HOW WE GOT HERE! McCain could still win it. Heres why: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, APRIL 4, 2008
WHERE THE WH*RES ARE: In our view, its been a sad and sobering week for liberal and progressive values. Well start with the suspension of Randi Rhodes, who displayed appalling bad judgment in letting us know Where the Wh*res Are. To see Rhodes performance, just click here. If you want to avoid the very bad words, check the New York Times brief news report.
For years, there was a self-flattering story we liberals liked to tell about the nature of talk radio. Theoretically, liberal talk radio would never work because we liberals are so bright, so intelligent, so independentsuch non-ditto-heads, we kept saying. To be honest, this tale never made much sense. But Rhodes, and others, have made this week a time for some sober reflection.
Are progressives really brighter than conservatives? As a group, we tended to believe it when John Dean (who we admire) wrote that book. But uh-oh! This week, we emitted a low, mordant chuckle at one part of this David Sirota piece, to which wed been linked by the person who has kidnapped Josh Marshall.
What produced that mordant chuckle? At one point, Sirota stopped calling everyone racists long enough to say this about John Hagee:
We misread that passage the first time through; we mistakenly thought Sirota had said that Hagee had repeatedly called Catholicism a great whore. And so, we eagerly clicked on his link, curious to see the examples he had. Surprise! We found ourselves linked to our own DAILY HOWLER piece from two weeks ago, the one in which we noted that liberal critics hadnt presented a clear example in which Hagee made such a statement. Was David playing a bit of a joke? Or is this the way we progressives do research? We wondered again when we reviewed the major thesis of his Race Chasm piece, in which he basically yelled race race race at the Clinton campaign, and at Dem voters in general. In the process, he displayed a remarkably low analytical standard, offering this hapless summary of (to be honest) an unhelpful graph:
Long ago, we observed an unfortunate fact; some men go into stand-up comedy to ridicule women from a bright stage, with the help of a microphone. Similarly, some people seem to be become progressives so they can accuse average schmoes of racism, thus displaying their own moral grandeur.
Its true: Sirotas graph does in fact show that Obama has destroyed Clinton in the states with the smallest black populations. (The states in question on Sirotas graph are these: Idaho, Vermont, Maine, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Washington, Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas. We dropped Hawaii, for fairly obvious reasons.) Sirota is careful enough to say that this pattern is likely due to racial dynamics in part. But as good pseudo-progressives must do, he then moves straight to the racial insults, failing to note other obvious factors which could explain this clump of outcomes.
One such factor is fairly obvious. These are almost all caucus states; on Sirotas chart, all the data from these states (except Utah and Vermont) reflect caucus events. How different might these data have been if these states had conducted primaries? There is, of course, no way to know. But the state of Washington is one of the states at whose results were supposed to gapeand Washington did conduct a primary, ten days after its caucuses. (No delegates were awarded in the primary.) The outcomes of these two events were substantially different. Obama won the caucuses by a huge margin, 68-31, as you see on Sirotas graph. Ten days later, he also won Washingtons primarybut only by 51-46, presumably with many more Democratic voters taking part. (Its hard to know how many people took part in the caucuses. The numbers in this Washington Post summary seem to reflect delegates chosen at the caucuses, not the number of voters participating.)
So which is it? Is Washington a 68-31 state? Or is its real margin 51-46? And what would have happened if those other states had conducted primaries instead of caucuses? Once again, theres no way to knowand the force of Sirotas lusty charge stems from the big margins achieved in low-turnout caucus events. But in a great deal of modern progressive politics, the real purpose of the exercise is fairly clearthe real goal is the desire to brand low information voters as slobbering racists. In Sirotas hands, this led to some very slapdash analysis. (But then again, just look at his link to our piece!) By the way: However good this sort of name-calling feels, well also assume that its a very bad way to get Dems elected to office. This includes Obama, of course. By the way: Obama doesnt name-call this way. Neither, of course, did Dr. King.
So Rhodes was calling Clinton a wh*re, and Sirota was calling the public racists. At TPM, whoever has kidnapped Josh was tip-toeing along behind him, trying to wink and insinuate without quite saying such things. (Click here, for example. The person who has kidnapped Josh is quite good at clearing his throat.)
Are we liberals more intelligent? Or are we name-calling ditto-heads too? Lets return to whoever has kid-napped Joshbecause, in yet another third example, that person does seem to have stifled Greg Sargent. It has now been four full weeks since the very short break described in this post stopped the noise at Gregs Horses Mouth site. Check out the work Greg was doing right before Joshs kidnapper acted and you will perhaps wonder, as we have, if ditto-heads now rule your world.
Greg was discussing an obvious point, a point which has absolutely nothing to do with the relative merits of Obama and Clinton. Yes, large parts of the press corps have savaged Candidate Clinton, often in repugnant ways. Surely, this isnt a controversial notionand it continues an obvious pattern which extends back sixteen years. Did the person who kidnapped Josh think this was too much to ask young liberal readers to bear? We have no way of knowing, of course. But the very short break we were told about has now extended four weeks. And yes: We progressives used to laugh at the other side for just this sort of thing.
Today, though, progressives channel Mister Drudge and let the world know Where the Wh*res Are. Could it be were all ditto-heads now? For years, we did tell ourselves silly tales about our goodness and brilliance.
Note: Scrambling as always to tidy his messes, the person who has kidnapped Josh links to Brendan Nyhan, who has done some highly technical work examining Sirotas thesis. By the way, what did Brendan quickly do when he reworked Davids material? Duh. He dumped the caucus states out of the mixthe ones David urged you to gape at.
This, at least, gives readers a choice. If you want to call average people and party leaders racists, you can read Sirotas piece and feel a thrill go up your leg. Or you can go to Brendans highly technical workin which case you wont have the slightest idea what he is talking about. As you can see, the results look somewhat less clear, Brendan says, early on. Until shown otherwise, well guess that hes right. But most likely, you wont see that at all.
Increasingly, this is the kind of choice handed to liberals and progressives. Of course, conservatives have been stuck with a form of this choice for a good many years.
ENDLESS SEQUEL: Weve discussed The Age of the Novel this week. For that reason, its hard to skip Al Kamens column in this mornings Post. In this case, though, we visit the Age of the Homeric Bard. In this culture, once you get a story you like, you recite it for thousands of years.
Kamen pretends to discuss the flap between the Clintons and Bill Richardson. In reality, though, its fairly clear that he simply wants an excuse to sing his cohorts all-time favorite song. We join his balladeering in progress. Weve cut-and-pasted well:
Did not have sex[ual relations] with that woman! For this gang, its a magical phrase. It makes a thrill run up their leg; theres a special key on their keyboards for it. Kamen bungles it slightly, of course, obeying their edict: Get everything wrong. But readers, they live for that thrilling old phrase. In truth, they always will.
During Campaign 2000, Kamen also served the clans narratives well. On December 24, 1999 (Christmas Eve!), he devoted his column to the family photo on the Gore familys Christmas card. What had Kamen discerned from the shot? What else? From the photographic process employed, he could see that Al Gore was a phony. No, we didnt make that up. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/24/99.
Last evening, we felt bad because wed asked, once again, if these life-forms are actually human. Then, today, we rose from our bed and came upon one childish answer.
BE SURE TO READ EACH THRILLING INSTALLMENT: Lizzas profile of life on the bus recalled life from eight years ago:
In part 4, we recall how we got here:
PART 4HOW WE GOT HERE: Will John McCain win the White House this fall? If we had to bet, wed say no. But why does he still have a fighting chance? In part, because of the good jolly fun our journalists once had on his bus.
Eight years ago, shortly after New Hampshire, the race for the White House was going strong. But so what? Richard Cohen described the way the press corps was behaving:
In fact, about three thousand profiles had mentioned the fun by the time Cohen wrote this piece. But what were they laughing and laughing about? Three months earlier, Cohen himself had helped explain it to perplexed Post readers:
Reporters were laughing and laughing and having great fun discussing that dish from Rio. But it wasnt all about fashion models! On the day before New Hampshire voted, Maureen Dowd showed up to take the wild ride. Reported her bus-capade two days later, she expanded the list of key topics:
So in fairness, exotic dancers were in the mix too. There was also talk about the times McCain would drunkenly crash through screen doors. Nancy Gibb discussed that in Timein the same piece where she said her tribe was taking McCain off the record when he displayed too much candor:
For the record, Dowd had perhaps been thrown off-stride by all the straight talk on the day of her ride. As more careful reporters had made clear, the dancers real name was Marie the Flamenot Marie the Flame Thrower.
But should senior brass from our biggest news orgs be scoring tickets for all that big fun? To their credit, a few major scribes (Joe Klein and the late Lars-Erik Nelson, for example) wrote pointed pieces about the way their colleagues were misbehaving. But the clowning never stopped. Not on the bus, and now in the pages of the news orgs which were making this great man a saint.
Of course, at the same time they were clowning this way, they were inventing two years worth of tales about Gore. They made one man a demonand one man a saint. We all know how Part One turned out.
Today, McCain still carries the public approval which was crafted, in part, during that clowning. The public has heard, for the past many years, about the straight talk this great hero provides. The press corps never dropped the novel it crafted during all those revels. And to be honest, the people who represent your interests never much tried to stop them.
Here are the names of five progressive journalsjournals which provide our intellectual leadership. Go ahead! Tell us when you saw these journals fight the demonization of Goreor the sanctification which has helped keep McCain in the race:
Go ahead! When did you ever see those journals fight against this ludicrous process? When have you ever seen them name names?
Do you think they dont understand?
McCain still has a chance to win for the same reason that Bush reached the White House. Your liberal leadership has been in the bag when it comes to mainstream press conduct. They refuse to fight; refuse to complain; refuse to represent your interests. They want to go on Hardball too. Youyour children; your interests; your community; your valuescan all go straight to hell.
They refusethey simply refuseto tell the truth about the people who do this. Or, as Rachel so memorably confessed: Did you know that the brilliant Chris Matthews is Americas most brilliant known pundit?
ADDENDUM: Yesterday, we failed to include one part of a passage from Bill Greiders Rolling Stone profile. Reporters asked the darnedest things! Just check what we left out:
They even asked him to name his favorite tree! In a big white bus that rang with laughter, inquiring minds wanted to know that.