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Daily Howler: The career liberal world has done it again. But then, what else is new?
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DEFINING MISOGYNY DOWN! The career liberal world has done it again. But then, what else is new? // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, MARCH 10, 2008

HOW INSISTENTLY THEY FORGET: The question had Kevin Drum puzzled. Has any attack during a primary campaign later been used, in the general election, against the winner of that primary? Kevin raised the question on Thursday; he related it to Clinton’s comments about Obama’s readiness, and to one of Obama’s rebuttals. Yesterday, after three days of study, he raised the question again:

DRUM (3/9/08): The question, rather, is whether or not general election candidates use the primary attack itself as fodder for their campaign. As in, "Even my opponent's fellow Democrats believe...”

And huzzah! After several days of study, Kevin gave his answer. There have been examples of this sort of thing, Kevin said—“but apparently not very recently and not very often.” Kevin offered four examples of this phenomenon—from 1964, 1972, and 1980 (twice).

Good God. Our analysts came to us sobbing, all saying one thing: How quickly pseudo-liberals forget!

Have attacks made during a Democratic primary ever been used in the general election? Duh! Let’s return to Campaign 2000, when this happened to a well-known fellow—a fellow named Candidate Gore.

Readers, it’s October 2000. Thanks to losers like Bob Herbert, Gore is being trashed as a Big F*cking Liar again, this time in the wake of the first Bush-Gore debate. In the Washington Post, David Von Drehle writes (yet another) long piece reviewing Gore’s troubling history. And because he was alive on this planet, Von Drehle mentioned Bill Bradley’s attacks on Gore during that year’s Dem primaries. He also mentioned what Bush had been saying, repeatedly, out on the trail:

VON DREHLE (10/8/00): By the time former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley began thinking about challenging Gore for this year's Democratic nomination, he and his staff were convinced that the truth factor would be important in their race. "It was a big deal to us," a Bradley adviser says. The Bradley team perked up when Time magazine reported that Gore had bragged of his role in creating [sic] the earned income tax credit—a law passed long before Gore entered Congress.
"Why should we believe that you will tell the truth as president if you don't tell the truth as a candidate?" Bradley demanded in a New Hampshire debate with Gore. This has become a favorite quotation in Bush's rhetoric.

This has become a favorite quotation in [Candidate] Bush's rhetoric. Again, this happened during Campaign 2000. Readers, do you remember that one? The one two elections ago?

Why were our analysts sobbing on Sunday? Readers, must you ask:

Here at THE HOWLER, we’ve spent the past nine years developing and presenting information about that campaign. We’ve endlessly discussed the role played by Bradley during the primaries, in which his attacks on Gore’s troubling character descended to the level of sheer demagoguery. (“Willie Horton,” he said. Just astounding.) People like Kevin have to work very hard to be so clueless about these affairs. But let’s be honest: Over on the “career liberal” side, your “leaders” are willing to work quite hard to serve you so remarkably poorly. Of course, it’s also possible that Kevin is simply deceiving you. Career liberals do have agendas.

Now, let’s perform the inevitable correction: The Post’s Von Drehle was simply wrong in the example he gave in this passage. In his 12/1/99 Q-and-A with Time, Gore had plainly discussed “the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit” (yes, we’re quoting—Von Drehle forgot to), not the “creation” of the program. But so what? When the transcript of this Q-and-A first appeared, the Bradley campaign began dissembling again, and Von Drehle’s cohort began to pimp their new bullsh*t for them, as they did all through that year’s primaries. And, as late as October 2000, Von Drehle was still misstating this matter. After that, your “liberal intellectual leaders” took charge. Two days after Von Drehle’s report, Lawrence O’Donnell (another of Welch’s Lost Boys) went on The McLaughlin Group and channeled Von Drehle, trashing the ridiculous Gore in the process. A crucial election was three weeks away. Here’s what this hapless man said:

“John, his most ridiculous and his most relevant untruths are his claims of legislative achievement. He told Time magazine last year that he enacted the Earned Income Tax Credit, which of course went into law before he was ever in Congress.”

No, you can’t get dumber than that—and O’Donnell was on the show as a “liberal.” The dead of Iraq stare up from the ground as we recall O’Donnell’s misconduct. But happy ending! He’s a big star in Hollywood now! And Kevin can’t remember a time when a Dem got whipped in this manner.

But yes: When Dems make certain kinds of charges during the primary, those charges can be used in the fall.

Please understand why our analysts sobbed: We aren’t complaining because pool boys like Kevin couldn’t figure this sort of thing out for themselves. No, it’s massively worse than that: Even when you spend nine years developing the informatio n and handing it to them, they still don’t have the slightest idea about the way our politics works! You have to work extremely hard to know as little as these “house journos” do. But readers, they’re more than up to the task. All hail your career liberal leaders!

Let’s quote Kevin one last time:

“Bottom line: Primary attacks have been used before by general election candidates, but not very often and not since 1980, it seems.”

Bottom line: You have to live in a real world of dumb to type a statement like that.

DEFINING MISOGYNY DOWN: In yesterday’s Post, ombudsman Deborah Howell stated her views about last week’s disaster at “Outlook.” We’ve learned a very important thing in the past week’s debate about this gong show. Before we review that seminal learning, let’s consider three others as well:

Who is Charlotte Allen: Sadly, Howell writes this in her ombudsman piece: “Allen, 64, is a writer and has been a teacher; she told me she is getting her doctorate in medieval studies at Catholic University.” We would have guessed (actually, hoped) that Allen was much younger than that—that this piece represented the folly of pseudo-conservative youth. Meanwhile, it has become clear that Allen, and those who approved her column, saw it in part as a humorous piece. It was, of course, always plain that there was a “humorous” element to what Allen wrote. But the pseudo-conservative world has increasingly played this slick, slippery card in the past twenty years. Silly, nasty, inane attacks get smuggled into the public discourse under the guise of conservative “humor.” We’ll assume that Allen typed her piece in good faith. But regarding this general use of “humor,” it’s time we all stopped playing dumb about the way this ploy works.

Who is John Pomfret: We’ve been amazed by Pomfret’s bad judgment ever since he took over at Outlook. (Sometimes—not always—that bad judgment has seemed to have an ideological cast.) In Howell’s column, Pomfret is quoted saying that Allen’s piece “presented a different, albeit very non-PC take at a time when women and politics is a riveting topic in this country.” Very non-PC! To our ear, Pomfret self-identified with this childish formulation. He seems to be one of those Aggrieved White Men who simply hate that “political correctness”—who hate the notion that they should be courteous or thoughtful in the things they choose to say about other societal groups. Among boo-hooing white males of this type, aggrieved complaints about “PC” are really cries for return to the (Archie) Bunker times—to the time when Foolish White Men could say whatever came into their heads, without regard for how their comments might affect the sensibilities of the groups they love to ridicule. Pomfret is sick of all that PC! To our ear, he self-identifies with that childish statement.

Who is the Washington Post: We learned a great deal from Howell’s piece about the way the Post works. Some information was simply astounding. According to Howell, “Six other women, five at the Post, read the [Allen] piece; five thought it was fine and one didn’t.” Beyond that, Pomfret himself thought the piece was OK, while “Deputy Editor Warren Bass argued against it.” Stunning! First, there’s a lot of “make-work” inside Versailles, or so it seems when we learn that Pomfret needs seven other people to help him decide if a piece is fit to publish. Beyond that, six of eight people involved is this matter actually approved of Allen’s piece! That’s the most remarkable information in Howell’s report. It suggests that a very strange breed of Antoinette populates the Post.

We learned those things from Howell’s report. But we learned something more important in all the caterwauling this week. Despite the trashing Allen received, we learned that it’s actually OK to write an insulting (and insultingly stupid) piece which stereotypically trashes women! We learned that from the way the mainstream and liberal worlds agreed to disappear Linda Hirshman, who wrote a second insulting piece, which ran in tandem with Allen’s.

What did we learn from last week’s flap? We learned a very unfortunate fact: The career liberal world is quite prepared to define misogyny down.

No, Virginia: John Pomfret didn’t publish a stereotypical piece trashing women. He published two such pieces, in tandem; one of them argued that “women are stupid,” the other that “women are fickle.” Allen wrote the first of these pieces—and she has been widely attacked. Hirshman wrote the second piece, and she has been granted a pass.

The famous old claim that women are fickle was clearly the main point of Hirshman’s piece. But in fairness, she too came very close to saying that women are stupid. In just her fourth paragraph, she offered this inane complaint about the fact that many Democratic women are supporting Obama, not Clinton:

HIRSHMAN (3/2/08): For the Clinton campaign, this is devastating. A year ago, chief strategist Mark Penn proclaimed that the double-X factor was going to catapult his candidate all the way to the White House. Instead, the women’s vote has fragmented. The only conclusion: American women aren’t strategic enough to form a meaningful political movement directed at taking power. Will they ever be?

It’s hard to get dumber than Hirshman is—or to get more insulting. But let’s be specific: On the insult front, her claim that American women aren’t “strategic” enough suggests another s-word: Smart. And her claim that she offers “the only conclusion” about women’s voting? Well, that is just spectacularly stupid. Only a very dumb person—John Pomfret, come on down!—would put such dreck into print.

As she continues, Hirshman presents a bewildering, shifting series of claims about the way Democratic women have been voting (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/3/08). Should all women be voting for Clinton? All white women? All white women who are working-class? It’s hard to tell just what she thinks from her deeply garbled piece. But Hirshman’s principal claim is every bit as stereotypical and insulting as Allen’s stupid old battle-cry was. “Women are fickle,” the savant proclaims, halfway through her piece. (She makes the statement again at the end—and it’s clearly her central assertion.) Meanwhile, how insulting will Hirshman be to women who dare support Obama? In the following passage, she scorns a set of women (including “female governors”) who dare to vote that way. Note the open condescension which begins in the second paragraph. The third paragraph is so stupid—and so insulting—that Pomfret once again bares his soul when he puts such garbage in print:

HIRSHMAN: Maybe Obama is the best candidate, and these highly educated women, with their greater political savvy, have recognized his value. A less charitable explanation is that college-educated women don’t need the social safety net as much as their less fortunate sisters do, so Clinton’s early stand on family leave or her slightly more generous health-care plan aren’t as importanto them.

Or maybe it has to do with what [Katha] Pollitt expressed in a recent blog posting: “On foreign policy Obama seems more enlightened, as in less bellicose.” Educated women focusing more on foreign policy fits with what we know about women and politics. Although at every class level, women know less than men do about politics in general, they know more as their education level goes up. So it may be that foreign policy issues are more salient to women with a college degree.

Or it could just be that women with more education (and more money) relate on a subconscious level to the young and handsome Barack and Michelle Obama, with their white-porticoed mansion in one of the cooler Chicago neighborhoods and her Jimmy Choo shoes.

Women are fickle! And they aren’t strategic! And: Maybe they just like those Jimmy Choo shows! By normal standards, progressive or otherwise, this is ugly, mindless stuff. Again, this column ran in tandem with Allen’s—with the one which said women are stupid.

Just for the record, Hirshman offers one final insulting notion; she speculates that women like Pollitt have simply knuckled under to pressure from loudmouth Obama supporters. (Here again, she offers an “analysis” so jumbled and illogical as to be virtually incoherent.) And Hirshman closes in familiar old weeds—in weeds which have always been used to trash those silly women. What is the Clinton campaign’s biggest failure? “Not recognizing the fickleness of the female voter,” this stupid crone says as she ends.

Sorry, but by any progressive standard, Hirshman’s piece is stupid and nasty—and, like Allen’s, it’s built around a stupid old stereotype which has long been used to trash women. And sure enough: When these twinned hit -pieces appeared last Sunday, several liberals criticized both Hirshman and Allen. Atrios did so last Sunday, for instance. On Tuesday, the Post published a letter from Pollitt which criticized both of these writers.

But guess what, people? Career liberals are fickle! As we’ve long told you, the career liberal world puts a long list of values ahead of the value called “telling the truth.” By week’s end, Hirshman’s knuckle-dragging insults had been sent down a memory hole, presumably for a very good reason. You see, Hirshman is a numb-nutted writer for a string of pseudo-liberal journals! Grotesquely, she’s part of the career liberal world! And to all appearances, today’s career liberal puts such concerns ahead of progressive values.

Hirshman wrote an ugly piece, built around a famous old stereotype. But by the end of the week, she had been rehabilitated; indeed, when Pollitt wrote an on-line column in the Post, she didn’t mention Hirshman at all—she only went after Allen. In short, this sort of thing is a total outrage—when it’s done by a pseudo-conservative. But then again, it’s A-OK—when done by a connected career liberal. But then, the career liberal world has played your interests this way for the past sixteen years.

No Virginia: Pomfret didn’t print an ugly, stereotypical column; the knuckle-dragging goon posted two. But around the country, liberals aren’t hearing that; their betters have apparently chosen to maintain career loyalties. Linda Hirshman is part of the gang—and Linda Hirshman was given a pass. In the process, Pomfret’s offence was reduced by half—and Hirshman will be back with more nonsense.

In 1999 and 2000, they wouldn’t tell you what the Post and the Times were doing to Candidate Gore. (You can barely make them discuss it today!) Now, they won’t tell you about Pomfret and Hirshman. Endlessly, their own career interests—their own social standing—seems to come ahead of progressive interests. Go ahead—reread Hirshman’s column (the one which Atrios assailed in real time). When you see such insulting work getting a pass, the career liberal world has done it again. The career liberal world has agreed (once again) to define misogyny down.

OUR ADVICE, ONCE AGAIN: When you ponder the career liberal world, always consider the Washington Generals. Red Klotz and the gang were paid to lose. Despite their won-less record, they made out very well.

Special report: “Shirts-and-skins” thinking!

PART 1—WILLING TO DO AND SAY ANYTHING: We humans can really make ourselves dumb when we adopt that old “shirts-and-skins” thinking. Just consider what Gene Robinson said in his Friday column. Yes, he actually published this thought. No, we didn’t invent it:

ROBINSON (3/7/08): The way to assess the race, say Clinton's backers, is to look at momentum.

But it's an odd kind of momentum that we're being asked to appreciate. Apparently, the contests in Wyoming and Mississippi won't count if Obama wins them, because that's what everyone expects. The April 22 primary in Pennsylvania will definitely count if Clinton wins, however, even though that's what everyone expects. To paraphrase Orwell, some states are more equal than others.

“Some states are more equal than others,” Robinson wrote—and the gentleman found the concept so strange that he even dragged Orwell into the stew! Why on earth would Pennsylvania “be more equal than” Wyoming? Robinson was so befuddled by this, he vented about it that evening on Countdown—apparently having entered the state of hypnosis now required to appear on the program. Vexed by the Orwellian madness himself, Keith was there to prompt him:

OLBERMANN (3/7/08): I’ve already quoted you, paraphrasing Animal Farm on this. Why don’t you say it exactly and while explaining how Senator Obama would go and try to change this dynamic that, you know, casts certain states and the votes and the delegates from those states as somehow “less than?”

ROBINSON: Exactly. The Clinton campaign formulates that some states are more equal than others. It’s true.

Keith just couldn’t fathom it either! For reasons that no one could quite comprehend, the Clinton campaign “formulates that some states are more equal.”

But then, so it goes when our dumbest, least honest rube-runners surrender to “shirts-and-skins” logic.

Just for the record, why are some states considered to be “more equal than” others? In particular, why has every big pundit in Robinson’s orbit (forget about the Clinton campaign!) treated Pennsylvania and Ohio as “more equal than” Wyoming? Why have they done so all through this campaign? Could it be because two million Democrats voted in Ohio last week—and roughly ten thousand did so in Wyoming? (Next month, Pennsylvania will almost surely have a turnout comparable to Ohio’s.) Could it be because Pennsylvania has been a large-electoral-vote swing state in the last two elections—and because Wyoming will vote for McCain?

Two million votes versus ten thousand votes? Could that explain the “more equal” framework—the framework adopted by Robinson’s cohort since the dawn of recorded time?

Readers, let’s clear this up by stating the obvious. Robinson understands perfectly well why Pennsylvania and Ohio are considered “more equal.” But uh-oh! Stepfordized pundits—people like Robinson—have their “shirts-and-skins” mind-set working these days. They go on the air in a Stepfordized glaze—and it even begins to show up in their writing! Why, it almost seems they’re willing to do and say anything when they talk about this campaign! That’s how thoroughly they’ve permitted themselves to slide into this mind-set.

At this point, Robinson will plainly say anything. He’ll even look at you, as if in a daze, and pretend he can’t distinguish two million votes from the ten thousand votes they just cast in Wyoming. Our question: Why kind of mind-set—what logic, what thinking—explains such conduct from such a great man? Readers, the syndrome at work here is perfectly clear: Pundits say the darnedest things when they get themselves into its thrall. But just what is this “shirts-and-skins thinking?” Shirts-and-skins thinking! What’s that?

TOMORROW—PART 2: Bob Herbert can’t guess.