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Daily Howler: If we plan to take back the discourse, Dionne and Shields must finally go
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TAKE BACK THE LIGHT (PART 1)! If we plan to take back the discourse, Dionne and Shields must finally go: // link // print // previous // next //

ROMANIA 55, UNITED STATES 40: In a possible face-saving move, the score for Kazakhstan isn’t included. But the US is beaten soundly by Romania in a new report about evolution. Here’s the nugget sentence, from page two of this morning’s Post:
WASHINGTON POST (1/16/07): The United States has a smaller proportion of people who accept evolution than any other country except Turkey, according to a 34-nation survey by researcher Jon D. Miller of Michigan State University.
A graphic lists the 34 countries. For the record, 40 percent of American adults said that the following statement was true: “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals.” In Romania, 55 percent agreed with a similar statement. Iceland led the 34 nations, with 85 percent acceptance. The UK scored 75 percent.

This has nothing to do with the work of the press corps. We cite this report because it presents an ongoing political problem—a political problem facing Democrats, liberals, progressives and centrists. Here’s the problem: The American electorate is vastly different, in various ways, from electorates found in other nations. Fiery liberals must understand this when forming political strategies.

Nothing about this is new or startling. But liberals need to understand the political problem posed by these data. But now the good news: The American public is hipper than Turkey’s! Only 27 percent of Turks accept evolution, according to Miller.

This report appears on page two of the Post. But alas! We find no link on the paper’s web site. We’ve searched, and clicked, and floundered and flailed. As we write, it doesn’t seem to be posted.

MCCAIN 1, EVERYONE ELSE ON EARTH 0: We’d call it a version of “rule by the wrong.” In today’s Post, Richard Cohen maintains his love affair with Saint John McCain, continuing to present him as the world’s Greatest Man—in a column focused on a matter where McCain has been endlessly wrong.

Cohen begins with the Requisite Evocation of McCain’s POW years. By the end of the column, Cohen is wishing that this Greatest Known Man could help him decipher Iraq:
COHEN (1/16/07): I wish McCain had been at the Cu Chi tunnels with me and my colleague. (I'm sure he's been there at another time.) I would like to have seen his face, measured his reaction. He knows Vietnam far better than I do, but as a prisoner—not as an insurgent in a tunnel. I would like him—because I do like him—to consider whether the remedy for Iraq is not more American troops, as he insists, but fewer and fewer . . . and then none at all. Iraq is not Vietnam, but America is still America—and we still don't know what in the world we're doing.
You’ll have to read the whole column for context. But it’s the law: Boy Pundits like Cohen can’t mention McCain without childishly saying that they “do like him.” And these boys keep wishing that this greatest known saint could help them out when it comes to Iraq.

In the midst of his column, Cohen seems to suggest that everyone was wrong on Iraq (except, perhaps, for General Shinseki). “This war has lasted longer than we expected,” he writes. “Even late in the game, we didn’t see it coming.” The implication here is baldly untrue; in fact, many observers did foresee the dangers of a war in Iraq. But by omitting the names of those who were right, Cohen can validate the great man who was wrong. He gets to turn back to his favorite dream lover, the virile man who was wrong all along. The useless boy dreams his wet dream again—that the great Saint McCain will come to his chamber and help him with all of his troubles.

By the way, one more disclosure: Midway through, Cohen reminds us that he, Richard Cohen, was also wrong in the 1990s about Bosnia and Croatia. But under the terms of “rule by the wrong,” Cohen doesn’t have to feel bad about that! After all, the great Saint McCain—the greatest known human—was wrong about Bosnia and Croatia too.

To pundits like Cohen, being wrong must be right—if the man who was wrong is so virile. This defines a problem Dems still face as they look to Campaign 08.

Special report: Take back the light!

PART 1—TAKE BACK THE “SCANDALS:” For what it’s worth, we’re not huge fans of Barbara Boxer. We thought she was snide and dismissive when she addressed liberal bloggers last summer, and we thought her questioning of Condi Rice last week was unskilled, unfocused and generally worthless. In our view, she paraphrased dumbly; emoted pointlessly; and used her meandering, way-past-the-time-limit presentation to make a fairly silly point—the White House hasn’t estimated the number of deaths which will result from the president’s “surge.” We didn’t find that especially shocking—and we didn’t think that much came out of the time Boxer used at the hearing.

But if you’ve been sentient in the past fifteen years, the result of Boxer’s presentation was completely familiar. Instantly, a silly, goony, pseudo-“scandal” was manufactured from one part of her comments. Again, we think the remarks in question were somewhat ill-advised—but they were also quite brief, and basically pointless. In a rational world, Boxer’s allegedly troubling comments weren’t worth discussing for even one minute. In a rational world, no one would waste his time debating such matters as this:
BOXER (1/11/07): The Military Times published a poll which found that only 35 percent of military members approved of the way President Bush is handling this war, and only 38 percent thought there should be more troops. So from where I sit, Madame Secretary, you are not listening to the American people. You are not listening to the military. You are not listening to the bipartisan voices from the Senate. You are not listening to the Iraq Study Group. Only you know who you are listening to, and you wonder why there is a dark cloud of skepticism and pessimism over this nation.

I think people are right to be skeptical after listening to some of the things that have been said by your administration...

Now, the issue is, Who pays the price—who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old, and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, within immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families, and I just want to bring us back to that fact...

Huh! The military and their families pay the price in Iraq! Boxer’s insight was less than startling. But just like that, it happened again—the pseudo-con Wurlitzer swung into action. Operating in standard bad faith, spinners manufactured a troubling “scandal” from the one small part of Boxer’s remarks—the part we’ve highlighted above.

Uh-oh! Boxer dissed Condi because she’s unmarried, pseudo-con spinners were quickly asserting. Because she doesn’t have any kids! Of course, this didn’t exactly make perfect sense, since Boxer had said that she herself wouldn’t “pay the price” in Iraq, just as Condi wouldn’t be paying it. But so what! The usual suspects were soon complaining about Boxer’s deeply troubling insult to Rice. (Big-name example tomorrow.) But so it has gone for the past fifteen years as a clownish noise machine has made a vast joke of our public discourse. So it has gone for the past fifteen years as this brainless noise machine has made a vast joke of Americans’ lives.

We have become the joke—and the scourge—of the world because of our fake, phony discourse.

How dumb was the “scandal” ginned up from this comment? Let’s put it this way: Even Fred Hiatt could see right through it, writing in the Washington Post. But for the past fifteen years, conservative spinners have engaged in this tactic. They’ve created absurd and pointless “scandals” out of meaningless comments and actions. Most significantly, they did so for two years during Campaign 2000, thereby sending Bush to the White House. We hold these hearings on Iraq today because the press corps behaved this way then—because our discourse was endlessly driven by phony, ginned-up pseudo-scandals.

Today, even the Hiatts can see through the flimflam; Bush’s war has gone so wrong that even these pundits are now speaking up when his minions misdirect, distract, misconceive. But for the past fifteen years, our discourse has been built on misdirection—and the mainstream press has agreed not to notice. It’s time for sane people to take back the discourse, as women once vowed to take back the night. But to do that, we have to get clear on what has been done to make our discourse such a joke all these years.

In the past few days, we’ve seen the techniques again. Do rational people plan to take back the discourse? If so, we have to take back their endless “scandals”—and we have to take back the other techniques that they’ve used for the past fifteen years.

TOMORROW: Take back the trivia.

THURSDAY: Take back the logic.

FRIDAY: Take back the cracked pottery. And: If we plan to take back the discourse, the Dionnes and Shields have to go.