One of the least understood roles in the media is that played by the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal. For decades, the Journal's conservative editorials benefited from being placed in a newspaper that was a must-read for the nation's business community. The authority of its often-excellent news pages gave a certain gravitas to opinions that would otherwise have been considered quirky at best, and nutty and irresponsible at worst. Today, however, the political spectrum has shifted so far to the right that the oddball ravings in the paper's opinion pages are considered comfortably within the spectrum of responsible opinion.
The Journal editorial pages constitute yet another valuable weapon for the conservative quiver by inserting the often crazy and irresponsible views of right-wing talk radio, Fox News, and Tea Party agitators into respectable discourse. This past Tuesday, for instance, Johns Hopkins professor Fouad Ajami complained that President Barack Obama, "an untested redeemer," has "little if any regard for precedents," that his "logic was Jacobin, and unlike say, Ronald Reagan," and that he communicates "narcissism" and "a bloated sense of personal destiny."
This was rather tame, however, compared to a February column of Ajami's, in which he complained of the "un-American moment in our history" that gave rise to Obama's election. Gone was "the empiricism in political life that had marked the American temper in politics," Ajami argued, apparently seriously, in the wake of George W. Bush's fantasy presidency. "A charismatic leader had risen in a manner akin to the way politics plays out in distressed and Third World societies," he continued. Obama interpreted the election "as a plebiscite granting him a writ to remake the basic political compact of this republic," and "overwhelmed all restraint."
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