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Daily Howler: Vapid Ann Curry let viewers eat Levi. Was TPM really much different?
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LET THEM EAT BEEFCAKE! Vapid Ann Curry let viewers eat Levi. Was TPM really much different? // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JULY 14, 2009

If they favor the wealthy, please vote to confirm: We look forward to seeing Sonia Sotomayor explain her “wise Latina” remark. In the meantime: For a superb account of her Princeton years, we strongly recommend this sensitive, insightful piece by her undergraduate mentor, Peter Winn. It appeared in the Washington Post’s Sunday “Outlook” section. We’d give it a top grade: A-plus.

Less impressive is this puzzling Post editorial about the upcoming vote on Sotomayor’s nomination. In the editorial, the Post repeats some puzzling establishment cant about the logic of such votes.

The Post is troubled as it recalls the way Senator Obama handled such votes. In this passage, the editors recall four “no” votes by the callow solon:

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (7/14/09): The ghosts of confirmations past loomed over the proceedings yesterday as Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor sat for her first day of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

There was the specter of then-judge, now chief justice, John G. Roberts Jr., who in 2005 was unable to secure the vote of the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. There was Samuel A. Alito Jr., President George W. Bush's nominee to the next opening on the high court, who likewise got a no vote from Mr. Obama for ostensibly favoring the powerful and wealthy. There was Janice Rogers Brown, a Bush nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; while he praised the African American jurist for her accomplishments and compelling life story, Mr. Obama declined to endorse her judicial appointment, saying "she is a political activist who happens to be a judge." And there was Miguel A. Estrada, the well-regarded Harvard law graduate and Honduran immigrant who was blocked from a seat on the D.C. Circuit by a Democratic filibuster.

Various GOP senators on the committee, including ranking Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Utah's Orrin G. Hatch, cited Mr. Obama's votes against these Bush nominees. They are right to be critical; they would be wrong to imitate Mr. Obama's mistakes in the matter of the Sotomayor nomination.

Obama voted against all four nominees—Roberts, Alito, Brown, Estrada. The editors are upset with Obama for these votes—but their logic is a bit hard to discern. As they continue, they note a puzzling fact—in real time, they “agreed with Obama's assessment of Brown and urged her defeat because of her unambiguous and unapologetic use of the bench to suit her political vision.” That said:

If Obama was right to oppose Brown on this basis, why on earth would he be wrong to oppose Alito on the basis the Post presents? The editors may not agree that Alito “favor[ed] the powerful and wealthy.” But if Obama believed that he did, why on earth wouldn’t that be a basis for a “no” vote?

Soon, the editors try to explain, dragging out musty old insider “logic:”

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (continuing directly): We agreed with Mr. Obama's assessment of Judge Brown and urged her defeat because of her unambiguous and unapologetic use of the bench to suit her political vision. We supported confirmation of Mr. Bush's well-qualified Supreme Court nominees and strongly urged Democrats to drop their unjustified filibuster of Mr. Estrada. We believe elections have consequences, and presidents are entitled to some deference in their appointment of judges, if those presidents show enough respect for the bench to name men and women of quality. Mr. Bush was owed better than then-Sen. Obama gave him; despite that record, Mr. Obama is owed deference now.

“Elections have consequences,” the editors say. They seem to forget that Obama himself had won an election—in this case, to the United States senate. In part, he had been elected to give “advise and consent” about Bush’s nominees. Why was he supposed to “defer” to Bush? Each man had won an election.

Of course, the Republican senators who will question Sotomayor have all won elections too. If they think she wouldn’t be a good justice—if they think she would favor certain groups, for example—they should vote against her. We don’t see Sotomayor that way ourselves. But if they do, they should stop all the whining, bitching and moaning and cast the obvious vote.

But might we state what is blindingly obvious? If Judge Alito really did “favor the powerful and wealthy,” in that sense he wasn’t a “man of quality.” In that sense, he deserved a “no” vote.

Favoring the powerful constitutes a strong basis for rejection. Alas! Even on this Bastille Day, it’s no surprise to see the editors struggle with this simple idea.

LET THEM EAT BEEFCAKE: Three cheers for Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, who pound home an extremely rare point in this morning’s “Reliable Source” column.

Unheard of! The ladies capture a colleague—the Today show’s Anne Curry—playing the fool on TV! They describe Curry’s Monday morning interview with the hapless Levi Johnston. Eventually, they break all the rules. They note that Johnston has nothing to say about his ostensible subject, Sarah Palin. And omigod! They even explain why Curry, their colleague, is wasting your time with such nonsense.

We suggest you read their entire report (just click here), in which they note that Levi Johnston doesn’t have a freaking thing to say about Palin’s resignation. So why was Curry chatting with Johnston? Below, we present the end of the ladies’ piece. We highlight their class betrayal:

ARGETSINGER/ROBERTS (7/14/09): If it was beginning to sound like this insider didn't have so much insight after all, maybe it was because, as Johnston confided a few minutes later, “I haven't seen Sarah in a couple months.” He refused to reiterate his original claims that she resigned for money: “I'm sure there's multiple reasons for what she's got going on."

Okay, so let's face it: He's got nothing, really, bless his heart. But we know why he's talking (to Tyra Banks; to GQ, which photographed him shirtless). He's looking for that second act. "Movies, reality shows, you name it...that's definitely an option," he told Curry. His Anchorage-based lawyer and manager did not return our calls yesterday.

The question is, why does anyone still book him?

It's a good thing he's cute.

Let them eat beefcake! In the manner of her vacuous class, Curry was handing her viewers a husky young buck to dream on. And she let her viewers eat something else. She let them eat celebrity!

Sarah Palin is now a celebrity. Curry let her viewers eat that. We congratulate Argetsinger and Roberts for rare conduct within their high class—for calling attention to the inanity of one of their seven-figure colleagues.

Levi Johnston had nothing to say. The fellow is almost black-hole dense. But Curry pretended to be intrigued by his thoughts—and a $5 million man wasted time running tape of her pointless session last evening. Let them eat beef-cake, Chris Matthews said. Let them eat Palin’s celebrity!

Of course, your upper-end “press corps” has behaved this way for decades. They’re fatuous peddlers of distraction—distraction which is often tricked up to serve their political preferences. In the process, they have given us an inane—and destructive—political culture. It was this political culture which sent George Bush to the White House, then let him proceed from there. This culture has given us the sheer inanity of our current health care discussion.

The mainstream “press corps” has been this way a long time. Now for the very bad news:

Increasingly, our liberal “intellectual leaders” are selling us the same daft political culture. They keep handing us silly personality tales, tricked up with vapid partisan flavor. It’s the easiest way to attract viewer (or reader) eyeballs. And it’s guaranteed to keep your country from developing a progressive politics.

They treat you like your IQ is 9—and, before long, it probably will be.

Consider one part of the stream of cant now being churned by TPM. Consider this low-IQ post by Jacob Heilbrunn—a post which caught our eye over the weekend. (For the record, the post appears as part of TPM Café, which is supposed to be this site’s intelligent neighborhood.)

Nothing will turn on Heilbrunn’s post. The post will never make any real difference. But just consider the type of work your “intellectual leaders” now hand you.

“Obama Hatred,” the headline shouted, helping stir the blood of us rubes. This day, Heilbrunn’s target was Charles Krauthammer. The gentleman started like this:

HEILBRUNN (7/10/09): Every once in awhile—heck, make that at least once a week—Charles Krauthammer writes something about President Obama that sets a new record for outlandish commentary. The former speechwriter for Walter Mondale turned neocon has become convulsed, more than almost any other columnist, by Obama hatred. Today's Washington Post column announces that Obama, in seeking better ties with Russia, is, in essence, destroying American national security for decades to come. Obama, Krauthammer alleges, is on the verge of selling out ballistic missile defense.

It felt very good to read those words—words which told us how unbalanced the other tribe’s big players are. Everyone knows Krauthammer, after all—and everyone knows that he lurks at Fox. According to Heilbrunnn, his “Obama hatred” had led him to set another “new record for outlandish commentary.” And we rubes felt good when we read the crazy thing Krauthammer had now announced: The claim that Obama “is, in essence, destroying American national security for decades to come.”

It feels good when we get frameworks like that. Sadly, though, we were suspicious. We noted that Heilbrunn didn’t link to Krauthammer’s column—and that he didn’t actually quote Krauthammer making such outlandish statements. From years of reading mainstream figures like Krauthammer, we have learned to be suspicious when we see patterns like that.

And so we sought Krauthammer’s actual column. And uh-oh! Here’s the actual way his column started—out there in the actual world, the world to which we were given no link, the world from which we’re increasingly shielded by our liberal “intellectual leaders:”

KRAUTHAMMER (7/10.09): The signing ceremony in Moscow was a grand affair. For Barack Obama, foreign policy neophyte and "reset" man, the arms reduction agreement had a Kissingerian air. A fine feather in his cap. And our president likes his plumage.

Unfortunately for the United States, the country Obama represents, the prospective treaty is useless at best, detrimental at worst.

Say what? We’d been told that Krauthammer had set a new record for outlandish commentary. He’d claimed Obama was “in essence, destroying American national security for decades to come.”

But when we read his actual column, we found something rather different. According to the actual column, Obama’s treaty might turn out to be a wash. At worst, it might be “detrimental.”

Sorry. No new record there.

Nothing will turn on Heilbrunn’s blather. Or on this piece of silly cant, found right above it in TPM’s allegedly intelligent neighborhood—a piece in which Peggy Noonan has suddenly been transformed into an “honest conservative.” (Why is Noonan suddenly “honest?” Duh. Because she’s trashing Palin!) Nor will anything ever turn on the recent succession of silly posts from legal expert Dahlia Lithwick, including this post, to which TPM linked, out on its front page. (Silly posts—and in one case, baldly dishonest.) But in these posts, as in so much of the work at this site, liberal “intellectual leaders” are playing a familiar old game. They are letting you eat personality—with a strain of partisan cant marbled in. Lithwick writes for Slate, after all. It’s owned by the Washington Post.

You’ll never have a progressive politics if this becomes reigning “liberal” culture. In the 90s, people like this were too scared to speak. We might have been better off then.

TOMORROW: Lithwick and the union.