Fingering Weiners jewels/Excited by Palins breasts: As the press corps chases Rep. Weiner around, we continue to see the fruits of our post-journalistic culture.
Bottom line: If liberals are going to laugh and applaud when journalists clown about Gingrichs jewels, well quickly see them as they chase a big Democrat all around. And by the way: How unimpressive are the journalists to whom we keep granting this license? On page A18 of todays New York Times, Raymond Hernandez offers this sensible news report about the Weiner flap. But on the same page, Richard Perez-Pena opens his own news report about Chris Christies chopper ride with this ridiculous framework:
PEREZ-PENA (6/2/11): Woe to the politician who claims to be fiscally responsible, in touch with regular folk, and turns out to have some pricey habits. Think Newt Gingrich and Tiffany, John Edwards and haircuts, Sarah Palin and clothesand now, Chris Christie and helicopters.
Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, took a State Police helicopter to see his son play high school baseball on Tuesday. And whether that is important or trivial, it surely did not help the image of a conservative Republican who has won national notice for preaching belt-tightening and berating those who resist.
What do any of those highlighted examples have to do with being fiscally responsible? Nothing. But this is the way our post-journalists reason. This is why its a very bad idea to give them the power to stick their big, long, not-real-intelligent noses into everyones lives.
Speaking of a loud, astonishing lack of intelligence, Chris Matthews was stroking his own jewels quite hard on last nights adventure show, Hardball.
The excitable man has his usual hard-on for the exciting Ms. Palin. Heres the extremely dumb way he opened his pitiful program:
MATTHEWS (6/1/11): Good evening. And what a news day! Im Chris Matthews in Washington.
Leading off tonight: Bus stop! She makes more excitement riding a bus than the others do actually declaring for president of the United States. The Iowa caucuses are seven months away, and whos dominating Republican presidential politics? Sarah Palin.
The splashthe splash she continues to make in cities across the Northeast is trumpeting not just her electrifying stagecraft but the dowdiness of the Republican field. Romney, Pawlenty, Huntsman, no one can match her, and yet she doesnt really seem serious about running.
And thats why Republicans are still pining for a new star. Christie, Giuliani, Perry. Can any Republican eclipse Sarah Palin? Thats our top story tonight.
Sadly, that was this big buffoons idea of the days top story. (That said, this was also his top story the night before. Most likely, it will be tonight.)
Matthews was all worked up about Palins electrifying stagecraft. As his fatuous segment unfolded, he kept commenting on the excitementthough he couldnt seem to put his finger on the source of the thrills up the leg. Can you determine the source of the hotness, of all the exciting excitement?
MATTHEWS: This is a strange time. The heat in Washington is already becoming what it often does, and its only June 1st. The summer doldrums are in, but Sarah Palin could not be hotter as a candidate.
MATTHEWS: I dont know. I dont know what it is. She goes to Times Square. Shes hitting all the beauty spots in American patriotism. And I agree with all those spots. Shes even found New York and shes making Times Square look exciting. And Melania, most beautiful person in the world probably, there, right next to Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Whats she doing? Is sheis this a book tour? Is this a Hollywood star? Is this a political person?
MATTHEWS: Look, Mitt RomneyIm going to talk about him later in the showis actually running for president. He actually was governor of a state and he finished his term and hes a real public servant who may well be the strongest opponent against President Obama next year, and were notwere going to cover him tomorrow, but were not getting These pictures are [incredible? impressive?]
MATTHEWS: By the way, theres something about her. Its primordial. When she walks and moves, theres something electric about it that she doesnt do on television with Roger Ailes sitting in that booth in Wasilla. Look at, theres somethingother candidates dont do this. Shes constantly in motion. She looks obviously very attractive. Shes doing something that works. If Mitt Romney were doing the same exact thing, Michael, nothing would happen. This is whats going on here.
Matthews couldnt quite put his finger on the source of all the excitement. He couldnt quite define why those pictures were so incredible. (Or whatever it was he said. At that point, he seemed to say three words at once, he was so worked up.) He couldnt explain what Palin was doing as she walked and moved all around.
And so, as a service, we will:
Palin is a good looking woman with a very hot figure. Thats what had Matthews so excited as she kept walking and moving around. (That and Melanias beauty, of course.) Chris had two flunkies with him; they kept interrupting his frenzies, arguing in pre-scripted ways. But heres your bottom line from this segment: Chris was very, very excited by the fact that Palin has breasts.
By way of contrast: If Romney were doing the same exact thing, he wouldnt have breasts. Thats why nothing would happen. Thats why Romney, Pawlenty, Huntsman, no one can match her.
How hard is this to discern when Matthews froths as he did last night? To watch this whole segment, click here.
At the same time, Matthews got very, very angry about the fact that Palins comments at the Statue of Liberty made no apparent sense. At one point, he angrily complained about the way he himself was behaving:
MATTHEWS: Shes there with a national camera crew asking her questions and she comes out with garble like this, and were treating her like a presidential candidate! I think this is nonsense, what she said!
Suddenly, Matthews seemed to be very upset by the fact that he was treating her like a presidential candidate. Explanation: Hes doing so because she produces good visualsvisuals of a good-looking woman who has a very hot bod.
(Weve never done this before, but Matthews subsidiary language was sexual throughout. At one point, his guests suggested that Palin might endorse someone else in Iowa. Matthews response: You think she might kiss somebody and say, This is the one? )
Truly, Matthews seemed to be off his meds as she ranted and raved all through this segment. But in this overheated discussion, you see the addled soul of our post-journalistic press corps. They want to finger Gingrichs jewels; they want to show you these pictures of Palins hot body as she walks and moves all around. In the end, progressives cant possibly hope to gain from playing along with such a monumentally dumb, fallen culture.
It was an embarrassment to see David Corn sitting at the right cheek of the father. Have we ever been more surprised to see an ex-journalist do this?
Special report: In search of a winning movement!
PART 3THAT DOESNT MEAN HES RIGHT (permalink): Betsy Fischer may be the most important journalist whose name youve never heard. As early as 2005, the Washingtonian mentioned her in its comically-named feature about Washingtons 50 best and most influential journalists. The insider magazine told us this. On-line, its comical headline has been improved:
At NBC and its cable operation, MSNBC, a trio of womenTammy Haddad, Betsy Fischer, and Elizabeth Wilnerdecides the political coverage, who makes it on the marquee Meet the Press, and who gets to play Hardball with Chris Matthews.
Fischers official NBC bio will make you think she was listed among the top 50. Thats false, but you get the big picture here.
At any rate, Fischer had already been executive producer of Meet the Press for three years as of 2005. According to her NBC bio, she was named one of "Young Global Leader of the World by The World Economic Forum in 2008, although wed suggest you fact-check that claim if you actually care, given that previous semi-deception.
Presumably, it was Fischer and/or her staff who assembled last Sundays miserable panel, the panel which made such a miserable hash of its Medicare discussion.
Question: If Fischer is so influential, why havent you ever heard her name? In part, its because she works behind the scenes; she isnt an on-camera presence. Presumably, though, theres a second reasonno one would want to offend such a person by griping about her work. Due to the programs she books or helps to book, journalistic careers have run through Fischers office for years. Inside the careerist bubble, few journalists would want to offend such a significant person. (That isnt Fischers fault.)
Presumably for that same reason, fiery liberals gave a free pass to Fischers boss, Tim Russert, down through all those bad years.
Fischer booked a miserable panel for Sundays Medicare discussion. In one of her liberal seats, she placed the Washington Posts Ruth Marcus, who is just this side of the most dogmatic Republican when it comes to fiscal affairs. But then, that resembles Russerts posture during his tenure at Meet the Pressand how many liberal journalists ever challenged his budget dogmatics? In particular, we refer to Russerts incessant lectures about Social Security, in which he rattled misleading right-wing talking-points in a way which must have made Jack Welch proud.
Given the vast liberal silence, the task of challenging Russerts dogmatics was left to none other than Alan Keyes, a fellow who just didnt care. To his great credit, Keyes told Russert to shut his big yap during a January 2000 Republican debatea debate in which Russert kept telling the candidates what they had to think and do concerning Social Security. Quite correctly, Keyes told Russert to shut his big trap and let the candidates define the relevant facts (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/17/00). But we cant recall seeing career liberal journalists doing such things during Russerts reign as a Republican budget beard. Joan and David kept their traps shut. Today, theyre guest stars on Hardball.
If youre a liberal or a progressive, youve been very badly served by your star journalists down through the years. (For one outcome, see note below.) In part, the intellectual framework of our current budget debate was created by those years of silence. In recent weeks, we think this poor service has only continued as our latest liberal star flounders, flails and fails to grasp the current Medicare debate.
Well say one thing for Sundays Meet the Pressin his segment with David Gregory, Chuck Schumer defined the debate with great clarity. There are three positions, Schumer said, and Democrats are in agreement:
SCHUMER (5/29/11): The bottom line is very simple. We already proved our bona fides in last year's bill, where we, where we extended Medicare's life by 12 years by doing some of the things that I talked about there on delivery system reform. And we're going to continue to do that.
There's a choice herethere are three choices:
One is to do nothing. One is to preserve the benefits but change the delivery systems and not let some of the providers, like the drug companies, get away with so much. And one is to end Medicare as we know it. Democrats are in the second one, Republicans are on the third one. Until Mitch McConnell abandons the third one, we are not going to get a budget deficit agreement. It's that simple.
And I got, was in touch with Bill Clinton last night. He agrees completely with what I said. There's no difference between Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Steny Hoyer, Chuck Schumer, Senate and House Democrats. The difference is between us and Republicans. They want to end Medicare as we know it. If you turn it over to a pure system where the, where the insurance companies govern, here's what happens according to CBO, nonpartisan: The beneficiaries, instead of paying 25 percent, pay 68 percent. But at the same time, the costs don't go down, they continue to rise because the insurance companies pass the costs to the beneficiaries. That is wrong.
That is not politics, I would say to my dear friend Senator McConnell. That is what America's all about. And we will, we will oppose them in the budget negotiations if they don't abandon Ryan, and it will legitimately be one of the major issues of the election year in 2012.
According to Schumer, Republicans want to end Medicare as we know it. Beyond that, he said Democrats are in total agreement about their own policy stand. No major Democrat wants to leave Medicare alone, Schumer said. Instead, they want to preserve the benefits but change the delivery systems and not let some of the providers, like the drug companies, get away with so much.
As best we can tell, Schumer is basically right about the position of major Dems. That doesnt mean their position is right. On the merits, some progressives might prefer to leave the system pretty much as it is. On the politics, some progressives might prefer doing nothing for now. But these are important, serious questionsand these questions got thoroughly smudged in Sundays panel discussion.
They also get smudged almost every night on the eponymous cable show of a self-impressed cable star.
During the Russert years, there were no progressive cable programs. Today, we actually have our own shows, headed by our own progressive stars. But given the work Rachel Maddow is doing on Medicare, how much does such progress matter?
We think Maddows work on this issue has been very poor. Can progressives build a winning movement from such underwhelming work?
Tomorrowpart 4: Maddow on Medicare
The wages of silence: Many progressives dont understand how badly theyve been served in the past. On Monday, Paul Krugman complained about that Meet the Press discussion. (Largely, he was quoting a good, clear post by Steve Benen.) In reply to Krugmans post, one frustrated reader said this:
COMMENTER (5/30/11): I'm not sure what criteria producers of the Sunday shows use in booking guests but there seems to be a disproportionate number of Republicans and right wing commentators. Where's Rachel? Bernie Sanders? Anthony Weiner? Amy Klobuchar? As you noted about this week's MTP, the shows become filled with the usual suspects of GOP politicos and insiders.
Tim Russert must be spinning in his grave.
This commenter seemed to think the panel discussions were better in the Russert era. We suspect it would be hard to back up that impression.
Today, this reader hears some critiques of Meet the Press. Back then, all was silent. Russert was awful on Social Securitybut he was an untouchable star.