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Daily Howler: Joe Klein committed a classic gaffe about one part of the press corps
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KLEIN’S GAFFE! Joe Klein committed a classic gaffe about one part of the press corps: // link // print // previous // next //

A TRIBE WHERE YOU GET TO LEARN HALF: Somehow, Katha Pollitt could see the obvious: Both woman-bashing pieces in Sunday’s Post were insulting, and insultingly stupid (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/3/08). In this letter to the Post, she starts with the piece by Linda Hirshman, then moves to Charlotte Allen:

POLLITT (3/4/08): Linda Hirshman explains that women, including me, who support Barack Obama are "fickle," "elites" who don't care about low-income women, have possibly been seduced by the wealthy and attractive Barack and Michelle, know (like all women) less about politics than the men of our social class, and being, like all women, more averse to political conflict than men, may just have been browbeaten by those mean, mean "Obamabots." It couldn't possibly be that we have read up on the issues, watched the debates, evaluated the campaigns and made complicated judgments that happen to come out differently from Ms. Hirschman's.

Fortunately, Charlotte Allen boils it all down for the fickle, Obama-crushing, Manolo-coveting, ignorant, conflict-averse, push-aroundable female voter: "Women Aren't Very Bright." Thanks for clearing that up! ...

For the record, Pollitt was one of the public women insulted by name in Hirshman’s piece. But might we state the obvious here? These fatuous pieces, which jointly led “Outlook,” were chosen because they insulted women, in the dumbest possible manner. Indeed, they were built on the oldest available stereotypes. Allen “argued” that women are dumb. Hirshman said women are fickle.

We mention this again for a reason. Pollitt was thankfully willing to say that each of these pieces was inane and insulting. But in many parts of the liberal world, a curious thing happened yesterday. In some venues (not in all), Allen’s piece was held up to ridicule—but Hirshman escaped any mention! We can’t necessarily say why that was. But we can give you a pretty good guess.

Allen, you see, is a pseudo-conservative; she writes for a string of kooky-con journals. Unfortunately, Hirshman is considered part of the “liberal” team. In recent years, her work has appeared at the American Prospect, the New Republic, TPM.
Result? Liberal readers were allowed to learn half of what the Post did. They got to hear about Allen’s insulting piece, but not about Hirshman’s. Our suggestion? Go ahead—reread what Hirshman wrote. See if you can make any sense of her garbled claim against “fickle” women. See if you can even imagine why progressives would want to cover for inane, nasty work of this type.

The Post decided to print two pieces—but many liberals chose to mention just one. Of course, ours is the side that channels Matt Drudge; cites Kathleen Willey; and praises the brilliance of the great New York Times. And ours is the side that kept its mouth shut when the Washington Post and the New York Times conducted that War Against Gore.

In short, career politics has blunted the liberal/Dem message for at least the past sixteen years. You get to learn part of various stories—the part that doesn’t harm liberal careers or step on toes inside “liberal” circles. By the way: Last night, it was Tom Daschle, on Charlie Rose, telling us what “Mister Drudge” has “insisted” about that photograph of Obama (while flatly misstating what “Mister” Drudge said). As we watched, we thought how far the career liberal world has fallen:

In the 1960s, we called him Mister Tibbs; today, we extend the honorific to slime-balls like Drudge. But then, you can’t understand the past sixteen years if you don’t understand these unfortunate patterns—if you don’t understand the unfortunate facts about the way “liberal” politics works.

Yesterday, liberals were allowed to learn half the story. In our tribe, that’s par for the course.

Postscript: Once again: Why did John Pomfret print those pieces? We don’t know—but Pomfret has been printing this type of garbage since he took over at “Outlook.” Some of the garbage is ideological. Some of the garbage is not.

KLEIN’S GAFFE: Michael Kinsley first said it, decades ago. In Washington, a “gaffe” is something you commit when you accidentally blurt out the truth.

Using that definition, Joe Klein seems to have committed a gaffe at a forum this past Sunday night. Yesterday, Klein published his apology, at Swampland. He linked to Jeff Bercovici’s account of what he originally said:

BERCOVICI (3/3/08): She might not win the presidency, but Hillary Clinton has succeeded at one thing: getting us all to think about whether the press prefers Barack Obama over her.

Last night, three of the most prominent political commentators—Time columnist Joe Klein, Newsweek scribe Jonathan Alter and National Review editor Rich Lowry—tackled that issue in a discussion at Manhattan's 92nd Street Y moderated by Jeff Greenfield.

Klein, who's also a CNN regular, was most unequivocal in spotting bias.

"I do believe there's something weird a few of our colleagues have [against Clinton]," he said. "They tend to be Roman Catholics, actually. People like Tim Russert, Chris Matthews, Maureen Dowd. They've had it in for Bill and Hillary Clinton since Monica Lewinsky. They feel that the Clintons are trying to put one over on us all the time.”

If the highlighted statement seems controversial, you’ve spent the last decade on Mars. But so what? In his apology, Klein says this: “I do believe that the media have been tougher on Hillary Clinton than on her opponents this year. I don't believe it has anything to do with Roman Catholicism and shouldn't have implied that it did.”

At Swampland, some commenters thought that Klein must have gotten this idea from us. We doubt it, for a few basic reasons.

Klein is an intelligent, observant member of the mainstream press corps. It has been fairly clear, in the past sixteen years, that many of the loudest, most unbalanced Clinton/Gore-haters have come from the Matthews/Russert/Dowd/Michael Kelly/Margaret Carlson Irish-Catholic wing of the press corps. This was clear, and had been widely discussed, long before we ever mentioned it here at THE DAILY HOWLER. We ourselves put off mentioning this pattern for years, until we thought it made better sense to float it for wider discussion.

We understand why Klein would want to step back from his observation. No one likes to introduce ethnicity or religion into such discussions, especially someone who isn’t part of the group which is being discussed. (By upbringing, we are part of the group—Boston Irish Catholic.) But let’s get real: Dowd and Matthews are the press corps’ leading psychosexual nut-cases; the point has become so abundantly clear that even liberals have noticed this fact in the past year. And this psychosexual lunacy is an unfortunate part of throwback Irish Catholic culture. Most Irish Catholics have moved beyond the crackpot obsessions of Matthews and Dowd (and their friends). But the corporate press corps sometimes seems to go out of its way to hire those who have not.

We say “corporate” for a reason; this problem has been especially pronounced at NBC News/MSNBC, a news org which was constituted in the past two decades as a virtual Irish Catholic boys club. This was accomplished under Jack Welch, the near-billionaire defense contractor (Irish Catholic, conservative Republican) who purchased NBC for GE, then began stocking its news division with crackpots made in his image. Under Welch, three East Coast Irish Catholics (Russert, Williams, Matthews) were hired or put in line to take the three top jobs at the network. All three came from Republican or Reagan Democrat roots, and all three happily fell to the job of trashing the Clintons and Gore. We have no idea if these things occurred by accident or by design. But by the time Al Gore was debating George Bush, MSNBC was prepared to go on the air, after each debate, with this five-member panel of pundits:

Brian Williams
Chris Matthews
Mike Barnicle
Peggy Noonan
Doris Kearns Goodwin

All five were East Coast Irish Catholics. Statistically, that simply can’t happen by chance. By the way, first pundit out to add to the stew? Tim Russert! Six out of six!

Today, NBC News/MSNBC is slightly more diverse than it has been at various times in the past. But the “boys club” atmosphere defining MSNBC still derives from the comical way Welch made the news org an Irish preserve during his reign at GE. (His news director, Robert Wright, was an East Coast Irish Catholic.) And by the way: This network’s psychosexual lunacy does reflect an unfortunate part of our otherwise brilliant Irish Catholic culture. We hate to drag Good Ole Gene into this (East Coast Irish Catholic), but he wrote and published these remarks in a recent column:

LYONS (1/9/08): After promoting the Iowa and New Hampshire contests as a cross between "American Idol" and the Super Bowl when few Americans were paying attention, TV pundits now appear eager to pronounce the contest over...

Some of this derives from the need to appear worldly-wise and knowing, like tipsters who peddle gambling tips. It's also symptomatic of the inexplicable Clinton hatred that's been epidemic in those circles since 1992. No need to vote, fellow peasants; MSNBC's Chris Matthews, The New York Times' Maureen Dowd and the rest of the Beltway All-Stars have saved you the trouble.

Ponder this recent passage from the allegedly liberal Dowd: "Has Hillary truly changed, and grown from her mistakes? Has she learned to be less stubborn and imperious and secretive and vindictive and entitled? Or has she merely learned to mask her off-putting and self-sabotaging qualities better? If elected, would the old Hillary pop up, dragging us back to the dysfunctional Clinton kingdom?" (My italics.)

Translation: "Bitch!" Having basically grown up in a Maureen Dowd column, albeit with less wit and more profanity, I've known this variety of Irish Catholic misogyny forever. My sainted mother warned me against the cunning and duplicity of women almost to her dying breath. It's a sorrowful remnant of sexual Puritanism.

Lyons refers to the same unfortunate strain of (mid-century) Irish Catholic culture that we have referenced in the past. The vast majority of Irish Catholics have grown up and moved on from that time and that place. The twin crackpots, Dowd and Matthews, have not.

We’d be very surprised if Klein needed us to explain that.

After years of maintaining polite silence, we decided to raise this cultural point a few years ago, for several reasons. First, the conduct of these Clinton/Gore-haters has been, and remains, quite influential. Because Dowd and Matthews (and the others) are famous, their lunatic views might start to seem to make sense—unless you’re helped to see that their outlook really is strange, that it comes from an unfortunate, largely lapsed tradition. We were tired of watching these lunatics rant while the rest of us sat idly by, failing to help the rest of the world understand where their lunacy comes form. Simply put, their deeply weird conduct is a part of that unfortunate (throwback) misogyny—the misogyny most of their cohort has moved past. They are a part of a broken old world. It’s good that Lyons wrote what he did. We wish many others could read it.

Second: We thought the obvious oddness of NBC News needed to be discussed. (And yes, we thought this long before their lunatic conduct of the past year.) Surely, no one ever assembled a major news org in the ridiculous way Jack Welch did; it’s a bad idea to stock a news org with members of just one group (whatever that group might be), and the gruesome performance of NBC News has relentlessly proven that point. Of course, “pool boy” career liberals are still insisting that Russert treats everyone the same way. We think that claim is absurdly hard to defend—but without question, Jack Welch’s Irish Catholic hires have waged endless war on both Clintons and Gore, in ways that even became apparent to liberals in the past several months. (How absurd had their conduct become? Even our crowd could see it!) We’ll say it again: We think Russert’s Meet the Press with Gore in July 2000 involved the most outrageous misconduct we’ve ever seen from a major broadcaster (Margaret Carlson led the subsequent cheers—East Coast Irish Catholic); two months later, Russert went after Hillary Clinton in the widely-criticized debate performance we mentioned yesterday. These outlandish events happened eight years ago. For the most part, liberals have just begun to complain about Russert’s odd conduct. (With “career liberals” insisting, of course, that he treats everyone the same way.)

In short: NBC News has been a wreck for a long time, since the days when a near-billionaire conservative Republican hired Russert, Matthews and Williams. (And a host of other Irish Catholic home-boys.) But to this day, we’ve never seen anyone else mention the comical way Welch assembled this groaning Irish-Catholic boys club. We liberals! When we talk about Fox, we always mention Murdoch and Ailes—but we’re just too dumb to talk about Welch. But then, we liberals will tolerate almost any abuse. It’s clear: We don’t care if we win.

At any rate, Joe Klein committed a gaffe Sunday night. In the past sixteen years, the press corps’ psychosexual lunacies have been driven by Irish Catholics—and Klein accidentally said so. (He seems to have left out the Irish part.) We understand why he took his words back; we’d rather have skipped this whole topic ourselves. But don’t worry! Others will keep their mouths shut tight about the way the press corps works—until our country has gone to war with every other nation on earth.

You see, something else is perfectly obvious. In the modern world, we progressives don’t care about what really happens, no matter how ardently we tell you different. We kept quiet during the Whitewater “scandals,” then for two years in the War Against Gore. When it comes to discussing GE, lack of progress is our most important product! If you doubt it, just watch the way we continue to keep our traps shut about Jack Welch’s club.