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TOMORROW: Philosopher Fridays! Letting Wilt play!

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON CELEBRITY: This Media Matters post is just stunning. Tuesday morning, a certain loud nut-case appeared on Morning Joe. While there, he made these stunning comments about Big Dems and health care:

MATTHEWS (3/11/08): Can I talk about something closer to home, which is a domestic reality? You know, I try to figure this political thing like you guys all the time. I'm always figuring, how do we get something done in this country so we're not in this rut of blaming the other party all the time? Inevitably, what works is not this 3 yards and a cloud of dust of "I'll move my 50 percent up to 60 percent, I'll get 60 senators for my liberal position," 'cause that never happens. It never—everybody says they're going to do it, so they get to 55 senators with five Republicans. It never gets done.

What you have to be is really creative, with Inchon landings like in the Korean War, like MacArthur did. Like Nixon did with China. Like de Gaulle did with Algeria. You gotta do the surprising move that grabs the center. Right?

Now, if a Democrat were smart, who gets elected president, they wouldn't go back to the old Canadian model, where they're all—you know, single-payer model. They'd say, “Wait a minute. Why don't I take something that looks practical out of Massachusetts with Mitt Romney, something practical that Schwarzenegger's trying to do, and put my name on it and say, 'Let's try that. Let's try some kind of mandated benefit. Let's try some kind of effort where businesses and young people have to pay their way. Let's do something that sounds vaguely Republican and self-reliant' "—if you're a Democrat. You know why? Because it would pass! And you'd have national health insurance! But if you keep pushing from your ideological end, you never get there.

In a rational world, that wouldn’t be possible. According to Howard Kurtz, Matthews is paid $3 million per year to cover politics for NBC News/MSNBC—for the propaganda organization Jack Welch so irresponsibly built. And more than a year into this campaign, he seems to think that Obama and Clinton are proposing single-payer health care! He seems to suggest that they “try some kind of mandated benefit...where businesses and young people have to pay their way.” That, of course, is exactly what Obama and Clinton (and Edwards) have proposed.

In a rational world, you’d assume that this wasn’t possible—that some sort of misunderstanding had occurred. You’d assume that Matthews couldn’t be as clueless as he seems to be, about such basic facts. But as we’ve mentioned in the past, we’re often stunned by Matthews’ factual ignorance. In late December, for example, he went on an extended rant in which he revealed a startling fact—one year into Campaign 08, he plainly thought that Barack Obama’s “mother and maternal grandmother” were Muslims. Indeed, on a single Hardball program, he articulated some version of this mind-boggling howler four separate times. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/21/07.

Unfortunately, Matthews is such a cosmic fraud that it’s often hard to confirm his ignorance. In March 2000, for example, he savagely misstated elementary facts about Al Gore and the Buddhist temple, painting Gore as a fraud and a liar. The facts about this matter had long been clear—and they had just been re-established in a high-profile court case. Was Matthews simply lying again—or was he truly misinformed? In this case, as in so many others, it was hard to be certain. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/17/00.

But go ahead—visit Media Matters. Read a fuller transcript, and watch the tape of this cosmic nut-case expounding. In these moments, you see the size of the problem we have long faced as a nation. But go read Kevin—and go read Josh. Prediction: The pool boys will be silent. Once again.

THIS IS YOUR PARTY ON RECTITUDE: Our view: On the presidential level, it never made sense to think that this was destined to be an easy Democratic year. On the presidential level, our elections now concern dime novels; they’re driven by the childish “morality tales” constructed around the different candidates. And uh-oh! On the Republican side, the press corps has spent the past dozen years constructing a “hero tale” about the candidate who will be that party’s nominee. He has never been far behind the Big Dems in the national polls—at least, not for any significant period of time. He’s running about even now.

You’ve seen this movie! For the past dozen years, the public has been told that John McCain is an authentic straight-talking war hero straight-shooter who’s exceptionally comfortable in his own skin. (And a maverick.) In our view, the public isn’t likely to take him for Bush, given the silly tale they’ve been sold. By way of contrast, one of the possible Democratic hopefuls has been demonized for the past sixteen years. The more likely nominee is new on the scene, and therefore susceptible to “framing.”

And so, even in “a Democratic year,” McCain is running even with Obama and Clinton. Rather, he was running even before this week—a week which hasn’t seemed real good for Dems. On Monday, one member of the pseudo-liberal elite wrote a New York Times op-ed piece; it said that white Texas voters who favored Clinton had submitted to Birth of the Nation imagery. This column twinned an earlier piece in the Washington Post. That column had said that Democratic women who favor Obama are snobby, upper-class gender-traitors who are drawn to Michelle Obama’s fancy shoes.

Yep! It’s hard to get dumber than our liberal “elites!” And now, with the party locked in Ferraro-gate, things may be getting worse.

What do we think of Geraldine Ferraro’s comments, originally published in The Daily Breeze of Torrance, California? On balance, we don’t think they were hugely worth talking about, like the vast majority of things which get discussed in what passes for our political discourse. (How dare Samantha Power say that!) But Ferraro’s remarks have been widely discussed—and in the usual manner.

Was something wrong with Ferraro’s remarks? If we pull out one part of what she said—the standard way to deal with such matters—we would tend to disagree with her statement, to the extent that we understood it. (A more humane practice: Ask a person to explain what she meant. It’s also more intelligent.) Let’s take the first fragment which got discussed. Standing alone, the statement is unfortunate—indeed, tragic: “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position.”

Standing alone, that strikes us as a very unfortunate statement (to the extent that we understand what was meant). Standing alone, that statement seems to reduce a brilliant person to his “race”—a tragic part of this nation’s history. Meanwhile, depending on how you take the statement, we’d have to say that we have no way to know if it’s actually true. Would Obama be where he is except for race—for his remarkable personal history, which he has described in two brilliant books? We have no earthly idea. For all we know, if Barack Obama had come of age in a society which wasn’t still captive to obsessions about “race,” then Barack Obama, a brilliant person, might have found the cure for cancer by now. Or he might have achieved some other great thing, something which would have made him an even larger public phenomenon than he already is. Unfortunately, this brilliant person came of age in a society which was still captive to race—and so, as he has described in his books, he devoted a great deal of his obvious brilliance to untangling that subject’s painful mysteries.

Time and energy spent in one place can’t be spent in some other. But Obama’s brilliance was perfectly obvious when he addressed the Democratic Convention in 2004. And it has been obvious out on the trail, where—on balance—he has conducted a brilliant seminar on the future of race, on racial and post-racial dreaming. “There has been a running thread through this campaign of both pundits and prognosticators asking first, was I black enough, then am I too black,” Obama is quoted saying in this morning’s Post. In our view, Obama has maintained his brief through this gauntlet quite brilliantly (perhaps until the last week or two). In our view, few candidates have ever understood any brief so thoroughly—and the brief which Obama understands so well goes to the soul of our culture. In the Maryland primary, we voted for Clinton; on balance, we don’t think it’s a great idea to nominate someone so new. But this is why we said, during South Carolina: We never saw three candidates this good. It’s why we then said, of Clinton and Obama: It’s a shame that one has to lose.

That said, Obama—and his campaign and supporters—haven’t necessarily done the right thing in every instance as the campaign has unfolded. (These things can be hard to evaluate.) And that statement by Ferraro was only part of what she told the Breeze. Careful, readers! When you read a newspaper profile, you’re only reading the statements which have been included in the report. That said, here is a larger selection of the things Ferraro said. The following quotations all appear in the Breeze piece before that remark about Obama—the remark which has been picked out for discussion. In these excerpts, Ferraro was telling Jim Farber, a reporter who seemed to be playing things straight, about a speech she’d be giving in Torrance:

"I will probably start with a personal account, drawing attention to the historic firsts of both these candidacies in our party, and point out specific, significant differences between Hillary's campaign and mine."

"I will discuss what I think's been going on in her campaign and the role of the media, which has been far larger than anything I've seen before. And I'll get into what this bides for the future. I may also speak about the superdelegates, since I was involved with their creation."

“I'm on Hillary's finance committee. I've done a fundraiser for her here at my firm. And I went and worked the phone banks before Super Tuesday. I have to tell you, this is a very emotional campaign for me."

“I think what America feels about a woman becoming president takes a very secondary place to Obama's campaign—to a kind of campaign that it would be hard for anyone to run against. For one thing, you have the press, which has been uniquely hard on her. It's been a very sexist media. Some just don't like her. The others have gotten caught up in the Obama campaign.”

Ferraro is quoted saying these things before she makes that remark about Obama—the remark which was singled out first.

Here are some thoughts that came to mind when we reviewed what Ferraro said:

“This is a very emotional campaign for me,” she said. As she said this, she described a problem which has plagued this Democratic campaign on various sides. Beyond that, we disagree with a few of the things she said in these excerpts—but then, we strongly agree with some others. And we think these remarks present a context for her other remarks—a context which has been tossed away this week, as so often occurs in what we call our political discourse.

What do we disagree with here? Along with many other Democrats, Ferraro has been living on Mars if she believes (we don’t doubt that she does) that the press has been “uniquely hard” on Clinton in this campaign—if she believes that the role of the media “has been far larger than anything I’ve seen before.” We agree that the press corps has gone after Clinton, especially after October, often in ways which have been inexcusable. But starting in March 1999, they went after Candidate Gore much longer and a bit harder. We believe Ferraro when she suggests that she doesn’t understand that history. In our experience, most Big Dems and Big Liberals don’t.

So Ferraro is wrong about that point—but she’s right about others. For example, we have seen “a very sexist media” during this campaign. Though we ourselves avoid that term (more heat than light), we’ve been writing about the gender-trashing of Clinton since late 2006. The gender-trashing was nasty and endless, and it came from familiar press elements—elements which have been destroying Big Dems ever since they went after Gore. (Chris Matthews, you big f*cking tool, come on down!) But so what? All around the pseudo-liberal world, high-minded boys looked contentedly on. Today, they’re troubled by all that racism! Sorry. Many times, if you pick-and-choose that way, you end up with “emotional” people complaining about your candidate.

We wouldn’t have said the things Ferraro said; nor would we have trashed her for them. But many people have gotten “emotional” (sometimes counter-productively so) as they’ve seen their candidate get gender-trashed. (Bill Clinton would be one example.) Then, there are those who didn’t speak up during this long, inexcusable process. Last night, Keith set aside his usual practice of mocking young women to offer one of his phony rants about the way the Clinton campaign is now of a piece with David Duke! For our money, Keith became unwatchable long ago, when his self-impressed rants were still aimed at Bush. (As the Church Lady might have said: Aren’t his comments special!) But now, you can add his self-impressed (pro-Obama) noise to that foolish (pro-Clinton) insult about those Jimmy Choo shoes.

Obama supporters just like Jimmy Choos! No: The Clinton campaign sounds like David Duke! And that ad was like Birth of a Nation! Readers, you can’t get dumber than our liberal elites! Therefore, we think you have two choices: You can choose to be dumb your whole life, or you can choose to reject them. In our view, this is your party on rectitude, a party in love with the sound of its dumbness. Self-impressed boys who let Chris Matthews rave on are now sooo deeply upset with Ferraro! In the process, an authentic straight-talking war hero straight-shooter may be getting that much more comfortable in his own skin.

Many people have said and done stupid (or perhaps dishonest) things during this campaign. On Monday, we spoke about “shirts and skins,” a way we fellows divide the world when we play pick-up basketball. But then, the human brain is wired that way; it was wired, during many years of prehistory, to see the world as “us and them.” As long as you submit to that wiring, you’ll feel the insults aimed at your tribe—and you’ll gaze dumbly at the emotions of others. You’ll understand your own team’s sense of offense—and be puzzled by Ferraro’s.

When you’re a shirt, you’re a shirt all the way, if we may quote the old musical.

And when you’re a shirt, only skins commit fouls! We fellows have seen how it works on the court—but it becomes a lot more harmful when it’s exported to political battles. In this campaign, major players on various sides have said dumb things—or behaved dishonestly. Race cards have been—or may have been—played on various sides. And no, it isn’t easy to know when these cards are being deliberately dealt. Although, of course, it always feels good to pretend we do know—to rant histrionically.

Some of you will now compose e-mails, describing the outrageous offenses committed against your virtuous side. You might find yourself talking about things which offended you; you might not find yourself wondering about the things which may have offended someone else. You may even find yourself explaining somebody’s motives—where motive may be hard to detect. You may find yourself in the grip of a high level of certainty.

In short, you may find yourself repping the shirts, railing about what the vile skins have done. You may be “emotional” too! When you’re a shirt, you’re a shirt all the way! We’ll suggest that’s how Rove wins elections.

BY THE WAY: Earth to Olbermann: Nothing is dumber than pretending that advisers force candidates to behave as they do. (For some reason, pseudo-liberals adore this game.) Those advisers are hired by the candidates! It’s the candidate who accepts—or rejects—the adviser’s advice.

We know, we know—he was trying to keep Clinton out of it! If only he decided to do the same for David Duke!

[Summarizing the liberal consensus: Obama voters just like Jimmy Choos; Clinton sounds like David Duke.]