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Daily Howler: David Broder, snoring loudly, headlines a dumb, addled press corps
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AS THE DEAN SLEEPS! David Broder, snoring loudly, headlines a dumb, addled press corps: // link // print // previous // next //

AS THE DEAN SLEEPS: We never cease to be amazed by the way our mainstream press corps “reasons.” This morning, The Dean brought our analysts out of their chairs with these data from Kamarck and Galston’s new report:
BRODER (10/13/05): The perception that Democrats are weak on confronting terrorism and hostile to the culture of the deeply religious has cost the party dearly, especially among married women and Catholics. Galston and Kamarck calculate that the odds of a married woman supporting the Republican candidate rose from just under 40 percent in 1992 to nearly 55 percent last year. Clinton, a Baptist, carried the Catholic vote by nine points in 1992, while John Kerry, a Catholic, lost among his co-religionists by five points.
We’re generally sympathetic to Karmarck and Galston, but what’s up with that puzzling, highlighted claim? Broder, of course, makes it sound very bad; among married women, only 40 percent voted Republican in 1992—but the number had gone all the way up to 55 percent by last year! But uh-oh! In 1992, a third-party candidate, Ross Perot, carted off 19 percent of the vote. The Republican candidate, George Bush the Elder, only got 37 percent of the overall vote; last year, his son got 51 percent. With those numbers in mind, surely every HOWLER reader can see the way Broder’s contrast breaks down. In 1992, married women voted for the Republican candidate by a slightly higher percentage than the electorate did as a whole. And that’s exactly happened last year; from Broder’s numbers, it’s hard to see that much was different. For the record, this hyperbole does derive from Kamarck and Galston—see page 32, Chart 3. But a brighter journalist would have challenged, clarified or ignored these data. As usual, though, The Dean soundly slept.

But then, we’ve been newly amazed, in the past few days, by the lightweight nature of our press corps. Yesterday morning, there was Milbank, clowning as his gang always clowns when they’ve selected a pleasing Group Target:

MILBANK (10/12/05): When [Matt] Lauer asked if Bush, after a slow response to Katrina, was "trying to get a second chance to make a good first impression," Bush blinked 24 times in his answer. When asked why Gulf Coast residents would have to pay back funds but Iraqis would not, Bush blinked 23 times and hitched his trousers up by the belt.

When the questioning turned to Miers, Bush blinked 37 times in a single answer—along with a lick of the lips, three weight shifts and some serious foot jiggling. Laura Bush, by contrast, delivered only three blinks and stood still through her entire answer about encouraging volunteerism.

The headline spoke volumes—about Milbank, not Bush. “For President Under Duress, Body Language Speaks Volumes,” it said. But then, this stupid attention to meaningless tics is almost always part of the deal when the “press corps” decides to turn on a pol. Here, for example, was the horrid “Kit” Seelye, in one of her endless small attacks on the much-despised Candidate Gore in 2000. In this particular goony report, she was telling Times readers how hapless Gore is when he goes off his “script:”
SEELYE (3/2/00): [Gore] was then asked what message he had for [Bill] Bradley.

"Uh, well, I don't, uh, have any, uh, message, uh, for, uh, for Senator Bradley," he responded slowly. "Uh, I, I, my message is for the, the voters of the country. Uh, I ask for their support. I'm not taking a single vote for, for granted.”

Incredibly, Seelye threw in all the “uhs” so readers could see what a Big Dope Gore was. (Seelye: “Much cross-talk ensued as the aides continued trying to hustle reporters out and Mr. Gore asserted, with the same rote-like repetition with which he famously said that there was ‘no controlling legal authority’ over his fund-raising techniques, that he was not taking a single vote for granted.” Incredibly, this was a Times “news report,” written as the mainstream press corps worked hard to bring down Vile Gore.) But then, this is commonly part of the game. Earlier in the War Against Gore, the Post’s Dan Balz showed us how fake Gore was by reporting the number of seconds it took for Gore to answer a few questions. (Amazingly, Balz’s uncharacteristically goony report is praised in John Harris’ new book about Clinton.) Meanwhile, back in 1992, counting eye-blinks became The Rage when the “press corps” began deriding Perot. It’s often hard to believe how dumb they are—rather, how dumb they are willing to be in public. But Milbank’s piece was an instant classic—and an announcement of the mainstream press corps’ new stance as hapless Bush finally finds his way to the dumpster. The clowns spill out of the Volkswagen bus when approval drops below 40 percent.

Just how dumb is the mainstream press corps? Yesterday, the Post and the Times both ran reports on the Miers “sexism” charge—and neither piece noted the fact that Miers’ conservative critics are in love with other potential female candidates. And we cringed, as we always do, when the Times’ David Rosenbaum, out on page one, tried to discuss the “flat tax:”

ROSENBAUM (10/12/05): Many prominent conservatives have argued over the years that the income tax is a drag on the economy and should be scrapped in favor of a consumption tax, a tax based not on what people earn, but on what they spend.

But the commission members concluded that consumption taxes like the value-added tax used in Europe had more drawbacks than advantages.

Various proposals for a flat tax—an income tax with everyone paying the same rate—are still under consideration, said Jeffrey F. Kupfer, the commission's executive director. The proposals are to be discussed at a meeting next week.

But no major “flat taxer” has ever proposed “an income tax with everyone paying the same rate.” That is pure hype—propaganda. For example, under the famous Forbes proposal from Campaign 96, a high-earning family of four would have paid 17 percent of its income in taxes. But a family of four earning $72,000 would have paid 8.5 percent—and a family of four earning $36,000 would have paid no tax at all! In what way did this iconic plan propose “an income tax with everyone paying the same rate?” The answer is simple—it proposed no such thing. That claim is false—it’s slick propaganda, devised by proponents—but our economics writers always agree to type it on up. They’ve seen it in every fax and brochure. It’s the claim they will always run back to.

But then, do members of our mainstream press corps ever bother getting anything right? In this morning’s Post, Jim VandeHei was busy misstating the Wilson/Plame case once again:

VANDEHEI (10/12/05): Wilson was sent on a CIA-funded mission to Niger in 2002—at the suggestion of his wife—to investigate whether Iraq had sought to buy nuclear weapons-grade material in Niger. Libby and Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, have testified that they each discussed Plame with two reporters in July of 2003 but never mentioned her by name or her covert status at the agency, according to lawyers involved in the case.
Was Wilson really sent “at the suggestion of his wife?” We regard that as a bit of a sop to the Bush Admin crowd. But we continue to chuckle as writers like VandeHei try to square the circle about the way this case got started. Was Wilson actually sent on his trip “to investigate whether Iraq had sought to buy nuclear weapons-grade material in Niger?” Actually, no; he was sent to investigate the claim that Iraq had successfully purchased uranium there. VandeHei’s statement this morning is simply inaccurate, as we’ve explained many times in the past—but reporters keep bending the facts to make this story more coherent than it ever was.

But let’s go back to the slumbering Dean in this morning’s column. Those numbers he cites seem to mean next to nothing. But then, is there a lazier species on the earth than today’s overpaid celebrity journalist? Two paragraphs after his worthless comparison, he falls back on a favorite old trope:

BRODER (continuing directly from above): “Moral values" are particularly important to both groups. Kamarck and Galston are quick to point out, however, that this does not require Democrats to abandon their support for abortion rights or to condemn homosexuality. "Moral values" embrace more than gay marriage and abortion; the voters' definition includes "personal integrity, family solidarity, and the social compact," particularly concern for those in need of help.

This opens the way for Democrats to recoup ground if they find a candidate who conveys strength of conviction on national security—the opposite, they say, of Kerry saying, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion [for Iraq and Afghanistan], before I voted against it." It would help if the candidate also had a solid marriage, a churchgoing habit and an ability to express sympathetic understanding of those who disagree with his or her personal support of abortion and gay rights.

Good God! Sadly but typically, Broder massively hyperbolizes Kamarck and Galston’s fleeting reference to Kerry’s vote on the $87 billion. (See page 29 of their report—and no, they don’t include Kerry’s quote.) But isn’t it just like a snoring old sage of our press elite—to revert to one of the dumbest tropes they used in narrating Campaign 04? Quite simply, everything these people do is designed to make our world become much more dumb—to make it so dumb that empty vessels feel they can quickly describe it.

For the record, Kamarck and Galston include relevant data about the drop in married women’s vote for Democratis candidates. On page 31 (Table 7), they show what percentage of such women voted for Dems among “the two-party vote” (that is, excluding votes that were siphoned off by third-party hopefuls like Perot). But you know how that flim-flam works! The drop-off in voting is much less severe than you’d think from that bogus 40/55 mock-up. So snoring old Broder knew what to do—he typed up the bogus numbers, and withheld the data that might instruct us. So it goes inside the fatuous cohort we still oddly describe as a “press corps.”

GARANCE’S ROLE MODELS: Incredible. On page 40, Kamarck and Galston offer this piece of pure, scripted, absolute nonsense:

KAMARCK AND GALSTON: Unlike Republicans, Democrats seem to have a problem understanding the importance of personal qualities to American voters. In 2000, the Bush campaign very successfully painted Al Gore as someone prone to exaggeration and self-aggrandizement, based on a series of trivial and inaccurate stories: from the assertion that Gore claimed to invent the Internet, to disputes about what medicine his mother-in-law did or didn’t take. Nonetheless, the Gore campaign was never able to reverse the impression created. By Election Day, nearly a quarter of the electorate thought honesty and trustworthiness mattered most in a candidate, and they gave their votes opt Bush by overwhelming margins.
Amazing! Yes, that’s how Bush ended up in the White House. But this “painting” of Gore began in full force in March 1999, a time when “the Bush campaign” barely existed. (That’s when “invented the Internet” began, in full force. So too with the Love Story nonsense.) In fact, then-governor Bush didn’t declare his candidacy (or even leave Texas) until June 1999, and his campaign never mentioned the “Gore exaggeration” theme until the primaries were finished in March 2000. By that time, this theme had been invented and pushed for a year—but the pushing was done by the mainstream press, not “the Bush campaign.” Why do Kamarck and Galston simply lie in your faces? Let’s take a guess: The people who did this “painting” of Gore are their friends and social acquaintances. They would rather lie in your face than tell you the truth about what really happened.

Luckily, though, Garance Franke-Ruta is surely planning to set all this straight! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/13/05.) No doubt about it: In the next few days, Garance will stand and loudly correct these pillars of her cohort’s inner circle. Lucky for us, Garance exists to serve the truth, not to pimp for her worthless career. Garance is willing to fight her slick cohort’s establishment. This phony script gives her the chance.