Ideologically pure, historically ignorant: Oliver Willis

Oliver Willis

On Tuesday we met Oliver Willis, a commentator who started out working for lowlife Clinton agitprop merchant David Brock and who, since the turn of the century, has been a staggeringly prolific blogger and tweeter, not to mention an occasional contributor to one or another of the usual websites (Salon, HuffPo). Perhaps the most surprising thing about his work is that he is never, ever surprising. His opinions, if you can even call them that, are ready-made, pre-packaged. He actually appears to think that he’s thinking, but he’s just regurgitating. As we saw on Tuesday, he thinks that he’s whip-smart (and that everybody to his right is an idiot), but all that he seems to have between his ears is a library of left-wing platitudes and victim-group grievance rhetoric.

Not a “real president”

To be sure, today’s Internet commentariat being awash in similar mediocrities, Willis doesn’t usually stick out from the crowd. Now and then, however, he demonstrates convincingly that his learning is skin-deep. Recently, when Donald Trump waited three days before calling out the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, Willis tweeted: “FDR didn’t take 72 hours to respond to Nazis. Then again, FDR was a real president.”

The “real president”

As several members of the Twittersphere were quick to point out, FDR didn’t take 72 hours to respond to the rise of Nazism; by the most charitable calculation, he took more than two years, if you start counting from September 2, 1939 (when Britain and France responded to the Nazi invasion of Poland by declaring war on Germany), and stop counting on December 11, 1941 (when the U.S. declared war on Germany a day after Germany had declared war on us). Willis also appears to have forgotten a couple of other minor facts about his “real president”: first, that when Jews who were trying to avoid the Nazi extermination camps sought refuge in America, FDR turned them away; and second, that while FDR was willing to put a German-American, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in charge of the Supreme Allied Command, he felt compelled to put Japanese-Americans in California internment camps.

An actual Willis tweet

This is only one of many examples we could cite of Willis’s historical and cultural illiteracy. But for leftist ideologues, ignorance on the scale of Willis’s hardly matters. Nor does his barely serviceable prose style or his chronic inability to actually form an argument. No, what counts is reflexive devotion to the cause, period. And as it happens, Willis, just like his old boss, David Brock, is the most reliable of ideological tools. Hence fellow inhabitants of the DNC echo chamber shower him with praise. (If Willis is to be believed, Rachel Maddow has twice called him “the great Oliver Willis.”)

Willis with four other bloggers at the White House

Just as Brock, moreover, is far less dedicated to any political idea than to the continued success of the Clinton clan, Willis is such a servile devotee of Barack Obama that he was one of only five bloggers who were invited to a White House meeting with the 44th president in October of 2010.

“I would be unfair if I said that David Brock represents everything wrong with politics,” wrote Post columnist David Von Drehle earlier this year. “So let me say that David Brock represents almost everything wrong with politics.” The same, alas, can be said of Brock’s equally unsavory protégé, Oliver Willis.

Meet Oliver Willis, third-rate sleaze merchant

Perhaps the main thing you need to know about the opinion writer Oliver Willis is that he spent a formative part of his career at Media Matters for America, the sleazy left-wing propaganda factory run by David Brock, who has variously been called a smear artist,” “poisonous” (in The Nation, no less!), and a “slippery snake” (by Maureen Dowd).

Oliver Willis

Willis is black. His parents were Jamaican. He is obsessed with race. Shortly before the 2016 election, he dismissed Trump supporters as “knuckle dragging racists.” He also dismissed the idea that working-class whites in flyover states had any legitimate grievances, whether about the economy or anything else: no, these people were “table-slamming racists,” “the absolute gutter worst of the country,” and didn’t deserve a hearing. They “lack the capacity to have any sort of empathy for anyone who doesn’t look exactly like them.”

The mentor: David Brock

In today’s America, Willis maintained, “you still start out several lengths ahead if you’re white and male than if you’re brown and female. The system is still set up for you to have a home field advantage, and the rules and many of the referees are still rigged for the outcome to tilt in your favor.” Needless to say, some people who’ve been denied jobs or rejected from colleges because of affirmative action would disagree strongly with this statement.

The devil: Donald Trump

But in Willis’s world, affirmative action isn’t a matter of systematic victim-group preference but of being “more inclusive” of “well qualified — sometimes overqualified — people [who] have been sidelined for eons because they didn’t buy the winning genetic lottery ticket.” Anyway, when Trump won, Willis attributed it to racism, pure and simple. Just the other day, he tweeted: “i see we’re still pretending trump’s rust belt wins were about effing trade agreements and not racism.” 

Houston hit by a hurricane: hilarious

Sometimes his race obsession manifests itself in a particularly ugly way. When Houston was struck by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, Willis asked on Twitter: “where are the right wing memes ridiculing houston evacuees like w katrina? many of the photos of people from houston are white. ahhhhhhhhh.” And sometimes it comes out in a way that’s just plain bizarre. Retweeting an item about the early 1800s slave trade, he wrote: “I am told daily by conservatives that the founders were perfect.” Huh? In 2018, who on earth describes any of the Founders as perfect? Doesn’t every history textbook these days emphasize that several of them owned slaves?

Thomas Jefferson, a slave holder? Who knew?

Willis thinks of himself as smart. Exceedingly smart. His website is headlined “Oliver Willis: Like Kryptonite To Stupid.” “I hate being smarter than the leader of the free world,” he tweeted only a few days ago. The purported stupidity of conservatives is a constant theme in his work. “For #WorldBookDay,” he tweeted on March 1, “I would like conservatives to know that they are the scary piles of paper with all the forbidden knowledge and one day you should crack one open.” Back in 2010, the Huffington Post ran a piece in which Willis took on the charge that liberals who look down their noses at conservatives are elitists: no, he argued, liberals should treat conservatives like inferiors, because the latter are, quite simply, morons.

Tea Party movement: morons

The Tea Party crowd, he explained, are “cretins,” “the lowest common idiotic denominator,” and a “roving band of conspiracy nuts” who are preoccupied with “idiotic” issues. In sum: “we owe them no recognition or inclusion in the important discussion about the direction of American society.”

Pause for a moment over that last sentence: as far as Willis is concerned, a whole huge chunk of the American populace deserves no voice in the public square. Implicit in this claim is an assumption that he and his ideological confreres have, or should have, the right to silence those who disagree with them. Willis smears white conservatives as exclusionary racists, but he’s the one who’s the exclusionary racist.

More on Thursday.

 

“Once a meathead, always a meathead”: Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner is one lucky fellow. First, he was born into the highest rung of showbiz – the son of the brilliant director, writer, and actor Carl Reiner, the man behind the classic Dick Van Dyke Show plus a whole bunch of very funny movies. Second, Rob’s family connections got him into acting – and his first big acting job, as it happened, turned out to be in the seminal sitcom of its time, All in the Family.

Mike Stivic (Reiner), left, and Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor in All in the Family

All in the Family‘s success owed nothing to Rob: playing Mike Stivic, the son-in-law of the show’s protagonist, Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), and Archie’s wife, Edith (Jean Stapleton), Reiner was, in terms of acting chops, the weakest link on the show. Mike was also the series’ most insufferable character. While producer Norman Lear, a card-carrying leftist, had meant for Archie, a working stiff who labored on a factory loading dock, to be an anti-hero – a typical hippie-hating “hardhat” of the early 1970s – Archie was, for millions, a lovable hero.

Hey, look at which cast member of All in the Family didn’t win an Emmy

Meanwhile Mike, a social-sciences student into whose dialogue Lear shoved many of his own political opinions, was insufferable: although he shared a bedroom in Archie’s house in Queens because he couldn’t afford to support his wife – Archie’s daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers) – Mike plainly considered himself to be Archie’s intellectual and moral superior of Archie. For Archie, his son-in-law wasn’t “Mike” but “Meathead,” a mindless mouthpiece for an ideology that Archie considered pernicious.

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally

After All in the Family, Rob Reiner moved on to directing. His oeuvre contains some of the most entertaining movies of the eighties and nineties: This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men. His more recent product has been less memorable. In any event, what all of his best films have in common is that he didn’t write them. (The one exception is This Is Spinal Tap, on which he shared screenplay credit with funnymen Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer.)

Ugh!

His old man, Carl Reiner, is a writer-director, and is terrific at both; Rob is good at figuring out where to put a camera, but his efforts at writing have been disastrous. We still remember, for example, the horror show that was the 1978 TV movie More than Friends, a fourth-rate Annie Hall ripoff that he co-wrote and in which he starred with his then wife, Penny Marshall.

Anyway, the reason we’re looking at Rob Reiner is that over the last quarter century or so, even as his directorial career has faltered, he’s become increasingly visible as an exceedingly shrill, far-left political activist and major megaphone for Democratic Party talking points. He was a prominent supporter of the presidential candidacies of Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. A few years ago, when the Tea Party movement was at its height, he likened it to Hamas.

Reiner’s Malibu manse

Critics have often pointed out his extreme hypocrisy: a resident of Malibu, one of the whitest, richest, and most exclusive municipalities in America, where he lives behind high walls and gates, Reiner has supported open borders and was among the Malibu residents who decided to declare it a sanctuary city – a decision that was, in practice, given the cost of property in the town and the high level of private and public security there, a thoroughly meaningless exercise in virtue signaling. Indeed, pretty much the only illegal aliens who ever set foot in the seaside enclave are the rich locals’ cooks, maids, gardeners, nannies, and chauffeurs.  

But it was the entry of Donald Trump into politics that really sent Reiner into activist overdrive. Ever since Trump began running for the Presidency, Reiner has been shouting from the rooftops that a “constitutional crisis” was in the offing. In a tweet written last December, he urged his fellow citizens to “prepare to take the streets” in response to Fox News’s criticism of the Robert Mueller probe into claims of Russian collusion by the 2016 Trump campaign.

At the January 2018 Women’s March in LA

Speaking at a Women’s March in Los Angeles on January 20, Reiner noted that Trump had been in office for a year and had “corroborated every one of our fears….And we cannot whitewash this anymore. We have a racist in the White House. We have a sexist in the White House. We have a pathological liar in the White House. And he is tearing away at the fabric of our democracy.”

Rod Rosenstein announcing the results of the Russia probe

In mid February, when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that the Russia investigation had concluded that no Americans had “knowingly cooperated with the Russian interference” and that the Russians had “in no way impacted the outcome of the 2016 election,” Reiner, instead of throwing in the towel and admitting he had been hysterical over nothing, chose to take an Orwellian approach to the truth, tweeting as follows: “It is now crystal clear that Russia had a profound impact on the 2016 election. They have attacked US, they are continuing to attack US. If Trump is unwilling to acknowledge this and unwilling to protect US, the word TREASON is now center stage.”

Trump, the “traitor”

We need not comment on this shameless effort at disinformation, because Reiner’s Twitter feed soon filled up with apropos reactions. “Did you even WATCH the actual press conference?” wrote one of Reiner’s followers. “No impact on the election.” Several people commented that if there were any White House treason, it was committed not by Trump but by Obama, since the Russian meddling had, according to the Justice Department, begun in 2014.

One Reiner follower summed it up all this way: “Once a meathead, always a meathead.”

Robert De Niro: slamming the U.S. in Dubai

Robert De Niro

For a long time, nobody thought of Robert De Niro as an American thinker, great or otherwise. For over a quarter century, however, he was unquestionably a great American artist – a remarkably versatile and extraordinarily compelling actor who created immortal characters in such films as The Godfather, Part II, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, and Casino. He was nominated for several Oscars, and won two. In short, a cinematic treasure.

De Niro and Anne Hathaway in The Intern

In recent years, however, De Niro has become what some uncharitable observers might describe as a sellout. You might have gotten a few laughs out of Analyze This and Analyze That, but nobody will ever confuse them with The Godfather, Part I and II. You can say one thing about those two comedies – they look like Preston Sturges masterpieces alongside Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, and Little Fockers. And the movies have just gotten worse and worse: The Intern, Dirty Grandpa, and The Comedian gave new meaning to the word lightweight. He’s obviously decided to stop going with the best scripts and instead grab at the biggest paychecks.

With Obama at that 2012 fundraiser

Of course, he’s entirely within his rights. What’s interesting to us is that while De Niro the artist has shriveled, another creature has risen up from the murk: De Niro the political commentator. In 2012, he spoke at an exclusive Obama campaign event in New York – attended by such left-wing showbiz luminaries as Harvey Weinstein and Whoopi Goldberg – at which he put race at the heart of the matter. “Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney,” he said. “Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?” It was obviously meant as a joke, but what’s the joke?

But that was nothing. In October 2016, a month or so before the presidential election, he made headlines by releasing a video in which he urged the electorate not to vote for Donald Trump. “He’s so blatantly stupid,” De Niro said, appearing to channel one of his gangster characters. “He’s a punk. He’s a dog. He’s a pig. He’s a con.” It went on – and got nastier from there. “He’s a national disaster. He’s an embarrassment to this country.” De Niro concluded by saying he’d like to punch Trump in the face.

The video was notable for its utter lack of anything resembling a serious argument. It didn’t so much as touch on a single real issue. It was pure name-calling. Days later, while in Dubai to promote investment in Antigua and Barbuda, where he was involved in a resort development (could it be that he and Trump have more in common than he realizes?), De Niro told an interviewer that Trump “does not have a clue about what goes on in the rest of the world.”

He was still at it this past January, when, standing at the lectern at the National Board of Review awards ceremony, he delivered what one news source accurately called “an expletive-filled rant” about Trump. “This f***ing idiot is the President,” De Niro said, and went on to call Trump a “f***ing fool” and “the jerkoff-in-chief.” Once again, he had nothing of substance to say about Trump. Once again, it was just name-calling – which he (quite mistakenly) appeared to consider amusing.

The other day, De Niro was back in Dubai, this time to attend the World Government Summit. He was there “to help combat climate change.” In a speech at the summit, he unfavorably compared the U.S., which he called “a backward country,” to the United Arab Emirates, which he described as “an example to the rest of the world.” Under Trump, he charged, Americans were suffering from “temporary insanity.”

De Niro in Dubai

Reading his remarks, one wondered who, exactly, was insane; who, exactly, was an embarrassment to his country; who, exactly, was clueless “about what goes on” in the world. There he was, praising as a role model a country that’s governed under sharia law – a country that denies its citizens many basic human rights, that carries out floggings and stonings, that restricts freedom of speech and of the press, that punishes apostasy, adultery, and homosexuality with death, that permits men to beat their wives, and that treats not rapists but rape victims as criminals.

Two pieces of advice for Robert De Niro. Go back to making good movies. And stick to the words in the script.

Calling for coups: Chelsea Handler’s activism

The political Chelsea

As we noted on Tuesday, Chelsea Handler has metamorphosed from clown into political pundit. Well, actually, she has become a political pundit while remaining every bit a clown. October saw the end of her snooze-worthy series, Chelsea, in which she conducted endless wonky interviews with the scintillating likes of David Axelrod and Gavin Newsome. That show was a deadly dull exercise in political shop talk, but after it was canceled, Chelsea, instead of trying to find her funny bone again, announced that she would be setting her show business career aside for the nonce and instead focus on political activism. “Like so many across the country,” she tweeted, “the past presidential election and the countless events that have unfolded since have galvanized me.”

Dana Rohrabacher

Only days later, she showed just how knowledgeable she was about politics with a tweet about Dana Rohrabacher, a member of Congress whose district centers on Huntington Beach, California. “So, Republican rep. Dana Rohrabacher from California is was the original person who received info from Russia, because she works w/ them,” wrote Chelsea. Savvy! Just one problem: Dana Rohrabacher, as tens of millions of Americans know, is not a “she” but a “he.” “Her stupidity knows no bounds,” marveled one fellow denizen of the Twitterverse.

Melania Trump

This was far from Chelsea’s first show of idiocy since her foray into politics. In the last weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, she sent out several tweets mocking Melania Trump’s English. On October 28: “Trump said Melania will give two or three more speeches….Hopefully an interpreter will be present.” November 5: “Tim Kaine delivered a speech entirely in Spanish. Still easier to understand than Melania.” After Trump’s election, Chelsea said she wouldn’t invite the First Lady on her show for an interview because “she can barely speak English.” As many observers noted at the time, Mrs. Trump speaks five languages; Chelsea, in her previous incarnation as a comedian, admitted more than once to being monolingual.

Donald Trump

Even the left is embarrassed by her. On August 11, the Daily Beast ran a piece headlined “Chelsea Handler’s Twitter Feed Has Officially Gone Off the Rails.” In it, Matt Wilstein cited a couple of Chelsea’s recent tweets. In one, she called for a U.S. military coup (“To all the generals surrounding our idiot-in-chief…the longer U wait to remove him, the longer UR name will appear negatively in history”); in another, she called for limits on the First Amendment (“2 Chinese guys were arrested in Berlin for making nazi salutes. Wouldn’t it be nice 2 have laws here for people who think racism is funny?”). As one person tweeted in response to her attack on free speech: “If we start arresting people for disgusting opinions you better call your lawyer.”

Sarah Sanders

In other tweets, she’s blamed the GOP for California’s rampant wildfires and for last November’s church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (Of course, California wildfires and church shootings took place under Obama, too.) Despite her proclaimed feminism, she’s repeatedly made fun of the physical appearance of White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. And notwithstanding her boasts of being pro-gay, she hasn’t been above “accusing” political opponents of homosexuality. Earlier this month, when she was displeased by a certain senator’s comments at a White House meeting, Chelsea wrote an obscene tweet suggesting that the only reason he could be so civil to President Trump must be that somebody in the Executive Branch has a gay porn video of him. The tweet, founded on a widespread rumor that the senator in question is gay, occasioned widespread criticism. “Keep being a voice for the Democrats while you use homosexuality as an insult,” one reader commented. Another wrote: “If a Republican said something like this, they’d be burning down the RNC.”

Chelsea Handler is an idiot, but for the far left, she’s a highly useful idiot, with 8.5 million Twitter followers who’ve hung in there with her despite the disastrous failure of her Netflix show. Let’s hope, for the sake of comedy and the Republic, that she gets tired of politics ASAP and returns to making people laugh on purpose.  

Taking on Trump: Xavier Becerra

Some of us never imagined we’d ever see such a thing happening in the United States: last Thursday, Xavier Becerra, Attorney General of California, warned employers in that state that if they assist federal officials who are looking for illegal immigrants, they will be prosecuted.

Xavier Becerra

More on that later. But first, who is Xavier Becerra? Born in Sacramento to Mexican immigrants, he went to college in Spain before earning a B.A. and J.D. from Stanford. After working in a private law practice, he went into politics, serving, in turn, as an assistant to a California state senator, as the state’s Deputy Attorney General, as a member of the State Assembly, and as a member of Congress. California Governor Jerry Brown named him state Attorney General on January 23 of last year. He is the first Latino to hold that position.

Becerra to Trump: “Be careful!”

His ideological agenda was clear from the start. A sympathetic profile of Becerra in the Atlantic began with the news that he was “issu[ing] a warning to the President of the United States:

“Be careful,” he said in a singsongy voice. “Be careful!” A wicked smile appeared.

Becerra, wrote Atlantic reporter Michelle Cottle, “clearly relishes his role as a burr in Donald Trump’s backside.” What business does a state Attorney General have issuing warnings to Presidents or being burrs in their backsides? Why was the new Attorney General of America’s largest state focused on challenging the newly elected President’s politics rather than on prosecuting people arrested for committing crimes in his (frankly) crime-ridden state?

Becerra’s ideologies allies

When talking to Cottle, Becerra had nothing to say about such matters – which are, after all, the appropriate province of a state Attorney General. No, what he was interested in was using his new position to push California, and thus the U.S., even further to the left, especially on the issue of illegal immigration. “Becerra sees California playing a special role by virtue of its size and ‘forward leaning’ politics,” wrote Cottle. As Becerra told her: “Sometimes it takes a generation, but we pull the country in certain directions.”

More Becerra allies

His first major action as Attorney General was to join a lawsuit that managed to put the kibosh on President Trump’s January 27 presidential directive that sought to restrict travel to the U.S. from certain Muslim countries that were deemed to represent dangers to American security. When Trump issued a new order on September 24, seeking to limit travel from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, North Korea, Venezuela, and Iraq, Becerra again leapt into action, accusing Trump of pushing “a political agenda rooted in fear and bias” and insisting that California would “continue to welcome and embrace people of goodwill from all backgrounds, religions, and ethnicities.”

More on Thursday.

Don’t mess with Debra Messing!

Born in 1968, Debra Messing has had a stellar acting career. Her breakthrough role on the NBC sitcom Will and Grace (1998-2006) led, via a series of supporting roles in obscure movies and one-shot performances on various TV series, to her triumphant current gig in, um, the retread of the NBC sitcom Will and Grace (2017-).

Debra Messing

Okay, we won’t knock her career. Let’s face it, she’s been lucky. However horrible Will and Grace was (and is), the residuals certainly can’t be anything to sneeze at. Still, to those who aren’t Will and Grace fans, Messing is probably best known for her recent forays into political commentary. In a relatively brief time, she’s become quite the nag. In the spring of 2016, when actress Susan Sarandon, a longtime feminist and leftist radical, expressed her lack of enthusiasm for the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton and suggested that the country might be better off under Donald Trump, Messing was outraged, writing on Twitter: “Wonder if she’d say that if she were poor, gay, Muslim or imm[i]gr[a]nt.”

Blake Shelton

That was just the beginning. In July, after country singer Blake Shelton told an interviewer that “Whether you love [Trump] or hate him, he says what he thinks, and he has proven that you don’t always have to be so afraid,” Messing was – again – outraged, accusing him of supporting an enemy of women’s rights. (Shelton explained that he wasn’t supporting either Trump or Hillary.)

Susan Sarandon

Following Trump’s election, it was back to Sarandon again, who opined on Twitter that progressives needed to “reach out in dialogue to those who voted 4 [Trump]. We can’t afford a blanket judgement [sic] of them. We need allies in that camp. Possible.” Once again, Messing went berserk: “JESUS CHRIST. NOW she wants to give racist, islamophobic, homophobic, sexist, mysogynists a chance! ‘Pure’ 4 Bernie. F*** everyone else.”

For years, Messing pretty much kept her mouth shut except when reading lines penned for her by screenwriters. Now – well, we suppose that thanks to Will and Grace she has pockets full of “F*** you” money and is now taking advantage of this financial independence to try to out-Lena Dunham Lena Dunham. Earlier this month, while being interviewed by a reporter for the E! network on the red carpet at the Golden Globe Awards, Messing served up a shrill demand: “Time is up. We want diversity and we want intersectional gender parity!” She proceeded, according to NBC News, “to demand more diversity among workplaces, emphasizing women of color, and a gender balance of ’50/50 by 2020.’”

Lena Dunham at a Golden Globes afterparty

Messing wasn’t the only political activist on the red carpet. Far from it. The Golden Globes ceremony, after all, was the first major Hollywood awards show of the season since the industry’s biggest scandal of all time kicked into high gear a few months ago, with one powerful industry figure after another being brought down by accusations of sexual harassment and abuse. The result has been a hashtag campaign – #metoo – on behalf of the victims and, at the Golden Globes, a purported display of solidarity in the form of black gowns (for the women) and stylish “Time’s Up!” buttons (for the men), meaning that the era of male sexual predation in Hollywood was supposedly over.

Almost all of those attending the ceremony, in short, were – at least in their own minds – bold heroes, tireless activists. But none of them outdid Messing. More on Thursday.