ANNOYING THE PALACE! Gail Collins, stuck in the Trobriand Islands, once again finds herself bored: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, JANUARY 10, 2008
THE MATTHEWS EFFECT: Yesterday, Chris Matthews topped even himself for sheer irresponsibility. By 8:30 A.M., he was already on MSNBCs air, insisting that ten to fifteen percent of New Hampshires Democratic voters had lied to pollsters, for racial reasons. As usual, it was abundantly clear that Matthews didnt know what the Sam Hill he was talking about. But then, he almost never does. Incredibly, this is a man who still believed, just three weeks ago, that Barack Obamas mother and maternal grandmother had been Islamic (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/21/07).
Its hard to know less than Chris typically does. Presumably, thats why Jack Welch came to love him.
Many people have worked, down through the years, to address problems of racial understanding. In 1968, our greatest moral genius gave his life in this struggle. So its stunning to see a man like Matthews move so quickly to play with race, in part to distract from the public butt-whipping he himself took after Tuesdays election. (In our view, Rachel Maddow became Human Being of the Year Tuesday night. Just click here; well discuss this tomorrow.) Long ago, another man whose name was Welch addressed Joe McCarthy, Matthews cultural heir, finally asking if, at long last, he had no sense of decency. Yesterday afternoon, we thought of that Welch—and of Tail-gunner Joe—when we watched the tape of Matthews. And we thought of our greatest moral genius.
What happened in the New Hampshire polling? More precisely, did Tuesdays winds of change blow the Bradley effect through the state? Its very hard to answer such questions, but for those who want to know how such polling matters work, Andrew Kohut reports, in todays New York Times, on the 1989 New York mayoral race involving David Dinkins. This campaign has often been cited as an example of the Bradley effect; Kohut, who conducted the polling for Gallup that year, says this wasnt the problem. Why did he get the polling wrong? I concluded, eventually, that I got it wrong not so much because respondents were lying to our interviewers but because poorer, less well-educated voters were less likely to agree to answer our questions, Kohut writes in his column.
Kohut isnt saying that race played no role in that election. He is largely denying the Bradley effect, in which voters lie to pollsters about how theyll vote. Will race play a role in this years Dem primaries? Of course it will, in various ways, many of them glorious, positive. But if you want to ponder how these matters really work, well advise you to read Kohuts column.
Matthews ran as fast as he could to accuse large numbers of New Hampshire Dems of lying on account of race. As far as we know, theres no evidence that anything like that occurred; wed have to say that, in our view, Matthews conjecture makes little real sense. But Matthews is a deeply irresponsible man—a slightly cleaned-up Joseph McCarthy. Thats why Jack Welch so loved this tools soul. Three large cheers for Rachel Maddow, who well discuss on the morrow.
RECALLING HIS GENIUS: It might be worth recalling one of Dr. Kings famous sermons. Everybody can be great, he said. Then, he explained what he meant:
At long last, its time for Matthews to serve—for starters, by getting off cable.
Here again, were shown a palace regular, who sneers as theyve sneered for so many years—sneering as a Big Major Democrat bores them stiff about policy. What Dionne says at the start of this passage is true: Starting in 1995, Bill Clintons State of the Union addresses were often trashed by major pundits, who found them horribly long and boring. But these same addresses got high ratings from the public—from people who actually seemed to care about what was being proposed. Heres the late Mary McGrory, describing this phenomenon in the Washington Post. McGrory describes the start of the palace revolt which approaches its fourteenth year:
Poor dears! McGrory, Cohen and Broder had trashed Vile Clinton for making them sit through so much desperate tedium. But uh-oh! Despite the public approval for Clintons address, the lords and ladies of the palace have never abandoned this posture. When Gore and Bradley discussed health care at their first debate in 1999, for instance, McGrory wrote a disgraceful column—a column about Gores funny clothes. (They made him look like someone seeking employment at a country music station. We Irish hate southerners, by the way. Its one of our cultural foibles.) When Gore delivered his speech at the Democratic convention—a speech which transformed Campaign 2000—Broder, writing from his sky-box, said that Gores endless swell ideas had almost put him to sleep. Two years back, these sad souls emitted the same loud squeals when Hillary Clinton made them sit through a long, boring speech about energy (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/25/06); why, it was almost as bad as all the big words Gore used in that book talk just last year (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/30/07). So lets face it: The winds of change werent blowing at all when Dionnes colleague leaned over and griped in New Hampshire. Wonkery and laundry list are palace code for this type of unbearable tedium. For unknown reasons, even Dionne felt he had to say Clinton was droning on learnedly. We explained this syndrome to you long ago. Why did McGrory discuss Gores clothes? Why did she ignore what was said about health care? Easy! In the palace, the courtiers already have good health care; to all appearances, they dont give a flying fig if you or your children or neighbors kids do. By contrast, average voters may care about matters like that! Today, heres Dionnes fuller passage:
I dont offer that as a criticism of Obamas rhetoric, which may help him rally the nation some day—in support of specific things government can do to relieve a few of their burdens.
In New Hampshire, Dionnes colleague leaned over and extended a theme—a theme of journalistic High Palace Culture. And then, theres the loathsome/inane Gail Collins, spewing her upper-class palace pabulum in this mornings Times. For the most part, Ill slap hands with tag-team partner tristero, who was extremely generous, more so than required, in these incomparable comments and who beat us to Collins column this morning. But Ill call your attention to the presence, in todays column, of that grand theme from the court:
Poor darling! Clinton bored her sick on that listening tour, and now the tedium had started again! Meanwhile, writing like a Victorian anthropologist observing a group of rhesus monkeys, Collins notes that the endless tedium up in New Hampshire seemed to make the citizens happy. Soon, her fatuous palace soul found full expression again:
Seeming to marvel at these bone-nosed Trobriand Islanders, Collins is careful to mock them for wanting Clinton to work really, really hard.
This morning, Dionne and Collins show us, again, the culture that has ruled our discourse at least since that week in 1995 when Broder, Cohen, McGrory and others complained about Bill Clintons boring, long speech. This culture is a palace culture—a fact we must explain to the public. And the winds of change do seem to be blowing through the wilds of the liberal web. Yesterday was the best day of reading Ive ever had on the web, as one writer after another stepped up to say no more to this simpering cohort. (More on that wonderful push-back tomorrow.) But their culture, which they express so openly, is, once again, of the palace variety. We must explain that fact to voters. Theyve been rolling their eyes for the past thirteen years. We—progressives, liberals, centrists, decent conservatives—have largely just sat there and let them.
A GLANCE AT THIS COURTS EMPTY SOUL: Well show you again what Collins said when Gore/Bradley debated their nations health care. McGrory laughed at Gores ludicrous clothes. Collins mocked his ludicrous manners:
As a general matter, I will only say this: To this day, if you watched the tape of that debate, you would surely assume there was some mistake—that Collins must be describing some other event. Sorry, but Gore didnt practically crash into the wallboard that night, though all the courtiers agreed to pretend; it remains stunning, right to this day, to watch that tape, then read their descriptions. But why did Gore create that Clintonesque mind-meld with some person known as Corey? Here is the exact exchange—the exchange which this empty soul mocked:
At that point, Gore went on to answer Martins policy question. And Collins rushed to sharpen her pencil, excited by the chance to mock Gore for asking this Clintonesque question.
We rarely use the word evil around here, but it sometimes comes to mind when we read that repulsive old column. A Trobriand Islander had a sick child—and Al Gore dared ask how she was!
Yes, this is the famous debate where the press corps howled, jeered and laughed at Gore, for the full hour. Somehow, Collins forget to mention that stunning fact when she wrote her obnoxious, vile column. But this is how George Bush got where he is. The dead of Iraq are in the ground because of the sneers of Gail Collins.
This is a nasty, dumb palace culture. Its been in place, sneering, for a good many years. Average voters have long heard the other sides claim—the claim that these courtiers are driven by liberal bias. We need to tell them the things we know. Somehow, we need to find a way to tell average voters our tales.