THE CATHOLICIZATION OF CNN! Were just as pious as NBC News, the Capital Gang piously said:
MONDAY, APRIL 11, 2005
ELISABETH BUMILLER—PAP WITHOUT END: Bill OReilly will trash the New York Times tonight—and, this time, hell mainly be right. Hell be trashing the Times for this Gail Collins ed, which calls those Arizona Minutemen gunslingers and vigilantes and says that theyre taking the law in their own hands. Collins sniffs at this lower breed—but makes no attempt to explain or defend her characterizations. OReilly will trash her work tonight—and this time, hell mainly be right.
But Bill wont mention the other Times—the Times of Elisabeth Bumiller. Surely, Zeus great halls rocked with laughter last night as her latest fatuous piece was posted, in which she types what the White House told her about the presidents tastes in music. How exactly does Bumiller know what tunes are on the presidents iPod? Simple—she doesnt know whats on that Pod, she only knows what Bushs agents have told her. But shes always pleased to type up some pap, as long as her pointless (but politically pleasing) information came to her straight from the White House. By the way, whats the headline on todays piece? Favorite Tunes for the Freewheelin George Bush! Freewheelin! You have to love that! Just like the younger Bob Dylan!
As we mentioned last week, Bumillers Monday White House Letter has been one of the most embarrassing projects in this age of press corps pimpistry. Her subject matter is relentlessly banal—and she always types just what shes been told. And remember—this feature continued throughout Campaign 04, producing a weekly tongue-bath for Bush. Oh yeah! Who did the weekly, feel-good Campaign Letter on Kerry? No one did it—it didnt exist! This is the side of the vacuous Times Mr. OR wont be citing.
THE CATHOLICIZATION OF CNN: Once again, the Washington press corps was showing off its anti-religion bias. On Saturday night, Al Hunt opened Capital Gang with another of the ugly moments for which the corps is so famous:
HUNT (4/9/05): Welcome to a special Capital Gang, a tribute to Pope John Paul II!Yes, the corps was up to its usual tricks, attempting to undermine the faith of average red-state Americans. And how were they going about it? By staging a special Capital Gang—an hour-long tribute to the pope! For context, recall that recent panel on CNNs Reliable Sources (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/31/05) in which four pundits recited the pseudo-con line: The press corps loves to mock religion!! Those pundits! All four were willing to mouth this script even as NBC, the holiest news network, finished up a special week which it called Religion in America, and even as Newsweek ran its second cover in three months about the greater glory of Jesus Christ. But then, as weve told you for years, your Big Pundits are willing to do and say anything, as long as it keeps them squarely in line with that right-leaning dinner-party centrism that typifies todays mainstream press. That CNN panel was perfectly foolish—but was perfectly par for the course.
So yes, we thought of that ludicrous panel as we watched Capital Gang this weekend. How much do your Washington scribes hate religion? After spending about forty-five minutes beatifying all things John Paul, the panel presented one of the strangest news segments weve ever seen—an eight-minute segment entirely devoted to a profile of Bob Novaks Catholic piety. First, Hunt pimped the special segment, which he titled "The Prince of Darkness sees the Light." When he came back, he again let us see how much the Big Press hates religion:
HUNT: Welcome back. This week our own Robert Novak spent some time with CNN's Judy Woodruff to talk about his conversion to Catholicism.The Prince of Darkness saw the light! Yes, Woodruffs presentation simply dripped with anti-religion bias! Indeed, the footage showed Novak genuflecting, then entering a pew at the otherwise empty church. And as things continued, there he sat, telling Woodruff about his vast piety. I'm a poor mortal and I know certainly probably not nearly as good a Christian as most of the people who are sitting in the church and certainly not better, he humbly declared. His host concluded her pleasing report with a bit of pious word-play:
WOODRUFF: And so it was that the Prince of Darkness embraced the Prince of Peace.We strongly suggest that you read the full transcript of this lengthy (and remarkable) segment. Again, it will help you see how right those four pundits were when they sat on CNN and told the world that the Washington press corps luvvvs mocking religion.
Lets state the obvious—theres absolutely nothing wrong with Bob Novak becoming a Catholic. But lets make a few more points about the way the press really works:
The Catholicization of Capital Gang: Capital Gang, like NBC News, is a near-exclusive Catholic aerie. Here are the current panelists:
Robert Novak: CatholicPrevious host? Pat Buchanan, Irish Catholic. No, theres nothing wrong with being Irish Catholic; indeed, all our beloved aunts are Irish Catholic (and of course, theyre the real kind, the Boston variety, not cheap knock-offs from Philly or Buffalo). But there is something wrong when major news orgs seem to require membership in the faith, as sometimes seems to be the case at NBC News and at the Catholic Gang. And this apostolic impulse seems especially odd when panels of pundits go on TV and lie about the press corps relation to religion, peddling pseudo-conservative cant that completely misstates simple fact. By the way, Capital Gangs line-up this weekend included guest panelist E. J. Dionne (practicing Catholic) and former Representative David Bonior (practicing Catholic). In this way, the press keeps showing how much it loves mocking religion.
Religious ties to politicians: Its also un-holy when Big Major Scribes form religious bonds with the Big Pols they cover. In the June 2003 Washingtonian, Barbara Matuswo described the scene at Novaks 1998 baptism:
MATUSWO (6/03): In its 200 years, it's safe to say that St. Patrick's Catholic Church had never seen a ceremony quite like it. The man bowing his head over the baptismal font, about to be received into the Church, was Bob Novak, the man often called "the Prince of Darkness."But should Novak (and the other journalists) be forming tearful religious ties with the major pols they cover? The answer to that is obvious: No! Its bad enough when Washington journalists sing Happy Birthday to their favorite pols—the pols they endlessly love to pimp (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/19/04). By any normal journalistic standard, Matuswo described an inappropriate scene—a scene which may explain the puzzling way some Big Major Pols get covered.
Not just any Catholic: For the record, these tearful ties arent being formed with just any Catholic. In the case of McCloskey, for example, these tearful ties are being formed with one of our most conservative current Catholics. McCloskey, from the conservative Opus Dei order, is prelate to Washingtons conservative stars. Two years ago, Joe Feuerherd limned it in the National Catholic Reporter:
FEUERHERD (9/5/03): McCloskey is credited with facilitating the conversions of such luminaries as failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, "Crossfire" co-host Robert Novak, Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, conservative book publisher Alfred Regnery, economist and commentator Larry Kudlow, and one-time New York gubernatorial candidate Lewis Lehrman.And yes, McCloskey is close with Rick Santorum, Brownbacks baptismal sponsor. So you wont be surprised to see where he comes down on the issues:
FEUERHERD: Are there any circumstances under which a faithful Catholic politician could support civil union for gay couples? "It opens the door to anything from incest to bestiality," said McCloskey. "The whole question is: What is a family? What constitutes a marriage? There's no wiggle room, certainly, in that area.Santorums man-on-dog pronouncement was right in line with McCloskeys pensees on bestiality. But this is the kind of prelate with whom the press corps was shedding real tears at Novaks baptism. Yes, the Washington press corps just hates religion—except when theyre bonding with one of the most conservative prelates in the U.S.
Lets state the obvious—pundits have every right to pursue whatever religion they like. But by normal standards, Saturdays profile of Novak was utterly strange—and even stranger was the thick smoke those pundits blew on Reliable Sources. In fact, the press corps is full of religious pundits, and some big news orgs almost seem to require membership in the faith. But conservatives love to tell the rubes that the Washington press just hates religion. Result? When the corps sends its husbands and hacks out to talk, they all recite this Approved Pleasing Message. Blowing aside the press corps smoke, we just thought you might like to know how the modern Big Press really works.
HUSBANDS AND HACKS: Again, who were the husbands and hacks on that Reliable Sources panel? Four pundits all agreed: The Washington press corps luvvvs mocking religion. Steve Roberts, Michelle Cottle, Joe Watkins and Howard Kurtz took turns reciting this cant. No one said a word about the realities we have just finished discussing.
PROFILERS: For an overview of McCloskey, see Chris Suellentrops profile in Slate. For other profiles of McCloskey, including one by Charles Pierce, well ask you to click here instead.