WHERE DO FUTURE SENATORS COME FROM! Paul Ryan is very smart, our baboon said. Their baboon said something stronger: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2010
Death by novel: For years, weve told you two things. Much of our news is really a nove1. And our journalists may not be real humans.
Yesterday, a novel appeared on the front page of the Washington Post. It made us wonder about the status of its author, Eli Saslowwho, if recollection serves, has done some good work in the past.
Good God. What consummate crap!
Saslows novel concerns the current presidentmore particularly, the presidents middle-class background. For the record, Saslow was writing the type of profile which turns on brainless paradoxes and deeply puzzling pseudo-contradictions. This particular profile would turn on silly paradoxes about Obamas middle-class background. As if to show us where we were going, Saslow weirdly typed this:
Huh? It would be a stretch to say that President Kennedy came from the middle class. But Truman and Eisenhower certainly did, and after Kennedy, havent most presidents come from some pocket of this broad class? Even George W. Bush attended the Midland, Texas public schools through the seventh grade, after all. Is it really rare to have a president come from the middle class?
Did a human being write that? Are Saslows editors human?
First, Saslows chronology seems a bit wrong. After Obama graduated from Harvard Law School, he did spend six months directing a major voter registration drive in Chicago. But he was also writing the memoir, Dreams From My Father, for which he already had a contract, and he was already mixing and mingling, in serious ways, with upper-end Chicago. (Theres nothing wrong with that.) More conventionally, Obamas period of selfless community organizing is pictured occurring before Harvard Law, after he graduated from Columbia. (This was a three-year period.) For purposes of Saslows novel, the story works better this other way. But the chronology does seem a bit wrong.
That said, Saslows account of Obamas marriage is just a flagrant novel. Did Barack Obama marry a woman from a working-class family on the South Side of Chicago? In a sense. But he also married a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School who, at age 25, when she met her future husband, was already making around $65,000 per year (in the late 1980s) working for Sidley & Austin, a very high-end corporate law firm. (Obama met her because he spent his first summer during law school working at that same firm.) Her brother, also a Princeton graduate, was apparently making very big swag on Wall Street at this time, working for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. (Later, he left Wall Street to coach college basketball. To read Liza Mundys less-novelized account of these years, just click here.)
Saslows account of who he married is a novela silly noveland its little else.
And sure enough! The next stop on this sub-human ride takes us through familiar terrain: Arugula and bowling scores and then Obamas perfect posture! Somehow, Obamas posture at a press event is supposed to distinguish him from Presidents Clinton and Bush, who are, apparently, more middle-class in appearance than he due to the way they slouch. But then, posture has always been useful in this cohorts sometimes-destructive novels. Who can forget the novel Ceci Connolly typed, way back when, when Candidate Gores stiff posture marked him as different from President Clinton? Paradoxessorry, contrastswere central this day too:
Cuomo even reached for a mint! All through this lengthy piece, Connolly struggled, stretched and strained to let us know that Gore had been boring. And please observe: Even back then, speaking from notes (in this case, note cards) was a big problem too. In Saslows novel, Obama spoke from notes. So did Gore, back then!
Connollys piece was close to insane, though it drove an obvious point about the deeply troubling person against whom she had marched off to war. But that particular piece turned on Gores ramrod stiff posture! Saslows piece is less awful, but it points to a cultural problem:
At present, we are an exceptionally low-IQ nation, with an exceptionally low-IQ political culture. Much of this destructive problem traces back to the programming found within this mainstream press corps.
Its hard to believe that human beings can really type such low-IQ drek. But Saslow wrote a silly novel this weekand the Post took it straight to page one.
PART 4WHERE DO FUTURE SENATORS COME FROM (permalink): Paul Ryan is a major up-and-comer in Republican politics. Last Friday, he made a striking presentation, then asked Obama a question. Cables three tenors the MSNBC cheerleading teamoffered two dueling reactions.
On the one hand, KO and Maddow turned cartwheels and flips, insisting that our teams star quarterback had left poor Ryan face-down in the dust. This is what it is like to be in the room with the president of the United States, the ludicrous Olbermann marveled. You pick your topic, and are left wondering whether or not you know as much about it as he does.
Maddow megaphoned the exchange the same way, channeling what Obama had said. Youve brought a pet issue here, congressman, she imagined him saying. Let me tell you 400,000 things about it, and invite you to continue the discussion with me later.
Neither Olbermann nor Maddow made the slightest attempt to discuss the substance of what had been said. They simply performed their corporate duties. Gimme an O, they both cried.
Chris Matthews took a different approach, one well focus on today. First, he did a bit of cheerleading himself. (I think this presidents sort of mix of charm, poetry and prose is pretty impressive, because he can be witty.) But then, he noted a fairly obvious fact: Obama hadnt actually answered Ryans specific question, his 84 percent allegation (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/3/10). And Matthews spoke in praise of Ryan, an up-and-comer in GOP politics. I think that guy, Ryan, is pretty smart, Matthews dumbly said. I think he did ask a good question. Why has spending gone up on your watch and now youre freezing it?
Ryans brilliance was vouched for once again. Neither Rachel nor KO said squat. But then, this is the way careers get made in our deeply pitiful politics. More specifically, this is the way senate seats change hands.
Is Ryan really a pretty smart guy? (Amazingly, on Fridays Hardball, Matthews didnt even seem to know who Ryan was.) Did he really ask a good question? For ourselves, well guess that his presentation was bogushis 84 percent allegation. But people! So what? Since Friday, Ryans 84 percent allegation has gone all round the world:
Tape of Ryans presentation has been played on NPRs Talk of the Nationwith no attempt to fact-check his claims. On Fox News Sunday, Ryan made his presentation again, in personand two major Democrats sat and watched, without offering a peep of factual challenge (Evan Bayh, Chris Van Hollen). Jacob Sullum has authored a nationally syndicated column (Creators Syndicate) which repeats Ryans 84 percent allegation. At least three Republican members of Congress have sent our press releases affirming the 84 percent allegationand those are just the three who have posted their press releases in the Nexis archives.
Most significant is an exchange from the panel portion of last Fridays Special Report, on Fox. Host Bret Baier played tape of Ryans exchange with Obama, showing Ryan as he made his 84 percent allegation. In response, Steve Hayes turned a couple of cartwheels in praise of Ryans brilliance. (Kirsten Powers sat and said nothing, as Bayh and Van Hollen would do two days later.) Then, just a few minutes later, Hayes told the truth about the way our politics works. Having praised Ryans obvious brilliance, he sketched his future career:
Quickly, note a significant fact. Note that Hayes did not affirm Ryans 84 percent allegation. He only praised Ryans overall pointperhaps because he knew or suspected that Ryans specific allegation was hogwash.
That said, will Ryan actually run for president? We have no idea. But Ryans exchange with Obama massively helped grease the skids for him to take Kohls senate seat. After all, hes extraordinarily knowledgeable! Or, as the ludicrous Matthews put it, without a peep from KO or Rachel: That guy, Ryan, is pretty smart. I think he did ask a good question.
Can we talk? While all this stage-setting for Ryan was happening, three millionaire chimps on MSNBC minced, fooled, tumbled, led cheers and clowned. None of them made the slightest attempt to evaluate what Ryan had saidhis 84 percent allegation, the allegation to which Obama had in fact failed to respond.
Long story short: Ryans claim is spreading out through the etherand so is talk of his greatness. And by the way: According to these cable ratings, 2.45 million people heard Hayes Friday night as he praised Ryan for his vast genius. A few hours later, only 1.31 million people were watching MSNBC as KO and Rachel did their hand-stands. And of course, even those viewers heard Matthews say what a smart fellow this young Ryan was, without a word of contradiction from either Rachel or KO.
First simple story: Ryan is being praised for his genius. Hes being pimped to run for the White House. More significantly, hes being pimped to take that senate seat
Second simple story: Ryans presentationhis 84 percent allegationhas been making its way through the ether. Using Nexis, we can find no sign that any news org has ever fact-checked his allegation. This includes the silly baboons who led cheers for your team that night.
This leads us to ask a few questions about the state of reality:
Did Ryan ask a very good question? Is Paul Ryan very smart? Was Obama very smart not to get in the debate about budget specifics with Paul Ryan? Is Paul Ryan extraordinarily knowledgeable? Weve seen no news org make any attempt to fact-check his 84 percent allegationalthough, for various reasons (more tomorrow), it strikes us as absurd on its face.
But did Ryan ask a good question? This is what happened in the House Budget Committee on Tuesday, when someone finally asked. Was Ryans ballyhooed presentation accurate? John Yarmuth asked one last question:
According to Orszag, domestic discretionary spending was a bit more than $400 billion in fiscal year 2008. Its a bit less than $450 billion in fiscal year 2010. The freeze will occur at that level. At that level, such spending has increased maybe 10-12 percent over a span of two years.
Is Orszags presentation correct? Here at THE HOWLER, we have no idea. Orszag is an interested party tooand according to Nexis, no one at any news organization has fact-checked Ryans claim. But this is precisely the way our politics has worked for several decades now. The three baboons on MSNBC were simply extending a culture.
And of course, they were stuffing millions of dollars into their over-stuffed pants.
Just a guess: No one gained from Fridays session quite the way Ryan did. Tomorrow, well take a guess at the reason why Hayes didnt praise his specific presentationhis 84 percent allegation. Beyond that, well show you more of what Fox viewers have heard about this spending freeze in the past week. For ourselves, we will guess that Ryans claim was wildly inaccuratewildly misleading, presumably something less than honest. But so what? NPR played tape of the presentation without a word of analysis or comment. Even on our progressive channel, viewers heard a large baboon saying how smart Ryan is.