Accountability at last

December 2, 2008 at 9:16 pm | Posted in Barack Obama, Idiot Hall of Fame | 2 Comments

Since I still remember the right-wing gloating which accompanied Bush’s victory over John Kerry, I tried to stop myself from indulging in any schadenfreude over the Democrats’ victory this time around. Granted, I had to quit blogging for a few days, but I reckon that was some admirable self-restraint on my part.

That said, there was no misery I enjoyed more than that of Melanie Phillips. Phillips, in case you need reminding, exists in two very different political spheres. In Britain, she writes for the respectable Spectator, where she spits out the same yawnsome yarn about how the liberal-left is responsible for the end of civilisation. But when writing about America, she exists on a diet of hard-right partisans and part-time ‘journalists’ whose obsessive, inaccurate and heavily deterministic reading of the President-elect’s past leads them all to one magical conclusion: the dude’s basically Chairman Mao with better cheekbones.

Yep, Mel was so certain of Obama’s radical socialism that in the aftermath of the election she wrote a post declaring the end of America and everything in it, but then the President-elect went & picked a bunch of moderates to head his economic & national security teams, and some on the right started wondering whether their panic attacks were a little misplaced. We should count ourselves lucky, then, that Phillips still pokes her head out of that nuclear bunker in Londonistan to remind everyone of the hammer & sickle which remains tatooed to his chest:

For sure, he has made some solid and reassuring appointments, such as his Treasury team. But did anyone really believe that a radical president would appoint obvious radicals to key roles in his administration? Maybe he really was a centrist all along. But if not, the one thing Obama is not going to do is torpedo his presidency at the very start by displaying a radical bent.

As rhetorically speaking puts it, “you see, Obama’s failure to behave like a crazy radical is in fact proof that he is a crazy radical. It is a double-super-secret-reverse-blind to trick us all.”

She doesn’t stop there, of course; the burden of being a supersleuth is that you’ll stop at nothing until the whole horrible truth has been revealed. And so she brings us ‘news’ about the ‘Obama advisor’, ‘terrorist apologist’ and ‘Israel-hater’ Robert Malley, who has, on strict instruction from Obama, been asking Egypt & Syria how America might bend to their ‘dastardly’ will:

There are other unsettling indications that Obama may already be running a shadow foreign policy. Robert Malley, one of Clinton’s Oslo negotiators, is one of America’s most outspoken apologists for Palestinian terrorism against Israel and claims that Syrian, Lebanese and Iranian attacks against Israel are all Israel’s fault. The Obama campaign distanced itself from Malley last May after the Times reported that he was meeting regularly with Hamas leaders. But a few days after Obama’s election, Malley travelled to Syria, ostensibly under the aegis of the appeasement-minded International Crisis Group. Yet one of his aides told FrontPage Magazine that acting on Obama’s instructions, Malley traveled to Cairo and Damascus to tell Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Syria’s President Assad that ‘the Obama administration would take into greater account Egyptian and Syrian interests.’ And as Caroline Glick reported, Hamas terror operative Ahmad Youssef told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that in the months leading up to his election, Obama’s advisers held steady contacts with the leaders of the terror group in Gaza, and had asked that Hamas keep the meetings secret in order not to harm Obama’s chances of being elected.

Gosh, sounds horrible. So why did I use surround ‘Obama advisor’, ‘terrorist apologist’ and ‘Israel-hater’ in quotation marks? Well, as Lord Patten points out in this letter of complaint to the Spectator, none of those descriptions are even remotely true:

From: The Rt Hon Lord Patten of Barnes C.H.
Dear Sir,

Your article, “Carpe diem — or can we all relax now?” by Melanie Phillips (26 November 2008), repeats a number of patently false assertions about Robert Malley that are currently blighting the more dubious corners of the internet and do not belong in a respected publication.

Mr Malley did not work for the Obama campaign, nor is he working for the transition team. He did not travel anywhere for Obama, neither before nor after the election. His work on the Middle East in recent years has been in his role as the Middle East and North Africa Programme Director of the International Crisis Group, where I am currently co-chairman.

Ms Phillips uses a quote from a US publication, but neither she nor the original author bothered to check the veracity of that statement with Mr Malley or the International Crisis Group. In fact, no “aide” of Mr Malley could have told anyone anything, as Mr Malley has no aides.

A simple phone call to the International Crisis Group when writing the article would have cleared up all of these points, but your author apparently found it easier simply to copy-and-paste a libellous statement from an American web page.

Ms Phillips’ blunt assertions that Mr Malley is somehow anti-Israel also represent a completely unwarranted attack given his dedicated efforts to achieve Middle East peace over the years. What is more, these types of spurious accusations have been publicly addressed — and completely undermined — by a March 2008 letter in The New York Review of Books from a group of other US heavyweights in Arab-Israeli affairs: Samuel (Sandy) Berger, Former National Security Adviser; Ambassador Martin Indyk, Former Ambassador to Israel and Egypt and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs; Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer, Former Ambassador to Israel; Aaron David Miller, Former Senior Adviser for Arab–Israeli Negotiations, Department of State; Ambassador Dennis Ross, Former Special Envoy of the President to the Middle East.


This incident is symptomatic of Phillips’ sloppy, credibility-crushing approach to writing about American politics. Having seemingly done no research of her own, her posts depend entirely on the slime-drenched stories she finds in the trough of the right wing blogosphere being accurate. But they hardly ever are. As we’ve already documented, her writings are full of basic factual errors, slurs, exaggerations and unreliable, disreputable sources. As examples of journalism, her posts on American politics are thoroughly bankrupt.

Lord Patten closes his complaint with this:

The Spectator article has sullied the reputation of one of the most committed analysts and peace advocates in the field of Middle East affairs today. It is unworthy of your pages, and I believe an immediate apology and correction are in order.

He’ll be waiting a long time for an apology, and probably an eternity before she stops trading in the type of tarring & feathering which has become her raison d’etre, but perhaps this one precious moment of accountability will force this most fact-averse of journalists to briefly clean up her act.

Image by RW Photobug (Creative Commons)



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  1. this piece derserves the widest posible airing. humankind needs protection from melanie phillips and all her works

  2. Thanks, and you’re welcome to print lots of copies and plaster them all over the offices of the Spectator, if you like! :)

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