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Daily Howler: Tim was magnificent, Matthews said, finally explaining what happened
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PIMPING RUSSERT! Tim was magnificent, Matthews said, finally explaining what happened: // link // print // previous // next //

EASY TO AVOID WHAT IS HARD: An e-mailer directed us to an intriguing Q-and-A at the New York Times’ political blog. A Times reader had asked a very good question: Why do news orgs cover the “horse race” aspects of Campaign 08 so much?

Katherine “Kit” Seelye had taken the question; we chuckled mordantly at her reply. Note the motives “Kit” ascribes to her fellow journalists:
SEELYE (11/7/07): It’s a good question that we don’t stop often enough to ask ourselves. But a recent study has documented what you believe to be true. In the first five months of this year, almost two-thirds of the mainstream media campaign coverage was devoted to the horse race (and subsidiaries thereof, like polls, tactics and fund-raising).

Why do we do it? Lots of reasons. I’ll start with the obvious: We can’t help ourselves! It’s instinctive. The term horse race reflects what everyone wants to know: who’s winning?

Another reason: It’s easier. It takes time and patience to dig through records, to get answers from candidates that go beyond spin.
In fairness, “Kit” offers more reasons for the horse-race coverage—although her logic quickly escapes us. (“The horse race is about issues too,” she says, obscuring the reader’s simple distinction.) But we couldn’t help chuckling at the way her thoughtful answer started. Why do reporters waste so much time on the horse race? We can’t help ourselves, she said. And of course: It’s easier.

This is exactly what Margaret Carlson told Don Imus in October 2000, explaining why her colleagues were kicking the sh*t out of Gore about trivia while ignoring the important “lies” (her term) by Candidate Bush. World history was about to change, but so what? Covering the race was “entertainment,” “fun” and “sport,” at least in Carlson’s description (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/23/02). Explaining Bush’s lies would be hard! Seven years later, the same thought popped into Seelye’s head when she was asked about the horse race twaddle. It’s easier than covering the issues, she says—just like her soul-mate once said.

Special report: Welch’s at war!

PART 5—PIMPING RUSSERT: Last evening, Chris Matthews finally moved on from his auto-da-fe; he eased up on the ritual trashing he has dumped on Clinton’s head ever since last Tuesday’s debate. We note the following points about Hardball’s coverage—coverage which reflects the outlook of large chunks of the “mainstream” press:

Narrative conquers all: These people memorize their narratives, then maintain them till Hell freezes over. How else to explain the odd-ball judgment expressed on Tuesday evening’s Hardball? First, ponder this statement by the New York Post’s Charlie Hurt. The boys were discussing Saint Rudy:
HURT (11/6/07): You know, because [Giuliani] is such a gun-slinger, and because he is such a straight-talker, people believe him, I think, a lot of people believe him when he says—

MATTHEWS: Because he is a quick-draw.

HURT: Yes, when he says, “I’m going to pick judges like Justice Alito and Roberts,” who will—who are the main—that is the main issue for those guys.
Giuliani’s endless, howling misstatements are becoming the stuff of legend—but to Hurt, he’s still a “straight-talker.” But then, Time’s Mike Allen had stated this view roughly one minute before:
MATTHEWS: [Giuliani] is like the guy that used to—the guys who used to play the Globetrotters...Ron Paul keeps setting up Rudy for that basket. He just puts it in every time.

ALLEN: He does. And that response by Giuliani shows you why he has defied conventional wisdom at every turn. We thought, because of his views, he is going to be a non-starter with social conservatives and the South. It turns out they like his gun-slinging, straight-shooting swagger, that he comes across—he will answer a question, he will say, “No way, no how.” People like that.
To Allen, he’s a “straight-shooter.”

Within the past week, Giuliani had been caught up in his latest misstatements, this time about British health care. But so what? The press corps’ narratives were set in stone long ago—and to these people, the world is narrative. All week, Clinton’s “evasiveness” and “double-talk” have been trashed on Hardball—like Gore’s lies and Kerry’s flip-flops before her. But Giuliani is still a “straight-talker!” There is absolutely nothing on earth that will keep these lads from their Group Tales.

No questions will be asked: And when a narrative has been established, no further questions will ever be asked. In this week’s Insider Press Narrative, Clinton is being dishonest, about various issues; by way of contrast, the others Dems “seem to be saying what they really believe.” It has now been four days since Frank Rich published that comically childish assessment. In that time, we have seen no attempt, anywhere, to ask John Edwards about his stand on those drivers’ licenses—a stand which he seems to have changed, thereby bringing himself in line with the more popular position. Meanwhile, from watching Hardball, you would barely know that Obama supports those drivers’ licenses—the position which Matthews says has killed Clinton for all time. And by the way: Is there any chance that Dodd adopted his no-driver’s-license stance because it’s the more popular position in Iowa? Questions like these will never be asked. The press corps’ narrative has only one part, and pundits will just keep reciting it.

Denying their war: Because make no mistake: The part of the press corps which Jack Welch once hired is now in open war against Clinton, just as they once staged a long, open war against vile Candidate Gore. (More on that lunacy next week.) Of course, they’ve spent the better part of this week insisting that this claim is pure nonsense. It wasn’t Russert and Williams who went after Clinton; it was the other Dem hopefuls, we’re relentlessly told. Russert and Williams were just asking questions, the same way the press always does.

That’s the narrative they have crafted to rebut the criticisms they’ve heard. But uh-oh! As we showed you last Friday, it’s absurd to pretend that last Tuesday’s debate was some sort of normal occurrence. With the possible exception of Judy Woodruff at the last Gore-Bradley debate, no moderator has ever gone after a front-runner in a way that even dimly resembles the way the “Lost Boys” went after Clinton last week. Sorry—it just hasn’t occurred.

Meanwhile, pundits deny that Brian and Tim had an animus—but last Thursday morning, Chris Matthews was a bit more open. In a typically fruitcake performance on Morning Joe, he ended up Pimping Russert:
MATTHEWS (11/1/07): If you’re running on your record as first lady, you can’t keep playing this, “I’m a little girl and my husband makes all the decisions” if you’re running for president! You know, it’s not just about Barack Obama turning out to be a terrible candidate, it’s about that she’s turning out to be one. Acchh! God, I don’t know what to say. Except the other night, I thought Tim was magnificent. He was putting everything he had into that thing. He went for the basket and he hit it.
Surprising, isn’t it? Russert went for the basket and hit it! To our ear, this is substantially different from what we’ve been told all this week.

This week, we’ve seen Russert and Williams disappeared by enablers all through the press. Last Thursday morning, Matthews was a bit more frank about what had really occurred.