CHANNELING ATRIOS! We interrupt our tedious series to further a point made by Atrios: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, JANUARY 18, 2007
GLOBAL WARNING, CONTINUED: Three cheers to David Roberts for his latest post about the attempt to reframe the global warming discussion. Well suggest that you read every word. But here is Roberts nugget:
ROBERTS (1/17/07): This is how the far right colonizes the debate: they caricature a far-left strawman position, attribute it to "some" on the other side, and then cast their own position as the "center" between the far-right position and the mythical or marginalized far-left position. They've done this dozens of times, on a whole panoply of issues. (Roberts emphasis)This involves a right-wing script that dates back decades, Roberts writes. Well suggest that you read every word.
Roberts cites five different writers who have helped create that far-left strawman in the ongoing warming debate. Of the five, well remain most concerned about the New York Times Andrew Revkin. In his January 1 report, Revkin created a goony intellectual/moral equivalence between Al Gore and crackpot senator Jim Inhofe, who claims that warming is a gigantic hoax (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/15/07). We think its strange—and it should be disturbing—to see the Times start to go there.
This is an important post. We strongly recommend that you read it.
YOU CANT GET DUMBER: It doesnt take long to get an answer. Yesterday, we again suggested that journalists shouldnt recite major candidates slogans for them. But Tucker Carlson had a better idea. Here he was, on yesterdays Tucker, referring to a photo pf Rudy Giuliani:
CARLSON (1/17/07): Coming up, do you want a Republican presidential frontrunner? Youre looking at one. Americas Mayor leads the latest Gallup poll by quite a ways.It cant be done. Theres no way to do it. You simply cant get dumber.
DUMB—AND DUMBER: Many observers have criticized Bush for his answer to this question from Jim Lehrer:
LEHRER (1/16/07): Let me ask you a bottom-line question, Mr. President. If it is as important as you've just said—and you've said it many times—as all of this is, particularly the struggle in Iraq, if it's that important to all of us and to the future of our country, if not the world, why have you not, as president of the United States, asked more Americans and more American interests to sacrifice something? The people who are now sacrificing are, you know, the volunteer military—the Army and the U.S. Marines and their families. They're the only people who are actually sacrificing anything at this point.Yes, the first part of Bushs response sounded dumb. (Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night.) But Lehrers bottom-line question was perhaps even dumber. What sort of sacrifice did Lehrer have in mind? He didnt say, and he didnt explain the theory on which his question seems to be based: People should sacrifice during a war. But why should they sacrifice during a war? And what should they be made to sacrifice? Lehrer, sleepwalking, didnt say. And uh-oh! After Bush defended his decision not to raise taxes, Lehrers follow-up question was even dumber:
LEHRER: Well, for instance, Mr. President, some people have asked why—and I would ask you about—have you considered some kind of national service program, that would be civilian as well as military, that would involve more people in the effort to—not just militarily, but you talk about ideology, all this sort of stuff—in other words, to kind of muster the support of young Americans, and other Americans, in this struggle that you say is so monumental and so important?Do you have any idea what hes talking about? (And by the way—was that question in English?) For our money, Lehrers performance was dumber than Bushs in this two-question exchange.
We interrupt our special report!
CHANNELING ATRIOS: A confession: Weve never understood claims like the following, from Dan Balz, in this mornings Post. Balz is reporting Hillary Clintons press conference on Iraq:
BALZ (1/18/07): Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) offered her harshest assessment to date of President Bush's Iraq war strategy yesterday, continuing her steady evolution from one of the war's staunchest supporters to one of the administration's most prominent critics.But how long has it been since Hillary Clinton was one of the war's staunchest supporters? Was she ever one of the staunchest supporters? The wars staunchest supporters—think McCain and Lieberman, but there are others—still support the original decision to go to war. But omigod! All the way back in August 2004, Clinton said this about her vote for the war resolution. She spoke on Late Edition:
BLITZER (8/29/04): When you voted for that resolution, like almost everyone else, you believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction?Was she still one of the wars staunchest supporters? According to Clinton, there wouldnt even have been a vote if we knew there were no WMD! That same day, more than two years ago, she had this exchange with Tim Russert:
CLINTON (8/29/04): There would not have been a vote, Tim. There would never have been a vote to the Congress presented by the administration. There would have been no basis for it. But we are where we are, and what I think we have to do now is try to understand the series of miscalculations which for the first time ever the president admitted in an interview last week, have occurred, which have rendered our situation more dangerous, less safe, and have put back the effort to try to stabilize and democratize Iraq. I believe with all my heart that, you know, we have to have new leadership at the highest level of our government in order to be successful in the strategy we have embarked upon in Iraq. No matter how we got there, and as I said, we wouldn't have even had a vote if all the facts had been available.Lets review. Even today, the wars staunchest supporters say the decision for war was correct. All the way back in 2004, Clinton was saying that there would have been no basis for a war if wed had good intelligence. Was she one of the staunchest supporters back then? When she was saying the war should never have happened? We think Clintons vote on the war resolution was horrendous—a giant, gruesome, cosmic mistake. But what makes her one of the wars staunchest supporters? Weve never understood the claim—or the attempt to draw tedious distinctions between herself, John Edwards and John Kerry, all of whom cast the same vote.
But the nations reporters love to novelize. And, as Atrios noted yesterday, under the current rules of the game, you can say any damn thing you want, as long as you say it about the Clintons. For example, heres a novelized passage from by Balzs report. Good lord, how brilliantly the gentleman writes! What a craftsman! What a wonderful stylist!
BALZ (1/18/07): That resolution haunted her politically as public support for the war began to erode, particularly among Democrats. As other Democrats recanted their support for the resolution—including Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) and former senator John Edwards (N.C.)—she resisted.The long and twisting road! Clearly, were in the hands of a brilliant stylist—a man who could write great novels, if he chose—and hes sculpting a taut, pleasing story, complete with conflicts among his key characters. But while Balz is surely a wonderful novelist, is he telling his readers the truth? Here is what Clinton finally said, a month ago, as she slowly moved away from her vote:
CLINTON (12/18/06): Obviously, if we knew then what we know now, there wouldnt have been a vote, and I certainly wouldnt have voted for it.Our suggestion: Clinton should perhaps drop obviously from her lexicon as long as there are novelists like Balz around. Obviously, the second part of her statement—I certainly wouldnt have voted for it—is implied by the first, where she says there wouldnt even have been a vote if we knew then what we know now. But uh-oh! She first said that in 2004, a fact Balz doesnt offer his readers. Instead, Balz offers his readers a tight, gripping drama—a drama thats notably weak on the facts. As good novelists like to do, he offers a story in which Clinton stands in stark opposition to Edwards—in which she slowly moves away from the war. But the facts of the case make this contrast less clear—so Balz threw the facts down the toilet.
Has Clinton been one of the staunchest supporters? Weve never understood the claim—but it makes for a tight, gripping drama. Is Clinton in stark opposition to Edwards? If your IQ is 17, yes, she is. But Clinton hasnt apologized yet, Balz says—and, according to Balz, Edwards and Kerry have. In fact, well show you some text down below. Balz writes his novels for children.
Yesterday, Atrios semi-nailed it: Under the current rules of the game, you can say any damn thing you want, as long as you say it about the Clintons. Atrios linked to this Media Matters post, which discussed Anne Kornbluts speculations about Clintons imagined dishonesty. But he might just as well have linked to that vacuous post by Ana Marie Cox (click here for a superlative takedown), or to Wednesdays vacuous column by Dana Milbank. Or he might have linked to this Media Matters post, recording Chris Matthews latest snide, sex-based remark. But then, Matthews has a jones about Hillary Clinton that just wont let his soul go.
Or then again, he might have linked to this gruesome post from Media Matters—a gruesome post which helps present the press corps ongoing treatment of Gore. Here at THE HOWLER, we were struck by Atrios formulation, because weve been preparing material for another forum—material in which we describe this very same Clinton rule. But in that material, were discussing the summer of 1999, by which time it was dramatically clear that you could say any damn thing you wanted to say—as long as you said it about the Clintons or Gore. Yep! By then, the Clinton rule had been expanded. The corps was inventing a string of tales about Clintons vile veep—phony tales which sent Bush to the White House.
We cheer Atrios for noting this Clinton rule, which now applies to Hillary Clinton. As Campaign 08 unfolds, liberals and Democrats need to fight against the work that rule will produce. But again, we think liberals and Democrats should know—and discuss—the fuller story of our recent shared history. Weve already lost the White House once because of the Clinton rule cited by Atrios. Well be more effective if we tell the full story as we demand that this vile folkway end.
Atrios is perfectly right. Under the current rules of the game, you can say any damn thing you want—as long as its said about Hillary Clinton. But we think its worth noting how far back this goes—and its worth understanding the way this rule was employed during Campaign 2000. Tomorrow, well cut-and-paste the material weve been composing. We Dems will be more effective in our complaints if we understand the full way that long-standing rule has been used.
HOW TO READ NOVELS: Novelists like to draw sharp contrasts between their leading characters. But how sharp is the contrast between Clinton and Edwards regarding their vote for the war resolution? We dont think its very sharp at all. Heres what Edwards said in the New York Times op-ed in which he discussed his vote:
EDWARDS (11/13/05): I was wrong.The intel was wrong, Edwards said. Had I known this at the time, I never would have voted for this war. But Clinton had already said, fifteen months earlier, that no one would have voted for this war because there wouldnt even have been a vote. (There would have been no basis for it.) Do you see a stark contrast between those positions? If so, you ought to look in the mirror. You may be seven years old.
Or you may write for the Washington Post! Scribes like Balz will be typing slick novels about opposed characters in this election. Many liberals were conned by these people in Campaign 2000. But could we try to avoid getting conned once again? Could we learn how to read their slick novels?
A POST DRAMA CRITIC: In March 2000, E. R. Shipp was the Washington Posts ombudsman. In a brilliant column—it was completely ignored—she described the way the Posts reporters were constructing a drama about Campaign 2000. Her column was called, Typecasting Candidates. Her analysis accounts quite well for Balzs latest news report:
SHIPP (3/5/00): The Post has gone beyond that kind of reporting in favor of articles that try to offer context—and even conjecture—about the candidates' motives in seeking the office of president. And readers react—sometimes in a nonpartisan way, more often not—to roles that The Post seems to have assigned to the actors in this unfolding political drama... As a result of this approach, some candidates are whipping boys; others seem to get a free pass.According to Shipp, it was like the Post had assigned the candidates roles in an unfolding drama! Shipp went on to describe the way the Post was building its drama—inventing phony quotes from Gore, omitting unflattering facts about McCain. Shipp nailed it that day, right on the nose. Her column was completely ignored.
E. R. Shipp nailed it, right on the nose. But great writers like Balz—great, talented dramatists—knew that they simply had to ignore her. The world deserves to read their novels. Balz types a new chapter today.