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Print view: This morning, Milbank challenges Limbaugh. We won't get far this way
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THE SILLY CRITIQUING THE DUMB! This morning, Milbank challenges Limbaugh. We won’t get far this way: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2011

They get letters (about Wisconsin) and we get misled: Newspapers get a lot of letters. And uh-oh! Readers can get misinformed or misled by the letters they choose to publish.

Consider two letters appearing today about the fight in Wisconsin.

One such letter appears in the New York Times. Yes, the letter is short and sweet—but the Times shouldn’t have published it:

LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (2/23/11): What is happening in Wisconsin is inevitable. The state of Wisconsin, like most states, is running out of money. That is a reality. It does not matter how compassionate and generous legislators and the state governors are with taxpayers’ money. There is just no more money. So state workers can protest all they want, but there will still be curtailment of their salaries and benefits.

R— L—
La Crescenta, Calif.

Why would a newspaper publish that letter? By now, every journalist surely knows that the Wisconsin’s unions and Democrats have agreed to the governor’s budget requests. This letter conveys an inaccurate notion—the idea that Wisconsin’s state workers are protesting the “curtailment of their salaries and benefits.”

For the record, this basic bit of misinformation is a basic conservative talking-point. The letter writer can still hear it being pimped on Hannity (though not on O’Reilly). At any rate, this letter plainly conveys a false notion. Why would a newspaper print it?

That letter serves Governor Walker’s interests. From the other side, consider this slightly murky, puzzling letter in today’s Washington Post:

LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST (2/23/11): The Feb. 19 front-page story "Wisconsin budget impasse deepens" failed to mention that the projected budget shortfall in the state is due in significant part to tax cuts supported by Gov. Scott Walker (R).

According to Wisconsin's Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a nonpartisan agency that is equivalent to the Congressional Budget Office, $117 million of the shortfall “is due to the impact of Special Session Senate Bill 2 (health savings accounts), Assembly Bill 3 (tax deductions/credits for relocated businesses), and Assembly Bill 7 (tax exclusion for new employees).” In the most recent budget year, the state had a slight surplus.

These facts are key to understanding that the budget problems are a pretext for attacking the basic rights of workers to collectively bargain, meaning to negotiate on relatively equal footing with their employer. The Wisconsin governor and many other governors are going after collective-bargaining rights to try and weaken a political opponent, not because doing so will solve budget problems.

David Madland, Washington
The writer is director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund

In our view, this letter is remarkable because Madland represents the Center for American Progress, a major progressive org.

Madland’s claims are murkily stated at points, but his overall thrust seems clear.

Madland persists in making claims which have been renounced by a string of big liberals. Did the Legislative Fiscal Bureau say that Wisconsin has or had a slight surplus this year? Last Saturday, Kevin Drum linked to a PolitiFact report which debunked that claim. (To read that report, just click here.) Second question: Is a “significant part” of “the projected budget shortfall” due to Walker’s actions? In fact, that $117 million is part of the pending two-year budget shortfall, which amounts to some $3.6 trillion; Walker’s actions added to that pending shortfall, but only by about three percent. Walker’s actions didn’t add to this year’s relatively modest shortfall, as Madland rather clearly implies. Many liberals made such claims last week, before the claim was debunked.

Madland may be right when he says that Walker is using the state’s budget problems as “a pretext for attacking the basic rights of workers to collectively bargain.” But he seems to be repeating an inaccurate set of factual claims—an inaccurate narrative which was widely renounced last week.

Last Friday and Saturday, Ezra Klein corrected himself on these very points; just click here. (Sorry—on Monday, we bungled our link.) Over at Salon, Andrew Leonhard self-corrected too; just click this. On Saturday, Drum linked to that PolitiFact post; in detail, it contradicted Rachel Maddow’s presentation of these claims, scoring her statements as flat-out “False.” But today, the Post prints a letter from a major think tank—and the letter seems to restate these widely-debunked claims.

It happens all the time! Readers get misinformed by letters which appear in newspapers. That said, we see a bright spot today. This morning, readers can get misinformed or misled by letters from both major sides!

Special report: Should we respond to the Limbaughs!

PART 1—THE SILLY CRITIQUING THE DUMB (permalink): Maureen Dowd is playing her silly old games in today’s New York Times.

Yesterday, Chicago picked a new mayor. This morning, right at the start of her column, the silliest person in American letters unveils her latest nickname:

DOWD (2/23/11): Black Swan Lakeside

Can Tiny Dancer lift up the City of Big Shoulders?

He thinks so. Even coiled with nervous anticipation and bundled in Patagonia on a snowy election day, Rahm Emanuel retained his Black Swan panache.

The columnist just couldn’t help it! Emanuel was once a dancer, you see! Inside Dowd’s poorly-wired brain, you know what that has to mean!

Returning from last month’s lengthy trip to the spa, Dowd has been rather tame of late. But this most inane of all famous persons has long adored a certain practice. In this, her silliest framework, Maureen Dowd helps readers see that Democratic women are really men, while Democratic men are really women.

She has played this silly, sad game for many years.

Back in 2008, Dowd got savaged for her endless gender-trashing by the Times’ public editor, Clark Hoyt (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/23/08). Today, her silliest practice is back, helped along by a statement by “Tiny Dancer.”

Darlings! Back in December, Emanuel made a very revealing statement! Inside Dowd’s tiny, miswired brain, a loud voice began to holler: Nobody made him say it!

Dowd recalls what “Tiny Dancer” said. This is the soul of Dowdism:

DOWD: Emanuel ran a disciplined and genial campaign, even showing patience during a ridiculous 12-hour hearing on whether he was really a resident of Chicago and qualified to run for mayor—a dust-up that followed an odd tenant’s refusal to vacate Rahm’s North Side house, which stirred up political trouble. Rahm rebutted that he and his wife, Amy Rule, still had stuff stored at his house, including Amy’s wedding dress.

“I said as a joke that if the hearing went into 13 hours, I was going to put the wedding dress on,” he said with a grin, as he hopscotched around the city scooping up last-minute votes.

He had pictured himself with a wedding dress on! Dowd knew she just had to type it!

This morning, Dowd finally offers her nugget, the key question now confronting the nation. In this passage, we look into the soul of the fatuous, D-plus elites who lounge about at the Times:

DOWD: Can a city famous for its beefy pols, mobsters and steakhouse politicking handle a Sarah Lawrence College graduate who wore tights, eats organic, swims and does yoga, a lithe spirit who has more facility with Martha Graham’s version of “Apollo” than the Bulls’ place in their division?

Darlings! Quickly, listen up! He went to Sarah Lawrence!

For the past several decades, America’s journalistic elites have been defined by several traits, one of which is their cosmic inanity. This morning, Dowd drags her broken soul back on the stage to remind us where it all starts. Over the course of the past several decades, liberals and progressives have done a poor job responding to this punishing culture—a noxious culture which has worked, on balance, to further plutocrat interests.

Dowd is our dumbest known actual “journalist.” For that reason, she has won her guild’s highest prize. Elsewhere, though, the Culture of Dumb is used by hard-core political hustlers to shape the public’s attitudes and understandings. No one is dumber than Rush Limbaugh, the most influential broadcaster of the past thirty years. To date, liberals have done a very poor job responding to his depredations.

This morning, in the Washington Post, the columnist known as “Lord Dowdinpants” challenges Rush for his latest inanity. In his column, we get an idea how it sounds when the inane start critiquing the dumb.

Does it matter what Limbaugh says? How should progressives approach such a question? Last week, at Salon, Michael Lind seemed to say that liberals pay too much attention to the blather of people like Rush—to the blather of people like Sarah Palin, to the blather of Bachman and Beck. We thought Lind had some very good points—and we thought he expressed those points poorly. We think it’s worth reviewing the issues raised in his interesting piece.

Your discourse is driven by a Culture of Dumb. This has been true for a very long time. You can’t run a modern nation this way. In the next few days, we’ll consider how liberals should respond to these obvious facts.

Tomorrow, alas—we’ll start with poor Milbank! This morning, the silly decided to challenge the dumb. We won’t get far this way.

Tomorrow—part 2: When Milbank attacks

A note on how to cover one’s keister: Covering keister, Dowd says Emanuel “was known around the West Wing” as “Tiny Dancer.” Who knows? It could even be true (or not), to some extent. That doesn’t explain why Dowd would build her whole column around this pathetic old theme.

In the Nexis archives, “Rahm AND Tiny Dancer” produces no previous hit.