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The media’s dangerous diversions

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Forgive me a Spengler moment. It really belongs to someone of the stature of Brit Hume, Charles Krauthammer or George Will to pen such a column, but I can’t be alone in thinking this.

On Saturday Guy P. Benson, one of conservatism’s most talented young writer/reporters/commentators, tweeted out:

“We interrupt our coverage of O’Reilly ‘combat’ terminology to bring you the very latest on Scott Walker’s thoughts on Rudy’s thoughts. #MSM”

There in the requisite 140 character or less is the summary of the West’s dilemma: We are in a five front war — with the Islamic State, an Iran ambitious for nukes, a Russia hungry for Ukraine and who knows what else, the People’s Republic of China fencing of the South China Sea with artificial islands, and North Korea being, well, North Korea — and most of our collective attention is caught up with allegations about fish story exaggerations of journalists’ experiences and comments made at private dinners about the president’s private thoughts and feelings.

And the Oscars, of course. And Downton Abby. And the NBA trading deadline.

I am guilty, guilty, guilty of following, even wallowing in popular culture, especially major league sports. But at least I try on my radio show to give half of the time to the war.

On Friday’s radio program, before my conversation with Bill O’Reilly about what he was or was not doing in Buenos Aires after the Falklands War had ended in 1982 — really — Donald Rumsfeld joined me for a rare interview.

Rumsfeld, hated on the Left of course, but twice our country’s secretary of defense, a former White House chief of staff, and envoy to all sorts of crises in all sorts of circumstances, is one of a handful of genuinely experienced “old hands” the country has at its service, if only anyone will ask them for their opinions.

I asked Rumsfeld what is actually the most important question of the moment, and every moment since 9/11: Is the United States losing the war on terror? His response:

“I can’t justify my comment numerically, but there is no question but that we’re losing. And the reason we’re losing is because of the lack of leadership. That’s the only reason. We have stepped back.”

If any other former secretary of defense has every made such a statement about a hot war, a cold war, or any kind of war whatsoever contemporaneous with its conduct, it would have made a lot of news. (Robert McNamara’s after-the-fact mea culpas don’t count as warnings of defeat while troops were deployed and the enemy in the field.) Rumsfeld’s gloomy assessment did not make news. Those who noticed shrugged, as though to say, “Of course we are. Everybody knows that.”

It seems as though the last 22 months of the Obama presidency will be spent studiously ignoring the worldwide collapse in American power and prestige and the concurrent escalation in the threat to our allies and ourselves. The steep decline in our defense spending as a percentage of our GDP, the slashing of our Navy and downsizing of our Army and Marine Corps, and the almost volcanic incoherence from official spokespeople spread across the executive branch is without precedent.

Some world powers collapse. Others are eclipsed slowly or with a steady march into the shadows of history. Our roll down the hill of greatness may be the first to have been treated so frivolously as to avoid even sustained comment because pop culture was so much more diverting.


This column was originally posted on


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