years to break me entirely of that illusion. A bit of personal experience did the trick. After I started writing controversial books that journalists wanted to interview me about, I realized quickly enough that most of them were simply not to be trusted. They'd present themselves as friendly and sympathetic, then write a hit piece. No matter how much we'd talked and what I'd actually said, they'd end up picking a line or two out of context and putting a dishonest spin on it so it would fit a narrative. Or else they'd just invent quotes. As for politicians, I ended up as the writer-for-hire on the autobiography of a congressman who turned out to be one of the most decent, selfless people I'd ever met. (Of course, not all politicians I've met since have measured up.)

Eventually I realized that even back then, in the era of Watergate, the Post had been no bastion of objectivity. The movie presented it as such, although Pakula, fascinatingly, stuck in one tiny detail that seems to have been intended to suggest otherwise. I don't think I ever noticed it until the other day: there, on a cluttered shelf in Ben Bradlee's office, surrounded by books, papers, and sundry knicknacks, was a framed photograph of John F. Kennedy. Now, Bradlee had been a close friend of JFK, after whose death he'd published a memoir entitled Conversations with Kennedy. JFK, in turn, had been the #1 rival of Richard M. Nixon's life. Needless to say, it was impossible for the Post, under Bradlee's leadership, to report in an unbiased way on the Watergate affair.

And that was in the 1970s. Things have only gone downhill since. In 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought the daily, and since the advent of Trump has been using it as a club to beat the candidate, and then the president, over the head with. Admittedly, the Post isn't doing anything that most of the other mainstream national media outlets have been doing, but at times it has felt as if the Post is even more viciously, mendaciously anti-Trump than even the New York Times and CNN -- and that's saying something. In recent weeks, it's eagerly taken part in the broad-scale media effort to knock off, one after the other, various high-ranking members of the Trump administration and those few prominent reporters and commentators who've actually dared to give the new prez a fair shake.

The other day, it was the turn of David Horowitz and the David Horowitz Freedom Center to experience the Post's potshots. Like most of these MSM attacks on Trumpsters, the article, written by Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg, was a model of contemporary journalistic partisanship. The rhetoric was right out of the hack playbook: the DHFC, the Post darkly informed its dwindling readership, was, until Trump's election, “a little-known charity whose ideas would soon move from the fringes of the conservative movement into the heart of the nation's government.” Echoing the insipid lies of Hope Not Hate! and similar far-left propaganda outfits masquerading as principled monitors of bigotry, O'Harrow and Boburb breathlessly described the DHFC as “part of a loose nationwide network of like-minded charities linked together by ideology, personalities, conservative funders and websites.”

Get that: a network! How shady that sounds! Until you actually stop and think for two seconds and realize that this is just another way of saying that activists and thinkers on the right, as on the left, tend to know one another; that you can see the bylines of conservative commentators over and over again at the same handful of places, just you can see left-wing bylines repeatedly at another handful of places; and that, just as certain foundations tend to donate to right-leaning organizations, certain other foundations fund leftist ones. Amazing!

Worst of all was the revelation that several people close to the DHFC have ended up working in the Trump White House. The reason why this has happened is simple: the DHFC is one of the few established conservative institutions in the U.S. that, from early on in the presidential campaign, has been on the same page as Trump about a wide range of issues. These issues, which propelled Trump into the presidency, can be summed up in a single statement: that America belongs to its people, and that its government's chief obligation is to those people's well-being and security, not to foreign governments or foreign companies or would-be immigrants (especially illegal ones).

In other words, there's nothing there. Zero. Zilch. But then there were more serious charges. For example, Horowitz accepted millions of dollars in “speaking fees” from corrupt dictators and sleazy businessmen for using his connections to arrange for legislation and waivers they needed. He helped set up millions in U.S. aid to Haiti, but much of the money ended up in his own pockets. He took massive sums from oil companies to help secure government approval for pipeline construction. On some issues supposedly close to his heart, he turned his opinions around 180 degrees in exchange for cash under the table.

Oh no, my mistake -- those sordid hijinks, and many more like them, were engaged in by Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, and the Clinton Global Initiative, and were documented thoroughly in Peter Schweizer's 2015 book and 2016 documentary Clinton Cash. Schweizer's book, as it happens, was mocked in the Post as “hysteria” and as “innuendo and speculation”; his film was dismissed in the Post, absurdly, as lacking “hard evidence”; the Post smeared Schweizer personally as “a right-leaning rabble-rouser” and called Breitbart, for which Schweizer works, “a nationalist news site that puts Trump ahead of truth.”

Ah, truth! Remember truth? If the Post and other major MSM outlets had done their duty by the truth during the past year or two, both Clintons, whom every sane American now recognizes as a couple of shameless grifters, would be on trial or already behind bars, and David Horowitz, a gutsy and forthright fighter for freedom, would, at the very least, be left alone to do his important work.

For some perverse reason, I've always found it easier to write with the sound of talking in the background. If there's nobody around, I put on a podcast or an episode of some cable TV series. The other day I put on All the President's Men. I've probably seen it half a dozen times, beginning with its original release in 1976.

The movie, directed by Alan J. Pakula from a script by William Goldman -- based, of course, on the book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about how they brought down President Nixon -- is a brilliant piece of work. It tells a complicated, potentially dry story in a riveting manner. The actors, starting with Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein, are terrific. And thanks to the work of first-rate cinematographer Gordon Willis, it's visually arresting throughout, with individual camera shots (such as the slow vertical pullback from our intrepid reporters as they sift through hundreds of loan slips at the Library of Congress) that are well-nigh unforgettable.

But even as Pakula and company were creating a cinematic masterpiece, they were also pulling a fast one ideologically. That film fooled almost every member of my generation into having a ridiculously high opinion of the news media. It depicted journalists, from the scruffy Washington Post neophytes Woodward and Bernstein to their legendary managing editor Bill Bradlee (who in one sequence is seen in a natty tuxedo, presumably on his way to a tony Georgetown shindig), as heroic figures who not only worked overtime to report the news in a scrupulously fair and unbiased manner but also, when challenged to do so, put their lives on the line to safeguard our freedoms.

The movie, which came out when I was a college student, convinced millions of us of at least two big things. One: politicians (at least Republican politicians) were slimy. Two: journalists were noble – especially those at the Washington Post, and especially the twin saints, Woodward and Bernstein.

It took years to break me entirely of that illusion. A bit of personal experience did the trick. After I started writing controversial books that journalists wanted to interview me about, I realized quickly enough that most of them were simply not to be trusted. They'd present themselves as friendly and sympathetic, then write a hit piece. No matter how much we'd talked and what I'd actually said, they'd end up picking a line or two out of context and putting a dishonest spin on it so it would fit a narrative. Or else they'd just invent quotes. As for politicians, I ended up as the writer-for-hire on the autobiography of a congressman who turned out to be one of the most decent, selfless people I'd ever met. (Of course, not all politicians I've met since have measured up.)

Eventually I realized that even back then, in the era of Watergate, the Post had been no bastion of objectivity. The movie presented it as such, although Pakula, fascinatingly, stuck in one tiny detail that seems to have been intended to suggest otherwise. I don't think I ever noticed it until the other day: there, on a cluttered shelf in Ben Bradlee's office, surrounded by books, papers, and sundry knicknacks, was a framed photograph of John F. Kennedy. Now, Bradlee had been a close friend of JFK, after whose death he'd published a memoir entitled Conversations with Kennedy. JFK, in turn, had been the #1 rival of Richard M. Nixon's life. Needless to say, it was impossible for the Post, under Bradlee's leadership, to report in an unbiased way on the Watergate affair.

And that was in the 1970s. Things have only gone downhill since. In 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought the daily, and since the advent of Trump has been using it as a club to beat the candidate, and then the president, over the head with. Admittedly, the Post isn't doing anything that most of the other mainstream national media outlets have been doing, but at times it has felt as if the Post is even more viciously, mendaciously anti-Trump than even the New York Times and CNN -- and that's saying something. In recent weeks, it's eagerly taken part in the broad-scale media effort to knock off, one after the other, various high-ranking members of the Trump administration and those few prominent reporters and commentators who've actually dared to give the new prez a fair shake.

The other day, it was the turn of David Horowitz and the David Horowitz Freedom Center to experience the Post's potshots. Like most of these MSM attacks on Trumpsters, the article, written by Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg, was a model of contemporary journalistic partisanship. The rhetoric was right out of the hack playbook: the DHFC, the Post darkly informed its dwindling readership, was, until Trump's election, “a little-known charity whose ideas would soon move from the fringes of the conservative movement into the heart of the nation's government.” Echoing the insipid lies of Hope Not Hate! and similar far-left propaganda outfits masquerading as principled monitors of bigotry, O'Harrow and Boburb breathlessly described the DHFC as “part of a loose nationwide network of like-minded charities linked together by ideology, personalities, conservative funders and websites.”

Get that: a network! How shady that sounds! Until you actually stop and think for two seconds and realize that this is just another way of saying that activists and thinkers on the right, as on the left, tend to know one another; that you can see the bylines of conservative commentators over and over again at the same handful of places, just you can see left-wing bylines repeatedly at another handful of places; and that, just as certain foundations tend to donate to right-leaning organizations, certain other foundations fund leftist ones. Amazing!

Worst of all was the revelation that several people close to the DHFC have ended up working in the Trump White House. The reason why this has happened is simple: the DHFC is one of the few established conservative institutions in the U.S. that, from early on in the presidential campaign, has been on the same page as Trump about a wide range of issues. These issues, which propelled Trump into the presidency, can be summed up in a single statement: that America belongs to its people, and that its government's chief obligation is to those people's well-being and security, not to foreign governments or foreign companies or would-be immigrants (especially illegal ones).

In other words, there's nothing there. Zero. Zilch. But then there were more serious charges. For example, Horowitz accepted millions of dollars in “speaking fees” from corrupt dictators and sleazy businessmen for using his connections to arrange for legislation and waivers they needed. He helped set up millions in U.S. aid to Haiti, but much of the money ended up in his own pockets. He took massive sums from oil companies to help secure government approval for pipeline construction. On some issues supposedly close to his heart, he turned his opinions around 180 degrees in exchange for cash under the table.

Oh no, my mistake -- those sordid hijinks, and many more like them, were engaged in by Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, and the Clinton Global Initiative, and were documented thoroughly in Peter Schweizer's 2015 book and 2016 documentary Clinton Cash. Schweizer's book, as it happens, was mocked in the Post as “hysteria” and as “innuendo and speculation”; his film was dismissed in the Post, absurdly, as lacking “hard evidence”; the Post smeared Schweizer personally as “a right-leaning rabble-rouser” and called Breitbart, for which Schweizer works, “a nationalist news site that puts Trump ahead of truth.”

Ah, truth! Remember truth? If the Post and other major MSM outlets had done their duty by the truth during the past year or two, both Clintons, whom every sane American now recognizes as a couple of shameless grifters, would be on trial or already behind bars, and David Horowitz, a gutsy and forthright fighter for freedom, would, at the very least, be left alone to do his important work.

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