BUNGLING RATHER (PART 6)! I havent discussed the insider press, Josh said. Our analysts responded: Weve noticed!
MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2005
MILLION-DOLLAR LIGHTWEIGHT: The press corps alleged bias is constantly flogged. But often, its harder for people to comprehend how dumb the corps really is. How big a lightweight is the Posts Dana Milbank? In Sundays Outlook section, Milbank confesses to what his headline calls a bias for mainstream news. The scribes worry? Partisans on the left and right have formed cottage industries devoted to discrediting what they dismissively call the mainstream media, he writes. [T]he consequences are ominous for the country, the troubled scribe quickly explains:
MILBANK (3/20/05): Consider a poll two weeks before the 2004 election by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes: The survey found that 72 percent of President Bush's supporters believed that, at the time of the U.S. invasion, Iraq had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction or at least major illegal weapons programs. It also found that 75 percent of Bush voters believed that Iraq either gave al Qaeda "substantial support" or was directly involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Further, majorities of Bush supporters believed that U.S. weapons inspector Charles Duelfer and the 9/11 commission backed them up on these points.Its fine to argue about the merits of the Iraq war, but these views are just plain wrong, Milbank writes. But we think you know the brain-dead rules that drive the work of Milbanks cohort. If you say that conservatives are grossly misinformed, you must instantly say the same thing about liberals! Just like that, Milbank delivers:
MILB ANK: This is not to pick on Bush followers. Many on the left harbor their own fantasies that they consider fact—about how Bush knew of 9/11 in advance, or how he was coached during one of the presidential debates via a transmitter between his shoulder blades.Two decades ago, the late senator-scholar Daniel Patrick Moynihan remarked that "everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." Now, ideologues are claiming their own facts as well.
But how many people on the left believe that Bush knew of 9/11 in advance? Is it anything like 75 percent, the number Milbank has just cited in discussing those disinformed Bush supporters? And how many people on the left actually believe, as a matter of fact, that Bush was coached during that debate? In these cases, Milbank cites no polling data, because there is no poll on the face of the earth which would produce anything like the type of equivalence he so slavishly seeks here. Could liberals be as factually deluded, one fine day, as conservatives currently are? Of course they could, but that day hasnt come. But so what? Milbank presents nonsense about Bush and 9/11 because it supports a gutless approach his flyweight cohort insists on.
You really have to be a lightweight to publish utter nonsense like that. But Milbanks a million-dollar baby, paid top dollar for defending his tribe—and for typing their brain-dead scripts. How foolish is Milbank willing to be? At one point, he directly compares Jon Stewart to Rush Limbaugh! Conservatives tune in to Rush Limbaugh, he types. Liberals opt for the late-night commentary of Jon Stewart. Its no wonder were so mixed up with a pair of book-end dissemblers like that!
MILLION-DOLLAR FLYWEIGHT: Speaking of intellectual flyweights, how about the Posts David Broder? In Sundays column, The Dean heaps praise on Republican congressman Clay Shaw, presenting him as a true man of the middle. If you assume, as most knowledgeable people do, that any solution to the Social Security problem will require bipartisan agreement, then your gaze naturally falls on people such as Shaw, Broder gushes. But after praising Shaws vast wisdom, Broder quickly quotes the congressman making a blatant misstatement:
BRODER (3/20/05): When I interviewed Shaw last week, he began by saying—as do almost all Republicans—that it is impossible to close the gap between promised Social Security benefits and current Social Security taxes unless younger workers are allowed to create individual retirement accounts invested in stocks and bonds.Shaws statement, of course, is absurdly inaccurate; there are all kinds of ways to close the gap without employing private accounts. But try to find any point in this column where Broder lets his readers know this. If Shaw is actually saying this, he is speaking complete, utter nonsense. But Broder praises Shaw to the skies even as he recites this plain howler.
And of course, flyweight on one, flyweight on all! Broder goes on to accept a wide range of puzzling, unexplored claims from his new culture hero. Well do add-ons, not replacements, Shaw says! If investments fail, well pay retirees anyway! And well have to borrow $3.4 trillion—but well get all the money back in the end! Finally, theres this crowning moment:
BRODER: How would it be financed? By borrowing $3.4 trillion from the Treasury. That is a staggering sum, [Shaw] concedes, but he says that Social Security actuaries calculate that as people began to cash in their accounts later this century, the money the Treasury had advanced would come back, and in 75 years, all that debt would be repaid and excess cash would be generated each year—which he would insist be used to retire other government debt.According to Broder, Shaw will still be insisting on good government even after the year 2080! Apparently Shaw has found the Fountain of Youth along with his other achievements.
Only a flyweight could type that last sentence. But thats the way your press corps works—and Fred Hiatt, worried again about the mall, waves the whole mess into print.
BUNGLING RATHER (PART 6): When will your liberal spokesmen stand and speak frankly about the work of the mainstream press corps? Such spokesmen love bashing conservative outlets, but these same brave liberals are strangely silent about mainstream news orgs and pundits—orgs for whom they may want to work, and pundits with whom they may wish to party. During the Rathergate flap, for example, these liberal spokesmen gazed into air while pseudo-cons screeched about the corps liberal bias. Not for them the dirty task of recalling the facts of the past dozen years, when the mainstream press trashed Clinton, they staged a two-year War Against Gore—a War which sent Bush to the White House. Amazing, isnt it? Even after the trashing of Clinton and Gore, pseudo-cons still get to yell liberal bias—the greatest spin-point of our modern discourse. Yep—when it comes to describing the work of the insider press, liberal spokesmen are endlessly willing to play the fool. But why on earth would your brave liberal spokesmen be willing to go out and do that?
Why do your spokesmen behave this way? Lets consider something important Josh Marshall wrote back on March 8. The Note, ABCs daily press digest, had published a post about Social Security. After Marshall linked to the post, he came down on The Note semi-hard:
MARSHALL (3/8/05): ABC's The Note does love the Washington establishment's CW when it comes to phasing out Social Security. Take a look at their read of the state of play today.Good for Josh! According to Marshall,establishment Washington lies in the grip of a right-leaning dinner-party centrism. And according to Marshall, that right-leaning centrism simply oozed from that post by ABCs young elite.
Thats what Josh said—but could it be true? Could the idealistic young scribes at ABC really be in the grip of a right-leaning centrism? That, of course, would contradict the claim of the mainstream press corps liberal bias. So which is it? Liberal bias or right-leaning centrism? To shed a bit of light on that question, consider Chris Matthews clownish appearance on last Fridays Imus.
As everyone knows (and knows not to say), Matthews is a loud-mouthed, spin-driven, millionaire voice of Washingtons insider press corps. So how about it—is the excitable, red-faced talker driven by that dread liberal bias? If so, he managed to hide it last Friday on Imus. Heres what he said when Imus goaded him about Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom Matthews had recently interviewed:
IMUS (3/18/05): Hey, what—dont you think Schwarzenegger is kind of creepy?So far, Matthews was hiding his liberal bias fairly well. But as the conversation continued, the disguise became even more skillful. Note the way Matthews reacted to a question about Schwarzeneggers personal conduct:
IMUS (continuing directly): Hes kind of an unsavory character, isnt he, going and grabbing women, all that kind of stuff? Or we dont know?We dont know! And even better: There were complaints!! Of course, Matthews didnt explain why we dont know—because Schwarzenegger, once elected, broke his pre-election promise to have his own past conduct investigated. But then, thats Matthews to a T! The talker spent years trashing Clinton for his ten bl*w jobs, then savaged Gore for year after year because he wouldnt trash Clinton sufficiently. But with Darling Arnold, all is different! How well does Matthews hide his liberal bias? As he continued, the talker gushed about his Republican idol:
MATTHEWS: Oh—we dont know. There were complaints. But I think hes great because I cant stand the regular sort of Gray Davis politician who takes the money from the interest groups and says all the right, politically-correct kinds of things and then sits around and all the problems get worse and worse year after year because these guys are really just in there for the position. And Im not sure hes in there for the position. I think hes in there, like Reagan was, to do something.The liberal bias was missing in action. According to Matthews, Democratic pols say politically correct things; take big sacks of money; and sit around doing nothing while problems get worse and worse. But when it comes to Republican pols, their motives and character are pure as snow. Darling Arnold wants to do good. In that way, hes like Darling Ronnie.
Of course, trashing Democratic pols has long been SOP for Matthews, as it has been for so many members of the insider press elite. In fact, Matthews has long been the perfect embodiment of what Marshall called the right-leaning dinner-party centrism of establishment Washington—a right-leaning animus which has led him to trash one Big Dem after another. Al Gore? He doesnt look like one of us, the nasty talker even told Imus shortly after September 11. He doesnt seem very American, even. Yes, the same fawning fellow who covers for Arnold was willing to trash Gore as non-American! But then, this is the actual face of your press corps elite—a face that is almost never discussed by your cowardly liberal spokesmen.
For more on Matthews values, see below. But heres a question for you to ponder as we prepare to end this series with our next hard-hitting report: When have you ever seen liberal spokesmen tell the truth about Matthews? Your spokesmen love to beat up Bill OReilly, and OReillys increasingly kooky work has increasingly justified their complaints. But Matthews has trashed Big Dems for years, in ways far nastier than OReilly has done. So why do so few liberal spokesmen ever state the obvious truth—that Matthews is a nasty man, a man who has been expressing that right-leaning dinner-party view for year after year after year? Why do your spokesmen refuse to tell the American public about the soul of the establishment press—about the right-leaning dinner party ethic men like Matthews so plainly express?
Indeed, despite his endless, groaning misconduct—despite his clowning embrace of Republican pols—we dont think weve ever seen a liberal spokesman go after Matthews! Is there anything this man can do or say that will bring down the wrath of your liberal spokesmen? Alas! They bungled badly in the Rathergate mess, refusing to discuss the press corps real conduct. But then, theyve also routinely looked away from Matthews endless misconduct. Indeed, our young analysts stared with bright, wide eyes when they showed us that March 8 post by Marshall (who has done so much brilliant work). According to Marshall—go ahead, you can read it again for yourselves—he hasnt discussed the press corps right-leaning centrism over the course of the past several years. Were big fans of Marshalls work. But staring at us with bright, puzzled eyes, our analysts said this: Weve noticed.
COMING—PART 7! TOUGH-TALKING GRAND FINALE! When will liberal spokesmen describe the mainstream press corps as it really exists?
INSIDER VALUES: As Matthews chat with Imus continued, the red-faced talker discussed his recent interview with Clint Eastwood, a session which took place on Eastwoods ranch. What are the actual values of your insider press? Matthews almost made it too obvious:
MATTHEWS (3/18/05): I liked that Clint Eastwood thing on Tuesday. I gotta tell you, that was the most fun I ever had in this business, going out to the Mission Ranch and spending some time with him. I mean, this guy is who he is is who he is [sic]. Hes the guy he plays—Clint Eastwood is the guy Clint Eastwood plays. Hes a libertarian, a guy who lives on a ranch, a bit of a cowboy who has developed his entire life he wants to live. Hes got his golf courses, his young wife—hes got erverything exactly the way he wants it. He lives like a Clint Eastwood character.Actually—with no disrespect to Eastwood intended—many Eastwood characters, including the most recent, live in painful estrangement from female family members. Quite pointedly, there are no young wives around. But notice Matthews notion of the good life. Eastwood has golf courses—and a young wife! Trust us—Matthews values are not the ones that result in that dread liberal bias.
As Marshall seemed to suggest, the establishment press has long expressed a noxious right-leaning dinner-party ethos. In Part 7, well ask the obvious question—when will your cowering liberal spokesmen finally stand up and say so?
POSITIONING MARA: Good girl! Virginia Heffernan knew how to play it in this mornings Times. She discussed the TV coverage of the Schiavo matter:
HEFFERNAN (3/21/05): William Kristol, the founder of The Weekly Standard, ventured to assert with conviction on Fox News, ''She can recover substantially if she gets the proper rehabilitation.''Good girl! Mara Liasson is now on the left—and of course, shes deflecting attention away from substance. In fact, Liasson appears on Fox as a reporter; she rarely betrays an ideological view. But Heffernan knew just how to play it. Mara and Juan are from NPR. By the rules, they must be on the left.
We first noticed Heffernans inane dinner-party centrism when she did a remarkable piece for Slate in November 2002. We strongly suggest that you read the whole thing. But heres the way she began her review of an Al Gore appearance on Letterman:
HEFFERNAN: The double bill was almost too bad to be true: Al Gore and Pearl Jam. Getting two such high-level laughingstocks together on one stage seemed a Barnumesque feat.Where do they go to find such churls? The show's lousy skits and gags held my attention because I was genuinely nervous, the scripted flyweight wrote, worried that they might be the last regular television I saw before witnessing Gore's full and final meltdown. For years, this has been the way these lightweights maintain their gigs at the vacuous Times. When will liberal spokesman dare to stand up and describe this real world, as it is?