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Daily Howler: Would you want to hear Clinton's voice in your hot tub? Katty Kay had to decide
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TONAL VISION! Would you want to hear Clinton’s voice in your hot tub? Katty Kay had to decide: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, MAY 1, 2007

TONAL VISION: The dumbness of our millionaire press corps is truly a thing to behold. On this weekend’s Chris Matthews Show, the gang evaluated last Thursday’s debate. Will someone tell us why this show’s host hasn’t been sent to a safe, padded room? After playing tape of a brief debate excerpt, Matthews asked Clarence Page if Candidate Clinton had seemed “grown up.” No, we really aren’t making this up. Yes, he actually said that:
MATTHEWS (4/29/07): We got to go right now to the debate Thursday night. Let's take a look. Many were watching Hillary Clinton to see whether she could show that calm authority that Americans look for in a president.

CLINTON (videotape): This is not America's war to win or lose. We have given the Iraqi people the chance to have freedom, to have their own country. It is up to them to decide whether or not they're going to take that chance.

MATTHEWS: Well, this is a tough one, and we're going to have some gender sensitivity here, I'm sure, on this panel. Clarence—the guy—first.

Did she have the right modulation? Was she calm and grown up? Or was there a little bit of stridency in the voice still?
Was Clinton “calm and grown up?” Or did her voice still seem a bit strident? If you couldn’t see such discussions, you’d assume that they couldn’t occur.

But back in the 1980s and 90s, Jack Welch set out to hire himself a gang of cleaned-up Archie Bunkers. Today, his famous “Lost Boys of the Siasconset” are still ruling the roost at this most ludicrous network.

But it isn’t just Welch’s Lost Boys who put our pundit corps’ world-class dumbness on eternal display. Here’s what the BBC’s Katty Kay had to say about Clinton’s performance:
MATTHEWS: Katty, was she shrill? Was she strident? Or was she solid?

KAY: I must say, I sat and listened to her, and I wanted to say, “Hillary, just stop shouting,” that there was something in the tone of her voice that still made me think, “I'm not sure I want this voice in my living room for four years.” And yet, what she said on policy, the substance of what she said, she out-passed all the others on the panel.

So she had the substance, she had the experience. It came across. It was—it was tonal.
Good lord—what a difficult choice! Should Katty pay attention to matters of substance? Or should she ask how Clinton’s voice would sound in her living room?

Displaying her wonderful tonal vision, Katty gave Clinton a pass. And by the standards of this press corps, that was extremely bold work. But we’ll admit it—we were surprised by Kay’s lingering framework. Even after the Bush-Gore fiasco, these half-wits just can’t stop themselves from applying their brainless “would I want this person in my living room” standard to presidential debates. During Campaign 2000, this gang kept suggesting that Candidate Bush would be “more fun to have a beer with.” You’d almost think that the past seven years would have shamed them away from such nonsense. But let’s face it—nothing will ever stop this crew from bringing these brainless ideas to their work. Your pundit corps is dumb as a rock. Even Iraq hasn’t changed this.

At least in this case, Kay got around to considering substance. But first, by her cohort’s most sacred rules, we had to hear about Clinton’s voice! Was it too shrill? Modulated enough? Would you want it in your hot tub? Let’s be honest: Watching Kay blather, we got the feeling that Judge Judy’s voice may ring through her halls more than some mere president’s does. But your pundits can’t drop their throwback gender values—and their vapid but deeply ingrained “What Us Worry” standards.

What’s the source of this Unstoppable Dumbness? Please—just keep on reading.

BEFORE YOU READ ON: Yes. Matthews really did ask Page if Clinton had seemed “grown up.”

LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND VACUOUS: What’s the source of these vapid Millionaire Pundit Values? How about the fact that your discourse is conducted by a gang of millionaires? Heroically, Roger Ailes grabbed the following item from Anne Schroeder’s gossip column at the Politico. Schroeder’s item concerns Norah O’Donnell, MSNBC’s chief Washington reporter and a frequent Hardball/Matthews Show pundit. More specifically, it concerned a party O’Donnell will be hosting tonight. Darlings, read on:
All That Glitters Is Gold

Will Norah O'Donnell be a Momzilla? If the party she's hosting on Tuesday has anything to do with it—maybe? (Hey, we're on a Norah O'Donnell kick lately.)

The pregnant and positively glowing MSNBC anchor, along with "Meet the Press" producer Michelle Jaconi, party-thrower extraordinaire (and lobbyist) Juleanna Glover Weiss and Mary Amons, is hosting a book party for Jill Kargman, author of "Momzillas," at the Ralph Lauren store at the Collection at Chevy Chase on Tuesday. Kargman, by the way, also happens to be the daughter of Chanel CEO Arie Kopelman, guaranteeing everyone there is dressed to the nines. If you miss it, don't worry; no doubt every "luxury" mag in town will have pictures of it for their future issues.

Maybe afterward everyone will head upstairs to Famoso Restaurant and Lounge. Word is the Italian eating spot's spring fare was A-OK'd from the very best source Tuesday night: none other than the Italian ambassador, Giovanni Castellaneta. As its website touts, though not in reference to the high ambassador's presence: "Just one more reason we are Simply Famoso!"
Darlings, it sounds like such good fun! Ailes notes the fact that O’Donnell is hanging out with Weiss, a Cheney spokesperson and Ashcroft lobbyist. We would suggest that you focus instead on the rich and fatuous life-style involved here. As we told you all last week, this is the part of modern press culture the press corps tries to keep under wraps. As a general matter, you’re only allowed to read about this in those “luxury mags” that Schroder cites—the ones that will have all the pictures.

If our view, O’Donnell is an especially sad example of what modern pundit culture can do. We first met her (in passing) in the mid-1990s, when she was a young assistant at the Hotline. No one had ever heard of her then; she was bright and cheerful (a former philosophy major). But uh-oh! In the late 90s, when she first went on cable, she would routinely talk back to Matthews on Hardball. Matthews was starting the two-year jihad in which he savaged Candidate Gore on behalf of his patron, Jack Welch. On Hardball, O’Donnell routinely spoke truth to nonsense—and she took a lot of rude, undisguised sh*t from Matthews in the process. In researching that period a few months ago, we were surprised to see that O’Donnell spoke back to Matthews even more than we had remembered. She was one of the only pundits performing this vital function, and she kept getting crushed for her trouble. When O’Donnell was a new, young pundit, she did very good—even brave—work.

That version of O’Donnell is now long gone. Her serious manner has been reinvented; when it comes to matters of substance, she tends to go with the (vacuous) flow. No, we can’t say why that happened. But the millionaire culture surrounding our press corps is a prescription for such sad declines.
For obvious reasons, the modern press works quite hard to keep its millionaire life-style quiet. But at present, our middle-class nation has a millionaire press corps. The results aren’t real hard to define.

REGARDING BRIAN’S QUERIES: Some of you said you didn’t believe us; you checked the transcript to make sure that Brian Williams asked those questions. We agree—his performance was hard to believe. Again, here was the very first question from Thursday night’s debate:
WILLIAMS (4/26/07): Senator Clinton, your party's leader in the United States Senate, Harry Reid, recently said the war in Iraq is lost. A letter to today's USA Today calls his comments "treasonous" and says if General Patton were alive today, Patton would wipe his boots with Senator Reid. Do you agree with the position of your leader in the Senate?
Patton would wipe his boots with Reid! We understand why you didn’t believe it. If we hadn’t seen this with our own eyes, we’d doubt that it happened too.

Anyway, we got some e-mails about Williams’ performance. Here are a few, with our replies:
E-MAIL: Thank you for pointing out William's dastardly questions. It went
right over my head as I am sure it did for many others. In fact, I had to check the transcript just to make sure you were correct it seemed so unbelievable that I could have missed it.

Thank you for pointing out the truth so consistently and the next debate I promise to be more observant.

ANSWER: As I watched the tape on Saturday, I was struck by the way these comments fly by because Williams is so smooth and well-mannered. I had noticed a lot of loaded and semi-coherent questions, but when I finally went through the transcript, it was much worse than I had realized. I didn't hear the jibe about "many of the other candidates" having played dirty politics until the third time I watched the debate. Very strange.

Don't worry, though. You couldn't miss his trashing of Gore during Campaign 2000. He made it completely apparent.

E-MAIL: Why can't Democrats have unbiased debate moderators? I can understand when the debate is with Republicans that there has to be some compromise on the selection, but this was all Democrats.

ANSWER: In many ways, NBC/MSNBC has been the worst for a long time. We liberals tend to fixate on Fox, but the Fox people who would do debates (Hume/Wallace) would never stage a living nightmare like that. Hume has been fairly good in past debates. This may have been the worst of all time.

Again, the "Welch gang" has been a nightmare for years. A lot of us libs still don't see this.

E-MAIL: I live in Pittsburg, Kansas. This is where Brian Williams got his start
reading the news. He's the only person on the national scene that I actually have sat and had a beer with. He just wasn't— [Edited—but interesting. Perhaps we’ll offer more later.]

What I'm waiting for is a candidate to say something like "what kind of a dumb-ass question is that?" or "I don't know where you learned to read polls but that's not what they say" or "you're really not
very bright are you?”

ANSWER: I got the feeling, once or twice, that someone was about to talk back to the questions. But doing that is very dangerous. (The other team “buys ink by the barrel,” to quote the famous old saying about avoiding fights with the press corps.) I was sorry that Dodd and Clinton didn't challenge his claim about the GOP as protectors on terrorism. But I wouldn't expect them to have the data at their fingertips, and if someone challenged a question like that, press corps flunkies would start picking-and-choosing through various polls to "prove" that Williams was right all along. The negative claim would get magnified, and the pol would be trashed as a whiner.

Given the way the press corps works, it's very hard for pols to challenge journos on individual occasions like that. The party and the liberal movement have to do that over time, as conservatives started to do in the 1960s.

E-MAIL: Williams may be dumb enough to be a Limbaugh fan, but he's no dummy when it comes to PR. His giant head is part of the Daily Show set and he had a role (in a meta sort of way) on 30 Rock. I hate seeing this clown building up "street
cred" with the hipsters.

ANSWER: NBC is very big on promoting its personnel, especially to middle American viewers. (Makes sense from a business standpoint; I doubt that this sort of thing is good for the journalism.) Williams frequently notes how much he loves NASCAR, and often says that he used to be a volunteer firefighter (when he was a teen-ager, as it turns out). This is his version of "But I’m just like you! I grew up in Buffalo!”

E-MAIL: Jack Cafferty did better than a spoof artist could have done against his own cohort last Friday (in his 4-5 PM question). After whining about Edwards' haircut, and about all the Dems flying to their debate on individual plans, he asked something about whether viewers were all fed up with all these rich pols pretending to be regular people. (For balance, he threw in the ancient legend of Geo HW Bush and the supermarket scanner, and Giuliani's recent failure to guess the price of milk.)

So I of course sent in my e-mail, asking them if don't they find it ironic that they should ask such a question when they themselves are a bunch of millionaires pretending to be, or be fighting for, the ordinary Joes, while dining at the Palm and repairing to their horse farms in Jersey and of course Nantucket. (Not that there's anything wrong with it!)...Of course my letter didn't make it on the air, but they did have one little letter kissing Wolf and Jack with a big "we love you" kind of thing.

To CNN's credit, they at least ran one letter that pointed out that the candidates were in DC for a late vote and couldn't fly commercial—exactly the kind of fact that should have accompanied the mention of the private jets, assuming its worthwhile to mention the private jets at all.
Our e-mailer nailed it. Here is Cafferty, blowing off steam about all those fake, phony Dems:
CAFFERTY (4/27/07): Well, the first of 614,000 presidential debates between now and 2008 was held in South Carolina last night. It is pretty transparent what these presidential candidates do to try to convince us that they are like us.

They tour factories and they kiss babies and they visit shopping malls and they get their pictures taken wearing a hard hat.

It's a joke.

Consider this. All the major Democratic candidates flew to last night's debate in South Carolina on private jets. Nobody flew commercial. No one jet pooled to save on fuel or emissions. And everyone except Senator Joe Biden chartered their flights at a cost to their campaigns of between $7,500 and $9,000 each. John Edwards spends $400 to get his hair cut. $400 for a haircut! He was asked about that and he said, Well, yes, but my dad was poor.


And it's not just the Democrats. Remember when President Bush's father had no idea what a supermarket scanner was a few years ago? And the other day, somebody asked Rudy Giuliani what a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread cost. It wasn't even close.

And don't forget, most of those people are very, very, very wealthy.

So here's the question—do any of the presidential candidates have anything in common with the average American?
That’s a perfect example of how this works. Complain about politicians’ wealth. Never mention the massive wealth among your own fatuous cohort.