WHEN SPOUSES ATTACK: Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! In last nights debate, Mommy and Daddy started to fight—and all the children started to cry. Relive the brutal moments, they caterwaul, as they show us the tape of the tussle. Sorry, but here comes the ultimate insult: They sound just like Patrick Healy.
In fairness, Mommy and Daddy did swap accusations. First, Daddy said Mommy sat on Wal-Marts board while he, Daddy, fought the good fight. Moments later, Mommy said Daddy helped slumlord Rezko while she, Mommy, fought the good fight. (Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo, said the kids.) Tomorrow, well discuss the fuller exchange. But for Dems, its a good idea to bring Rezko out now, just as it would have been good for Dems—and for Michael Dukakis, a superlative person—to explore that prison furlough program during the 1988 primaries. (You know? The program that kept this decent man from the White House when he didnt know how to explain it?) One thing is certain: If Obama becomes the Dem nominee (as well he might, and well cheer if he does), the Rezko matter will be beaten within an inch of its life. It would be extremely smart for Democrats to hash this matter out now. But boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Last night, the children started to cry when they saw Mommy and Daddy fighting. Mommy! Daddy! Stop fighting now! Dick and Jane said through their tears.
P.S. Mommy and Daddy were quite civil throughout the vast bulk of the evening.
THAY DONT REED BOOKS REEL OFFEN: Pundits dont seem to read books much. (Presumably, it takes too much time.) We thought of this problem when Gene Robinson shook his fist at cold-blooded Bill Clinton in this mornings column. At least Gene has scaled back his racial invective; he has stopped saying that Hillary Clinton regards Obama as uppity. (This morning, he says she sees him as impertinent. Same race-baiting sub-text.) Robinson prefers Obama, which is fine with us; we think all three remaining Dems are superlative candidates. (We still dont know how well vote on February 12.) But Post scribes arent allowed to endorse, so they sometimes fall back on the types of devices Gene employs this morning.
We chuckled when we read what follows. Big pundits just dont reed buks:
ROBINSON (1/22/08): Obama's candidacy not only threatens to obliterate the dream of a Clinton Restoration. It also fundamentally calls into question Bill Clinton's legacy by making it seem . . . not really such a big deal.
That, I believe, is the unforgivable insult. The Clintons picked up on this slight well before Obama made it explicit with his observation that Ronald Reagan had changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and Bill Clinton did not.
Laughed out loud! By some miracle, the Clintons had picked up on this slight well before Obama made it explicit! Gee, how in the world had these giants done that? Is there any chance that they may have done this by reading Obamas famous book?
The book, a giant best-seller, is called The Audacity of Hope. Many people bought this book. Three or four may even have read it—but Robinson doesnt seem to be one of them. Because guess what? In Obamas very first chapter (Republicans and Democrats), he sketches his feelings about Ronald Reagan—and about Bill Clinton. In todays column, Robinson writes as if Obamas recent comments about these two men came completely out of the blue. In fact, Obama had made his views explicit in his well-known, unread, brilliant volume.
Is something wrong with Obama-on-Reagan? In The Audacity of Hope (chapter 1), the gentleman sketches his thoughts on the subject. Presumably, this work was carefully composed, unlike last weeks offhand comments. For our money, his published account of the 1960s and the 1990s is a bit odd from the Dem perspective; on the other hand, much of what he says about Reagan in this same chapter is not. But if you want to see what Obama said about Reagan—and about Bill Clinton—when he had time to say it carefully, well suggest that you look at his book.
By the way, youll run into Sister Souljah there, in one snarky passage about Bill Clinton. For the record, heres what this giant of progressive thought said in 1992, before she appeared at Jesse Jacksons convention: "I mean, if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?...So if youre a gang member, and you would normally be killing somebody, why not kill a white person? " Bill Clinton disputed this brilliant idea—and thereby gained Obamas snark (though Obama forgets to quote what Sister Souljah had said). But guess what? In part because Souljah got shot down by Clinton, Democratic presidential candidates no longer get murdered by bull-roar like that. By the way: What would Dr. King, our greatest moral genius, have said about Souljahs suggestions?
If Obama is the Dem nominee, well be thrilled to support him. (We may yet vote for him next month.) But no ones perfect, including Obama. Some of the things he has said about Reagan and Clinton are, in fact, a little bit odd from the Democratic perspective. Presumably, Bill Clinton magically picked up on this by reading Obamas otherwise brilliant book. Robinson, baffled by Clintons insight, still doesnt seem to have gone there.
THE DEANS LATEST NOVEL: If human history keeps advancing, future generations will laugh (and cringe) at our journalistic culture—much as we cringe when we look back at medieval medical practice. In part, theyll avert their gaze from the way their journalist forbears insisted on writing those novels.
Because yes, the modern-day Washington press corps simply loves typing up novels. Indeed, the worthless old Dean of all Washington pundits wrote such a novel in Sundays Post. And uh-oh! This novel involved flawless Saint John McCain, who may become the GOPs nominee. What follows is the start of his column. Well highlight the first novelized passage:
BRODER (120/08): There are few if any states as freighted with history for John McCain as South Carolina.
It was here in 2000 that the senator from Arizona came, riding his 18-point victory over George W. Bush in New Hampshire. And it was here, in the fortnight of their bitter struggle, that Bush reversed the outcome and put an end to McCain's hopes of reaching the White House that year.
It makes an engaging novel—but it just isnt accurate. Yes, Bush smoked McCain in South Carolina during Campaign 2000—but that didnt put an end to McCains hopes of reaching the White House. Three days later, the GOP campaign moved on to Michigan and Arizona—and, in both states, McCain smoked Bush! The race was still on—and everyone knew it. On page one of Broders Washington Post, Edward Walsh reported the following (2/24/00): The Michigan results left the overall race for the nomination still muddled, but ensured that the increasingly bitter slugfest would go on at least until March 7, when California, New York and 11 other states will hold GOP primaries and caucuses.
Indeed: On March 7—the first of that years two Super Tuesdays—Bush won so many states that the end seemed clear. McCain suspended his campaign on March 9, but declined to endorse Bush. Bush and Gore clinch nominations, said a USA Today headline after the March 14 primaries.
Why did Broder write what he did? Why didnt he write something more accurate, like: Bush reversed the outcome in South Carolina, severely damaging McCain's hopes of reaching the White House. Who knows? Who knows why they novelize so? But almost surely, future generations will laugh (and cringe) at a curious fact: Moderns journalists flee accurate statement as Dracula fled from the cross.
Yes, theres even more novelization in the Deans Sunday column—novelization which actually matters, which pimps up Saint McCain. But before we go there, lets visit a recent example of this grinding habit—another case in which Big Major Pundits showcased the pathological way they improve on the truth.
The occasion was The Chris Matthews Show of Sunday, January 6. It was two days before the New Hampshire voting; throughout the program, Matthews smiled so broadly about Clintons defeat in Iowa that he truly looked stoned. And sure enough! Anticipating an Obama win in New Hampshire, the assembled pundits did the thing they love most. They typed another novel, this one about racial progress:
MATTHEWS (1/6/08): Let me go to Dan [Rather] for this one. Dan, because I want to ask you this question as the profound man here. Did you ever, as a Texan, think that we'd see the real plausibility of an African-American president?
RATHER: No, not in my lifetime. I did not see it as something plausible. In fact, until fairly recently, until we saw what was building in Iowa, I was wrong about the Barack Obama—what's happened with him and the groundswell. Again, who knows how long it lasts? But the answer to your question is no, I did not expect to see it in my lifetime. And I do think it says something really good about the country.
This exchange involved just Matthews and Rather—but no other panelist challenged the novel the two men were now concocting.
Why was this presentation a novel? Heres why: In 1995, the entire Washington insider press corps begged and pleaded with Colin Powell, urging him to run for the White House. Poor dears! They had come to see how vile and dishonest the sitting president, Bill Clinton, was. They longed for a straight-shooting straight-talking truth-teller who could restore honor and integrity to the White House. After a very long listening tour, Powell said he wouldnt do it. But Washingtons pundits had plainly judged that Powell could win—and Powell too was an African-American!. For example, here was a certain Pundit Dean, after the general demurred:
BRODER (11/9/95): With his polite "no, thank you" to a proposed presidential candidacy, Colin L. Powell yesterday provided an immediate boost to the nomination prospects of Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole, brought a sigh of relief at the Clinton White House and told millions of Americans attracted by the prospect of Powell running that they would probably have to settle for one of the candidates now in the race.
Broder seemed to think that Powell could have won—and pundits widely typed that story back in November 1995.At the time, Rather wasnt in the opinion business—but Matthews already was. And sure enough! In the fall of that year, he penned several nationally-syndicated columns about Powells possible run. He showed no sign of thinking that Powell couldnt win. Heres a chunk of one such column:
MATTHEWS (10/29/95): Halloween brings out the spookiness in politics. Imagine the horror of a Republican party galloping from here to next November without a head.
This macabre picture is what haunts the most brainy of Republicans this season. Either they manage the trick of finding a presidential candidate they can show in the daylight or they will treat the despised Bill and Hillary Clinton Clinton to four more years in the White House.
This explains the eerie lure of Colin Powell. The Republican Party has a tough legislative strategist in Newt Gingrich, a broad political agenda and a budget. What it lacks is a leader to put before the leader-starved American people.
Phil Gramm? Pat Buchanan? Lamar Alexander? Dick Lugar? Arlen Specter? Bob Dornan? Steve Forbes? Morry Taylor? Alan Keyes? Bob Dole?
Nancy Reagan could beat this crowd.
No, the GOP rides these nights before Halloween as the headless horseman of American politics. This Doleful reality—more than all the talk of Persian Gulf campaigns, African-American role models and character''—is why so many smart Republicans are talking up the former four-star general.
They have the horse. What they need is a rider. Heard any wild cheers for front-runner Dole lately?
In these columns, Matthews cheered the four-star general, just like the rest of the scripted zombies who made up the insider pundit class. He never gave the slightest sign of thinking that Powell couldnt win. But so what? Twelve years later, sitting with Rather, the talker typed another novel. In this fairy tale, the pundits had never imagined that a black guy could win!
Why do these idiots novelize so? We leave that to the psychiatrists. But just as a simple matter of fact, these people reinvent basic facts in much the way other people breathe. Lets return to Broders Sunday column—to his pimping of the great Saint McCain.
In 1995, his cohort pimped Powell. But on Sunday, Broder was pimping Saint McCain—as his group had endlessly done during Campaign 2000. And so, as he closed his column, the great Pundit Dean put his thumb on the scale. Near the end of his piece, he did so twice—in ways that actually matter:
BRODER (1/20/08): [McCain] came to [South Carolina] flanked by two icons of the conservative movement—Tom Coburn, the physician-senator from Oklahoma, and Jack Kemp, the former congressman from New York.
As for Kemp, no one has a longer history of championing supply-side economics, with its persistent belief that lower tax rates spur economic growth, than the old quarterback and onetime secretary of housing and urban development.
McCain is better known for fighting earmarks and other forms of "nonessential" spending, and he famously opposed Bush's first round of tax cuts because they did not call for similar spending reductions. But Kemp told the voters here that McCain wants an overhaul of the whole tax system, "and I will work with him"...
A tired old Dean put his thumb on the scale, reinventing twice—and extending a novel.
You see, any good novel is built on strong characters—and McCain was invented, long ago, as an authentic straight-shooting truth-teller—the king of the Straight Talk Express! Pundits like Broder have spent ten years reinventing facts to kept that portrait pure. How far have they been willing to go to keep their character profile unsullied? Lets return to that 2000 Michigan race, when McCain simply lied in their faces.
Yep! During that 2000 Michigan race, the deeply authentic straight-talking truth-teller had been baldly dishonest. Uh-oh! His campaign had placed anonymous Catholic Voter Alert phone calls, suggesting that Bush was a vile anti-Catholic. And when Saint McCain was asked about this, he baldly lied to the press corps; he flatly denied that he had done this, before later saying he had. Result? The press corps sent this embarrassing episode straight down the nearest memory hole. They liked Saint McCain, and—to quote the Posts E. R. Shipp—the episode didnt fit the role they had assigned him in this unfolding political drama. Result? McCains blatant lying up in Michigan has gone unmentioned from that day to this. And later, the novel got even more clownish. When McCain said that hed also lied in South Carolina (about that states controversial flag), they rushed to praise him for his high character! McCain has been honest about his lying, these novelists stupidly said.
Future generation will laugh—and cringe—when they look back on such episodes.
So yes, he lied in South Carolina—and then, he lied in Michigan too. Along the way, he persistently misstated basic facts about the Bush tax cut proposal—and he kept telling a funny story about Candidate Gore, a story which was baldly inaccurate. But so what? To the pundits, this was all A-OK, because they were typing their latest great novel. And the great Pundit Dean kept typing that novel as he finished Sundays piece. (Again, see the excerpt above.)
Its true! Lower tax rates may spur economic growth, but McCain has been saying something quite different; he has been lying through his teeth once again, this time telling voters, after all these years, that lower tax rates produce higher revenues! Surely, he knows how crazy that is—and Broder must know what McCain has been saying. But Broder is willing to novelize for this great saint once again—ignoring the actual facts. And no, McCain didnt famously oppose Bush's first round of tax cuts because they did not call for similar spending reductions; that isnt what McCain said in real time, and surely the Pundit Dean knows it. But so what? Thats what McCain has been pretending he said, playing GOP voters for rubes—and because his cohort loves Saint McCain, Broder will novelize for him.
Our guess? Future generations will look on the Broders with a blend of shock and awe. But no, Virginia: The 2000 South Carolina primary didnt put an end to Saint McCains race. After that, he went to Michigan—and he lied in the pundit corps faces. Recently, hes been lying again. Once again, though, these brilliant novelists, typing quite hard, just dont care.
A STRAIGHT-TALKERS ENDLESS MISSTATEMENTS: If you want to be honest about it, McCain lied his way from state to state during the 2000 primaries. He misstated his view on South Carolinas state flag. He endlessly misstated, and restated, about those Michigan phone calls. He endlessly told his false, funny story about Al Gore and the Buddhist Temple. He lied about fliers his campaign passed out in South Carolina; he baldly misstated Bushs tax plan (over and over again). And every time he opened his mouth, he restated his views on abortion. But so what? In the press corps novel, he was known for straight talk. And so they ignored these diversions.
At THE HOWLER, we discussed these matters in real time. (For some examples, just click here, then scroll back to our eight reports from February 21, 2000 on through March 1.) By the way: Prepare for more of this well-scripted novel if McCain gets the GOP nomination—especially if he runs against Clinton. Dems and libs should be reviewing this history—deciding what to do with this novel.