DUMB LIKE US! Why did Obamas session seem smart? Consider Hardballs discussion: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2010
History continues tomorrow: Barring technical disaster, we expect to post Chapter 2 at our companion site on the morrow. Well offer a bit of an overview here. Then, on to the things-in-themselves!
Added note on that Clinton-Graham dinner: In this column at Media Matters, Jamison Foser questions Sally Quinns account of that Katherine Graham dinnerthe dinner at which the brand-new President Clinton supposedly gave an unfortunate toast. It may be that Quinn is wrong about this event, as Foser suggests in his piece. We did think it was worth recording a recollection.
Years ago, we were told that this dinner was in fact the place at which Establishment Washington turned on the Clintons. The story came to us second-hand; were not sure we remember exactly what we were told. (Our recollection of what we were told differs from Quinns account.) But this story, attributed to a major Clinton supporter, identified this very same dinner as the place where it all fell apart.
We know, we knowits hard to believe that the path to impeachment could have been paved at a 1993 dinner party. For that reason, weve always found it hard to credit what we were told, years ago. But Establishment Washingtonaka, The Villagehas operated by very strange rules over the course of the past several decades. And now, years later, along comes Quinnand she points to that very same dinner.
Whatever one thinks of Quinns views or outlooks, were inclined to listen carefully to the things she says about the views of this potent elite. As always, we recommend Fosers piece. Also, all musings by Boehlert.
The hate that dare not speak its name: Weve long admired Colbert Kings columns on local Washington matters. But land o goshen, Clinton-hatred is powerful! In his column in Saturdays Washington Post, King repeated a prediction he made on last weeks Inside Washington. On that show, he said Obama may face a primary challenge in 2012 if he loses the Congress this fall.
It's happened before to incumbents in both parties, King wrote in the Post. Consider the one-term presidencies of Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush.
Anything can happen, of course. But finally, at the end of his column, King seemed to let the world know what he meant when he first issued that warning. Good lord! Clinton-hatred seems to die very hard around here:
Keep an eye on your Cabinet? Unless Arne Duncan is planning a run, Clinton-hatred seems to be dying hard.
(And hatred likes to speak in dog whistles. As has been true in earlier Clinton columns, King wont stand up on his hind legs and actually say what he actually means. As the haters always do, he chooses to wink, nod and whistle.)
King is part of Establishment Washington. Clinton/Gore-hatred has driven this group for many disastrous years. In the past, we have revisited the striking column King wrote in October 2000, when he gave an almost comically negative non-endorsement endorsement to the horrible Candidate Gore. We were stunned by Kings apparent loathing of Candidate Clinton in 2008.
Could Hillary Clinton challenge Obama? Anything is possible, of course. But on face, few thoughts could seem a whole lot less likely. Few predictions could seem more absurd.
That said, our brutal history eats at the souls of many decent men and women. This is the way King started his column:
In Kings world, Obamas left flank seems to be an unsatisfied issues group. Obamas right flank seems to be a weapons owner accused of plotting to kill him! (For the full story, click here.)
Weve long admired Kings columns on D.C. issues. But Clinton-hatred dies hard, if at all. Then too, in these latter days, hatred seems to be all around.
Earlier failed predictions: Michelle Bernard seems like a pleasant person. But even with this sunny soul, Clinton-hatred has led to gong-show predictions at several points in the past. Within Establishment Washington, this hatred dies hard. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/17/08.
PART 1CONFUSED BY RYANS NON-DAUGHTERS: The Pew Research Center did something naughty last weekit released the gruesome results of a public information survey. (Not an opinion poll. To see Pews report, click here.) Such surveys always show the same thing: We the people are massively mis-, dis- and under-informed.
Perhaps in part for that very reason, news organizations tend to steer clear of such information surveys. News orgs like to pander to voters almost as much as our major pols do; telling us how little we know may seem a bad way to do business. (The American people are pretty sharp! Its one of our most treasured sound-bites.) At any rate, Charles Blow cited this surveys results in his New York Times column this Saturday. Believe it or not, Blow overstates the degree of the publics knowledge in this passage:
In fact, since the questions in this survey were a form of multiple choice, its almost certain that fewer than one in four could have cited that 60-vote threshold on their own, without any prompting. (To review all the surveys questions, click this.) One other result: Only 39 percent were able to name Harry Reid as majority leader of the Senate. And they picked his name from this gang of four: Reid, Al Franken, Hillary Clinton, Mitch McConnell. Theres no way of knowing how many people could have named the gent on their own.
Information surveys constantly show it: We the people are always under-informed, even on the days biggest issues. This brings us to last Fridays meeting between Barack Obama and the House Republicans. Many observers have oohed and aahed about the brilliance of the exchange; this tendency has been especially strong among Obamas supporters. In part though, the seeming brilliance of this exchange may just be a reflection of the cosmic dumbness which typifies most discussion within our floundering discourse. We the people are massively dumbbut then, so are our multimillionaire tribunes! Consider Chris Matthews groaning performance on Friday afternoons Hardball.
We the people dont know Harry Reid? Matthews, paid five million per year, doesnt know Paul Ryan from Tim! In the wake of the Obama-GOP meeting, this is part of the hapless discussion Matthews conducted with Perry Bacon (Washington Post) and Ken Vogel (Politico). To watch this full segment, click here:
Poor Bacon! Politely, he covered for his host, as journalists frequently have to do when they get to dance with the stars. As the stars always do in this part of the dance, Chris pretended he knew all along:
Yes, exactly, Bacon said, covering for The Man.
Let us finish Bacons thought: Paul Ryan is a very significant up-and-comer within the House Republican caucus. Hes the ranking member on the House Budget Committee; whatever one thinks of his views and claims, he is widely regarded as one of the most important players in the GOPs next generation. Hes been promoted and featured for several years as the GOPs new budget maven. That, of course, is why he was picked to ask the days second question. (Obama bantered with Ryan about his family, who were sitting there at Ryans table.)
Presumably, Matthews had watched the event. Ryan had played a key role, asking aboutwhat else?the budget. Its stunning that Matthews, several hours later, still had Paul Ryan mixed up with Tim, a relatively insignificant House membera guy from the other party!
We the people dont know Harry Reid? Matthews is paid five million a yearand he didnt know Paul Ryan, several hours later! He did know how to play the fool. A few moments later, he asked Vogel for the headline which would emerge from this ballyhooed forum. Vogel offered a pair of the worlds dumbest observationsa dumbness Chris easily topped:
What did Vogel take from the meeting? The GOP says conferencebut Obama said caucus! And Obama got a little-known congressmans first name wrong several times! But then, on the matter of Jebs first name, Matthews responded to Vogels inanity with some old-world inanity of his own. His grandfather used to do the same thing! Its an old Irish trick!
Why did Obamas session seem so damn smart? In part, because were all accustomed to public discussion like that.
We the people dont know Harry Reid. But then, Matthews, our multimillionaire tribune, doesnt know Uncle Ryans non-daughters! But just as Matthews told Vogel and Bacon, MSNBC played excerpts from this event all night long on Friday night, offering hours of expert analysis. If its Unvarnished Millionaire Dumbness you love, well suggest you return here tomorrow.
TOMORROWPART 2: KO and Rachel and Matthews, oh my! The fawningand fumblingwere monstrous.
Previous stunning non-knowledge: As late as December 2007, Matthews didnt seem to know which of Obamas parents had been Islamic. We know, we knowit sounds hard to believe. But he said it over and over. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/21/07.