THE SIXTEEN-YEAR RUSH! Krugmans column made us recall what happened to Rush way back when: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, 15 JUNE 2009
Joanne Welch loses an argument: On Friday, Salons Joan Walsh appeared on the OReilly Factor, debating a bunch of things involving George Tiller. Eventually, Bill OReilly blew his stack. This has occasioned a great deal of comment, at Salon and elsewhere. For Joans account, and for access to tape of the program, you know what to dojust click here.
We like Joan here at THE HOWLER; for our money, she wins more than she loses on cable. But we thought she was saved by the bell when OReilly went postal on Friday night. Before that, shed thoroughly lost the debate in our view. OReilly hurt himself with his conduct.
Instead of complaining about the way OReilly behaved that night, we thought it might be useful to look at the way our side had pretty much lost that debate.
Lets say it again: Joan wins more debates than she loses. And no one wins them all, not even the mighty Pac-10. Put just to make the pill go down better, lets pretend it wasnt Joan who argued with OReilly last Friday. Lets pretend it was really Joanne Welch, Jack Welchs (imaginary) trust-fund daughter.
How did Joanne Welch lose to BillO, until he blew his stack?
For starters, these were the first two Q-and-As. For our money, the debate was pretty much lost at this point:
But if the great majority of these abortions can be performed at any hospital, why was Tiller a major national figure over the past many years? (Weve always heard that its very hard to find someone to perform these operations.) Were not expert on these matters. But uh-oh! It quickly seemed to us that Joan isnt either. And Bill quickly drove the point home:
Given the agreement the two had seemed to reach, that logic had an instant surface appeal.
Theres no reason why Joanne Welch, or anyone else, should be an expert on abortion. But you cant debate a topic like this with someone who knows, or seems to know, more about it than you do. As in this exchange, for example:
Theres no reason why Joan should have read those documentswe havent read them, for example. But in part because BillO was better prepared, she got waylaid like this:
Yes, he didwhich of course doesnt mean that his judgment was right. McHugh was originally used as an expert by pro-life Kansas attorney general Phil Kline. He seems to have examined the files on 44 of Tillers cases, out of the thousands of cases Tiller actually handled. We didnt know any of that until we looked it up this weekend. But heres the deal: It would be better to know such things before debating OReilly about Tiller.
(Kline lost re-election to Democrat Paul Morrison in 2006. In 2007, Morrison charged Tiller with nineteen misdemeanors, saying Tiller had failed to get a truly independent second opinion in some late-term cases, as required by state law. His case didnt involve McHughs testimony. Tiller was acquitted on all charges.)
At Salon, many commenters were upset because OReilly blew his stack. But in our view, OReilly was winning this debate in a walk before he went ballistic. Joan seemed under-informed about the Tiller case, and she seemed reluctant to state her own views about abortion. In all fairness, she didnt seem to have a developed view on the subject, aside from being pro-choice.
That would pretty much describe us too. But we didnt go on the air to debate OReilly.
Was Tiller performing abortions for casual reasons under state law? Kline had wanted to charge him with thatbut Morrison didnt do so. (Well quote the AP: Under Kansas law, abortion is allowed after 21 weeks only when a woman faces death or substantial and irreversible harm to a major bodily function, though the latter term has been interpreted to include mental health.)
In our view, Joan wins more debates than she losesand nobody wins them all. Beyond that, she brings a good sensibility with her when she goes on the air. But its easy for libs, Dems and progs to rail about OReillys temper. More productively, we thought Fridays discussion helped us see how we must prepare for debate. We thought Bill was winning biguntil he blew his stack.
THE SIXTEEN-YEAR RUSH: Over the weekend, we continued to ponder Paul Krugmans Friday column. The columns headline was, The Big Hate. This was Krugmans nugget:
For ourselves, we stay away from the terms right-wing and left-wing. We think they tend to offer more heat than light. Was race-nut von Brunn a right-wing extremist? Wed be more inclined to call him a race nut.
Second question: Were any recent murders fueled by statements from conservative media or politicians? We know of no evidence to that effect. (Krugman didnt say otherwise.) Disclaimers and shavings to the side, we think Krugmans column remains very important. Just consider what Krugman said about the work of Rush Limbaugh:
Were not sure that Limbaugh is more significant today than he was in 1993. But to understand where weve all been for the past sixteen years or so, lets remember one of the claims Limbaugh made in 1994.
He made the claim on March 10, 1994. We were driving to Huntington, West Virginia that day; for that reason, we happened to hear it live. To his credit, Howard Kurtz quickly reported what Limbaugh had said, presenting it as part of a growing problem. The headline: Media Awash in Whitewater Claims, Some Critics Say. Here was the chunk about Limbaugh:
Without evidence, a newsletter had repeated a rumor (fueling a one-day stock market drop). Limbaugh then embellished the claim, turning a suicide into a murderand gloriously involving Hillary Clinton in the crackpot tale. Later, on a Nightline special, he of course denied that hed ever suggested that murder might be involved.
The penalty for this disgraceful conduct was, of course: Nothing. Zilch. Nada.
That summer, special prosecutor Robert Fiske found that Foster had indeed committed suicideand not in Clintons apartment. (Because this finding was so disappointing, more investigations ensued, all of which found the same thing.) But looking back with the help of Nexis, its astounding to see how little discussion Limbaughs egregious misconduct occasioned. There were aggressive complaints in the Arkansas press, by John Brummett and Gene Lyons, among others. But its stunning to see the way the mainstream press corps stared into air or hid in the woods concerning Limbaughs grotesque conduct.
In fairness, some mainstreamers may have avoided speaking for a sensible reasonwhen you repeat the ugly claims of a nut, you spread those ugly claims further. But for a bit of perspective, this is part of what Brummett said in his Arkansas Democrat-Gazette column. He had discussed Limbaughs conduct with Mike Huckabee, then Arkansas lieutenant governor:
In Arkansas, maybe not. But at any rate: According to Brummett, Limbaugh regularly engaged in disgraceful insinuation of the kind never before perpetrated to mass audiences under the pretense of sanity.
But so what? Up in DC, the mainstream press corps seemed to judge that there was pretty much nothing to look at. Limbaughs ugly, disgraceful conduct barely occasioned a ripple of comment. Meanwhile, Jerry Falwell was peddling that crackpot tape about the murders the Clintons had committed. He remained a regular guest on the nations major news programs as he did.
Result? Fifteen years later, go aheadjust read Krugmans column.
We set the wrong standard when we complain, or seem to complain, that Limbaugh and others may be inspiring occasional acts of violence. (We know of no evidence that they have.) Over the years, they have done something massively worsethey have made a joke of our national discourse, deceiving and disinforming millions of gullible citizens in the process. As the 1990s proceeded, the crackpot claims spread from Bill and Clinton to Bill Clintons chosen successor, crazy-man Gore. The press corps recited (or tolerated) inane, deranged tales about Gore for two years. And yesthis sent Bush to the White House.
Gene Robinson was one of those who helped spread that war against Gore. (He was editor of the Posts Style section in them thar days. His section savaged Gore, the vanilla pudding of the species. Limbaugh? Not so much!) Ten years later, neither henor anyone else in his upscale cohorthas ever explained why this conduct occurred. We didnt think much of his column last Friday, or of the role he continues to play in our so-called national discourse.
Limbaughs been at this a very long time. Way back when this disgraceful misconduct began, the mainstream press ran off and hid in the woods. They were afraid of Rushbut eager to trash the Clintons and Big Liar Gore. They kept it up for a very long time. Happy with how that turned out?
Ted Koppel, feet in the air: Here was Ted Koppel on that special Nightline program, pre-excusing poor misunderstood Rush and baldly misstating the facts:
Piss-pitiful, beyond all compare. But there you see the mewling essence of the era in questionand of its multimillionaires.