THERE DO QUOTATIONS COME FROM! Schieffer was outraged by what Souter said. But does that quotation exist? // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2009
The answer may lie in the world of Bill Wolff: We had planned to start the Bill Wolff Story today. (Good sense of humor.) We delay, in deference to Souter.
Gene Robinson [HEART] Colin Powell: They have their story, and they plan to stick to it! According to Gene Robinsons new column, Colin Powell is a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state who has given to his nation a lifetime of exemplary public service. End of discussionfull stop. That puzzling conduct at the UN has slid off Village screens.
This is the Standard Powell Novel. Nothing on earth will ever change it. Once again, for Digbys alternate take, you know what to do: Just click here. Warning! Youll see her cite events from Powells career which dont exist in Official Press Narratives. Robinson doesnt have to explain these events. In his world, these events dont exist.
But then, we think Robinsons whole column today makes very little sense. True, hes stating a fashionable insider view: Richard Cheney should shut his big yap! But then, we recall the days when Robinsons bully-boy writers at Style expressed an earlier fashionable view: Al Gore is the worlds biggest asshole! They pounded and pounded and pounded away. George Bush ended up in the White House.
Should Richard Cheney shut his big yap? As we said yesterday, we dont see why. To see the most foolish argument in favor of silence, just read Robinsons column. Cheney cant prove that his current views are right, Robinson saysfailing to note that no one can prove that his current views are wrong. (Few such things can be proven.) Cheney should show more respect for Powell, Robinson saysfailing to note that Powells long-time top dog, Lawrence Wilkerson, routinely goes on the TV machine to call Cheney very bad names. But for sheer absurdity, here is Robinsons explanation of Cheneys presence on Sundays Face the Nation. Why does Cheney get invited onto such shows? Robinson says he knows why:
It would be hard to be dumber than that. But in fealty to Establishment Narratives, big pundits will always try.
Why was Cheney on Face the Nation? We have no idea, but one explanation would be fairly obvious. Duh! At present, Cheney is in the news almost every day, especially on the progressive programs where Robinson offers his theories. (See last nights Countdown, for example.) Given the roiling debate about Cheney-pimped programs, it would be extremely strange if he werent being asked to appear on these Sunday programs. This has nothing to do with the merit of Cheneys views. At present, Cheney is a major figure in the newspart of a giant debate.
Robinson thinks Cheneys views are wrong, as do many others. But like so many tribal types, he doesnt seem to want to argue his case; instead, he prefers to offer reasons why Cheney himself shouldnt speak. He doesnt say Cheneys views are wrong. Ambiguously, he calls them outrageous:
Is the charge outrageous because its wrong? Or is the charge outrageous because Cheney shouldnt speakbecause he should have better manners? As weve noted, its a bit of a stretch to claim that protocol forbids a former VP from speaking. But if Cheneys views were actually right, it would be bizarreit would be close to insanefor him to feel that manners forbade him from giving his nation a warning.
Aside from the hackworthy use of knowingly, whats outrageous about Cheneys charge? Robinson uses the word two times. But he never quite explain what it means.
Robinson seems to think Cheneys views are wrong. But like so many tribal warriors, he doesnt want to prove his own casehe wants the other tribe to shut up. Shorter Robinson: How dare Cheney say something outrageoussomething I dont agree with?
In our view, Robinson should go out there and argue his caseand win, in the public square. Of course, he is someone who believes that Colin Powells a great living saint. Players like Robinson are accustomed to doing what he did in the 1990s; theyre accustomed to sending their bully boys out, in waves, to slay the people of whom they disapprove. Thats what he did to Candidate Gore. Are we happy with how that turned out?
We had to chuckle when Robinson said this about Cheney: As far as he's concerned, issues have just one sidehis. Jesus Christ, we murmured softly. Jesus Christ! Look whos talking!
Where do quotations come from/Justice for Souter edition: Many people have commented on Bob Schieffers remarkable commentary at the end of Sundays Face the Nation. Schieffer expressed his small-minded pique with David Souter, who hadnt partied quite hardy enough during his tenure in Washington. Below, you see the bulk of what Schieffer said. Caution! It isnt clear that Souter ever made the statement about the worlds worst city which has now become a quotation:
Quick thought: As one who has lived forty years in Washington, Schieffer should perhaps stay away from the foibles of those who get jobs for life.
The small-minded weirdness of Schieffers remarks is fairly obvious. But Schieffers dumbness is striking as well. Sorry, heathers: Souter didnt say that life in Washington was akin to an intellectual lobotomy. In that comment, made in March of this year, he was remarking on the amount of legal work he had to do while the Court was in session, not on the city in which he was forced to do it. Souters full statement, made to laughter: ''I find the workload of what I do sufficiently great that when the term of court starts I undergo a sort of annual intellectual lobotomy. Soon, though, the lame-brains of the Washington press corps had reinterpreted Souters pointless sally, and heathers like Schieffer were working themselves into a small-minded outrage about it.
And uh-oh! After doing a little checking, it isnt clear to us that Souter ever delivered the now-famous quotation about Washington being the worlds worst city, a quotation which has been widely enshrined in the press since Souter announced his departure. Did Souter once describe his work as the best job in the world in the worst city in the world? In print, the alleged statement has routinely appeared inside quotation marks, as if Souter is being quotedas if he once made this statement, the framework Schieffer provided. Sorry. After doing some basic fact-checking, wed have to say the facts are unclear. Well guess he never said it.
As best we can tell, the first reference to any worst city comment by Souter came in an AP report on March 14. (Mark Sherman was discussing the possibility that Souter might retire.) In the Nexis archives, this seems to be the very first reference to any such comment by Souter. But please note: Sherman didnt present a quotation. He seemed to be offering a paraphrase of something Souter supposedly claims:
Sherman didnt use quotation marks. Quite plainly, he didnt present a quotation. Nor did he explain how he knew that Souter makes this alleged claim. According to Nexis, Dahlia Lithwick was the only scribe who repeated this claim by Shermanand Lithwick didnt use quotation marks either (click here). In fact, no one had ever quoted Souter calling DC the worlds worst city until his retirement hit the news, when the APs Jennifer Loven seemed to improve on ger colleague Shermans previous work. Loven put the key words inside quotation marks, transforming paraphrase into quotation. Heightening drama, she reported that Souter had made the (now-quoted) statement once:
Souter had once said this acquaintances, Loven now saidputting quotation marks around the words Sherman had used as a paraphrase.
Did Loven have reason for using quotation marks? We have no way of knowing. But weve seen this done a million timesmost consequentially, to Candidate Gore, where the press corps tortured examples of paraphrase frequently ended up inside quotes. So yes, this transformation routinely occurs where there is no actual quotation. We have no idea if Loven mid-wifed such an act of birth. But we have no found no other source for the claim that Souter once issued this alleged statement.
Sherman offered a paraphrase, without explaining where it came from. Loven turned it into a quote, claiming that Souter had said it once. The quotation has now been widely cited, with a range of loud-mouth heatherspeople like Schiefferexpressing their bubble-brained pique at the statement. Its hard to get much dumber than this. But this is long-standing press culture.
Did David Souter once make the statement which has now widely appeared inside quotes? We dont have the slightest idea. Neither do the reams of people who have happily quoted it since April 30. Schieffer really took the cake with Sundays heather-like rant. But then, Keith was on Miss California again last night. Its real small-town heather culture.
Why wont this loser get married: The dimness of the DC Village scene can be quite hard to fathom. When Souter arrived in DC, the Posts preternaturally-foolish Style section named him one of DCs most eligible bachelors. Of course, some bachelors arent interested to getting married to women; some dont want to get married at all. But such thoughts may not have occurred to the social planners who began putting the screws to poor Souter. In the New York Times, Fox Butterfield reported the imperial citys small-town dimness. Butterfield quoted Dr. Melvin Levine (UNC) and New Hampshire state senator Susan McLane, two long-time Souter friends:
A few years earlier, the Boston Globes Ethan Bronner had described the intense matchmaking surrounding the recalcitrant Souter:
Two years later, this event may have been transformed into Levines more general anecdote. Thats why reporters should be a bit careful about reporting the things friends say. Often, stories from friends may come pre-embellishedeven before a helpful scribe improves them with dreamed-up quotes.
By the way: Heathers have rolled their eyes at Souter this week for living in a hopelessly obscure, tumble-down apartment building. This has been presented as proof of the gentlemans impossible, hermetic instincts. Peter Schworm nailed the narrative in the Boston Globe:
By 2009, that apartment in that unfashionable neighborhood had become part of the Official Press Novel. But way back when, Butterfield had told a different, pre-novelized tale. Why did Souter move into that horrid apartment? Groan. His good friend, Senator Warren Rudmana respected fixture on the DC scenewas already living there!
There we see the full story arc of David Souter in the District. When he arrived, he moved into the building because a Respected Insider lived there. By the time he left, his presence there showed what a big kook he is.
Your press corps dreams up novelsand quotes. This is the way their tiny minds work. And yes, applied to Bush and Gore for two years, this explains the way your country ended up in Iraq.
Bob Schieffer, social animal: Schieffer wants more social mixing. But his cohorts track record is weak in this area:
Although the press seldom tattles about it, Schieffer himself is a close social friend of George Bush, dating back to the Texas governor daysback to the days when theyd attend spring training together (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/13/04). He should never have moderated that Bush-Kerry debate in 2004. But then, he never should have said all those weird things about Candidate Gore in 2000 (and later).
Should Gwen Ifill have enjoyed home-cooked meals with Condi? Of course, she shouldnt have done that. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/11/03.
Should Ted Koppel have clowned around with his car-loving buddy, Colin Powell? No! He should have kept to himself a bit more, the way Justice Souter did. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/19/04.
Should Tim Russert have been at Rummys 2003 Christmas party, bragging about his dreams of Saddam? No! He should have done what Souter did. He should have kept a professional distance. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/16/03.
It isnt enough that these big losers maintain such poor standards for themselves. Any time someone plays the game right, he has to be taken down for his conduct! Al Gore knew too many facts! Souter didnt hob-nob enough! If you couldnt see these skilled scribes at work, youd feel sure they didnt exist.