MARRIED TO THE MOB! Was Thompson mobbed when he went to the fair? Inquiring minds ought to ponder: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, AUGUST 20, 2007
STARTS TOMORROW—INVENTION ARRIVES: Eight years ago, they invented a demon. At long last, their invention has arrived.
INCURIOUS GEORGE: On Sunday, the analysts howled at the way David Gregory rolled over and died for Karl Rove. They threw up their hands when they read Patrick Healys latest front-page Times groaner. But we were especially struck by a decision made during the Democratic debate. Omigod! A real discussion had broken out about the way to exit Iraq! It was by far the most intelligent discussion weve seen in any debate this year; the hopefuls were even beginning to question each other about their respective views. But our press corps flees intelligent discourse as bats avoid exposure to light. Abruptly, George Stephanopoulos brought the discussion to a halt so he could ask this question:
STEPHANOPOULOS (8/19/07): Let me move on now. We've got a question—we got an e-mail question from Seth Ford of South Jordan, Utah. And he said, My question is to understand each candidate's view of a personal God. Do they believe that through the power of prayer disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the Minnesota bridge collapse could have been prevented or lessened? I'd like each of you to answer it.And so, instead of explaining how shed act in Iraq, Clinton had to explain if we could have prayed and made that bridge hold up.
But then, we noticed it all over cable this weekend—the reflexive dumbness of our discourse. MSNBC abandons hard news every chance it gets; it played its treasured sexual predator reruns all through the weekend. The History Channel dumped history long ago; they kept playing their Ice Truckers stuff. PBS was asking for money from viewers, so they kept airing their doo-wop concerts. Lets be honest—even ESPN has dumbed down its content. Half the time now, they just show us people playing poker.
To Brother Ford, wed only say this: Weve heard that God will not be mocked. Stephanopoulos, dumbing our public life down, is begging for future disasters.
WHERE DO OUR EXPERTS COME FROM: Over the weekend, a chain of web-cats discussed the way folks get anointed as foreign policy experts. (For Kevin Drums post, with links, just click here.) But the problem of the pseudo-expert extends to other parts of American life—to public education, for example. On Saturday, this Post news report about DC test scores was striking for its incoherence. A famous expert was repeatedly cited—but few of his statements seemed to make sense. Was this the fault of the expert, or of the reporter? Its often a bit hard to tell.
Alas! In various parts of American life, elites select our experts for us, then keep ramming them down our throats. We thought of this last Friday night, when Charlie Rose devoted the hour to the death of his friend, Brooke Astor. For the bulk of the program, Rose chatted amiably with another friend, David Rockefeller, about the many evenings they had enjoyed at Astors dinner parties. This remarkably odd conversation brought two thoughts to mind.
First, we thought about the way Michelle Rhee became DCs superintendent of schools. Rhee came recommended by Manhattans top swells—by Gotham superintendent of schools Joel Klein, who sits at the right hand of billionaire Michael Bloomberg—and the DC city council cut and ran when her paper-thin story began showing holes (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/11/07). But then, people supported by top elites have a way of surviving such embarrassments. Similarly, Sir Michael Barbers high-toned educational blather had been accepted, quite uncritically, by the New York Times last Friday morning (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/17/07). Does Sir Michael know what hes talking about? Frankly, the Times didnt seem to care. Sir Michael advises Bloombergs man, after all. And especially when it comes to public ed, the Times has long curtsied to Bloomberg.
In this way, we get handed our experts; they get selected by our elites. In the world of public education, these experts rarely show expertise; in fact, they rarely show the slightest sign of knowing what theyre talking about. A very similar process obtains as were handed our foreign policy experts. Nothing they say, no matter how bogus, ever gets them removed from the list. Theyre on the list because they support the views of our high elites.
Meanwhile, we recalled a second matter as Rose discussed his evenings with Astor. We thought about the disgraceful program he aired in 2003, when Hillary Clintons autobiography, Living History, was published. For his panel that evening, Rose welcomed two other climbers, Chris Matthews and Margaret Carlson; the trio insulted and laughed at Clinton throughout the entire segment (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/23/03). We remembered the way this mess began as we watched Rose reminiscing last Friday:
ROSE (6/9/03): Chris, tell me what you think of the book.Rose chuckled as his guest compared Hillary Clinton to a police suspect. But lets face it. When you book climbers like Matthews and Carlson, you pretty much get what you pay for:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): and in this case, youre dealing with the Menendez Brothers of American politics, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and although each is in separate cells, politically speaking, they do communicate, obviously.Amazing, isnt it? But Rose laughed hard as his loathsome guest compared the Clintons to famous murderers. Inevitably, this is what a society gets when its journalists—public servants like Rose—spend their evenings hard at work, courting the darlings and the swells. Last Friday, it was simply delicious when Rockefeller and Rose discussed their dear friend, Astor.
Lets be clear: Brooke Astor seems to have been a gifted and unusual person. Rockefeller seems like a decent guy too. But gifted people die every day; Charlie Rose devotes the hour when the gifted person in question had money. And uh-oh! When our journalists fawn to our moneyed elites, they arent inclined to question the experts these moneyed elites present at high court. The Rhees get welcomed into the fold, no matter how perfectly bogus their stories may be. Ditto the OHanlons and the Pollacks, so wonderfully bright on Iraq.
This is how we get the OHanlons and Pollacks—and this is how we get the Rhees. And its how weve gotten the reflexive mocking of Democrats (often by Democrats) which may elect Giuliani next year. At present, we liberals are mad about Iraq—and so we complain about OHanlon and Pollack. But we tend not to care about poor black kids. For the most part, so too with Clinton.
Visit our incomparable archives: While Rose bowed low at Astors court, Carlson was chasing Katherine Graham around. This is the way our discourse gets shaped. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/18/03.
MARRIED TO THE MOB—A SEQUEL: Was Fred Thompson mobbed when he went to the fair? Inquiring minds ought to wonder.
Last Friday, the smarthandsomehonest Hardball idol visited the Iowa state fair in Des Moines. Heres how Anne Kornblut began her news report in the Post, a paper which has sometimes gone out of its way to say how brightsexycharismatic Fred is:
KORNBLUT (8/18/07): Mobbed by voters at the Iowa State Fair, some of them carrying homemade signs encouraging him to run, Fred D. Thompson on Friday showed off the advantages he would enjoy as a celebrity latecomer to the 2008 Republican presidential campaign.It sounded like the magic was working! Thompson was mobbed by voters, Kornblut wrote—and some were carrying homemade signs encouraging the crediblesumbitch to run. Thompson showed off the advantages he would enjoy as a celebrity if he entered the race, Kornblut said. Later, she returned to her theme. At the fair, [Thompson] was the fourth star-powered candidate to appear in three days, she wrote, and he drew at least as large a gathering as Giuliani had two days earlier.
It sounded like the magic was working. But was Thompson mobbed when he went to the fair? Kornblut is becoming one of our least reliable campaign reporters; for that reason, we couldnt help wondering about her upbeat opening paragraph. Meanwhile, the photos which appeared in the Post and the Times didnt seem to show the bighandsomelug being mobbed. In both papers, photos showed Thompson walking through the fairgrounds. But no voters appeared in the photos at all—just a few cameramen and photographers. Nor did Susan Sauly say much, in her Times report, to suggest that Ole Fred had been mobbed.
Did Thompson get mobbed when he went to the fair? Well admit it—we were curious. Because weve been struck by Kornbluts work of late, we decided to check a local source—a place where reporters might not imagine themselves to be novelists. In the Des Moines Register, reporter Thomas Beaumont observed Thompsons visit—and he even used numbers in his report. Does the following sound like a mob? This is what Beaumont reported:
BEAUMONT (8/18/07): Thompson did not venture beyond Des Moines during his caucus-state debut...According to Beaumont, Thompson was recognized by dozens of fairgoers! When he spoke, he addressed more than 100 supporters and curious fairgoers—plus about 50 reporters. None of that makes it sound like the bigfamoushunk was ever surrounded by much of a mob. But Thompson did get swarmed at the fair—by the media, Beaumont reported!
Who knows? Maybe thats what Kornblut meant when she said he showed off his advantages!
Was Thompson mobbed when he went to the fair? Was he showing off the advantages he would enjoy as a celebrity? In fact, the Des Moines Register estimated the size of the crowds when three hopefuls spoke at the state fairs Soapbox this week. Heres what the paper reported:
Clinton: About 500 supporters, onlookers, activists and reporters listened or asked questions during the 16-minute talk.Thompsons advantage as a celebrity? He may draw crowds one-third the size of his main GOP rival!
Why did Kornblut begin her report with that upbeat, Fred-pimping piffle? We dont have the slightest idea—but her editors ought to suggest that she stop. Last Thursday, her report on Giuliani and Clinton was awful (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/17/07). Her paean to Thompsons bigassadvantage only continued to make us wonder whats going on at the Post.