RICHARDS TURN TO CRY! On Monday, E. J. Dionne played dumb. On Tuesday, along came Cohen: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2010
The gods continue their laughter: For years, weve asked a basic question: Is it possible that our mainstream journalism is really a joke of the gods? Could it be that our journalists are really androids, sent here to trigger divine amusement? Surely, no human could be as strange as our journalists seem to be.
Consider four manifestations. All occurred on Tuesday:
Republicans may repeal or roll back health care: Wow! In yesterdays front-page lede story, the New York Times warned us rubes about the repeal of health care. Robert Pear (if he really is Robert Pear) started his report like this:
Wow! Republicans are serious about developing plans to try to repeal or roll back Obamas health care law! Its much more than a campaign slogan! This excitement topped the Times front page. It wasnt until midway through his report, on page A20, that Pear said this, in passing:
Translation: Efforts at repeal face several hurdles, including the fact that it cant be done! But so what? After this fleeting glimpse of realityso fleeting that many readers surely didnt grasp what this statement actually meantPear returned to a long, puzzling discussion of the fact that Republicans are serious about repeal.
Surely, no human produced that report. Was it a joke of the gods?
Chris Matthews is thoroughly scripted on Newt: Last week, we discussed a long-standing tenet of Hard Pundit Law: Newt Gingrich must be described as a very smart man, as a man of impressive ideas. On last nights Hardball, Chris Matthews recited this deathless script, even as he battered Gingrich for his current serial lunacy:
In fact, Gingrich has always said and done crazy thingsand pundits have always feigned surprise, since he has such a high IQ! Surely, no human could be this scripted, after all these crazy years. Was Matthews scripted recitation the latest joke of the gods?
Chris Matthews hasnt heard of the GOP: Last night, Matthews devoted one full segment to Velma Hart, the know-nothing belly-acher who ate up time at Obamas town hall complaining about Obamas economic performance. Like that Chicago law professor, Hart has spent a lot of time complaining about how hard its getting to be to send two kids to private school while maintain a preferred life-style.
Obviously, everyone knows that the economy is in very bad shape. But on Hardball, Hart belly-ached steadily about the fact that Obama hasnt fixed everything yet. But when Matthews asked her what Obama could have done, she quickly observed that she doesnt know. (I absolutely dont know the answer to that, she volunteered, when Matthews asked what Obama could do to lower the unemployment rate.) Most remarkably, Matthews never asked her if she thought the fault mainly lay with Obama, or with the bloc of Senate Republicans who have opposed all his proffered plans.
Hart is a dime-a-dozen, know-nothing belly-acher. By her own admission, she has no idea what could be done to fix the economy. But truly, it was absurd to see this whole segment unfold without the word Republican ever being uttered. Does Hart think Obama was elected king? Fawning over his guests brilliant hot-dogs-and-beans rhetoric, Matthews never asked.
By rule of law, teachers dont cheat: On last nights NewsHour, John Tulenko did a report on a hot topicpaying teachers based on their performance, as Jim Lehrer put it. Tim Webb, the Tennessee education commissioner, voiced support for this idea. Then, Tulenko asked an educational expert to discuss the possible down-sides.
Richard Rothstein rattled on. But an obvious problem escaped any mention, exactly as it has been scripted for the past forty years:
There are all kinds of ways we can boost test scores, Rothstein worriedly said. But he failed to mention one obvious way: Sometimes, teachers and principals flat-out cheat to improve those test score! In these cases, they dont give a lot of instruction in test-taking skills (or teach to the test). In these cases, teachers and principals flat-out cheat, in various ways.
Everybody knows this factand everyone knows it must never be mentioned! Indeed: At present, a high-profile cheating scandal is being investigated in the Atlanta schoolsa scandal which involves flat-out cheating, not teaching to the test. (Atlanta is a major American city, though Rothstein seems not to have heard.) But even in this conducive context, the fact that teachers and principals sometimes cheat simply cant be discussed on the air! This is another tenet of High Pundit Law, understood by Lehrer, Webb, Tulenko and Rothstein alike. You cant discuss or mention this fact. This is a law which has been observed for the past forty years.
Surely, no human would edit life so. Are Lehrer, Webb, Rothstein, Tulenko androids of the gods?
Androids like to ask the tough questions: Another possible android, Ed Schultz, posed a question to viewers last night, as he does at the start of each show. This was Big Eddies latest:
Do humans really ask questions like that? Is Ed Schultz a joke of the gods?
PART 2RICHARDS TURN TO CRY (permalink): At the Washington Post op-ed page, Potemkin pundits take turns pretending to be clueless about our politics.
On Monday, E. J. Dionne had no idea why Obama is running on Bushs ideas (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/21/10); more on that puzzle will follow. Yesterday, it was Richard Cohens turn to act as though he just arrived on the planet. Cohen has simply never seen Republicans acting the way they act now! Someone has cast a spell on these people, this high-ranking analyst says:
A person would think, from reading this column, that Cohen has never seen anything like it! Near the end, he does say this: O'Donnell is where the GOP has been heading for some time. But as he continues, he seems to suggest that the GOP has been heading this way for maybe a year or two. In Cohens telling, the current idiocy dates to the fall of 2008, if that far.
In this way, the Posts large team of Potemkin liberals continue to gambol and play, carefully hiding various things they clearly know perfectly well.
Cohen seems to suggest, in this silly column, that he has never seen such puzzling conductthat only some sort of witchcraft can explain the way the GOP has been caused to lose its mind. In fact, the GOP behaved in exactly this way during the last Democratic administration, at a time when Cohen was writing columns for this same major newspaper. To see the lunacy of that earlier era, please: Just review the remarkable videotape we discussed in yesterdays HOWLER.
Duh. That remarkable videotape shows the lunacy into which our political culture had fallen by the start of Bill Clintons second term. There is nothing new about the lunacy Cohen now sees all around.
In yesterdays HOWLER, we described the tape of a Politically Incorrect programa program which aired in May 1997, four months into Clintons second term. And sure enough! Even at that early date, long before the arrival of Miss Lewinsky, a trio of nut-cakes screeched and wailed, begging for Clintons impeachment. Their conduct was every bit as crazy as the current conduct Cohen describes; in seven short minutes, they screeched and wailed about Communists in the White House; about the Chinese government buying the Long Beach Naval Base; about the way Clinton once said he didnt inhale; and about the death of Vince Foster (two times). They said Clinton was a compulsive liarthat his friends were all in jail. They even previewed a rank talking-pointa talking-point major pundits like Cohen would be applying to Candidate Gore, two years later.
In seven short minutes, they displayed the lunacy of our political culture at the start of Bill Clintons second term.
Cohen seems to voice surprise at crackpot Republican conduct today. But surprise! Back then, in early 1997, he seemed to know all about such thinking; indeed, he used that specific term! What follows is part of a column he wrote one month before the seven-minute mental breakdown on Politically Incorrect. In fairness, Cohen was mainly speaking about conservative journalists in this column, not about politicians or voters. But as we read the passage which follows, its hard to know why this great sage is so thoroughly gob-smacked today:
Cohen went on to discuss the late Michael Kelly, who would soon be writing two Clinton/Gore-hating columns a week at Cohens own Washington Postpositioned as a centrist, of course.
The loony right's hate for Bill Clinton is well-nigh inexplicable, Cohen wrote, in April 1997. But today, Cohen seems completely surprised to see conservatives behaving so strangely toward the current president! Only a spell can explain their conduct! Hes never seen anything like it!
Can we talk? In Tuesdays column, Cohen refuses to do what any non-Potemkin would do. He refuses to tell his readers that the crackpot thinking described in his current column has been the norm since the 1990s; he refuses to say that he himself described similar lunacy at that time. He refuses to say that Gingrich has always behaved like thisthat the man who is currently under a spell has always engaged in such gruesome conduct. He fails to recall the lunatic conduct of the early Clinton years. (Dan Burton had already shot and killed a pumpkin by the time of that first Cohen piece.)
Simply put, Cohen refuses to tell the truth about our political culture.
For the record, something quite important occurred just nine months after Cohens old column. In January 1998, Miss Lewinsky emerged on the scene; after that, everything was different. By the fall of 1999, the Washington press corps had suffered a full-blown group breakdown; by that time, Cohen was almost as crazy as Kelly, writing a series of ludicrous columns in which he praised the greatness of Saint John McCain and mauled the troubling lack of character of the deeply vile Candidate Gore.
Who knows? Perhaps Cohen cant recall the lunacy of 1997 because he himself slipped into those waters, just a few months later. But for today, well repeat our invitation from yesterday: Go ahead! Watch that Politically Incorrect tape from May 1997! (For video see below.) Youll see full-blown lunacy on full display, with Bill Maher teasing the bear a tad, and Al Franken backpedaling steadily. (Not his fault!) You will also see, in that lunatic tape, the rather obvious answer to E. J. Dionnes silly question:
Why is Obama proposing extension of Bushs tax cuts? Why isnt he instead proposing extension of his own tax cuts? Surely, E. J. knew the answer, even as he typed Mondays column.
Like Cohen, he simply wouldnt say. This too is part of our politics.
Tomorrowpart 3: The (obvious) shape of our (lunatic) politics has somehow escaped Dionnes grasp
To watch that tape: In seven short minutes, you can see the full-blown lunacy of the early Clinton years: