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Daily Howler: If we let them name the LIARS, they'll name Big Dems every time
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LET EVERYONE DARE CALL US LIARS! If we let them name the LIARS, they’ll name Big Dems every time: // link // print // previous // next //

We’re all Professor Rosen now: Yesterday, our other professor sounded off about the dumbness of Max Baucus.

In a profile in the New York Times, Baucus admitted he had a regret. He regretted eliminating single-payer from committee discussions of health care reform. Here was the full, improbable passage, penned by David Herszenhorn:

HERSZENHORN (6/24/09): [Baucus] conceded that it was a mistake to rule out a fully government-run health system, or a “single-payer plan,” not because he supports it but because doing so alienated a large, vocal constituency and left Mr. Obama’s proposal of a public health plan to compete with private insurers as the most liberal position.

Our other professor got conned by this fairly obvious nonsense:

PROFESSOR BLACK (6/24/09): I don't know why the Dems never learn this lesson. If you start with the compromise position, you will end up compromising on that.

The professor linked to this Yglesias post. Headline: Baucus Regrets Not Including Single-Payer in the Health Care Mix.

Are we all Professor Rosen now? Having asked, let us offer a fairly obvious speculation:

In all likelihood, Baucus took single-payer off the table for a very good reason—because he isn’t trying to create a progressive health reform package. His statement to the Times was pure BS. After all, Baucus is a corporate man (data below). He wants health reform near the “center.”

After the fact, he was covering his keister for those on the left. Our other professor bought it.

Yglesias penned a thoughtful piece about the meaning of Baucus’ move. He too failed to note an obvious possibility: When Baucus voiced his regrets to the Times, it was a big silly con!

Were we really supposed to believe that, after all these years, Baucus made the rookie mistake he described? That’s what Baucus told the Times. Our other professor believed him.

Early comment: People! Baucus is a red-state corporate man. An early comment to the professor’s post saved us the bother of research:

COMMENTER (6/24/09): Report: Senator Max Baucus Received More Campaign Money from Health and Insurance Industry Interests than Any Other Member of Congress.

In the past six years, nearly one-fourth of every dime raised by Baucus and his political-action committee has come from groups and individuals associated with drug companies, insurers, hospitals, medical-supply firms, health-service companies and other health professionals.”

Do you believe what Baucus said? You know what to do—just click here.

We’re all Kenneth Starr now: Ten years ago, Kenneth Starr just couldn’t help it. Driven by a weak, shriveled soul, he published all the thrilling details about that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

Last night, a big dumb block of cheese stepped into the Kenneth Starr role. South Carolina’s unfortunate newspaper, The State, had published a few of Mark Sanford’s e-mails. KeithO couldn’t run fast enough to read them on the air.

(Regarding The State: You really have to hate a guy to publish such utterly meaningless twaddle—especially when you consider the embarrassment thereby dished to his wife and children. Regarding Olbermann: Others have been very polite about his own pursuit of the ladies. Olbermann seems to be a very slight fellow. But then, we’re all Kenneth Starr now:

MADDOW (6/25/09): That was Republican Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, of course, at his 2 PM press conference today. The reporter, Gina Smith, who broke the story, who the governor mentioned over and over again in his long, at times rambling statements, will be joining us as our first guest in just a moment.

Ms. Smith’s paper, which is called The State, based in South Carolina, not only broke the story this morning of the governor`s trip to Argentina, it also followed up his press conference today by releasing bombshell e-mails between the governor and the woman with whom he says he has had an affair.

The provenance of those e-mails is not being disputed by the governor and he did admit, at his press conference, that the relationship had a major e-mail component.


Well, now, thanks to The State newspaper, we’ve got at least three of those e-mails, two from the governor to his mistress and one from the mistress to the governor. One of the e-mails from the governor is rather explicit.

And now is the part where I just sit here for a second while you read that, because if I try to read it aloud, the way Keith did, I would blush so hard my face would pop. And then I’d fall down and we’d have to go to commercial break and come back with a different host. So, there you have it.

The reason the explicitness of this e-mail matters to this as—I’m blushing now and I’m not even looking at it. The reason the explicitness of this e-mail matters to this as a news story is because it is probably what explains why the governor convened this press conference and announced this affair today. It probably explains why we learned about this today.

Yeah, sure. Question:

Has anyone ever been so disingenuous? As we’ve noted in the past, Dear Rachel always has to pretend that she’s embarrassed by the“explicit” stuff—the stuff she loves to pimp you.

What a consummate phony! In April, she spent more than a week insulting average people with her moronic dick jokes. Night after night, she found ways to pretend that she was embarrassed by all that too.

“Bombshell e-mails!”Not so much. But at least one e-mail was “rather explicit,” Our Own Kenneth Starr said. And then, she burned about three-fourths of her program with utter, waste-of-time, consummate nonsense about this thrilling event.

How inane did her time-killing get? This inane: About halfway through her march to the sea, Maddow was reduced to wondering about the bystanders in the tape of Sanford’s press conference. How inane will Our Own Rhodes Scholar be? We’ve got your “Rhodes Scholar” right here:

MADDOW: I know this isn’t the most important part of what’s going on at the press conference right here, but who are the people behind him who are cracking up while he’s giving this apology?

SANFORD (videotape): I’ve been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a—what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do, in just a casual e-mail. I hurt her. I hurt you all. I hurt my wife. I hurt my boys. I hurt friends like Tom Davis. I hurt a lot of different folks.

MADDOW: Kind of distracting and weird, wasn’t it? We tried to find out today who these people are. Are they reporters, staffers, interns, random passers-by who had no idea they were on national television while millions of people were watching? We don’t know. So far it remains a mystery. None of our sources in South Carolina were able to identify these folks.

And again, it’s not the most important question raised by today`s Mark Sanford show.

“So far it remains a mystery,” she clownishly said. But try to believe what this dim soul did: She actually tasked her staff to waste their time figuring out who those meaningless by-standers were! But there’s the shape of this sad program’s soul. Adding unintentional humor, she said this twice: “Again, it’s not the most important question raised by today’s Mark Sanford show.”

No shit, Sherhack! If we might add what is merely obvious: That’s your Rhodes Scholar on Starr!

(By the way: Why does someone spend 45 minutes on a topic like this? Because she cares about nothing else! Health care for average people? Please—they’re Tea-Baggers! They can go get themselves f*cked!)

We thought KeithO was awful last night—until we watched Maddow. We thought TPM was sad yesterday afternoon—until we watched KeithO. And this morning, Gene Robinson hacks his way along in the Post with a bit of pissperfect clowning. Enough about Sanford’s wife and kids, he intones—after having made them his focus:

ROBINSON (6/25/09): At least Gov. Mark Sanford faced the music alone—and I’ll bet the music running through his head was one of those dramatic, sweeping tangos that provide the perfect soundtrack for a visit to Buenos Aires. Tango lyrics are, essentially, blues lyrics in Spanish: somebody did somebody wrong. And that’s what happened.

The only commendable thing Sanford has done lately was to stand before the television cameras by himself as he admitted that his mysterious five-day absence was in fact a trip to Argentina—to see the woman with whom he has been having an extramarital affair for the past year.

He didn’t follow the lead of Larry Craig, Eliot Spitzer and all the others who somehow induced their aggrieved wives to literally stand by their men. That always seemed to be the ultimate betrayal why on earth those women would go along with the act. Humiliation is bad enough when it’s endured in private. It must be excruciating when it’s made into public display—for the benefit of the offending husband’s career.

Enough about Sanford’s wife Jenny and their children, who did nothing to deserve all this. As for Sanford, if ever he deserved to be considered a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, he’s out of the picture now. For good. As he said today: “End of story.”

Enough about Sanford’s wife and kids, this big hack says—after going out of his way to make them the focus of his half-column! But then, Robinson’s fatuous framework (At least he didn’t bring his wife!) has been standard among his cohort in the past eighteen hours. Matthews drove the framework last night; Barnicle was reciting it early this morning. Remember: In the world of Big Scripted Pundits, there must always be some Standard Framework for The Pundit Who Really Has Nothing To Say. Robinson recited one such framework today—pretending, like Rachel, that he’s too good to do what he had just done.

(Ten years ago, as editor of Style, Robinson was one of Starr’s ambulance-chasers. As his cohort’s disapproval was transferred from Clinton to Gore, he published three mocking profiles of Gore in a two-week period, just as Gore was announcing his candidacy. Gore “even giggled like a girl at one point,” Ceci Connolly sweetly said in hers, the last of the Three Mocking Profiles. Bowing to the will of the clan, this big hack put that crap into print. Starr was on the Post’s front page at that time, sadly announcing that his great work would have to continue from there.)

The intellectual and moral standards of your nation’s elites are just astoundingly low. Your nation is dying from this affliction, as you may have seen in the last eight years. (Years that were brought to you, in part, by Robinson.) But so what? It’s excellent for the corporate line when we serve this crap to the rubes! GE hired Keith and Rachel—and put a sports guy in charge of their work. Keith is a clown, and Rachel ain’t ready. And oh yes, one other thing:

We’re all Ken Starr now.

We’re all Ceci Connolly now: Well, not quite. But you could see that syndrome developing in Tuesday night’s “analysis” by Maddow. Tomorrow, we’ll show you how you got played. Not bad, Ceci might have grudgingly said. To watch the slick segment, click here.

LET EVERYONE DARE CALL US LIARS: No, Virginia. Nothing “happened” to the press corps under Bush; they simply continued as before. And you’d have to be a fantasist to think that their work was done in good faith—that these elite-level professional journalists simply lacked sufficient imagination to deal with Bush’s outlier ways.

And yet, we read that nonsense last weekend, in a column by one of our brightest progressives! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/23/09.) Is life on earth a joke of the gods? Can Professor Rosen be for real when he hands us such consummate piffle?

Of course, Brother Greenwald may have flailed a bit too in that discussion. Is some derangement syndrome at play when we’re willing to serve ourselves this?

GREENWALD (6/19/09): One of the things I found so interesting in going back and reading your account and of the interviews you did, and I linked to it today and I'll do so again, is that the argument that Froomkin was making back then is that actually he wasn't a liberal at all.

ROSEN: Right.

GREENWALD: That what he was doing was acting adversarially to the party in power, which is what a reporter is supposed to do, and that happened to be a Republican administration spouting lots of lies, and he said, if it had been a Kerry administration that won in 2004, another Democratic administration, he would be doing exactly the same thing. And John Harris, in your interview with him, said, well, I—he sort of doubted it, so I guess we can't know for sure until it happens, but he seems to have a liberal viewpoint to me.

Now, as it turns out, there haven't been very many more vigorous and persistent critics of Barack Obama since the inauguration than Dan Froomkin on many, many counts. He has constantly identified reasoning coming from the White House that he thinks is inconsistent or unpersuasive, or even misleading. He's criticized him for failing to live up to campaign promises. He wrote the other day that he's become an active participant in a cover-up of Bush crimes; he's criticized him for being too beholden to the financial industry in the regulations he's advocating. So it turns out that Dan Froomkin was right, clearly, when he was saying that he would be doing the same thing if there were a Democratic or liberal administration.

As proof that Froomkin wasn’t really a liberal, Glenn cites his later criticisms of Obama—criticisms that largely have come “from the left!” Within the framework of our politics, for example, criticizing Obama “for being too beholden to the financial industry” will be scored as a “liberal” criticism. That doesn’t mean the criticism is “wrong” or invalid; indeed, we would tend to agree with the criticism. It simply means that the criticism doesn’t involve some simple statement of fact; it does involve a political viewpoint. There’s nothing wrong with such a viewpoint. But there is something wrong when one of our brightest progressives is willing to argue this way. We’re in an echo chamber of our own making when we persuade ourselves in such ways.

Similarly, we always think we’re in an echo chamber when progressives argue in the following manner. In the following passage (from this earlier June 19 post), Glenn seems to say that reporters should be encouraged to tell us when Big Pols are lying:

GREENWALD (6/19/09): Why was Froomkin deemed "liberal," inappropriate and biased? Because he pointed out that the Bush administration's claims were false and their policies radical—i.e., he wrote what was factually true. But that—writing what is factually true and pointing out false statements from those in political power—is the number one sin in establishment journalism. [...]

To be a real establishment journalist (objective), you're not allowed to say when one side is lying—even when they are. All you're allowed to do is repeat what both sides say and leave it at that (Colbert: "The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home"). Froomkin—unlike David Gregory—believes that reporters should actually point out when the Government is lying. That's what he did. That's why, to The Post, he wasn't a real reporter but, rather, an "ideologue." That's the sickness of American journalism in a nutshell.

Then there's Froomkin's freakish, exotic belief that journalists should be adversarial to and skpetical of the claims of government officials, especially when it comes to matters of war and national security.

In our view, we’re in a world of hurt when one of our smartest progressives writes such unformed mush—mush which resembles some of Froomkin’s mushy work at Nieman. (Sorry—we’re still avoiding the site, which got shut down this week.)

What makes Glenn’s work so mushy? He walks away from some profoundly basic distinctions—distinctions which have been universally observed for millennia. As Froomkin tends to do, he draws no distinction between “false statements” and “lies.” Everyone in the western world has observed this (important) distinction, for several millennia. But we progressives have become so ardent that we now tend throw this distinction away. In the process, we seek a world where “objective establishment journalists” should be empowered to tell us who’s lying.

But guess what, dumb-asses? Establishment journalists have felt quite free to make such judgments in recent decades. Just this Tuesday, Howard Kurtz reminded us of this obvious fact in a profile of Rahm Emanuel. In this passage, Kurtz is speaking of Emanuel’s work under President Clinton:

KRUTZ (6/23/09): Emanuel came to view journalists as a constituency group, like members of Congress, that had to be stroked. He called Tim Russert every week, either to complain about NBC's coverage of Bill Clinton or suggest topics for "Meet the Press."

Conservative critics also got the Rahm treatment. After Michael Kelly, then the New Republic's editor, called Clinton a "shocking liar," Emanuel took him to lunch. Emanuel called Times columnist William Safire "Uncle Bill" and had him over for dinner, despite his having called Hillary Clinton a "congenital liar.”

And how about this one: AL GORE, LIAR! That was the headline on a New York Post editorial in June 1999, two days after the world’s biggest liar launched his White House campaign.

The LIAR had said he invented the Internet, the New York Post let us know.

Can we talk? Establishment journalists have felt quite free to identify “LIARS” in recent decades. The problem is this: To the extent that they’ve had this freedom, they have kept calling Democrats LIARS. Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton were endlessly described as the world’s biggest LIARS. And uh-oh! In the future, this is likely the way the mainstream press corps will work—to the extent that they’re given this power.

In fairness, Professor Rosen knows nothing of this, being newly arrived from Pluto. He think the press corps’ problems began under Bush—and only because these elite professionals lacked imagination to deal with his outlier ways. (They were doing their best.) But if we continue to have an establishment press corps, it will be very unwise for liberals or progressives to task them with telling us who are the LIARS. Their track record on this point is clear. The establishment press is a tool of power. They will tend to call Big Pols of the more liberal party LIARS. They’ve done this for the past twenty years. Once financial regularity returns, they will likely resume this practice as the looting starts up again.

Quite wisely, objective reporters have traditionally been forbidden from making this highly subjective judgment. (One obvious reason: In most cases, it’s very hard to know if a misstatement is a “lie.”) Yes, reporters should challenge and correct statements which are inaccurate, false or misleading. Yes, they should note patterns of same. But we’re living on the dark side of Neptune when we ask Establishment Journalists to identify the lies and the LIARS. In 1999 and 2000, they called Gore a LIAR for twenty straight months, inventing his LIES as they went along. (Ceci Connolly: Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal!) Amazingly, Professor Rosen hasn’t heard. But it’s how George Bush attained power.

“False statements” and “lies” are two different things; the former is a great deal easier to identify than the latter. It’s amazing that we no longer know that, given this decade’s ardor. That said: The LIARS will always be the Dems, as long as we let the establishment name them. Decades later, professors doesn’t know. But Glenn doesn’t seem to know either.

Tomorrow: Ezra yes, Froomkin no. Why is that?