THE WAGES OF QUINN! Sally Quinn describes the price (certain) presidents pay if they dont play well with the locals: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, JANUARY 28, 2010
Connectivity is powerful: Did you ever notice that you clean the house a great deal more when you cant get on-line? Well after last night, the dust gods can safely plot their return to our sprawling campus!
Final point: Never say this to a tech whiz: Why did it happen? The problem: Hell start to explain.
Obama, Alito, Scarborough: Starting today, the world will cluck, muse, fuss and fume about What Justice Alito Did. (Not true, the Justice seemed to say, as Obama commented on last weeks Citizens United decision.) For pundits, the incident will make a lovely time-killer, driven by conflict and personalityand fueled by loops of videotape. These are the trivial social dramas around which our discourse now turns.
Then, theres the larger dysfunction. We were struck by Joe Scarboroughs handling of the topic at question on todays Morning Joe. At present, we have no tape or transcript of what he saidbut Scarborough took Alitos side in this relatively pointless social drama, even as he presumed to know what Alitos specific objection had been. According to Scarborough, the president vastly misstated the facts when he said, With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that, I believe, will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections. I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities.
Obamas statement was absurd and untruthful, Scarborough said, since there is a separate provision in election law banning foreign corporations from spending in our campaigns. (Again, no transcript is available.) But this is what the Washington Posts Robert Barnes writes about the issue today on the papers web site:
Last Saturday, Dan Eggen offered this account of the matter in a Post news report:
For our money, Scarborough seemed to give a rather one-sided account of this particular issue. (After mind-reading Alitos specific objection.) Surprise! Neither Mika nor anyone else jumped in to suggest as much.
Alito will star on cable this week, seeming to mouth the words, Not true. But how well will the merits of this matter get fleshed out in these discussions? Just a guess: Americans will be able to choose their facts, depending on which programs they watch. Overall, a great deal of heat will get dispensed, perhaps not a great deal of light.
Obama will be gruesomely wrong on some shows, Alito on most of the others. All shows will play lots of tape. Sadly, this will force one progressive news channel to stop playing its well-worn tape of Hannah Giles fetching round keister.
The tape shows Giless keister as Giles walks up stairs. Progressive producers adore it.
THE WAGES OF QUINN [permalink]: In late November, the Washington Post introduced a new feature in its Style sectiona weekly column, headlined The Party, written by Sally Quinn. Right at the start of her opening column, Quinn gave a general idea what the column would be about:
Theres nothing wrong with writing a column about the best ways to entertain. (For links to all these columns to date, you can just click here.) But yesterdays column offered an insider-eye view of a great deal of recent historyhistory stretching all the way back to the Kennedy era.
This is our countrys political history as recalled by a major DC insider. Whether Quinns presentations are right or wrong, theyre so remarkable that we thought they deserved a review.
In yesterdays column, Quinn explains how certain presidents came to harm in DC in the past fifty years. Is she right or wrong in her assessments? Thats hard for us to know. But this is the way a very highly-placed observer understands Insider Washingtons behavior toward these presidents.
In Quinns vew, new administrations should make an attempt to socialize with native Washingtonians. (By that, she clearly means upper-class, insider natives.) What happens to the fools who dont? Lets start with President Carter:
Quinn recalls Carter-era socializing issues in a brief, fleeting passage. But this passage includes a stunning bit of political analysisanalysis which may well be accurate:
Did Ronald Reagan reach the White House, in part, because the Carters were decidedly not interested in the locals and made it known? Did the ensuring social rift embolden Challenger Kennedy? We have no way of knowing, though wed certainly say its possible. Heres Quinns account of the social dynamics affecting the next Dem prez:
In Quinns account, Clinton was impeached partly because of the ill will toward him in the cityill will which stemmed in part from an enemy-making toast and from the clique-ishness of his young, arrogant crowd.
Is it even remotely possible that this could be true? Consider:
In November 1998, Quinn wrote a lengthy, very important account of the views of Establishment Washington on the eve of Clintons impeachment (click here). She recorded the outrage and disgust these insiders were feeling toward Clinton because of the Lewinsky affairand she stressed, several times, that the public as a whole did not share this sense of outrage. Were sure Quinn was right in that report. (We discuss it toward the end of Chapter 1 at our incomparable companion site, How he got there.) We can think of no reason why she couldnt be right in this passage from yesterdays column.
Quinn is personally sympathetic to the Obamas. But in this passage, she may be shedding some light on a recent inane, but rather dangerous, flap-doodle:
Given the disastrous circumstances in which Obama took office, try to ignore the sheer inanity of those expectations. (It would be only hours before we would all be dancing on tables...They were the new Kennedys, and Washington would come alive again.) But: Do readers recall all the hissing and spitting aimed at social secretary Desiree Rogers in the wake of that one state dinnerhissing and spitting by the likes of the ever-ludicrous Maureen Dowd? Here again, we see a line of complaint which lurked in Dowds ridiculous columns. Obamas crowd came in from Chicago, Quinn says. Once in DC, they stuck together. And alas! Obama used his one state dinner to reward these rank outsiders!
In the aftermath of that dinner, Rogers became Target One. Inane as such ludicrous episodes are, such episodes are also quite dangerous.
Lets review: Carter got a primary challenge in part because he failed to mingle. Clinton got impeached in part for roughly the same offense. Obama has made social errors tooerrors which bubbled up in weird complaints in the aftermath of that dinner. Beyond that, Quinn doesnt mention the giant price which was paid in the wake of the Clinton impeachmentthe seamless transfer of insider loathing from President Clinton to Candidate Gore. Carter was challengedand Clinton was impeached. Gore was hunted down for two years. According to the logic of Quinns piece, all these prices were paidby your nationdue to the failure to kiss local keister at Insider Washington parties.
Please note another striking point about the Quinn social history. Please note the failure of any Republican president (at least since Nixon) to pay a price for this sort of thing. In Quinns account, Presidents Reagan and Bush 41 failed to conduct themselves properly too. But she mentions no specific price being paid for this bad misconduct:
Thats it! Why wasnt Reagan impeached, like Clinton? Quinn doesnt say. Ditto with President Bush 43, who slept when he should have mingled:
What price was paid by this sleepiest president? None is mentionedthough Quinn does manage to make us think that Insider Washington was very upset about the way Campaign 2000 turned out.
This is stunning political history; wed be slow to suggest that its wrong. Again: Quinns account of Establishment Washington on the eve of impeachment is a deeply important piece of Clinton/Gore era history. In yesterday long, off-handed piece, Quinn fleshed more history out.