SKULL AND BONES UNDER THE BUS: We thought last nights Countdown was very weak, a point we may flesh out this week. But at one point, Keith Olbermann did it! Dana Milbank had quit the showso Olbermann threw him under the bus! If this day-late sanctimony aint vintage Olbermann, we dont know what is:
OLBERMANN (8/3/08): Best timing, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, who notified us today that, after four years of appearing with us, he had accepted another television offer, to save your crack Countdown staff an increasingly difficult decision.
For nearly a week, we had been waiting for him to offer a correction or an explanation for his column from last week in which he apparently reported an Obama quote without the full context that turned the meaning of the quote inside out. Then he called criticisms of column whines, even though the dispute was over whether Obama had said the self-deprecating, It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. Its about America. I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions," or if he said only the part about I have just become a symbol.
We had decided not to have Dana on this news hour again until this was cleared up. And sadly, after some very happy years, he has apparently chosen to make that cloud permanent. Good luck, Dana.
Good luck? Olbermann should have said good riddance to some bad journalistic rubbish. Weve long asked why the gruesome Milbank was featured on this progressive news program. Last night, Olbermann threw Milbank under the busafter Milbank had apparently driven away in an unnamed limo.
How silly was Olbermanns presentation? During his statement (you can watch it here), he presented Obamas quotation on-screenthough theres no way to know what Obama said inside the closed-door meeting in question. Last week, we went through much of this consummate nonsense, focusing on Dan Abrams bungling (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/1/08). But here again, Olbermann was presenting an Obama quote when theres simply no way to quote Obama. But these are the journalistic non-standard standards which now rule your press.
In our view, Milbank is close to worst-in-show in the modern mainstream press corpsan increasingly fatuous, Dowd-leaning figure. (Al Gore uses too many big words! Typed like a consummate idiot.) His only virtue is his bipartisanship; he routinely misstates elementary facts about members of both major parties. In recent years, the wonders of C-Span let us fact-check his increasingly fatuous work, which has been increasingly driven by silly claims about body language. It was this mocking profile of Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) which really convinced us about Milbanks work; when we watched C-Spans broadcast of the event, we saw how baldly inaccurate his account of Davis conduct really was. As we noted last week, Milbanks piece on Obama was appalling (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/30/08). But a hack like this should never have been on Countdown in the first place.
By the way, a reader alerted us last week to something wed never known. Apparently, Milbank is Skull and Bones! This has been reported twice in the New York Daily News, the second time by all-knowing Lloyd Grove. The cites can be found in Milbanks Wikipedia bio (click here). And yes, weve confirmed the fact that both news reports did appear.
Could a hack like Milbank be Skull and Bones? At first, we were consumed by pity; just think how far Skull and Bones had fallen by the time this loser reached Yale, we incomparably mused! Beyond that, we had to wonder if this puzzling fact helps explain Milbanks career success. His journalistic work is stunningly unimpressiveand his rise up the ladder has been quite fast. Is there any chance that a few older brothers gave this shlub a fraternal hand?
In short, is Dana Milhous Milbank an affirmative action hire?
Milbank is an awful journalist. His piece about Obama was simply awfulbut then, thats pretty much par for the course. Last night, a brave fellow threw him under the busafter hed already limoed away! But so it goes as we gaze on the rubble which defines the American press corps.
DOWD ON PREJUDICE, DOWD ON THIN: If the American experiment does survive, future generations will marvel at The Age of Dowdthe age in which a gang of fatuous Antoinettes took control of the mainstream press corps. Sundays column by Maureen Dowd was a good example of the regime under which the nation has suffered. If the American experiment does survive, future generations will presumably study such work.
Yesterday, we watched Dowd turn to Pride and Prejudiceagain!while explaining a Dem White House hopeful (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/4/08). Today, lets examine two other parts of her column. One passage concerned race, a vital subject. The other part was about being thin.
Dowd on prejudice: When Dowd tries to talk about things that matter, one wishes shed return to the fatuous topics which define her simpering oeuvre. On Sunday, she limned the haughty Obama as pridejust as she had once limned John Kerry. Then, in a typically stupid way, she cast her gaze on prejudice:
DOWD (8/3/08): If Obama is Mr. Darcy, with his pride, his abominable pride, then America is Elizabeth Bennet, spirited, playful, democratic, financially strained, and caught up in certain prejudices...
In this political version of Pride and Prejudice, the prejudice is racial, with only 31 percent of white voters telling The New York Times in a survey that they had a favorable opinion of Obama, compared with 83 percent of blacks.
And the prejudice is visceral: many Americans, especially blue collar, still feel uneasy about the Senates exotic shooting star, and he is surrounded by a miasma of ill-founded and mistaken premises.
So the novelistic tension of the 2008 race is this: Can Obama overcome his pride and Hyde Park hauteur and win America over?
In a rational universe, remarkably stupid people like Dowd would be kept far away from the topic of race. But this is a world in which stupid people are running our national discourse. Can America overcome its prejudice to elect the first black president? she stupidly asked. Her question was driven by the data from that New York Times survey.
Wow! Only 31 percent of white voters t[old] The New York Times in a survey that they had a favorable opinion of Obama, compared with 83 percent of blacks! To Dowd, those numbers told a tale of racial prejudicevisceral prejudice aimed at Obama. In reality, those numbers are quite ordinary. Maureen Dowdand her hapless editorswere simply too stupid to know it.
What makes those numbers so unexceptional? Start with a couple of bone-simple facts: African-American voters are overwhelmingly Democratic; on balance, white voters are Republican. This is true in every presidential election, not just in the current campaign, which features a black nominee. In fact, the survey results to which Dowd alludes are much like the results from a similar survey taken during Campaign 04. The numbers Dowd cites may seem to describe a story of visceral racial prejudice. But only if youre a dim Antoinette, of the type now shaping our lives.
Lets get clear on the actual data from the survey Dowd cited. (To peruse the full poll, just click here.) The survey, by the New York Times and CBS News, was conducted from July 7-14, 2008. Early on (see page 3), voters were asked to state their opinions of Obama and McCain. White voters favored the Republican, as is typical. But they did so by a fairly close margin:
White voters opinion of Obama and McCain:
Obama: 31 percent favorable, 37 percent unfavorable
McCain: 35 percent favorable, 28 percent unfavorable
Yes, white voters favored McCainbut the numbers were fairly close. And rememberwhite voters typically favor the Republican in a White House race. Four years ago, for example, CNN released a survey concerning Candidates Kerry and Bush (just click here). That survey was taken in July too. Heres the way CNNs on-line report began:
CNN ON-LINE REPORT (7/6/04): Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry holds wide leads over President Bush among black and Latino voters questioned, but Bush runs slightly stronger among minority voters than he did four years ago and has a double-digit lead among white voters, according to a new Gallup poll looking at racial contrasts in the presidential race.
The poll, released Tuesday, found that in a two-way race between Bush and Kerry 53 percent of white registered voters supported Bush, while 41 percent supported Kerry.
Among black voters, Kerry led Bush 81 percent to 12 percent, and among Latinos, the Massachusetts senator led 57 percent to 38 percent.
Duh. Then, as now, white voters favored the Republican candidate. The 53-41 margin approximates the size of the margin found last month, in that survey about Obama and McCain. (Blacks overwhelmingly favored Kerry, as they overwhelmingly favor Obama.) In short, the data from last months New York Times survey are typical of two-party White House campaignswhatever the race of the candidates. Only in the hands of Dowd did it become a story of visceral racial prejudice.
Dowds analysis was numbingly stupid; the person who composed it shouldnt be doing politics. But stupid is now the way of your world; the major players of your mainstream press corps do stupid much as other folks breathe. And Dowd, of course, simply revels in stupid. Consider the other part of her columnthe part where she thinks about thin.
Dowd on thin: Wow! Last Friday, a writer named Amy Chozick published this remarkable piece in the Wall Street Journal. (Its headline: Too Fit to Be President?) As many observers instantly noted, it was the type of piece which defines the gonzo mental horizons of the modern, Antoinette-driven press corps. Even by this groups gong-show standards, Chozicks piece struck people as especially dumb. Well simply link you to Brad at Sadly, No! (Beyond F*cking Parody.) And to Digby. And to Krugman. You can pretty much take things from there.
Around the web, people gaped at the sheer stupidity displayed in Chozicks piece. Can we get any stupider? I mean that as a serious question, Brad asked. Truly, were doomed, opined Krugman. So sure enough! As night follows day, Dowd was impressed by Chozicks analysis:
DOWD (8/3/08): Despite Obamas wooing, some women arent warming. As Carol Marin wrote in The Chicago Sun-Times, The Lanky One is like an Alice Waters organic chickensleek, elegant, beautifully prepared. Too coolwhen what many working-class women are craving is mac and cheese.
In The Wall Street Journal, Amy Chozick wrote that Hillary supporterswho loved their heroines admission that she was on Weight Watcherswere put off by Obamas svelte, zero-body-fat figure.
He needs to put some meat on his bones, said Diana Koenig, a 42-year-old Texas housewife. Another Clinton voter sniffed on a Yahoo message board: I wont vote for any beanpole guy.
After comparing Obama to an organic chicken, Dowd availed herself of Chozicks wisdom. People may not vote for Obama because they find him too thin!
Thats the kind of pap and drivel the Times now accepts from its columnists.
If the American experiment survives, people will marvel at work like this. And of course, such work is hardly restricted to Dowd, though she is the fatuous figure-head routinely nailed to the prow of the ship. By and large, your mainstream press corps cant think; cant reason; cant focus; cant function. The skills of paraphrase and quotation elude them; confronted with even the simplest poll numbers, their analytical skills are swamped. Night after night, they waste their time attempting to predict who the VP choices will be. When they do try to tackle matters of substance, sensible people are instantly glad that they engage in such conduct so rarely.
In the midst of this rubble, an ad appeared, featuring Spears and Hilton. A dumbing-down process seemed to be under way. Lets review some basic history.
TOMORROW: Some history here.
LARGER QUESTION: Apparently, the physicists now tell us that we live in a multiverse, or a megaversethat our universe is one of many (just click here). No, the human mind isnt built to understand what that might mean; apparently, the math leads us there. But would anyone doubt a one percent chance that the Dowds are here from another world? That Men in Black had something to tell us? Can wealth and celebrity really make humans this dumb? If we might borrow from Brads language: We mean these as serious questions.
As we watch the latest nonsense drive the presidential debate, we have to say that these questions involve the work of the whole career liberal world. Tomorrow, a bit of historyand of course, a tire gauge.