John Leo

 In my ceaseless efforts to discover how liberals think, I have a great advantage: I live in Manhattan, where everybody is liberal, so opportunities for fieldwork are boundless. Over the holidays, I discovered that a relatively new argument about terror is becoming popular: the next terrorist attack on America, if it comes, will likely be minor and tolerable. I was assured that a dirty bomb is the most likely weapon, and that it would probably do no more damage than an industrial accident. So not to worry. The real problems are fear, panic and violations of civil liberties--not terror. We had a fair amount of fear-is-the-real-enemy rhetoric during the presidential campaign, combined with almost airy dismissals of the terrorist threat here. If this notion becomes conventional on the left, the Democrats stand a good chance of losing the next four or five presidential elections. Here are some other themes in liberal conversation, Manhattan division:

*A near-total inability to admit substantial progress in racial relations. As racism keeps fading, the left seems determined not to notice the improvement. Instead, we see more and more reports on ?subtle,?  ?veiled? and ?unconscious? racism. When good news becomes too obvious, reporters often ferret out a negative angle anyway, or simply conjure one up. On December 13th at Slate, Mickey Kaus caught the Washington Post offering a gloomy version of a very good set of economic indicators for blacks, including the fact that the portion of black households making $75,000 to $99,000 quadrupled between 1967 and 2003. Blacks are creating new businesses at a pace quicker than whites, going from 621,000 starts in l992 to 823,499 in l997, according to the latest census figures. ?Naturally, WAPO thinks the picture is bleak!? Kaus said. Naturally.

*Behavior doesn?t count. John Kerry said that a million African-Americans were ?denied the right to exercise their vote? in 2000 in Florida. Not so. Several media investigations, and even an assessment by the (then) leftward Civil Rights Commission, rejected this charge.  What Kerry should have said is that a large number of Florida voters, many of them black, did it to themselves by mismarking or otherwise botching their ballots. This is sad, but it wasn?t ?disenfranchisement? or ?denial of the right to vote.? Similarly, if minorities are ?overrepresented? in prison and ?underrepresented? in college this is deemed to have nothing to do with the crime rate or lack of preparation in schools, because behavior doesn?t count. If the numbers are wrong, it?s society?s fault.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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