TOUGH ON EVERYBODY! Edsall and Matthews help us see how a decade has been disappeared: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2009
Someones on a spaceship with Ifill: Sung to the tune of, Someones in the kitchen with Dinah.
At first, the analysts jumped for joy. Theyve always loved Kevin Drums workthough he sometimes makes them tear their hair. And yesterday, Kevin said he would answer their question! Just click here:
Huzzah! Kevin was going to answer their question! Why do the media keep avoiding the worlds most remarkable state of affairs? Kevin was going to let us know why the media isnt more interested!
But then, elation turned to despair! Kevins answer had nothing to do with the question he himself had just posed:
While the analysts love Kevins work, this is why he drives them mad. Do you see a single word that answers our actual question? Heres our question: Why does the press corps keep refusing to discuss or explain our mammoth over-spending? Kevin said he would answer that question. Then, he answered something else. Its not that what he said was wrong. It just didnt speak to the question.
Might we go over this problem again, speaking extremely slowly?
The United States spends two to three times as much as comparable nations on health care. As any rational person can see, these OECD dataeveryone cites themdefine an astonishing state of affairs:
We spend two to three times what those nations spendand get equal or lesser health outcomes. And yet, the press corps never discusses this astonishing state of affairs!
Go ahead. Try to find a single world in Kevins post which explains the press corps disinterest.
Might we state what is blindingly obvious? Progressive impulses in this society are killed by the press corps silence. Most voters have little awareness of this massive over-spending. Its hard for people to get angry about something thats never discussed in the press. Lets make it so simple that career liberals can follow: When Gwen Ifill refuses to discuss this astonishing state of affairs, she protects the corporate/big money interests which live off this vast over-spending.
She protects the doctors, the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies. And she keeps her viewers clueless.
Kevin presents an interesting outline of our over-spending. If the New York Times or the Washington Post did a week of front-page reports about this astounding situation, they could certainly work from his outline. But they show no sign of wanting to do that. We have askedand asked; and asked againwhy they show no interest.
OK! Enough with the subtle:
Presumably, the mainstream press is avoiding this topic because it seeks to serve the large corporate interests involved in that over-spending. (To offer an earlier example of the same conduct: Thats why the pundits corps savaged Candidate Gore in 2000 when he opposed Bushs plan to privatize Social Security.) Or maybe explanation is more innocent: Maybe the mainstream press corps dull sensibilities dont allow them to see a problem with that massive over-spending on health care.
But then, Kevin seems to share that sensibility. We pay as much as five times more per procedure, he saysand that is where his analysis rests. He fails to see the obvious question:
These blindingly obvious questions never arise in the mainstream pressor in the career liberal world, for that matter. In its silence, the mainstream press thus keeps the lid on progressive sentiment. The average American might even be angry if he/she understood the fact that he spends five times as much for procedures as other people do. But Gwen Ifill isnt going to tell Americans that. And the outrage that lurks inside that factoid doesnt seem to move Kevin either.
Why? Why do we spend twice as much for drugs? Why do we spend five times more for procedures? In a rational world, this remarkable state of affairs would lead to strings of front-page reports.
But you dont live in a rational world. You live in the United States, a society which is owned by corporate interestsunlike the other societies in those OECD data.
That ownership is enabled by the dulled sensibilities found in the mainstream and career liberal worlds. Or are the Ifills knowingly in the bag to Washingtons big money interests? They seemed to play that role in the Clinton/Gore yearsan era which has been disappeared.
EPILOGUETOUGH ON EVERYBODY: In this mornings New York Times, Paul Krugman writes about the decline in American education (largely, higher education). Early on, he describes a destructive 30-year era:
That past 30 years has been a time of rising conservative/ corporate/ big money power inside Establishment Washington. For the most part, the career liberal world has played along with that rise in Big Money Power. Career liberals have been seeking big moneys salaries and sinecuresseats at its various tables.
Two results: Big newspapers refuse to explain where your health care spending is going. And the history of the Clinton/Gore era has largely been disappeared.
How thoroughly has that era disappeared? For a tragicomical example, consider Thomas Edsalls groaning discussion of liberal bias at the Columbia Journalism Review.
For decades, Edsall was a political reporter at the Washington Post. The mainstream press is liberal, he writes in CJR. Needless to say, this statement will be repeated down through the years, all through the conservative world. But as Edsall groaningly proves his thesis, note the way the Clinton/Gore era disappearsthe era in which the mainstream press waged war on three liberal Democrats.
First, one point of agreement with Edsall. Mainstream journalists often exhibit rank condescension toward white working-class voters. But does that make these journalists liberal? In fact, Edsalls definition of what it means to be a liberal is groaningly hard to fathom. Heres the paragraph in which he makes and defines his soon-to-be-deathless assertion:
According to Edsall, members of the mainstream press tend to favor abortion rights, womens rights, civil rights, and gay rights. That may be true (note the qualifier, tend to). But should such people be defined as liberals? In this definition, Edsall considers only the so-called social issuesnot the controlling issues of wealth and power which have driven so much of the past thirty years. Weirdly enough, two paragraphs later, he says this about these liberals:
According to Edsall, mainstream journalists are the types of people whose view of unions and the labor movement is wary and suspicious. Theyre social liberals only, he saysnot economic liberals.
By this definition, you could have supported Bushs tax cuts and the war in Iraqbut if you were pro-choice, that meant that you were a liberal! Theres a term for analysis of this type. But were too polite to type it.
But then, the weirdness of Edsalls analysis extends to that cheerful sentence about Dukakis, Gore and Kerry. According to Edsall, mainstream journalists overwhelmingly supported Gore for president. (And Dukakis, whom they often mocked.) At this point, the gruesome history of the Clinton/Gore era thoroughly disappears. Question: How detached from real life must an analyst be to type this truly remarkable sentence: If reporters were the only ones allowed to vote, [Al Gore] would have won the White House by landslide margins.
Truly, that statement is mind-boggling. But it helps you see how ruthlessly the Clinton/Gore era has been disappeared, all through our mainstream press culture. Indeed, thats where the comedy of Edsalls piece comes in. Just note the way Edsall describes the conduct of this liberal mainstream press corps in the thirty years cited in Krugmans column:
See there? This liberal press corps extended fawning coverage to President Reaganand to George W. Bush as well! Left unsaid is what this liberal press did to President Clintonand to Candidate Gore.
In fact, the fawning to George W. Bush started well before he took office. Edsall seems to forget this now, perhaps because he himself was part of the process by which Candidate Gore got shredded. But lets return to the work of Chris Matthews, who played the fool last Thursday night in discussing the new book, The Clinton Tapes, with its author, historian Taylor Branch. At one point, Matthews showered himself with self-praise, lying to Branch as he did:
Im tough on everybody, Matthews said, lying in Branchs face. The analysts roared and howled. Milk came out of ones nose.
Im tough on everybody, Matthews saiddisappearing the actual history of the Clinton/Gore era.
How did Matthews really behave in that disappeared era? We thought of how tough he was on Gore and Bush in June 1999, when they kicked off their White House campaigns. Gore went second, making his formal announcement on June 16. The following Monday, Matthews discussed the candidates launch with Cokie Roberts.
It had now been more than four months since President Clintons impeachment trial ended. Still furious, Matthews found a memorable way to characterize Gores refusal to call for Clintons removal from office. (Instead, Gore had recommended a congressional resolution of censure, the very approach Matthews seemed to tell Branch that he himself had favored.) How did Matthews characterize Gore? Repeatedly, Matthews compared the vice president to French collaborators with the Nazis during World War II. Chatting with Roberts, Matthews raised this very crude comparison four separate times this night.
To say Nazis, you know, Roberts said at one point, hoping to free herself from her hosts conduct. But her host, whos tough on everybody, just kept bringing it on:
Today, Matthews lies in Branchs face, seeming to say that he, Chris Matthews, favored a resolution condemning Clinton. But that is precisely what Gore had favoredGore, who was like a French collaborator with the Nazis. Being tough on everybody, Matthews went on to tell Roberts that Gore was Clintons bathtub ring, part of the bathtub yukusing an insulting phrase he would use all through the 2000 campaign. (There were seventeen months to go.) Clinton and Gore? They were like what we used to call Siamese twins, he thoughtfully mused.
How did Matthews get on the Siamese twins? Roberts said that Gore has definitely been joined at the hip to Bill Clinton. Being tough on everyone, Matthews took it from there:
Matthews went on to expound a bit more about Gore being like a conjoined twin; he then returned to the Nazis. But at least hes tough on everyone! Everyone except Candidate Bush, whose kick-off tour he had discussed exactly one week before.
That Monday night, June 14, Bush was praised and fawned about as few candidates ever are. Republicans may have touched the magic wand here, a goggle-eyed Matthews told pundit guests. Bush was praised for his comic timing, which reminded Matthews of Jack Benny. The Texan was praised for his plain talk about utterly mundane policy matters. (Amazing stuff! Matthews exclaimed at one point. Thats Martin Luther stuff! This is for real!) Matthews aired parts of his own interview with Busha session he described as my delightful back and forth with the candidate from Texas. Eventually, he asked a question:
Has anybody on Earth, unless the guy lands on the moon, ever gotten this kind of publicity?
Springsteen, yeah, Howard Fineman replied. In this way, Fineman helped his corporate-owned host get tough on everybody. (Once again, this was the Hardball show of 6/14/99.)
In these two Monday night segments, we get a tiny glimpse of the way Edsalls liberal press behaved in the Clinton/Gore era. When Matthews got tough on Candidate Gore, Gore was bathtub yuk, a conjoined twinand a Nazi collaborator. When Matthews got tough on Candidate Bush, Bush was Jack Benny, Martin Luther and Springsteenand the man who walked on the moon. Needless to say, Matthews and his colleagues had behaved this way toward Clinton for years before that. Last week, he seemed to tell Branch that he had favored a congressional resolution of disapproval. In fact, Gore had favored congressional censure. And Matthews had mauled him for that.
This colorful era is totally missing from Edsalls CJR piece. He tells us the mainstream press is liberaland disappears these years. The press corps fawned to Reagan, then to Bush 43. What came in between disappears.
But then, the thirty years described by Krugman have been a time of public madness in your devolving nation. During this time, the rich came into our lives, if we may borrow from Hemingway. Rising conservative/corporate/ big money power seized Washingtonand purchased Edsalls liberal press. In one specific transaction, Jack Welch seems to have purchased Matthewsand soon enough, Matthews, in his turn, purchased the career liberal world. They wanted a seat at Hardballs tablea chance to share GEs bounty. In return, they have always kept their pretty traps shut about Matthews astonishing conduct. (And Cecis. And Kits.) Your history has thus been disappeared. You have never read a real profile of Matthews actual conduct in any of your liberal journals. David Corn now sits on his show. He knows that Serious People in corporate Washington still simper about Clinton/Gore.
The week after next, we will launch a second site in which we will start to recover a bit of that eras disappeared history. Were also going to beg you for money. (Much more work of this type must be done. The American public has never been told about the way the rich took control of their lives.) A modern nation cant function this way, throwing whole decades of history out. But as one might glean from Krugmans piece, your nation is in massive trouble.
[W]e need to wake up and realize that one of the keys to our nations historic success is now a wasting asset, Krugman writes at the end of his piece. But theres no sign that any such thing will occur. You live in a world in which career liberals cant even bring themselves to react to those astonishing health spending data. In which career liberals happily agree to disappear entire decades.
Lets put it a bit more simply: You live in an idiocracy. You live in a world where a man like Matthews feels free to go on TV and lie in the face of a man like Branch. Gore supported a resolution of censure. Matthews savaged Gore for it.
Thirty years on, corporate power owns your culture. Our view? When the Corns start resembling the Dowds, the apocalypse may well be near.