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Daily Howler: We'll tell the truth starting now, Kevin says. To our mind, that isn't enough
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THE WAR AGAINST THE WAR! We’ll tell the truth starting now, Kevin says. To our mind, that isn’t enough: // link // print // previous // next //
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 2008

A new novel seems to continue: Yesterday, we thought about that column all day—Gene Robinson’s oddball groaner about the new, improved Sarah Palin (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/31/08). Her demagoguery, her lying were all wished away. Then last night, it seemed to continue as a certain loud talker played Hardball:

MATTHEWS (10/31/08): Let me tell you, Michelle [Bernard], there are 400 congresspeople on Capitol Hill, men and women both, of both parties, who can’t do what she can do, which is turn on a crowd.

BERNARD: Yes. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: They don`t have any idea how to do it. They don’t even know how to do television, some of these guys, which is easy.

BERNARD: Right.

MATTHEWS: But they certainly can’t turn on a crowd. Whatever she has, whether it’s—I’m not going to be too tough here—whether it’s the windshield-wiper wave, or it’s the attractive smile, or whatever it is, I think it’s the excitement and the exuberance of her personality. I think what lifts her and lifts the crowd is, she’s delighted to be alive. She’s delighted to be a politician. And she’s proud of her ideology. And a lot of politicians are sniveling, “Gee whiz, I hate to say this”—

PAT BUCHANAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: —and she does say it with pride.

We wouldn’t say that his statements were “wrong.” And yes, that was just one segment. But pundits boo-hooed on Morning Joe all week about the rude trashing of Poor Abused Palin. Meanwhile, Robinson’s utterly oddball column stuck in our head all day long.

By mid-afternoon, a question had formed: Are they starting to do for Palin what they did for McCain all those years? (Now that they think the election is over?) For years, they disappeared his many flaws—as Robinson suddenly did for Sarah. Her lying was gone. Her groaners were gone. Her demagoguery? Please! She was following orders! Robinson typed an unbalanced new novel—a novel which spilled with strange praise.

We don’t have the slightest idea why Robinson wrote that ridiculous column. But we have seen, in the past dozen years, the way this gang can turn pols into saints—even as others are turned into demons. And in truth, the gang has performed this particular service for a string of major Reps—most strikingly, for Saint John himself. True, they oppose the man today. But for reasons they’ve never quite explained, they airbrushed him good in the past.

All day, a question stuck in our heads: What the fark is Robinson doing? Yesterday’s column was pure, perfect pap. But so was Morning Joe, all last week. Boo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! All the players were wringing their hands about poor abused Sarah Palin!

THE WAR AGAINST THE WAR: We were glad to see Kevin Drum extend his discussion of the GOP’s use of the “media bias” frame (just click here). Let’s start the way we always do: We very much admire Kevin’s work, which is persistently smart and helpful. That said, we’re still semi-flummoxed by Kevin’s instincts regarding this pivotal matter.

We agree with Kevin on one point. The liberal world’s failure to discuss past media wars makes it hard to discuss them today. Kevin agrees that we’re right on our history. But then, he starts moving away:

DRUM (10/30/08): It's certainly true that liberals should have complained more about media treatment of Gore back when it happened (I think Bob has convinced everybody of that), but what good would it do to bring it up regularly now? It would be like conservatives continually kvetching about media treatment of Dan Quayle or Richard Nixon (who at least arguably lost the 1960 election because he got worse press treatment than JFK). Occasional passing references are fine, but anything more and audiences today will just tune out.

In fact, the situation may be worse than Kevin describes. If we’re talking about media treatment of Gore, “occasional passing references” won’t really be “fine;” most often, such references will be met with incomprehension by voters who have never heard a word about any such episode. (Kevin headlines his post, “The War Against Gore.” Few voters have ever heard of this critter.) In this way, the liberal silence of the Clinton-Gore era—a silence Kevin doesn’t explain—has created a world where it’s very hard for liberals to mention such matters. And of course, it wasn’t just the War Against Gore which fell down the well of career liberal silence; a long string of Major Dems have been treated rather oddly by the mainstream press in the past sixteen years. (Or do you believe that the Clintons are murderers?) Before the Drum-acknowledged “War Against Gore,” we had six or seven years of pseudo-scandals directed at Bill Clinton—and at his wife. But uh-oh! Career liberals ran and hid then too—and they ran and hid in 2007 when Hillary Clinton was subjected to a good deal of mainstream attack. Tim Russert had been field-dressing Big Dems for years when he waylaid Clinton during that October 2007 debate (along with his helpmate, Brian Williams). But career liberals had rarely mentioned such conduct—and few career liberals mentioned the trashing Russert gave Clinton that night.

Especially given the history which followed, the mainstream press corps’ War Against Gore has turned out to be the most consequential chapter in this unfortunate story. But career liberals rolled over and died in the face of such conduct, right through this year’s primary season! In fact, career liberals have an extensive history of rolling over and accepting such conduct. Their acquiescence extends well past the War Against Gore, right up into the present.

But Kevin’s right: Due to the liberal world’s Group Silence, these are now difficult stories to tell. (Just try to sell them to publishers, who look at you as if you’re crazy—as if you’re crazy for saying the things we’ve now “convinced everybody of!”) As he continued, Kevin offered a competing strategy:

DRUM (continuing directly): Much better, I think, to do what conservatives do: complain about today's media misconduct loudly and aggressively when we think we see it. Liberals might still not be as good at media grievance mongering as conservatives, but we've made up a lot of ground since the 2000 election. And at this stage of the game, I just don't see how amping up our complaints about press treatment of Al Gore in the previous century will help us make up the rest of the distance.

Obviously, that should happen too. In fairness, it’s hard to argue that the mainstream press has somehow waged a War on Obama. But as we’ve noted in the past, the insider, upper-end mainstream press remains an upper-class, corporate institution. Its foppish practitioners already seem to be constructing new, pleasing tale about Palin—a kinder, gentler, silly tale, of the type they once told about McCain. We’ll be amazed if the mainstream press corps turns on Obama (if elected) as fast as it turned on President Clinton. But if the future is like the past, they may start pimping familiar tales about certain plain-talking Republicans—tales which wipe away the times they’ve lied in the public’s faces.

For reason Kevin didn’t explain, career liberals sat out the War Against Gore—and the wars against both Clintons, and much of the nonsense aimed at John Edwards. Career liberals also stared into space as the mainstream press corps spent a decade making a hero of Saint John McCain; christened Giuliani as “America’s Mayor;” and kept insisting that Bush 43 was a plain-spoken fellow who says what he means, a pose it maintained until his dissembling and gruesome judgment had largely destroyed the known world. On the whole, the career liberal world sat and stared during all these mainstream press misadventures. By way of contrast, we discussed them in real time. We started discussing the War Against Gore the week it began; simultaneously, we discussed the sanctification of McCain in detail. In all candor, this makes it a bit rich to be lectured by Kevin—whose work we do in fact greatly admire—about the best way for the liberal world to move ahead now with these themes. How about a little straight talk? Kevin has now worked for two journals which did and said virtually nothing about these matters in real time. We’d prefer to see him explain this abject past silence, rather than lecture us about future strategies—lecture us, the ones who were right, by his own (gracious) admission.

Yes, it’s hard to raise these matters now, several years after the fact. Kevin tells us that “occasional passing references are fine.” But someone needs to tell Naomi Judd (and a hundred million others) about her country’s actual history. Let’s be clear: When Kevin discusses the War Against Gore (or the preceding war on the Clintons), he’s discussing essential American history—history his colleagues avoided like the plague when it was actually happening. In our view, it falls to Kevin and his colleagues to figure out how to adjust for that error—the error which Kevin acknowledges. (For the record, he wasn’t a journalist at the time.) But make no mistake: This is major, consequential American history—history which changed the course of world affairs. It just doesn’t work for Kevin to say that it’s too late to bring it up now.

We’ll tell the truth from now on, Kevin says. We don’t think that’s quite enough.

Final point: Kevin’s colleagues have now been handed the chance to make good on his promise. Mainstream players seem to be scripting a pleasing new novel about Sarah Palin; they may be starting to do for her what they endlessly did for McCain. According to Kevin, we need to do “what conservatives do: complain about today's media misconduct loudly and aggressively when we think we see it.” Well then, how about it, you nominal allies? Gene Robinson’s column was absolute pap—an utterly ludicrous reinvention of Palin’s highly offensive nine-week tenure. But in the last day, have you seen a single career liberal “loudly and aggressively” say such things? No, you haven’t—and you won’t. You see, Homey don’t play it like that.

Sorry, readers! That column was penned by the Post’s Gene Robinson, a pillar of the Insider Journalist World. That’s the world to which Kevin’s colleagues are tied by friendship and career ambition. Nine years ago, they refused to complain when these big useless tools started their savage War Against Gore; at the same time, they refused to complain when these big useless hacks composed that decade-long shrine to McCain. This week, they’ve keep their traps shut as Robinson pens a ludicrous column on Palin.

Here’s the thing you must understand if you want to see how this syndrome works: Your career liberal world is closely tied to the world of the Village press corps. They want to work and play (and be paid) in that world; they want to be honored as Village citizens. As a result, they keep their mouths shut when Palin is pimped—like the great Saint McCain before her. You will not see them challenge Robinson, or ask him why he wrote such nonsense. Nor will you see them write the history of a perfect cretin like Matthews. You see, they want to play Hardball too. It’s the way career libs build careers.

We know, we know—you want to believe that you play on a one-for-all liberal/progressive team. But you have been sold, a million times, by Kevin’s colleagues (we don’t include Kevin, out on the far coast). They sold you during that War Against Gore, the one it’s now too late to discuss. They sold you this week when they knew they mustn’t challenge that nonsense by Robinson.

We’ll tell the truth starting now, Kevin says. Already, they’re missing the chance.

By the way: It’s very constructive of Kevin to discuss this topic. We appreciate the fact that he’s done so.

Key take-home point for the test: We’re discussing crucial American history. Do we need a truth commission before these tales can be told?