WHEN KATTY MET CHARLIE! Her colleagues began zoning out, Katty said, because the debate was so serious: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2008
Brokaw and the corps broken intellect: In our view, Tom Brokaw performed rather poorly at Tuesday nights debate. One presentation typified the work of his lofty press caste. What he said can be defended as technically accurate. But what he said about Social Security was typically misleading:
For the record, Brokaw said he had a question from someone named Langdonbut he never actually read it. Instead, he rattled off his own presentationa presentation which may have misled many viewers.
From Brokaws presentation, many viewers may have gotten the idea that Social Security will soon eat up all of the revenue that's in place and then go into a deficit positionthat Social Security is a big ticking time bomb that will eat us up maybe even more than the mortgage crisis. But barring economic meltdown, that simply isnt the case. Indeed, even McCain drew an instant distinction when he gave his answer:
Medicare was going to be a little tougher, McCain went on to say. But even he seemed to know, at least this night, that Social Security isnt a ticking time bomb. But then, Brokaw seemed to know it too. Presumably, thats why he quickly said and Medicare when McCain focused first on SS.
Average voters deserve to be told that Social Security is not a ticking time bomb that will soon eat up all of the revenue that's in place. (Barring economic meltdown.) But it seems to be a law of this tribetheyre required to cloud this matter. Tim Russert made this his trademark for years. On Tuesday night, Brokaw paid tribute.
But then, Brokaws work was woeful throughout. At several points in the primary season, debate moderators were correctly ridiculed for demanding one-word answers. Brokaw seemed to miss that memo. Truly, it takes a very weak mind to ask a question like this:
Its especially silly to ask for a yes or a no when asking a delicate question like that. Here again, Brokaws question was so dumb that McCain swiftly demolished it. Here was the gentlemans one-word replyand his 36-word explanation:
Duh. But then, many of Brokaws questions seemed remarkably light. He closed the evening with what he called a Zen-like question from a Granite State viewer. But hed already authored several Zen-like queries of his own:
How many viewers knew what he meant in contrasting a Manhattan-like project with 100,000 garages? And did it make sense to ask for a quick discussion of that latter question? We know what it means to call health care a rightbut what exactly does it mean to call health care a responsibility? Throughout the evening, Obama and McCain fumbled ahead with their sound bites. But in many cases, sound bites were welcome because Brokaws questions didnt make obvious sense.
At one point, Brokaw asked Obama if he was saying somethingsomething he clearly hadnt said. (Are you saying...that the American economy is going to get much worse before it gets better and they ought to be prepared for that?) That is exceptionally ham-handed work. But then, its hard to get good help these days for the millions NBC has paid Brokaw.
Huh? Did that mean that each candidate would get a one-minute follow-up? Or did Brokaw mean what he seemed to have saidthat there would be a one-minute discussion, with the time to be divided in some unspecified manner? Throughout the evening, Brokaw hectored the candidates about that one minute, without quite making the matter clear. Being semi-rational, we assumed that each candidate was supposed to get one minute, and that Brokaw was stating the policy hazily. After all, it makes little sense to set aside one minute for the full discussion. Realistically, the first candidate would consume all the time; the second candidate would get none at all.
But Oh. Our. God. As is clear at the Debate Commissions web site, this less-than-rational policy had in fact been prescribed. To our ear, Brokaw never made this matter clearbut the nonsensical policy had come down from high. Brokaw was left to annoy the world as he put it into effect.
That said, no one made him mislead on SSexcept his allegiance to cohort by-laws. Big scribes are required to misstate this topic. Its a key point of High Pundit Law.
When Katty met Charlie: Meanwhile, in the official press room, a din was rising among the Big Pundits. After the ball was over, Katty Kay told Charlie Rose all:
Too funny. She could tell the debate was solid and seriousbecause of the din that rose around her as her bored comrades zoned out.
We love it when they cop to their culture! Zingers, gaffes and body language! They comprise the three legs of the stool as our Big Pundits gaze on.
The start of a beautiful friendship: Dummies tend to huddle together, seeking mutual approbation We thought of that basic principle yesterday, after we traced this comment by Josh Marshall:
Awwwww! Like Bogart and Louie, Sully and Josh head off for the sunrise, at the start of a beautiful friendship. In this particular case, of course, theyre agreeing on the most obvious point on Gods earth. If you have IQ points to rub together, you already know that McCains claim just doesnt wash. But so what? Josh congratulates his pal for being so wise, so brilliant.
You kiss my keister, Ill kiss yours! Its a key part of insider punditry.
For the record, Joshs pal is Andrew Sullivan, who was screaming for your scalps in the wake of 9/11. And here is the utterly laughable post which Josh seemed to think was so brilliant. In his post, Sully reviews the McCain camps explanation for why the campaign took its negative turn. Then, he offers this pitiful thought about McCains demise:
He doesnt buy this any more! Youd think Sullys pals would be embarrassed by that. Instead, Josh rushes to praise him.
A question: Was it pretty, in Campaign 2000, when McCain paraded about the land, telling one audience after another that he planned to beat Al Gore like a drum? That was extremely unusual language for one White House hopeful to aim at another. But it fit the press corps mood of the era, and consummate hacks like Sully and Josh had signed on for the full ride.
Indeed, Sully just learned in the past few weeks that Saint John McCains brand was BS! And Josh is eager to praise his pal for this inspiring brilliance.
Good God, people! It was always obvious that the Saint McCain construct was a ludicrous press corps inventionas was the construct about Demon Gore. But Marshall and Sullivan kept their traps shut when the future was there on the line. I dont buy this any more, Sullivan says. Is he more like Bogarts Louisor is he Rip Van Winkle?
DUMBING DEMOCRACY WAY, WAY DOWN: In todays New York Times, David Brooks writes an important piece about the way the conservative/Republican world has dumbed itself down in the past many years. Early on, he describes gruesome recent history:
Indeed, dumbness has become a Republican talisman; you cant seek the White House without it. We all know how their current nominee brags about graduating fifth from the bottom. But this upside-down thinking takes us back to his economics adviser, Phil Gramm. In 1996, the Posts George Lardner profiled Gramm, then a White House hopeful:
Gramm loved to tell every audience about the way hed flunked three grades; his dumbness made him a man of the people! Indeed, by the time he finally dropped out of the race, he seemed to be making his tale even better. The former flunkee finished fifth in Iowaand so, he decided to pull the plug. Ron Hutcheson quoted his explanation in the Ft. Worth Telegram. "I failed the third grade twice, he now said (our emphasis), but I know the difference between fifth and first place.
He knew the difference between fifth and first! Based on his policy work for McCain, this may be his greatest achievement.
Whatever! Brooks describes a type of dumbness that has come to define Republican politics. Well only say this: On the liberal web, on liberal TV, some players seem to be working hard to dumb down the liberal/Dem world too. Dumbed-down conservatives have had their talk-radio jocks; we now have our dumb-it-down bloggers. Theres nothing so dumb that they wont pimp it whole, just as Sean and Rush have long done.
Back in the day, did Sullivan and Marshall fail to see how stupid those tales were about Saint McCain? Did they fail to see how fake those tales were about Gore? Candidate Gramm flunked the third and ninth grades. Our dopes flunked 1999.
(One difference: Ours wont admit it.)