Companion site:


Google search...


Daily Howler: Have you seen The Truman Show? Do you live in a ''country'' like that?
Daily Howler logo
THE TRUMAN SHOW! Have you seen The Truman Show? Do you live in a “country” like that? // link // print // previous // next //

Quayle Gore Palin Barcelona: Alessandra Stanley is one of Maureen Dowd’s gal pals; this may explain the silly way she begins today’s “TV Watch.” Hiss! Hiss-spit! Hiss-spit! Mee-ow! The corps’ inane culture is running strong as she expresses her sense of shock over Sarah Palin’s vile interviews:

STANLEY (11/12/08): One of the more disconcerting leaks about Gov. Sarah Palin turned out to be true.

Ms. Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, arrived in Phoenix, Ariz., on election night hoping to deliver her own concession speech. “It was a great speech,” Ms. Palin told Matt Lauer on the “Today” show on Tuesday.

Darlings, Palin showed up on election night planning to introduce McCain! Stanley never quite explains why this news–this former leak–should be so “disconcerting.” But this is the culture of killing the pig. This is the culture which has driven the “press corps” for years–mainly at your expense.

As she continues, Stanley blathers on in typical fashion. Her cohort has found its latest pig; they’re acting as the inane always do when they try to convince themselves that they have finally located someone who’s actually dumber than they are. Hiss! Hiss-spit! Meee-ow:

STANLEY: Unleashed and not humbled, Ms. Palin is on a speed date with history, upending protocol as she goes. She put herself on full display, in interviews with NBC and Fox News before Mr. McCain had a chance to take a no-victory lap on “The Tonight Show.” And she has many more appearances scheduled throughout the week, including a star turn at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Miami on Thursday.

Was Palin supposed to skip the Republican Governors conference? People! She’s a Republican governor! Meanwhile, the notion that Palin’s interviews are “upending” some sort of “protocol” could only come from a mind so vacant as to be pleased by the presence of Dowd’s. But Stanley’s key idea is found at the start of that passage; Sarah Palin isn’t humbled, the horrified Antoinette says. This reveals the secret rule which drives this dim-witted game: Nitwits like Stanley spread bull-roar around–and their targets are expected to bow low before them. Hence the judgment Stanley renders in her very next graf:

STANLEY (continuing directly): Ms. Palin could be turning to television to restore her tarnished image, jumpstart a 2012 presidential bid, or both. But so far, viewers have mostly witnessed some of the very traits–disarming candor and staggering presumption–that drove some McCain campaign aides to leak damaging accusations about her.

The news media has moved on to President-elect Barack Obama and his transition team as they try to get a grip on the perilous state of the economy. Ms. Palin’s interviews dragged the subject back to her campaign woes, and she lingered there, feeding curiosity but making no real effort to steer her questioners to the present.

You’ll have to guess where the “staggering presumption” comes in, since Stanley never quite explains. But you really have to admire the clowning exhibited in the claim that her cohort “has moved on” from Palin’s campaign woes–in the claim that Palin is “frozen in the bubble of campaign past,” a claim Stanley types a bit later. In fact, Palin is being pounded on cable each night, especially by Dowd pal Chris Matthews; Dowd herself is still obsessing on Palin in today’s vacant column. But so what? In the world of those who kill pigs, the pig is supposed to crawl away “humbled;” it’s a sign of “staggering presumption” when the pig replies to the pig-killers’ charges. And yes, this is the way these Antoinettes think. This is modern “press” culture.

For ourselves, we thought Palin may have been the worst candidate ever–baldly dishonest, nasty, often inane. (Though we’ll guess that her worst presentations were scripted by Saint McCain’s aides.) But it’s completely appropriate that she react to the press corps’ latest (anonymous) charges–charges the press was too fat-and-happy to fact-check before they were printed. No, the press corps hasn’t “moved on”–and no, they haven’t been fair or intelligent about the past week’s anonymous claims. But so what! For them, it’s more fun this way! Here was Chris Matthews, on Monday night, explaining to his pal, Margaret Carlson, how the killing of pigs is done. Former Alaska journalist Larry Persily started this conversation:

PERSILY (11/10/08): Look, I think one thing that Palin is having a problem with is, in Alaska the media doesn’t go with anonymous sources. So anybody during her political life over the last 12 years, if they were going to criticize her, they had to put their name on it. In Washington, anonymous sources are the rule.


MATTHEWS: Welcome to Washington, Governor Palin! It’s one thing you and I can agree on certainly. You make a comment, it is going to be taken out of context, Margaret [Carlson]. Everything is taken out of context! People snip out three words and make it into a case because it’s a lot more fun.

Wow! In Alaska, you have to put your name on your criticisms! What an odd way to play games!

At any rate, Matthews explained the big-city game: “People” take comments out of context because it’s “a lot more fun” to do so! It was Carlson, of course, who explained, in October 2000, why the press was trashing Gore and giving Bush a giant pass. It was “more fun” to go after Gore, she said, speaking to the imbecile Imus. Today, the “fun” is at Palin’s expense, as Matthews explained in Monday night’s comment. But make no mistake: In the long run, the cost of this culture of killing the pig has been paid by you and yours.

In the last twenty years, the corps has mainly killed three pigs by subjecting them to endless ridicule–Dan Quayle, Al Gore, now perhaps Palin. (This does not include Bill Clinton, who was killed by pseudo-scandals.) Let’s make sure we understand the balance of the carnage:

Republicans took bruises from the mocking of Quayle–but he was never going to rise any higher than vice president. They are currently paying a bit of a price in the mocking of Palin–but she isn’t likely to become a national leader either. And oh yes! George W. Bush spent eight years in the White House because of the way the Stanleys, the Dowds, the Carlsons, the Matthewses ridiculed Candidate Gore for two years. (As “entertainment” and “sport,” it was great “fun” to do so, Carlson entertainingly said.) And so, we remind you once again of who has paid the actual price for this inane “press corps” culture.

In fact, Dems and libs have paid the real price for this cohort’s inanity. In the long run, it would be smart for Dems and libs to take these tools away. For that reason, we’re disappointed when we see triumphant liberals run to the culture of snark and smirk. Your “leaders” are having a good time today. But this culture will turn back against them.

Just this week, we finally saw Vicky Cristina Barcelona. But as you watch the simpering Stanley rolling her eyes at the unhumbled Palin, you’re watching part of a much longer movie: Dan Al Sarah Washington. It’s the Democrats–and the people of the world–who have paid the real price for this simpering culture. The only big pigs they have killed were yours. And yes: Once their 401Ks are secure, they will start killing big pigs again.

Reporting a prisoner swap: The swap they made was never a secret. In May 1999, Alison Mitchell explained what was happening, in the New York Times:

MITCHELL (5/19/99): After years of battling with President Clinton, House Republicans are shifting their sights to Vice President Al Gore and using ridicule as their weapon of choice.

The office of the House majority leader, Representative Dick Armey of Texas, has become an unofficial clearinghouse of anti-Gore press releases and activity, with Mr. Armey mocking Mr. Gore over his pronouncements on air travel, the Internet and traffic congestion.

On Wednesday, House conservatives plan to enter the fray. Four or five members of the "Conservative Action Team" are to go to the House floor after the day's business and with television cameras running, give readings of what they consider to be the most provocative, or perhaps most inscrutable, sections of "Earth in the Balance," Mr. Gore's 1992 book on the environment.


For years Congress ran multiple investigations of Mr. Clinton. But with Mr. Gore, Republicans are betting that well-timed ridicule can be more devastating than any inquiry. In essence, they are trying to do to him what Democrats tried to do to former Vice President Dan Quayle: make him the foil for comedians on late-night television.

"On the Republican side, we are more sensitive to this, having watched what happened to Quayle," said Representative David M. McIntosh of Indiana, a former Quayle aide who is one of the organizers of the readings from Mr. Gore's book. "You can't make somebody funny when they are not providing the material," Mr. McIntosh said, adding that Mr. Gore "provides a lot of it."

The GOP made no bones about it; they were gambling that they could “Quayle-ize” Gore. (They were quoted using that word in other news reports.) Mitchell only forgot to mention one thing; she forgot to say that her own “press corps” was already committed to this fun game. (As always, she pretended that the GOP war was aimed at “late-night comedians.”) And yes! They even mocked Gore for Earth in the Balance–the best-selling book which would later turn into An Inconvenient Truth. That December, Gore was openly mocked for the book on the front page of the New York Times–by the appalling Michiko Kakutani, another top gal pal of Dowd’s. Darlings, Kakutani couldn’t believe that Gore had written a book with so many “loony asides!” (She cited Naomi Wolf three different times, though Wolf had nothing to do with the book.) How we got here: She became one of three Times reporters to explain that Earth in the Balance was Gore’s “midlife crisis” book.

For now, their culture of ridicule is aimed at Palin. But which side has actually lost in the past? Which side will lose in the future?

Special report: Rich and a King!

PART 3–THE TRUMAN SHOW: Frankly, we’re puzzled by Frank Rich’s fury about the way this campaign was covered. He started Sunday’s piece with a typical gripe, complaining again about the way the press corp went looking for racial problems. Throughout the campaign, Rich has sounded a bit like George Wallace, complaining that the mainstream press corps was behaving like a band of outside agitators. But let’s not put words in the savant’s mouth. On Sunday, here’s what he said:

RICH (11/9/08): [L]et’s be blunt. Almost every assumption about America that was taken as a given by our political culture on Tuesday morning was proved wrong by Tuesday night.

The most conspicuous clichés to fall, of course, were the twin suppositions that a decisive number of white Americans wouldn’t vote for a black presidential candidate–and that they were lying to pollsters about their rampant racism. But the polls were accurate. There was no “Bradley effect.” A higher percentage of white men voted for Obama than any Democrat since Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton included.

All year, Rich complained about the way the press corps beat the bushes of rural America, trying to scare up racist white voters. But in fact, it was always possible that this election could be tipped by “a decisive number of white Americans” who “wouldn’t vote for a black presidential candidate.” (It was also possible that something resembling a “Bradley effect” was present in the national polling–though journalists had tended to over-pimp the famous effect through the years.) Despite this, Rich bellowed and complained all year long when journalists explored the possibility of anti-Obama racial voting.

On Sunday, Rich chortled at his own great triumph–at the way “a higher percentage of white men voted for Obama than any Democrat since Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton included.” And he defined the state of American “bigotry” in this roll call of six key states:

RICH (continuing directly): Obama also won all four of those hunting-and-Hillary-loving Rust Belt states that became 2008’s obsession among slumming upper-middle-class white journalists: Pennsylvania and Michigan by double digits, as well as Ohio and Indiana, which has gone Democratic only once (1964) since 1936. The solid Republican South, led by Virginia and North Carolina, started to turn blue as well. While there are still bigots in America, they are in unambiguous retreat.

Are America’s “bigots” “in unambiguous retreat?” In a seven-point race, they may be. But Rich’s analysis is typically weak. Why exactly are fellows like Rich found at the top of your discourse?

Could this election have been decided by anti-Obama white racial voting? Of course it could have been, and it’s utterly silly to pretend otherwise. Yes, Obama won Virginia and North Carolina–the latter by a very thin margin. But voting patterns in North Carolina were quite different from those in other states; in a closer race (think: no financial collapse) the attitudes suggested by these patterns might well have been “decisive.” For example: In the North Carolina exit polls, 22 percent of all voters described themselves as “white independents;” 71 percent of this group voted for McCain. (This helps explain why Obama lost the overall white vote in North Carolina by a large margin–64 percent to 35.) But numbers change as the voting heads north. In Virginia, “white independents” again comprised 22 percent of the vote–but only 52 percent of the group voted for McCain. One state further north, in Maryland, only 46 percent of “white independents” supported the sanctified solon. Here are the percentages found in the other states mentioned by Rich:

Percentage of “white independents” voting for McCain:
Pennsylvania: 41 percent
Ohio: 47 percent
Indiana: 45 percent
Michigan: 44 percent

That’s a long way from North Carolina’s 71 percent–or from the 82 percent recorded in Mississippi. Beyond that, did white racial voting help explain the pattern observed in this now-famous New York Times map? We’ll leave such questions to analysts with stronger backgrounds in these matters than ours. But it’s hard to understand Rich’s dismissive claim that reporters were bowing to some “obsession” in exploring the racial views of white voters–to the extent that the press corps actually did so.“While there are still bigots in America, they are in unambiguous retreat,” Rich pleasingly thunders. But we’ll state our words of caution again, choosing to drop Rich’s thrilling language (we’ll let God and Rich sort out the “bigots,” noting that Rich will be able to do so faster): White racial voters may have been “in retreat” last Tuesday–but they might have tipped states in a closer election. Imaginably, their attitudes could prove more “decisive” in some future campaign. It’s hard to know why Rich seems determined to keep us from asking about this.

Of course, Rich rarely seems interested in getting facts; more typically, his work is devoted to driving his narratives. (As it was in Campaign 2000, when he kept finding ways to insist that Bush and Gore were exactly the same.) How big a hack will this gentleman be when to comes to interpreting exit poll data? Let’s return to the triumphant claim from above: “A higher percentage of white men voted for Obama than any Democrat since Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton included.” In that statement, you see the soul of a know-nothing “press corps”–the corps which spent most of the 1990s making sure that George Bush reached the White House.

First, let’s acknowledge this basic point: Rich’s claim may be technically accurate. On-line, Rich links to this National Journal post; the chart shows Obama getting 41 percent of white male voters, a higher percentage than any Democrat, going back through 1988. (By way of contrast, Kerry got 37 percent of this group in 2004, according to this chart.) But how careless is Rich when he’s “proving” a point? Sometimes, careless to the point of contempt. For one thing, the exit poll numbers here are approximate, as numbers from exit polls always are; like many others, Rich bases unambiguous claims on narrow differences found in approximate numbers. But more importantly, Rich is engaged in a classic gong-show in this particular claim. In stressing the fact that Obama got a higher percentage “than any Democrat, Bill Clinton included,” he tosses away an obvious fact; in 1992 and 1996, Clinton ran against a Republican–and against Ross Perot, a high-profile, well-financed third-party candidate who took part in all three presidential debates. Everyone knows how silly it is, in most cases, to compare data from a two-candidate race with data from a race with three major candidates. But that’s what Rich has done in this case. In his column, he makes a string of pleasing observations which turn on similar sleights of hand.

That said, let’s see what Rich’s formulation is hiding: In 1992, Clinton lost the white male vote by three points (40-37); last week, Obama lost the same group by 16 points (57-41). You can say that Obama did better with white males than Clinton–if you want to roll from a Volkswagen bug and then dance about like a clown. People who want to understand the real world will present data with more care. Meanwhile, why did Rich cite white men, and skip white women? Duh. Because Obama did worse among white women than both Clinton and Gore before him, if you accept those Journal numbers. In this way, novelists pick and choose their data as they drive their narratives forward. This isn’t a real attempt to inform. It’s an attempt to (seem to) win arguments.

What can we learn from Obama’s win–from the voting patterns of various groups? People who care about the truth–about future elections–will draw conclusions with some care. People like Rich will play silly games–and they’ll make phantasmagoric claims about the pundit corps’ vast love for Palin. That said, does anyone know why scriveners like Rich still sit at the top of your country’s discourse? Indeed: Does your “country” even exist when its discourse is shaped by such fabulists? When so much of our “collective memory” has simply been made up?

Have you seen The Truman Show? Do you live in a “country” like that?