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Print view: Responding to Maddow's latest cant, our own ditto-heads emerged
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FOX NATION 2! Responding to Maddow’s latest cant, our own ditto-heads emerged: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, MARCH 4, 2011

It never dies/Lawrence O’Donnell edition: Mike Huckabee is playing an ugly game concerning mau-maus and madrassas. (Is he possibly thinking of muumus, which do come from Hawaii?)

On Wednesday, Huckabee offered a clownish pensee: “Due to Obama's father and grandfather, it could be that his version and view of the Mau Mau Revolution was very different than most of the people who perhaps would grow up in the United States.”

Really? Have you ever met anyone in the U.S. with a “view” of the Mau Mau Uprising?

Chris Matthews has been pushing back hard at Huckabee’s bald demonology. It’s quite a thing to see this occur, since Matthews was the principal source for “not one of us” demonology aimed at the Clintons and Gore.

Corporate millionaires do get repurposed. But this week, one such machine held firm.

The house boy in question was Lawrence O’Donnell, pounding away on Tuesday night. As he finished wailing on Huck, an old script popped from his head:

O’DONNELL (3/1/11): As the pressure mounted today on Huckabee for lying about where the president grew up, Huckabee`s handlers issued the lamest possible press release in reaction to getting caught in an outright lie. It was, quote, "Governor Huckabee simply misspoke."

Huckabee wants to leave at that because he knows this particular brand of misspeaking is very, very useful for inspiring support of the 51 percent—51 percent of national Republican primary voters who believe that Barack Obama is not a citizen of the United States.

Mike Huckabee desperately wants every one of their votes if he’s going to run for president next year. In his ugly pursuit of those votes, he has now fallen below the already low standard for integrity that we have come to expect from former governors of Arkansas.

The pool boy just couldn’t help himself! A tired old hatred popped out!

Can we talk? Matthews has thoroughly reinvented himself. When he served at the knee of Jack Welch, he performed as a virulent hater of Clinton and Clinton, and as cable’s leading savage concerning Candidate Gore. Today, he openly fawns around both Clintons.

But Lawrence just can’t reform.

This empty suit hated the Clintons too, as all the Kool Fellows did. That explains why he was still pimping Gore as the world’s biggest liar as late as October 2000, doing so from a “liberal” chair on the McLaughlin Group. Something has always been wrong in this silly boy’s soul. A jones there just won’t let him go.

Matthews has reinvented himself. O’Donnell, one of the world’s worst persons, has only made it so far. He helped send George W. Bush to the White House.

His small brain still can’t quite reform.

Illinois is for dodgers: Does masking tape really do damage to marble? That’s what Monica Davey reports in today’s New York Times. The problem is found in Wisconsin’s state Capitol. According to Davey:

“Officials said damage inside the Capitol, in part from hundreds of anti-Walker signs now taped all over the marble, was expected to be in the millions of dollars.”

Damn that double-stick tape!

That to the side, we were greatly puzzled again by Davey’s intrepid reporting. Right at the start of today’s news report, she says that Wisconsin’s Republicans have passed a tough new provision:

DAVEY (3/4/11): Republican leaders in the Senate, where the bill has been stalled since Senate Democrats left the capital two weeks ago to block a vote, passed a provision that they said allowed law enforcement officers to detain the missing Democratic senators if they were seen anywhere in Wisconsin and take them to Madison.

Both measures were aimed at increasing the pressure on Democrats, who hold a minority in the Senate and oppose the bill. But the efforts also significantly raised the stakes in a fight that has grown into a national referendum on unions and public workers and has spread to Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere.

In Wisconsin, no one in either party seemed eager to consider the images that now appeared possible: hundreds of ordinary workers getting word that they would soon be out of work, and senators arriving at the Capitol in handcuffs. Still, no one in either party seemed willing to budge.

Could AWOL Democrats be detained if they’re spotted in Wisconsin? Davey treats this like something new. This provision has “significantly raised the stakes” in the budget fight, she says. It “now appeared possible” that the Democrats could “arriv[e] at the Capitol in handcuffs.”

We have no earthly idea why Davey treats this as something new. Nor does she ever try to explain her claim that something has changed. People! Right from the start, we were told that the Democrats had left the state because they could be forced to vote if they stayed in Wisconsin.

On February 24, state police went to several of their homes. This was widely discussed and reported.

Does the new provision “allow law enforcement officers to detain the missing Democratic senators if they’re seen anywhere in Wisconsin?” Maybe so. But that’s why they’re all in Illinois! And they’ve been there for several weeks.

(Isn’t that why Indiana Dems are in Illinois too? Isn’t that why Texas Dems fled the state just a few years ago?)

We’ve nexised around and done some reading on this general topic today. But restrict yourselves to one basic question: From reading Davey’s intrepid report, do you have any idea why this provision would be something new? The solons have been out-of-state for weeks. Why did Davey think they were there?

Remember this, then watch Idiocracy: This news report is from the Times, our most famous, “smartest” newspaper.

Special report: Rise of the ditto-heads!

EPILOGUE—FOX NATION 2 (permalink): A lot of bad info was going around as Wisconsin’s budget battle got started.

On February 18, Politifact corrected two widespread mistakes in its review of Maddow’s report—a review in which Politifact made a mistake of its own.

Politifact made these corrections:

No, Wisconsin wasn’t boasting a projected budget surplus when Governor Walker took office in January.

And no, Walker’s tax cuts didn’t create, or help create, the current budget shortfall. The three tax cuts don’t take effect until the new fiscal year starts in July. You may think the cuts were a bad idea. But they didn’t create the current shortfall.

You may not like Walker’s various proposals. You may support the public workers in their attempt to keep bargaining rights. But when Politifact researched this tale, a widely-told story turned out to be false. This may explain why you aren’t hearing those claims any more—not even on liberal cable, not on the liberal web.

You aren’t hearing that story any more—but many people made those errors in the first week of the budget fight. As the truth began to emerge, some of these people self-corrected.

Other people did not.

Ezra Klein self-corrected at the Washington Post. So did Andrew Leonard, at Salon. Kevin Drum adjusted an error, linking to Politifact’s post as he did. But others let bygones be bygones:

At MSNBC, Big Ed Schultz didn’t self-correct, although he got the whole thing wrong on February 16. At TPM, Josh Marshall didn’t correct this erroneous post:

MARSHALL (2/18/11): Must Read

A very good run-down of how Wisconsin's Gov. Walker (R) created the budget crisis which he now claims makes it necessary to end collective bargaining.

On TPM’s front page, Josh linked to this report by Brian Beutler, a report which also went uncorrected. “To the extent that there is an emergency, Walker essentially created it,” Beutler wrote, telling the standard story. Beutler sourced his report to “Pat Kreitlow, a former Democratic senator in Wisconsin, who helped pass the state's current budget.”

Beutler’s report turned out to be wrong (with some accurate elements). But it remains uncorrected.

Of course, our favorite refusal to self-correct belongs to Rachel Maddow. In effusive detail, she praised the way she self-corrects even as she refused to do so (more below). But then, our second-favorite refusal has a comical element too. That failure to self-correct came from Steve Benen.

Understandably, Benen seemed to believe the standard story, which was being widely recited. On February 18, he laid out the whole sordid tale. As he did, he linked to Ezra Klein’s (inaccurate) blog at the Post:

BENEN (2/18/11): THE NATURE OF THE DISPUTE IN WISCONSIN

To hear Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) tell it, he really doesn't have much of a choice. The state's facing a budget shortfall, and crushing public-sector labor unions will save the state's finances.

It's important to realize how very wrong this is. Indeed, what's been largely lost in this week's debate is that Walker inherited a pretty good fiscal situation from his Democratic predecessor—Wisconsin was on track to end the fiscal year with an extra $120 million in state coffers.

So why launch a union-busting crusade? Ezra Klein explained the situation nicely:

At this point, Benen posted three paragraphs from Klein’s initial post on this subject—from the post Klein would soon correct. “The governor signed two business tax breaks and a conservative health-care policy experiment that lowers overall tax revenues,” Klein had written. “The new legislation was not offset, and it turned a surplus into a deficit.”

It’s understandable that Benen believed that; this claim was being made quite widely. (He also linked to John Nichols’ editorial in the Madison Capital Times—the erroneous piece which may have started this whole fact-challenged mess.) But uh-oh! Sometime that very same day, Klein added an “update” to his own post—an update in which he said that his initial account had been wrong.

The next day, Klein posted a full self-correction, laying out the actual story about the budget shortfall. He noted that Walker didn’t create this shortfall. But wouldn’t you know it? Benen never cited this second post by Klein—the post which showed that his own work had been big-time wrong.

We rubes stayed barefoot and clueless. For whatever reason, Benen featured Klein’s mistaken post—but he left the correction alone.

In this type of conduct, you see the rise of a sorry new nation. You might call it “Fox Nation 2.”

Can someone tell us how this differs from what we’ve always seen at Fox? From the conduct we have pretended to hate? You might say our nation is better in one respect—when we learn that our tales are wrong, at least we stop repeating them! That said, the liberal world’s failure to self-correct hit rock bottom last Thursday night, when Maddow went on the air to savage Politifact for the vile things they had said.

Good lord! In the course of a rambling, twelve-minute segment, Maddow never told viewers that she had made specific misstatements about Wisconsin. (“The month that the new Republican governor of Wisconsin was sworn in, last month, the state was on track to have a $120 million budget surplus this year.”) She never explained what she meant when she seemed to link the size of the tax cuts to the size of the shortfall. (“Even though the state had started the year on track to have a budget surplus—now, there is, in fact, a $137 million budget shortfall. Republican Governor Scott Walker, coincidentally, has given away $140 million worth of business tax breaks since he came into office. Hey, wait! That’s about exactly the size of the shortfall!”)

Most oddly, Maddow never told viewers about the statement Politifact had featured, right in the headline of its report. (Maddow’s statement: “Despite what you may have heard about Wisconsin’s finances, Wisconsin is on track to have a budget surplus this year.”)

Politifact scored that statement “false.” We’d score it “incoherent/misleading:”

Right in its headline, in big giant print, Politifact scored that statement “false.” But as she raged against the machine, Maddow never mentioned this statement. Nor did she mention her longer, weird opening statement, in which she said the following, sounding a bit like Sybil the Soothsayer: “I’m here to report that there is nothing wrong in the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin is fine. Wisconsin is great, actually.”

What in the world had she meant by that? Maddow didn’t explain.

Can we talk? Maddow disappeared the bulk of her hapless and bungled report. She failed to correct or explain a single statement—even as she went on and on about the marvelous way she self-corrects, unlike so many others.

If Hannity did that, we’d call him a liar. But as we’ve noted in the past several years, Maddow often seems to have a large problem with the truth. Among the various players at Fox, she most reminds us of Sean. Each broadcaster smiles, provides tribal assurance. And without double-checking for yourself, you can’t believe the things either one says.

In our view, Maddow behaved quite strangely when she challenged Politifact’s (imperfect) report. But out in the country, in Fox Nation 2, a growing gang of ditto-heads were swinging into action. It’s sad to see the way some liberals rushed to praise Maddow in comment sections—for example, in this early comment to a piece in the Huffington Post:

COMMENTER (2/25/11): She didn't have to "edit it.” She said it correctly. The state was, in fact, headed for a surplus, until Walker gave it away (a la Bush) as a tax cut. That's what she said. I was watching and listening.

Oof. Even after Maddow’s second report, this commenter was still repeating the erroneous story. He still thought the bungled story was true. He still thought he’d seen Rachel say it!

Like Politifact, this commenter thought Maddow attributed the budget shortfall to Walker’s fiendish tax cuts. Maddow didn’t make that explicit claim, and she says that isn’t what she meant. But that’s what this commenter thought he heard. He praised Maddow for getting it right, as he kept getting it wrong.

That’s the way the world works at Fox. And increasingly, in Fox Nation 2.

Comments like that can be seen all over the liberal web. (Go ahead, google around.) In such comments, you see the rise of True Belief within the liberal world. You can’t necessarily blame Maddow, of course, if people misunderstand the things she says, though she’s rather long on snark and rather short on clarity. But our intellectual leaders can be blamed for their failure to lead. And sure enough! One of our leading keister-kissers rose to Maddow’s defense:

BENEN (2/25/11): Rachel Maddow reports on Wisconsin. PolitiFact thinks Maddow's wrong. Maddow proves PolitiFact wrong.

Good grief! That guy never quits!

Not long ago, liberals would laugh at conduct like this, conduct which swirled around Rush, around Fox. Liberals laughed at the ditto-heads, at the other tribe’s True Believers. In our view, it’s a very bad thing to see this culture spreading through the liberal world. But in all this hubbub and error, no one’s conduct was worse than Maddow’s. We refer to her second report.

She went on, and on, and on and on, about the way she self-corrects. Others don’t do it, but she does, she said. She said she finds the practice cleansing, not unlike a good strong colonic.

In truth, she was playing the rubes for fools, in much the way Sean does.

Go ahead—watch the tape of Maddow’s second report! It’s funny to see her praise her own love for the truth—as she buries the facts.

Another chance to showcase that greatness: Over and over, Maddow repeated one of her favorite self-glorying stories: No one self-corrects like I do.

In comments sections, you can see the droogs reciting this talking-point for her.

In fact, Maddow seems to hate the very idea of self-correction. She avoids the practice like the plague. But if she likes the practice so much, she can treat herself in the near future. She can correct this part of her original report, in which she repeated another familiar tale which turned out to be wrong:

MADDOW (2/17/11): One thing that doesn’t make sense: Wisconsin’s Republican governor, this guy Scott Walker, has proposed essentially dismantling all the unions for everybody who works for the government, right? That’s what this is all about. He has proposed dismantling the unions for people who work for the government except for cops and firefighters and state troopers.

Why are they exempt? Is it because they’re all law enforcement and emergency services, therefore they need unions more than other state employees? Well, it can’t really be that because corrections officers are among those who are getting the shaft, while the cops and the firefighters and the state troopers are specifically exempt.

OK. What’s the other thing that’s true about these three specific unions who are exempted from this crackdown—cops, firefighters, and state troopers? What’s the other thing about them?

Oh, those are the three exact unions that supported the Republican governor in the last election! So they get taken care of. Everybody else gets dismantled. That should have been the first hint that this maybe was about politics and not about a fiscal crisis.

These were the three exact unions that supported Walker, she said.

This claim was being widely advanced in the early days of the budget battle. But uh-oh! Politifact fact-checked that story too! They worked from a statement by Donna Brazile, a statement which closely tracked Maddow’s.

Based on the passage below, they scored Brazile’s claim “half true:”

POLITIFACT (2/21/11): Brazile is right that police, firefighters and others are exempt. Our next question was, are these the groups [quoting Brazile] “who supported him in his election bid"?

During the campaign last November, leaders of the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Association and Milwaukee Police Association appeared in an ad supporting Walker and blasting his opponent, Democrat Tom Barrett. Walker also won endorsements from the West Allis Professional Police Association and the Wisconsin Troopers Association.

Walker didn’t get the endorsements of two statewide unions, the Wisconsin Professional Police Association and the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, which both backed Barrett.

[…]

We then contacted the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the statewide union that endorsed Walker's opponent last year. Executive director Jim Palmer said the statewide organization is much larger than the local Milwaukee police union that endorsed Walker. The state group has approximately 11,000 members versus Milwaukee’s roughly 1,400, he said.

Similarly, the state firefighters association has more than 3,000, compared with the Milwaukee union’s 875.

According to Politifact, some unions backed Walker, some backed his opponent. But Walker was backed by several locals. Two statewide unions backed his opponent—and they were much larger. (Politifact didn’t give membership numbers for the Wisconsin Troopers Association, and we couldn’t find one.)

How good a job did Politifact do? We’re not sure. But it seems that the original tale was a serious overstatement. This may explain why this story has seemed to fade from view.

Maddow hasn’t corrected or explained her very strong assertion. Based on history, the chances are strong that she never will.