CNBC ‘Journal’ jostles Dem denial

HOLLYWOOD — Who would have thought that curmudgeonly newspaper editors could carry an hourlong TV show or become such an apt embodiment of what’s changed in American politics?

But the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal is doing just that — and Hollywood Democrats might just want to take note.

“The WSJ Editorial Board,” which airs on CNBC on Friday nights at 9 p.m. and is ably moderated by Stuart Varney, features Robert Bartley (soon to be editor emeritus at the WSJ) and four other regulars — Paul Gigot, Daniel Henninger, Dorothy Rabinowitz and Susan Lee, who pen the editorials or columns in the Journal — plus an occasional guest or two. (Former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Reich recently made appearances.)

The show appeals to an audience that has slowly shifted toward less liberal views over the last few years. And while its ratings (300,000 viewers and growing) are nothing to shake a stick at, that really wasn’t the point, I imagine.

Indeed, the fun of it is seeing the panel members spark off each other — or, if you disagree with them, matching wits from home on the issues of the day.

These journalists are a far cry from rabid media-mongers like Rush Limbaugh or Pat Buchanan: They are articulate, informed thinkers whose views are well thought out and generally expressed with civility and wit.

Even if most of Hollywood’s elite isn’t likely to agree with their views, it would be useful to at least occasionally tune in. What the show makes perfectly clear is that the political left can no longer pretend to have a monopoly on intellectual discourse in this country.

Because they are newspaper people, Bartley and company are by nature skeptical of just about everything. But, not surprising for the pro-business WSJ, they typically lean more to the right than to the left of center.

While it is possible to yearn for a wider variety of positions expressed on the show — why not invite the New York Times’ Paul Krugman or Thomas Friedman to debate D.C. politics or the malaise in the Mideast? — it’s hard to argue with their more astute observations about the changes taking place in America, in politics and in pop culture.

Take Daniel Henninger’s comment that “Democrats have historically believed that their greatest possession is the culture, the zeitgeist, what’s going on.”

It’s this sense of “moral entitlement,” Henninger argued in a recent edition of the show, that has now run aground and left Democrats in such disarray.

Guilt vaporized

Or consider Bartley’s contention on another show that 9/11 marked the definitive end of the post-Vietnam era, a period in which Americans felt they had to apologize for or feel guilty about the country’s position and power in the world. That feeling, he mused, has evaporated in the smoke of the World Trade Center.

According to the editors of the WSJ, what the Democrats most need is “intellectual prodding” from their donor base, from folks, as it were, who know that the era of Camelot isn’t coming back.

Some of those donors, well-heeled ones in fact, are sitting right here in Hollywood, and once they stop laughing over dinner at how dumb they think George Bush is, maybe they’ll figure out how better to earmark that money.

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