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Daily Howler: Sensible citizens still don't grasp the shape of our gong-show discourse
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SHE HASN’T HEARD! Sensible citizens still don’t grasp the shape of our gong-show discourse: // link // print // previous // next //

OUR SERIES EXPANDS: We’ve been a bit sick in the past two days (toothache again!), and we want to do our subject full justice. So we’re expanding “A tale of two speeches” a tad. An unexpected Part 2 appears below. Tooth-fairy willing, Part 3 will appear Monday morning.

WONDERFUL CLOWNISTRY: Simply put, there’s nothing Chris Matthews won’t do and say to promote his throwback social preferences. On last night’s Hardball, he said the following about Hillary Clinton. He kept a straight face as he did:
MATTHEWS (3/8/07): Here`s my theory. My theory is that men are rooting around for a reason to be against Hillary, and they’re going to spend the next year trying to find out why they want to be against her because they want to be against her. And they’re looking for reasons to be for Rudy. I think people always try to figure out how they can sell the guy they want to sell. They want Rudy to be a hero because they want a hero like Rudy. And they have this problem with Hillary, and I can’t quite figure it out. But it seems to be emerging and I can’t explain it.

We`ll be right back with Michael Duffy, Jill Zuckman of the Chicago Tribune and John Fund of the Wall Street Journal. You’re watching Hardball, only on MSNBC.
Wonderful! Of course, when they came right back, none of those guests told Hardball viewers that Matthews has just performed wonderful clownistry. We think you know the rules of this tribe. If you want to be on Hardball again, you have to behave while you’re there.

Poor Chris! He thinks men “have this problem with Hillary,” but he “can’t quite figure out” what it is! Could it be that Clinton seems “like a strip-teaser,” the insult Chris dumped on her in December? Could it be that they think she’s “an uppity woman,” the insult he dumped on her twice the next month—even pretending he was quoting her husband? In short, Matthews has dumped a nasty stream of gender-based insults on Clinton. Then, he turns to the camera and says that he can’t figure out this bad problem she has among men.

Jack Welch knew what he was getting when he went out and purchased this empty-souled m*ck. But our liberal “leaders” still don’t discuss this—they want to be on Hardball too—and that produces the problem we found in a letter to the Washington Post.

What happens when liberal leaders won’t speak? Keep reading.

Special report: A tale of two speeches!

PART 2—SHE HASN’T HEARD: There’s amazing material in this morning’s big papers—Paul Krugman’s column in the Times; this remarkable Washington Post report about the way the Bush Admin keeps doctoring data; Dana Milbank’s latest foolishness (we’ll plan to return to his work next week); Gregg Easterbrook’s New York Times op-ed column, in which the lad complains about the way Al Gore “wag[s] his finger about the energy uses of others.” (Have you seen Gore do that?)

But for our money, the most striking thing in today’s papers is a letter to the Post from Alexandria’s Jane Hilder. (As we post, no link has been provided.) We don’t normally use the names of letter-writers, but Hilder has written a very sensible letter—and she is a victim of fifteen years of criminal conduct by our liberal “leadership.” Here’s the letter she sent to the Post. Hilder is a sensible person—and she deserves much better treatment from those who would claim to be leaders:
LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST (3/9/07): What continues to surprise me about the Lewis Libby-Valerie Plame case is that those leaking information in the Bush administration thought the fact that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was married to someone in the CIA was important enough to leak in violation of national security rules.

The American people would not have cared that Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and might have arranged for him to go to Niger, unless there was evidence that Mr. Wilson was not qualified for the job he was asked to do. But the ambassador had experience in Africa, so his competence did not seem to be in question. After all, the typical American would not consider a free trip to Niger a boondoggle.

The only conclusion I can reach is that Bush administration officials and their political base were apoplectic that someone dared to question their version of reality. They were trying to explain to the American public how it happened that someone was sent to Niger to evaluate evidence regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and would not toe the party line when he got back.

This case was all about their failure to control the message.

Being a perfectly sensible person, Hilder is surprised to think that the Bush Admin would bother leaking the fact that Plame worked at the CIA. After all, Hilder writes, Joe Wilson’s “competence did not seem to be in question;” he was well connected in Niger, and qualified to make his trip. Because Wilson was qualified for his mission, Hilder says, “[t]he American people would not have cared that [his] wife worked at the CIA.”

We agree with most of what Hilder says. Beyond that, though, we think Hilder completely fails to understand the nature of our modern gong-show public discourse. This type of discourse has driven our politics for the past fifteen years. It’s the discourse our “leaders” won’t discuss.

Why would the Bush Admin want to leak the fact that Plame played some role in Wilson’s selection? In fairness, this information was slightly newsworthy; in sending Wilson, the CIA sent someone who was closely connected to the agency—someone who understood the agency’s view of the matter in question. In Wilson’s own book, he writes at some length about the way public servants try “to avoid nepotism or any appearance of it” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/11/05). All things being equal, it would have been better if the CIA had sent someone who wasn’t so closely tied to the office which sent him. In fact, some of the American people did “care that Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the CIA.” They did wonder about the “appearance of nepotism;” they wondered if Wilson came back with a prefab conclusion, one his wife’s office wanted to hear. Some Democrats would have responded this way if the shoes had been on other feet. These reactions stem from the type of “appearance” Wilson says public servants should avoid.

That said, Wilson was, in fact, fully qualified for his trip. Like Hilder, we have always assumed he performed his mission in good faith; beyond that, we assume the conclusions he drew were accurate (although they’re frequently misdescribed, even now). And it’s true: Many of the American people “would not have cared that Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the CIA.” (Most of the American people don’t follow stories like this.) Why then did the Bush Admin want to leak the connection to Plame? Hilder is a sensible person. And alas! For precisely that reason, she seems to have no idea how our modern gong-show politics works.

Why did the Bush Admin want to leak the Plame connection? The connection is irrelevant and trivial, Hilder says. But over the course of the past fifteen years—perhaps since the takedown of Michael Dukakis—our gong-show national discourse has constantly turned on the trivial and the irrelevant. Hilder doesn’t seem to understand this key fact. But then, which of our worthless liberal “leaders” has ever deigned to tell her?

Wilson’s connection to Plame was trivial? Here at THE HOWLER, we largely agree—but that’s why the Bush Admin wanted to leak it! It was like calling attention to Hillary’s drawl—or to the number of buttons on Gore’s troubling suits. The RNC has spent the bulk of the past twenty years leaking trivia about Major Dems, and the practice has worked out brilliantly for them. Our modern media are endlessly willing to repeat and parrot these streams of trivial misdirection; indeed, this has become the principal way the RNC controls our public discourse. The RNC prefers to traffic in trivia—in part, because the Antoinettes of our millionaire press corps prefer to wallow in trivia too. To state the obvious, this is the way George Bush got elected—and Jane Hilder still hasn’t heard.

Omigod! Jane Hilder still thinks like a rational person! No one has ever stood up and told her that her nation’s public discourse has long been a gong show. No, that isn’t an obvious fact, if you’re a sensible person like Hilder. In fact, sensible people will never understand this matter—until people in “leadership” tell them.

Which brings us back to our liberal leaders—and to Hillary’s drawl in that Selma speech. This past Monday morning, we rolled our eyes when we heard a local talk radio host calling attention to Hillary’s drawl—courtesy of the doctored tape which was being used to make the case. But it should hardly have been a major surprise when this was all over cable Monday night—or when “Democratic strategists” fumbled and flailed trying to deal with the onslaught.

Indeed, an earlier speech—a speech by Al Gore—was gong-showed in much this same manner. Gore gave the speech on a Tuesday in June 1999; it was his formal campaign kick-off speech. And by that weekend, a long stream of mainstream pundits were making a remarkable, bogus claim about it. But eight years later, Jane Hilder still hasn’t heard that this is the way modern politics works. A group of weak boys in our “leadership” roles still haven’t managed to tell her.

Eight years later, they still don’t mention what happened to Gore (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/8/07). (Or to Bill Clinton, for that matter.) On the rare occasions when they do, they misstate what happened—by half!

For us, this week was a grinding tale of two speeches—one speech by Clinton, and that old speech by Gore. We’ll lay out the connection in Part 3, on Monday. But people like Hilder won’t see that connection until our liberal “leaders” explain it (many times). They fumbled and bumbled on cable this week, as they constantly do at these junctures. Their conduct is little short of criminal—unless you don’t care about people like Hilder, or about those who will die in the lunatic war we get into after Iraq—after the loathsome Matthews puts his next “regular person” into the White House.