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Daily Howler: Entertainers laughed at Boehner's mistake. Then, they made their own
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IN LOVE WITH WAR! Entertainers laughed at Boehner’s mistake. Then, they made their own: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2009

Lucy wept: It has now been five days since Stupak-Pitts hit the scene. Do you know what it says?

For ourselves, we don’t have the slightest idea, but we have a good excuse. You see, we read the newspapers! For example, we read this op-ed piece in this morning’s New York Times, by Kate Michelman and Frances Kissling. The pair are strongly opposed to Stupak-Pitts, which is perfectly fine by us. But go ahead—read their column! From that piece, do you know what Stupak-Pitts says or does? Can you even clearly make out what they say it does?

What does Michelman think the amendment would do? Frankly, we aren’t sure. But then, we also read Jeff Sharlet’s piece in Salon. Sharlet makes this claim about “the facts,” which are said to be “plain:”

SHARLET (11/10/09): Stupak, the Democratic co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, insists that his amendment does nothing more than ensure that the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of federal funds for abortions, is carried over into healthcare reform. Even some of Stupak's angriest critics within the party concede that Stupak might actually believe that—nobody has ever accused him of being a subtle legislator. (Though Stupak himself, long known for his amiability, now boasts that he was hiding his "wolfiness" all along.) But the facts are plain: Stupak-Pitts will use the Hyde Amendment as a lever with which to radically roll back abortion rights, effectively strong-arming private insurers—most of which will be enmeshed with the federal government now—into abandoning coverage for abortions.

“The facts are plain”—but Sharlet’s presentation isn’t. Is Sharlet saying that Stupak-Pitts would “effectively” mean that private insurers will “abandon coverage for abortions” altogether? That no one would be able to buy insurance which included such coverage? We’d guess that this is what he means, although his statement isn’t clear. Nor does Sharlet make any attempt to show why this claim would be accurate.

After reading Sharlet, we also read this piece by Kate Harding, which Salon had twinned with Sharlet’s piece. Harding says that Stupak-Pitts would “restrict access to abortion in unprecedented ways”—and that certainly may be true. But go ahead. See if Harding ever explains or tries to defend the statement. In what way would Stupak restrict access? How do we know it would do so? We read all the way to the end. Harding didn’t say.

Last night, on Hardball, Chris Matthew was leading his latest confused discussion. As the incoherent fumbling proceeded, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, made a reference we found ironic. Keenan referred, several times, to “the Stupak language”—without ever making any attempt to quote that language. What is the language of Stupak-Pitts? We’ve watched and read a lot of discussions. To this day, we haven’t seen any language from the amendment actually being quoted.

What does Stupak-Pitts say? If it passed into law, what would Stupak-Pitts do? Like you, we really have no idea—and we aren’t the only ones tearing our hair. On Olympus, Lucy watched the cable debates with Piltdown Man last night. Despite her famously small skull capacity, Lucy eventually wept. “I really thought we’d be doing better by now,” the fossilized figure sadly said, shaking her small hairy head.

Special report: Different strokes!

PART 4—IN LOVE WITH WAR: At least two cheers for Nicholas Kristof, who writes today about the way our health care “system” can affect real people. He writes about one of the 45,000 Americans who die each year from lack of insurance. And he writes about her daughter:

KRISTOF (11/12/09): Who are these Americans who die for lack of insurance? Dr. Linda Harris, an ob-gyn in Oregon tells of Sue, a 31-year-old patient of hers. Sue was a single mom who worked hard—sometimes two jobs at once—to ensure that her beloved daughter would enjoy a better life.

Sue's jobs never provided health insurance, and Sue felt she couldn't afford to splurge on herself to get gynecological checkups. For more than a dozen years, she never had a Pap smear, although one is recommended annually. Even when Sue began bleeding and suffering abdominal pain, she was reluctant to see a doctor because she didn't know how she would pay the bills.

Finally, Sue sought help from a hospital emergency room, and then from the low-cost public clinic where Dr. Harris works. Dr. Harris found that Sue had advanced cervical cancer. Three months later, she died. Her daughter was 13.

''I get teary whenever I think about her,'' Dr. Harris said. ''It was so needless .”

This mother was 31 years of age. The daughter she left is 13.

In a country where this happens so often, why doesn’t it produce more concern? Why doesn’t it produce an insistence on universal coverage? For one thing, some people don’t, and never will, care. (Check Gail Collins’ latest piece, which enjoys some good solid fun about New Zealand’s health care.) Other explanations have been offered, by Paul Krugman for example—explanations which are specific to American culture. It’s also true that America’s career liberal world has never done a very good job bringing this problem home to the public. But then, career liberals have failed even more flamboyantly when it comes to the issue of costs—when it comes to discussing the massive looting built into our health care spending.

This looting should activate self-interest on behalf of the public. But career liberals—Serious People all—simply don’t raise such crude points. Most voters don’t know that they’re being looted. Serious People don’t tell them.

Sorry, crackers! Your career liberal world is in thrall to The Interests, in ways good liberals know to ignore. Beyond that, large segments of the liberal world mainly love the endless thrill of our culture war. Leading liberals have very good health care themselves; to be honest, they show few signs of giving a sh*t about the hapless rubes who don’t. Quite often, they tend to simper and play the fool, as Olbermann did last Thursday night when it came to that GOP health plan (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/11/09).

Could anyone play the fool in a more fulsome way than this big culture-nut did—shrieking and wailing and pretending that Michele Bachmann had been “inciting a hateful rebellion against the rule of law and order” and “possibly encouraging violence against the government?” Bachmann is one of the biggest fools around—until we turn our own fools loose!

Let’s recall the setting. By last Thursday, the CBO’s new analysis had made it clear that the long-delayed GOP health plan was just a big rolling joke. But Olbermann mentioned this problem in passing. Drawing from that day’s Republican rally, he preferred to clown about Bachmann’s non-existent incitement to violence. After that, he clowned like this:

OLBERMANN (11/5/09): At least Congressman Broun knows how the Constitution starts. The Republicans’ top dog can’t even cite the correct document.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (videotape): I’m going to stand with you and all freedom-loving Americans against this bill. This is my copy of the Constitution. And I‘m going to stand here with our Founding Fathers, who wrote in the preamble, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

OLBERMANN: If Minority Leader Boehner had read his prop copy of the Constitution, perhaps he’d know that he was actually quoting the Declaration of Independence—or maybe he thinks that’s the same thing as the Constitution. Which might explain the Republican health care bill Minority Leader Boehner’s office having falsely claimed that that bill, once it was finally revealed, would cover millions more Americans than the Democrats’ bill would. In fact, it would cover fewer millions Americans, making the nation’s health care crisis that much worse.

Boehner had made a silly mistake—a silly mistake which was also completely irrelevant to any serious discussion. But clowns like Olbermann feed off silly irrelevance. In the next hour, his silly partner played the same silly card, helping us laugh at Dumb Boehner again. But uh-oh! Even as she ridiculed Boehner, she too made a silly mistake!

You see, Rep. Todd Akin had forgotten to say “indivisible” when he led the pledge of allegiance at the Republican rally. We got to laugh at his silly mistake, and at Boehner’s mistake as well. But doggone it! In the process, Our Own Rhodes Scholar made her own silly blunder!

MADDOW (11/5/09): Congressman Akin was not alone in stumbling over a little basic U.S. history. He had some good company in the top Republican in the house, minority leader John Boehner.

BOEHNER (videotape): This is my copy of the Constitution. And I`m going to stand here with our Founding Fathers who wrote in the preamble, "We hold these truths to be self-evident."

MADDOW: The Constitution doesn’t have a preamble. Stop it! That would be the Declaration of Independence! There was also this bit of unfortunate stage craft that happened as right-wing talk show radio host Mark Levin took to the mike...

“The Constitution doesn’t have a preamble?” Even as she wasted your time with the other tribe’s silly mistakes, she made a silly mistake of her own! To her credit, Maddow corrected herself the next night. “Being myself constitutionally incapable of leaving well enough alone,” she said, “I then excitedly exclaimed, not that he wasn’t reading from the preamble to the Constitution, but there wasn’t a preamble to the Constitution at all, which, of course, is total nonsense and which I’m very sorry to have said.”

Our silly mistake didn’t count. Maddow had just been “excited.”

Everyone makes silly mistakes, of course, which is why they aren’t worth wasting time on. Unless you’re really an entertainer—an entertainer who’s also in love with a long, dumb, inane culture war. Supposedly, Maddow makes a million dollars per year. Reportedly, KO makes five. Presumably, each has excellent health care. Perhaps that’s why they tend to behave the way top-shelf pseudo-liberals have always behaved. Each seems to love that dumb culture war, which brings us around to those signs at that rally.

Let’s review:

By last Thursday, the CBO had made it clear that the GOP health plan was a big screaming joke. Meanwhile, Bachmann had staged a small, silly rally at the Capitol, to which a few benighted souls had brought a few sad, ridiculous signs.

Let’s see—which item was more significant? On the one hand, a major party’s health care plan was a big, ridiculous, screaming joke. On the other hand, a couple of dummies had a few stupid signs, which they had displayed at a rally. Within our chimp-run cable culture, it’s clear which matter gets top billing! But then, pseudo-liberals all over the culture screeched about those sad, stupid signs. That’s because pseudo-liberals, for the past fifty years, have loved a dumb culture war.

We love the idea that we’re the smart ones—although it’s clear that we aren’t. We love the idea that we’re the moral ones—that the other tribe spills with racists. And in part because we love this war, we have been wholly unable, in the past fifty years, to build a case for health care reform. We’re the smart ones, we love to insist—and yet, our latest plan for health reform is melting down into a joke.

(We didn’t see the abortion fight coming! How strange, since we’re so smart!)

We live with a cosmically awful health system—a system characterized by needless deaths and comical levels of looting. But despite our brilliance and our moral grandeur, we can’t figure out how to make voters understand the need for large-scale reform. For fifty years, The Interests have spread their false messaging all around. (European health care is a disaster! They have to wait in lines!) Despite our own acknowledged brilliance, they have beaten us blue in the process.

Guess what, losers? The public isn’t going to move because some fool at a silly pep rally was holding a sad, stupid sign. The public isn’t going to care if Boehner makes some silly mistake—right before Our Own Rhodes Scholar makes her own, that is. And the public will respond rather poorly to invidious, race-based culture wars waged by losers like Frank Rich. Could anything be dumber than insulting a northern-border, blue-trending congressional district which supported Obama by five points because too many of its voters are white? With telling them that, because they’re white, they ought to move to Utah? But then, Olbermann and his Pulitzer Hacks ran to the same foolish card last Thursday. Forget about that bogus health plan. Most people at the rally were white! (In fairness, we like and admire Clarence Page. We’d like to see him resist the long slow slide into this kind of self-defeating nonsense.)

“Terrifying,” Olbermann said, looking at all the white faces. Can human beings get dumber?

A great deal of pseudo-liberal politics has always been about culture war. It has been about the fairly ludicrous claim that We are smarter and better than They are. But wouldn’t you know it? Because we love to mock average voters, we have little success in winning them over! Faced with people inclined to differ from us in some ways, we have no idea what to say or do—how to address their different impulses. Thanks to our powerful cultural arrogance—thanks to our own overpowering dumbness—we have no idea how to address their tendency toward different strokes.

We have no clue about how to persuade. We mainly know how to lodge insults. Their limbic brains aren’t working right! Every one is a redneck racist!

Result? The liberal world is like the apocryphal fellow who can’t sell ice at the equator. Given the world’s most comically awful health “system,” we can’t even convince average people that they should favor far-reaching reform. Given a comically bogus GOP plan, we go on the TV machine and pretend that Bachmann was “inciting a hateful rebellion against the rule of law and order” and “possibly encouraging violence against the government.”

And as we fail, we keep insisting that they are the ones who are dumb. We’re too dumb to know, or to discuss, why the moral argument—the argument for universal coverage—has never quite worked well enough in this country. We’re too dumb to see how helpful it would be to argue the case against looting.

And by the way: Your “leaders” all have excellent health care! Could that explain their often clowning approach to this life-and-death issue? Last night, a guest confronted Ed Schultz with this problem (more tomorrow). To our ear, Schultz didn’t know what to say.

We love to say how smart we are—as we keep getting our keisters kicked. In truth, you can’t get dumber than Olbermann and Rich—or more profoundly immature. By the way, did you hear about Carrie Prejean’s sex tape?

Crackers! That’s entertainment!

About those signs: Do you realize how many foolish signs—and foolish sentiments—were present at anti-war rallies during the Bush years? We used to refer to this sort of “analysis” as “nut-picking”—until we adopted the practice.