Lowell Ponte's Democrat Derangement Syndrome
The Newsmax columnist just can't stop making ludicrous attacks against Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
By Terry Krepel
Who would have thought that a person who once wrote for the staid Reader's Digest would be capable of such vitriolic rhetoric as Lowell Ponte's work for Newsmax?
Yes, the lead credit on Ponte's Newsmax bio is that he "worked for 15 years as a Roving Editor for Reader’s Digest Magazine."
ConWebWatch has caught Ponte indulging in right-wing rhetoric before -- for instance, attacking then-ABC News political director Mark Halperin (now a political analyst for Time magazine) as a "red-diaper baby" in 2004 for suggesting that presidential candidates who indulge in a greater degree of election distortions be held to a greater degree of media scrutiny. (That was back when Ponte was published mostly by David Horowitz's FrontPageMag.) But the 2008 election has apparently inspired Ponte into new levels of vitriol against the Democratic candidates.
A Nov. 13, 2007, column took liberties with a statement by Bill Clinton that "Those boys have been getting tough on" Hillary Clinton by twisting it into a racial insult of Barack Obama (and following the lead of the Republican National Committee in doing so):
To Northern ears, Mr. Clinton seems merely to be belittling Hillary’s opponents, suggesting that they are behaving like children by “piling on” her.
Ponte offers no actual evidence to back up his creative interpretation.
In a Jan. 25 column, Ponte offers up some "serious" questions that "might be asked of Clinton if a genuine journalist seriously interrogated her." Among them:
Mrs. Clinton, will you pledge that as president you will never appoint to any federal court, including the U.S. Supreme Court, anyone who has had a law license suspended for unethical behavior? Of course, your husband Bill Clinton’s license to practice law was suspended for five years for lying under oath in a court case.
Ponte upped the hate in a Jan. 29 column, describing the Clintons as "a demented and devious duo of egomaniacs who will go down in history alongside the crazed Emperors Caligula and Nero of the late Roman Empire" and declaring the Democratic Party as "historically the party of the slave owners, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow and Bull Connor."
Ponte asked in a Feb. 26 column: "If Ms. Clinton is both resignedly sweet and explosively sour, we need to ask hard, harsh questions. Can America risk having a president with mood swings with her finger on the nuclear button?" He followed up in a March 3 column:
So the questions for Ohioans who vote Tuesday for Clinton will be a choice of three alternatives:
Did you vote for Ms. Clinton because you hate capitalism and international trade?
Ponte had another fit of Clinton derangement in an April 18 column, declaring that "ethics and morality died in America when President Clinton brazenly refused to resign after being caught lying under oath, losing his law license, committing sexual acts with an intern almost as young as his daughter, and being the first elected president ever impeached," and adding that "storm troopers acting on the orders of President Bill Clinton" seized Elian Gonzalez in 2000.
After Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, Ponte trained his sights on Obama. He asserted in a June 11 column that the "liberal press began a furious attack on one of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s most likely vice-presidential picks, Virginia Sen. Jim Webb." The only examples Ponte provides, though, are from Slate's Timothy Noah and a writer for the Politico -- and Ponte offers no evidence that either of them are "liberal."
Then, baselessly suggesting that Democrats don't like Webb because is a "descendant of Confederate officers," Ponte goes on to ask: "Is Webb’s sin that he is not racist enough to be trusted to stay in the political party of the slave owners, that once backed the Klan, Jim Crow, Bull Connor, and racial preferences?
Ponte used his June 23 column, used an anti-McCain TV ad -- in which a new mom tells McCain that he can't have her newborn to send to Iraq down the road -- to depict Democrats as idiots:
But the political left has an advantage here. The majority of those who vote for Democrats come from that half of our population that has an IQ of 100 or lower.
Given Ponte's slavish devotion to right-wing talking points, one must wonder who the "sheep" really is.
Ponte made even more baseless claims in the form of a proposed response ad: “Hi, Barack Obama. This is Alex. He’s my first. But if you expect him to pay off the $4 trillion in tax increases and extreme government spending you advocate and to spend most of his working life paying an 83 percent tax rate to fund your socialist schemes you can’t have him.” But Ponte offers no evidence that Obama wants to raise tax rates to 83 percent -- perhaps because there isn't any, nor does he back up his claim that Obama is planning "$4 trillion in tax increases."
In a June 30 column, Ponte claimed that retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, an Obama supporter, "viciously attacked presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s military credentials." Ponte repeated Clark's statement that "I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president" without providing the context in which he said it -- that Clark was specifically responding to CBS "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer's statement that unlike McCain, Obama has not "ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down."
Despite never proving that Clark's comments about McCain's military record were vicious or an attack, let alone factually inaccurate -- as well as neglecting to mention that Clark also said, "I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the Armed Forces as a prisoner of war" -- Ponte asserted that "the press needs to tell Americans who Gen. Wesley Clark really is" ... then launched into is own vicious attack on Clark. Ponte called Clark's military career "not stellar" and steeped with "mediocrity" -- sneeringly adding, "Like Bill Clinton, Wesley Clark was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford" -- until, as commander of Texas' Fort Hood, he " 'lent' 17 pieces of armor and 15 active service personnel under his command to what became Clinton’s extermination of the Branch Davidians." Ponte added, "Immediately after he went along with the Clintons’ potentially-illegal weapons request for Waco, Wesley Clark’s flat, fading career began an incredible meteoric rise."
Ponte's position that a presidential candidate's military record can't be criticized is a flip-flop from 2004, when he cozied up to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and denigrated Kerry's Vietnam service. (Ponte also asserted that Kerry's neckties are "a secret signal of support to the Muslim world.")
After McCain named Sarah Palin as his running mate, Ponte swooped to her defense in his Sept. 2 column by devising a bizarre theory to portray the media is racist:
[Sarah Palin's] husband, the liberal media reported, back in the 1980s got a ticket for driving “under the influence.”
Ponte offered absolutely no evidence that any major media figure -- or even a minor one -- claimed that Todd Palin's DUI was a direct result of being of Eskimo descent. Nor did he offer any evidence of any Democrat describing Native Americans as "drunken Indians."
To further demonstrate how much right-wing Kool-Aid Ponte had been swilling while writing that column, Ponte also dropped a reference to "honest watchdog group[s] such as the Media Research Center," even though they're anything but.
Ponte's Sept. 8 column was one long rant against Oprah Winfrey, suggesting she's "a misogynist, a hater of women" for not allowing Palin to be on her show. Ponte misleadingly claimed that "Oprah has used her program repeatedly to showcase, promote, and lionize Barack Obama"; in fact, while Winfrey has endorsed Obama, he hasn't appeared on her show since October 2006, before he became a presidential candidate. Nevertheless, Ponte ranted on, baselessly claiming that "Some might say that Oprah is a traitor to her gender, a turn (petty) coat whose support for Obama destroyed Hillary’s chance in 2008 to become America’s first female president." Ponte also worked in some less-than-factual licks on Obama, asserting without evidence that "Obama promises to unleash capricious and partisan government censors on talk radio when he becomes president."
Ponte then portrayed himself to be a mind-reader in a Sept. 11 column: regarding Obama's reference to "lipstick on a pig" in a speech:
Obama’s excuse-makers flooded the media on Wednesday, frantically trying to deflect America’s reaction to his words, arguing: “Do you really think Senator Obama was trying to call [Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Governor] Sarah Palin a pig?”
Of course, Ponte has no actual knowledge that Obama was referring to Palin when he made his "lipstick on a pig" remark" -- he's merely projecting his own derangement.
An Oct. 6 article by Ponte asserted that Barack Obama "can’t hide from the facts of his close relationship" with "the radical group ACORN," but Ponte overstated his case and misleads about other details.
Ponte claimed that Obama was "a key operative for the organization" and "was its lawyer in several pivotal ACORN cases" -- claims he didn't really substantiate. He further claimed that "In 1992, Obama took time off as a lawyer to direct Project Vote, ACORN’s voter mobilization entity, statewide in Illinois." But as Obama's "Fight the Smears" website points out, Project Vote was not affiliated with ACORN in 1992.
Ponte also writes:
In Washington state, five ACORN employees were convicted in 2007 in what its Secretary of State Sam Reed called “the worst case of election fraud in our state’s history. It was an outrage.”
Ponte is conflating two separate incidents, and misleading about both. The governor's race to which he refers occurred in 2004, and then-U.S. Attorney John McKay said no charges of voter fraud were filed because "there was no evidence of voter fraud or election fraud." Regarding the 2007 case of apparently fraudulent voter registrations, Ponte fails to note that no votes were cast under those registrations.
Ponte even bizarrely tried to tie Obama to 9/11 because Obama worked as one of several lawyers for ACORN in a lawsuit to force the state of Illinois to enforce the "motor voter" law:
Motor Voter was the Clinton administration’s attempt permanently to tilt voter rolls in favor of the Democratic Party. And Obama, working for ACORN, played a key role in imposing this law.
Then again, as we've seen, Ponte is no stranger to bizarre, baseless claims.
But people named Clinton and Obama are not the only targets of Ponte's derangement. He declared in a May 2 column that exercising one's constitutional rights to take part in a strike is the same thing as terrorism:
On May 1 a little-reported act of domestic terrorism struck the United States.
Ponte was frothing over a one-day May 1 work stoppage by dock workers on West Coast ports in protest of the Iraq war. Ponte offered no evidence to back up his assertion that the strike "cost our economy between $1 and $2 billion." Indeed, a 2002 report on the possible effects of a port strike projected a $4.7 billion impact in lost wages over a four-week strike, going on to note:
[A]ttempts to track down the source of the $1 billion a day and $2 billion a day figures widely quoted, which in each case turned out to be inaccurate reporting. To actually lose a billion dollars a day for two weeks, "we'd have to sink the ships," said [report author Patrick L.] Anderson, "the impact here is large enough to be reported without exaggeration."
Nevertheless, Ponte went on to baselessly assert that "In October 2002, the ILWU flexed its muscle through a work slowdown that cost shippers up to a billion dollars a day."
The rest of Ponte's column is largely guilt by association, attacking the alleged "radical leftist ideology" of the founder of the longshoreman's union. Ponte concluded: "We should remove security risks and saboteurs from America’s ports, starting with the 6,000 longshoremen who conspired to cause May Day’s shutdown."
Ponte also has problems getting his history straight. From a May 20 column:
Former Democratic President Bill Clinton also traveled to Israel for a historic celebration. But, being always a petty, point-scoring opportunist, Clinton exited the main door of Air Force One to greet Israeli leaders in front of news cameras while requiring Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to exit by a rear door.
First: The "historic celebration" in question was the 1995 funeral of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Why does Ponte think this was a "celebration"?
Second: Gingrich was depicted as "reacting petulantly" because he did, in fact, act petulant. Gingrich himself cited the incident as a reason he and the then-Republican-controlled Congress sent Clinton a continuing resolution they knew he would not sign, thus forcing a partial government shutdown. Further, as Clinton officials pointed out at the time, Gingrich was allowed to take his wife on the trip, while other officials' wives were bumped because there was no more room on the plane -- hardly the sign of an "insult."
Third: Since when is Gingrich -- or, more to the point, Gingrich's ego -- synonymous with the state of Israel?
But this is the kind of writing that Ponte does -- heavily biased, factually challenged, mindlessly vitriolic. And it's the kind of writing Newsmax has declared it wants to be associated with.
UPDATE 10/15/2008: Ponte added to his baseless smears of Obama in an Oct. 10 column, in which he claimed:
If Barack Obama is declared winner of the vote this Nov. 4 and if Democrats attain a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the U.S. Senate Democratic leaders have promised speedy imposition of the “Fairness Doctrine.” This will choke off the free speech of citizens, not only on talk radio but also on the Internet, the only two media where criticism of Democrats can readily be found, and uncensored, unfiltered voices of ordinary people can be heard.
Ponte also rehashed numerous horror stories about "vote fraud involving Obama’s ally ACORN" while failing to mention, as he did before, certain inconvenient facts, as reported by Talking Points Memo:
In an Oct. 13 column, Ponte tried to parse his previous assertions about Obama's links to ACORN against the Obama campaign's denials in a desperate effort to make them kinda-sorta true.
For instance, Ponte had claimed on Oct. 6 that Project Vote was "ACORN’s voter mobilization entity" at the time Obama worked for the group in 1992. In fact, as the Obama campaign pointed out, it was not a part of ACORN in 1992. But the only attempt Ponte makes at trying to disprove that claim is when he quotes the Capital Research Center's Matthew Vadum -- who has his own accuracy issues on the subject.
UPDATE 11/24/2008: In an Oct. 20 article ostensibly trying to prove that what the Obama campaign calls "smears" against their candidate are in fact "mostly true," Ponte focused on one that is utterly false -- questions about Obama's birth certificate:
As proof, the Obama’s campaign has produced a “certificate of live birth” from Hawaii indicating that Barack Hussein Obama II was born Aug. 4, 1961. Critics, however say the document could have easily been forged and is not a substitute for a certified birth certificate.
Ponte failed to note that FactCheck.org proves the critics (and Ponte) wrong:
FactCheck.org staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false. We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as "supporting documents" to this article. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the U.S.A. just as he has always said.
(Ponte's not the only Newsmax writer embracing the birth certificate lie; Geoff Metcalf insisted in an Oct. 20 column that a "Certified copy of original birth certificate" has not been released.)
Ponte also perpetuates other falsehoods under the guise telling the "truth."
Ponte writes of the Obama website's statements regarding William Ayers: "It does not mention that Obama and Ayers worked together on the board distributing millions of dollars with the aim of radicalizing Chicago schoolchildren. Nor does the site acknowledge that Obama kicked off his first political campaign in the living room of Ayers, the former Weather Underground leader."
Ponte failed to mention that the Chicago Annenberg Challege, on which both Obama and Ayers worked, was funded by prominent Republican Walter Annenberg, and contrary to his claim that it had "the aim of radicalizing Chicago schoolchildren," educational reviewers found that the project "reflected ... mainstream thinking among education reformers." Further, according tothe Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet, "Obama's formal kick-off to announce his run for state senate was at the Hyde Park Ramada Inn on Sept. 19, 1995," and the coffee reception in Ayers' living was one of several held around the same time.
Other falsehoods and distortions in the article: