The Media Questionator and My ISIS Airlift Strategy

I really am just an amateur inventor. I admit at the outset I am not an engineer or math major. Unlike Brian Williams, Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor, Carl Bernstein, William Safire, and Nina Totenberg, however, I am not a college dropout. In fact, I even have an advanced degree. I can hear you now: that’s the news business you say -- anyone can succeed as a newsie provided you have no shame in dissembling and pick the right side -- that is the left side -- of the political fence to promote. I anticipate you’ll say that you really need to be an engineer or math major to create a useful new device, but you’d be as wrong as suggesting artists, businessmen or journalists need one to succeed.

We all know the story of Steve Jobs, who dropped out of Reed College. Since the days of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, many business leaders got their starts without the benefit of degrees, including Larry Ellison of Oracle, Bill Gates and Paul Allen of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz of Facebook, Michael Dell of Dell Computers, Brian Dunn of Best Buy, Anna Wintour of Vogue, Barry Diller of IAC, John Mackey of Whole Foods, David Geffen, Ralph Lauren and Ted Turner.


-- Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, dropped out of Marquette University. He is joined by Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska and 33 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

-- Maya Angelou has received many honorary doctorates but never attended college to learn her craft. She's in good company with many other great American writers, such as Gore Vidal, August Wilson, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Frost, Joseph Brodsky and Harper Lee.

-- Woody Allen is loved by intellectuals for his philosophical films, but he did not gain his style on a campus, having flunked out of City College of New York. Other Oscar winners without degrees include Clint Eastwood, James Cameron, Robert Redford, Michael Moore, Sidney Pollack, George Clooney, Hillary Swank, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Steven Spielberg (who completed a degree in 2002).

-- Oprah Winfrey left Tennessee State University in 1976 to begin her career in media (completing her degree in 1986). Top talkers without degrees include Larry King, Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Kimmel, Joy Behar, Rosie O'Donnell and conservative talkers Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.

And then there are credentialed and uncredentialed politicians. Was Woodrow Wilson (PhD) a better president than Harry S. Truman who had no degree? Is (Sheila Jackson Lee, B.A. Yale, J.D. U Va) the dummy who among other things labored under the misimpression we’d landed men on Mars, a more capable leader than Scott Walker because of her credentials?

Of course not. But as the media’s digs at Walker’s lack of a degree (he left Marquette in his senior year in perfectly good standing to take a job) fall flat and as he correctly refuses to answer whether he believes in the theory of evolution because it is irrelevant to the presidency, I’ve decided to help them out by creating a Questionator -- spin it Left for Democrat candidates and Right for Republicans and they have their work done! Then they can spend even more time on the important part of their craft -- haircuts, wardrobe and makeup.

I’ll give you a sneak preview so you can watch it at work:

Spin Left -- Dem candidate: What’s it like to be a parent/grandparent?

Spin Right -- Do you believe in micro- or macro-evolution and why?

Spin left -- Boxers or briefs?

Spin right -- Do you believe in global warming (machine coughs) I mean climate change?

Spin left -- Do you prefer peace or war?

Spin right -- What’s the name of the deputy assistant minister for sewage disposal in Upper Volta?

Well, you get the idea. I might be out of business if the Republicans wise up to the game, though.

This week, James Taranto [link repaired] explains why the hazing question to Walker was asked and why it was nonsensical:

[T] he evolution question -- with which the AP story leads -- is a silly one. To “believe in” a scientific theory is a contradiction in terms: A theory is not a doctrine to be accepted on faith, but a hypothesis to be tested empirically.[Snip] The Federalist’s Sean Davis tweeted at Fournier: “Since you ‘believe in science,’ . . . can you please square the Cambrian explosion w/ Darwinian gradualism?” -- a serious question posed with facetious intent. It’s a very safe bet that Fournier’s knowledge of evolutionary science does not extend far beyond the textbook capsule summary of the theory, as evidenced by Fournier’s failure to answer Davis’s tweet (one of many directed at what calls “self-righteous journos”).

Declarations like “I believe in evolution” or “evolution is fact” are not serious thoughts but badges of identity. As David Freddoso of the Washington Examiner observes in a tweet: “I’d rather see Walker say yes, he believes in evolution. But the Q as posed to a POTUS candidate is just a white-gentry-liberal dog whistle.” He elaborates: “For a certain kind of person -- white, northeastern, high-income, college degree or more -- it tells you whether someone is ‘our people.’ ”

When a reporter asks the question, it’s more a hazing ritual than a serious query. (Walker is being put through other forms of hazing as well; see today’s Washington Post story on “questions” that “linger” about his “college exit.” The answer, deep in the piece, is that Walker was “in good standing” when he left Marquette University.)

To this sort of question, the correct answer is one that demonstrates not one’s knowledge but one’s political acumen. Walker has little chance of winning votes from people whose identity is tied up with a “belief” in evolution. But he needs to avoid losing votes from those on the opposite side of that divide as well as from those who find self-righteous fundamentalism off-putting whether it is in the name of religion or science.

Lots of writers offered their opinions on how such questions should be answered. I like Ben Shapiro’s advice best:

The next time Scott Walker is asked about evolution, he should answer that punctuated equilibrium is supported by the scientific record, then ask whether Hillary Clinton believes in the science of ultrasounds -- and if so, why she would have been willing to allow Chelsea to abort her grandchild at nine months. The next time Hillary Clinton gives an answer about her support for science with regards to global warming, someone should ask her why she wanted to waste taxpayer dollars to investigate junk science about vaccines and autism.

The left seeks to seize the moral high ground regarding science versus religion -- and the media hope to help them along. Republicans should fight back with both science and morality.

In the meantime, as journalists -- credentialed or not -- make fools of themselves with such partisan ploys, we are forced to abandon our embassy in Yemen surrounded by Iranian-backed thugs, our troops in Anbar are in jeopardy and jihadis are continuing to slaughter in horrifying ways what our obviously anti-Jewish president calls “random folks”. Worse, we are allowing Iran to move ever closer to creating nuclear weapons under a well-credentialed president and secretary of state who seem to believe irrationally  in some ambiguous fatwa to the effect that Islam does not permit  the mullahs to develop nuclear weapons.

The administration has asked Congress to approve an AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) which in essence says despite the title that the administration is authorized to take no effective steps against ISIS as it limits the use of ground forces.  In effect, it seeks Congressional imprimatur on the administration’s military paralysis.

I agree with the proposition that this proposal should be rejected.

There is no cause to assent to the president’s demand for a war authority he does not want, does not need, and probably will not use. I also cannot help thinking that the presidential request is little more than a trap, a bone thrown in the direction of the cloakroom to distract from the collapse of America’s position in the Middle East and the approaching deadline for nuclear talks with Iran.


Indeed, a congressional rebuke of Obama on the grounds that his proposal does not go far enough is more likely to make him rethink his approach than bipartisan passage or an extended period of debate and modification and attempts to “improve” his language. And even if such a rethinking does not occur, if Obama goes ahead with his strategy based on his current authorities, the Republicans would pay no price. Say that Obama is not looking to distract the Congress with his war authorization but to win congressional buy-in for his policy through the end of his presidency. How is the country made more secure, how is the American interest furthered, by Republican authorization of a flawed strategy? Would the Democrats have gone along with Bush or participated in earnest and collegial discussions with his administration if he had asked Congress to authorize his surge of troops to Iraq in 2007? You can stop laughing.

It was unanimous opposition to the war in Iraq that helped the Democrats win the Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. And it was the resurgence of the national security issue after the border crisis, ISIS beheadings of Americans, and the outbreak of Ebola on American soil that helped Republicans retake the Senate in 2014. For the GOP now to throw away its critical stance by adopting or seeking to improve the president’s authorization for the use of force would be political folly (and therefore entirely consistent with the party’s history). Far better for us all if the Congress refused the president precisely because he is unserious and untrustworthy with the security of the United States and the world, and spent the remaining two years of his presidency making the case publicly and robustly for the roll back of ISIS and the removal of Assad, an end to the Iranian nuclear program, a military buildup, and a renewal of the alliance system and of American support for Western principles of liberal democracy. That way the voters will be absolutely certain next year that there is a substantive and consequential choice to be made about the future of American foreign policy and security. They will see the results of Obama’s policy of retreat and appeasement throughout the world. And Hillary Clinton won’t be able to say, well, the Republican Congress supported the president, so why don’t you?

The AUMF deserves to be mocked and it has been beautifully satirized here

Fear not, though. Just as I have invented the questionator, I have plotted a brilliant strategy for defeating ISIS. It seems, certainly to the envy of our progressive nannies, ISIS has decided to behead anyone caught smoking.  Instead of passing this cockamamie AUMF, why not just authorize the use of giant cargo planes to parachute in over ISIS-held territory thousands of cartons of cigarettes? It’s a win-win. We defeat ISIS with butts, not boots, on the ground.