CHANGE IN THE WEATHER! Matthews played a famous old card. But Joe and Liz just wouldnt go there: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, AUGUST 4, 2005
GLOBAL WARRING: Apparently, George Bush didnt want to go in the books as a global struggle against violent extremism president. Yesterday, he dialed the lingo back to war on terror. Richard Stevenson reports the change in the Times. But then, the change in framing was so pronounced that even Brit Hume reported it:
HUME (8/3/05):Welcome to Washington. I'm Brit Hume. President Bush today put an end to an apparent effort within his administration to recast his war on terror as something else, although there have been a few public glimpses of the linguistic debate. Fox News has learned more about what went on behind the scenes. Fox News chief White House correspondent Carl Cameron has the story.The global struggle against violent extremism? Its hard to argue intelligent design while your word-shop is churning out clunkers like that one. As with an earlier verbal monstrosity—weapons of mass destruction-related program activities—the president knew what he had to do. He took a red pencil and killed it.
Meanwhile, letters pour into the New York Times about the new design dust-up. Our team of analysts mordantly chuckled when they read a post from Dingle, Ireland. The writer said he believes in evolution—but he believes in design as well:
NEW YORK TIMES LETTER (8/4/05): As an American Catholic, I believe that the evidence for a creator God is also overwhelming and that we and the universe are far too complex and wonderful just to have happened by accident.Ah yes—humankinds oldest assessment: We are far too wonderful to have happened by accident! Its the ultimate pleasing tale, one that humans have always loved. And of course, its a measure of our poorly-designed human reason that were so quick to accept it.
BAD NEWS BARRISTERS: Meanwhile, even the kids are rushing to judgment about poor Raffy Palmeiro. In todays KidsPost section of the Washington Post, Fern Shen quotes a raft of summer campers—kids who should spend less time singing campfire songs and more time boning up on the rules of evidence. One Strike and Youre Out, the headline reads, taking a shot at these young know-it-alls. One kid even seems to think that this whole thing is funny:
SHEN (8/4/05): The campers had heard Palmeiro's partial explanation—that he did not "knowingly" take the steroid—and they weren't buying it.Just what we need! One more 12-year-old getting cheap laughs—and thinking hes ready for Conan.
Its not like info isnt emerging. In todays Times, Duff Wilson quotes an expert—not that these kids were willing to wait before they leaped to conclusions:
WILSON (8/4/05): Palmeiro said he must have accidentally ingested the drug. But medical experts say that stanozolol is almost always used in injectable form and would not show up from a contaminated vitamin or other pill. It is legal as an injectable animal steroid.On Tuesdays Hardball, Jose Canseco helpfully suggested that Raffy might not be using now. I do not believe right now that Rafael Palmeiro is taking steroids, not right now, he said. The positive test may have been an unfortunate blast from the past:
MATTHEWS (8/2/05): Are you surprised that Mr. Palmeiro has been tested positive for steroid use?This is helpful, but only to Congress. It would mean that Raffy was lying to them when he testified back in March.
Meanwhile, back at camp, kids are still being taught the old values. Finally, Shen got around to quoting a kid with something uplifting to say:
SHEN (continuing directly from above): The kids said Palmeiro should have known that it wasn't right to cheat and lie. That's something they've known since preschool.You can be good by trying hard. Note that Shen had to talk to the 8-year-old kids before she got someone to say it.
A CHANGE IN THE WEATHER: Topic: Hillary Clinton plays to the American center. Will she lose the outspoken left? This formulation comes from the web site of the Chris Matthews Show; it represents the second topic discussed on last Sundays program. And yes, its a standard type of formulation for discussion of Dem White House hopefuls. Ever since the press lost its mind in pursuit of Bill Clintons troubling ways, TV pundits have responded robotically to claims that Big Dems are two-faced phonies. In Campaign 2000, Al Gore was constantly reinventing himself (even when he re-aired a biographical ad)—and four years later, Candidate Kerry was always said to be flip-flopping. In the TV pundit corps, people agreed to apply these themes in all situations. And if you watch Fox, its still like that today. Here was Dick Morris, laying it down on a recent Hannity & Colmes:
MORRIS (5/31/05): Hillary Clinton is one of the most competent and able politicians this country has produced. She's also one of the phoniest. But she has successfully persuaded people that she's a hawk—even though for eight years, when I knew her, she was a dove. That she's a conservative and a moderate—even though when I knew her, she was way over left. That she's not partisan, she gets along with the other side—even though she would authorize the death penalty for them when I knew her at the White House.Speaking of fooling some of the people, Hannity quickly jumped into the fray. Morris had just recalled telling Hillary, back in the White House, that she had become a Communist:
HANNITY: This rewriting of Hillary's history is interesting. And it's funny and it's absurd. Only the hard-core left wingers believe it.HRC is a two-faced phony! The theme typified pundit assessment of Gore, then Kerry. It continues today on Fox.
But what a surprise we got this Sunday when Matthews gave his pundit panel a chance to run with this favorite old saw! When the discussion about Hillarys hopscotching toward the political center began, Matthews threw to Kelly ODonnell—and ODonnell, more a reporter than a pundit, bored him silly with a fact-based reply which betrayed few interpretational themes. So Matthews turned to pundit Joe Klein. What spooked Hillary? he asked. What made her worry about her very strong pro-abortion, pro-secularist sort of image? For years, its been the perfect throw—a set-up every pundit ran with. But uh-oh! Klein played dumb today. He refused to give what was asked for:
MATTHEWS: What spooked Hillary? What made her worry about her very strong pro-abortion, pro-secularist sort of image?Say what? For a decade, pundits always knew where to run with this throw—they always knew to have some fun pretending that Gore had reinvented again, or that Kerry was again flip-flop-flipping. But incredibly, Klein walked away from the past. Its real important to note there has not been a substantial change here, he said. Surprised—perhaps a little bit hurt—Matthews now turned to Elisabeth Bumiller. Most people go, this womans a big government liberal, he said. Isnt that what shes trying to change? There—surely, the desired script was clear now! But Bumiller didnt want to play either:
BUMILLER: Well, shes been moving that way for a long, long time. Its not just in the last six months or a year. I mean, you look at the New York Times editorials criticizing her on her position on welfare reform in the last few years. I mean, shes been moving that way for the last few years. And I would agree with Joe, certainly, that her position on abortion is not that different. And it also conveniently happens to be where most of the country is right now. You know, shes with the majority of the country on that position.What the f*ck? Was Chris mike on? He tried, one more time, to make Bumiller see. But the people you meet in Democratic Party headquarters...are all pro-choicers and pretty tough pro-secularists too, the desperate host said. Does she have those people now? She can move to the center because shes got them locked? There! Surely everyone knew what he wanted now! But Bumiller still wouldnt go there:
BUMILLER: Well, shes always had those people. And in terms of a secularist, Hillary is one person who can talk about religion as she did when she was in the White House.What the Al Gore doesnt seem very American f*ck? But the deadly Rule of Three had been met, and Matthews, a professional, limply surrendered. Enough of this argument, the defeated host said, although there hadnt been much of an argument. Instead, everyone had simply ignored or rejected the tired old script hed suggested.
Our long-suffering analysts were quite struck by this unusual discussion. When had it ever happened? they asked. Whens the last time a pundit panel passed on the chance to batter Big Dems for their phony, two-faced positions? First, the national press had made fools of themselves accusing Gore of reinvention. Then, with Kerry, they had more fun exploring his flip-flopping ways. (For old times sake, they even invented that fake NASCAR quote, as theyd done so often with Gore.) But suddenly, nobody wanted to say that Hillary was a big two-faced phony. Over on Fox, the script still plays. But the pundits brushed Matthews away.
Our interpretation of this odd moment: Were wondering if a fever has broken. The two-year trashing of Candidate Gore resulted from the press corps war against Clinton; his ten blow jobs had driven them wild, and they took it out on his vile successor. No, they didnt treat Kerry as badly, but they still were all too happy to adopt the RNC flip-flop framework. But heres our guess: At long last, the mainstream press has noticed something: The Bush II reign has been a disaster. And this disaster has been so extreme that theyre even dropping their famous preference for a certain tired old script. To our ear, Matthews wanted to play an old game. But Klein and Bumiller just wouldnt go, suggesting that a different day may be dawning for major Dem hopefuls. Unless McCain gets the Rep nod, of course.
FIRST GLIMMER: Back in March, Matthews began to observe this new morning. He chatted with Cokie Roberts:
MATTHEWS (3/3/05): Over 60 percent of the American people in every category, Cokie, in every category, men, women, left, right, center, believe—are convinced now that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic candidate for president.Frankly, Matthews was puzzled. In his crowd, he was used to hearing, I hate that woman when the question of Clinton came up. Now he was hearing a different tune. Cokie assured him—no witchcraft was involved. So he played his second card. As is standard, he mocked Gore and Kerry:
MATTHEWS: Could it be that, standing next to Gore and Kerry, she looks delightful?Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! He played a cable pander-card. If at first you dont succeed, offer cheap laughs about Gore and Kerry.
Poor Chris! Remember what a great ride its been, sliming people like Kerry and Gore? Gore, who didnt seem very American, even? Who doesnt even look like one of us? On Sunday, this cheap, phony man may have met a new world—one that may be a bit more fair to people less worthless than Bush.