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Daily Howler: A second Van Winkle emerged at the Post--enabled by your favorite liberals
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MEET THE VAN WINKLES! A second Van Winkle emerged at the Post—enabled by your favorite liberals: // link // print // previous // next //

The Washington Post gets it right: Three cheers for eighth-grader Smar Abuagla, and for the Washington Post’s Tara Bahrampour! In yesterday’s paper, Bahrampour offered a superb profile of Abuagla, focusing on her decision to start wearing a head scarf to her Reston, Virginia public school.

Abuagla’s an American teen born in the Sudan. Do you remember being 13? For an excellent reminder, you know what to do: Just click here.

Leg or breast? Or perhaps culture war: The thing to remember about Howard Kurtz is this: He isn’t dumb—he’s not dumb at all. What happened on yesterday’s Reliable Sources was, therefore, an example of pure craven posing. (To read the full transcript, click here.)

Midway through the hour-long program, Kurtz introduced the latest sleep-inducing discussion of Sarah Palin’s new book. His questions were utterly tedious—as were his three pundit guests. No one had a thing to say about this utterly tedious topic—except when Kurtz raised the question of Newsweek’s current cover photo (click this), which invites you to take a long look at Palin’s sexy-time legs. He spoke with Amanda Carpenter:

KURTZ (11/15/09): Newsweek cover out today. Let's put it up on the screen: "How do you solve a problem like Sarah?" And look at that picture of her. I don't know where they got that from. With all of the media criticism in the book, and in light of that Newsweek cover, is she getting and will she get a fair shake from the news business?

CARPENTER: I don't think she is right. I mean, I saw that cover published by Newsweek, it's coming out in their November 23rd edition. It was a photo taken from Runners World where it makes sense to show someone with their legs. And there were other poses where she is not showing her legs. But they chose that one.

Why did Newsweek choose the sexy-time photo? Might we offer a guess? For obvious reasons, the fellows at Newsweek (Meacham and Thomas) can’t get people to purchase their written material—so they turn to sexy-time photos! Pious fellows like Meacham have always made such decisions. And they always will.

Back to Reliable Sources. The discussion of Palin was utterly dull, driven by a trio of pundits with absolutely nothing to say. (They did know a few Standard Bromides.) But Palin is a major political figure, someone who might actually run for the White House. What explains where Kurtz went next? Fight for consciousness as he concludes his snoresome discussion of Palin:

KURTZ: There was a great e-mail the Huffington Post got written during the campaign by Palin. She initially didn't want to go on Saturday Night Live. You remember when she went on and appeared with Tina Fey. Those folks are whack. Even though it wasn't as bad as it was, she didn't like the portrayals naturally of her and her family.

All right, let's talk about Carrie Prejean who kind of—it's almost like in the same category as Sarah Palin. She has a lot to say about the media. She, of course, is the former Miss California who ended up in a lawsuit with pageant officials who took away her title. She's been making the rounds and look at what Carrie Prejean has been saying to various interviewers.

The discussion of Palin was utterly dull—but Palin’s a major political figure. By way of contrast, Carrie Prejean isn’t a major figure of any type, despite Kurtz’s claim that “it's almost like in the same category as Sarah Palin.” In fact, Prejean is a confection of cable “news” channels. She’s kept around so cable can run its tape of her in a swimsuit.

Why was Kurtz discussing Prejean? Is there any chance he went there for the same reason that The Parson put that shot on his cover?

Carrie Prejean isn’t important. She was competing in a pointless Trump event when she got a surprise question from one of Trump’s judges—a judge who is a professional idiot. In answering the question, she stated a view identical to Barack Obama’s (he’s currently president, of the US)—and she has been assailed by the pseudo-liberal world from that day forward. (She also got assailed as a “c*nt” by Trump’s idiot judge. Within the pseudo-liberal world, this was of course completely OK. You see, Prejean is The Other. She had revealed this fact herself—by expressing Obama’s view.)

She isn’t important; she doesn’t matter; and this clown-time episode got its start when she stated Obama’s view. (And Hillary Clinton’s; and John Edwards’; and Biden’s; and Kerry’s; and Candidate Gore’s.) But we pseudo-liberals love culture war; we’ll grab any excuse to sustain it. It’s the way we arrange to lose votes—and to convince our own small minds that we belong to the good noble tribe. As opposed to the creatures we loathe—the beings we practice to hate.

MEET THE VAN WINKLES: Last Wednesday, Ruth Van Winkle, also known as Ruth Marcus, seemed to awake from a long soothing sleep. In an excellent piece written decades decades too late, she noticed a fact of life on the planet: Republicans like to disinform voters about the state of health care. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/13/09.

On Sunday, Kathleen Van Winkle (AKA Parker) also emerged from a warm cozy log. Like Marcus, she wrote in the Washington Post. Parker’s column, concerning the need for civility, also comes decades too late.

In fairness, we don’t necessarily disagree with Parker’s call for greater civility. As she started, she sketched the “recent events and trends” which have her so concerned:

PARKER (11/15/09): Growing concern about incivility is one of America's more appealing trends. Increasingly, individuals and institutions are seeking to burnish the golden rule.

The concern isn't new—Prof. P.M. Forni started the Johns Hopkins Civility Project 12 years ago and published a book in 2002: "Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct.”


But recent events and trends—from rowdy town-hall meetings to sideshow rants on television to the outburst of South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson—have brought vague unease about manners into sharper focus.

Parker mentions Wilson twice. But in which cozy log has the lady been sleeping if she thinks the events and trends in question are somehow “recent?”

In fairness, Parker does know that incivility has plagued our politics before. “Americans have never been exemplars of manners in politics,” she quickly admits. But when she marshaled her examples, the analysts were permitted to laugh:

PARKER: Americans have never been exemplars of manners in politics. Often cited are the anti-Federalists, though the Federalists were hardly rearranging the doilies.


During the Andrew Jackson-John Quincy Adams election of 1828, the former general was called a murderer and a cannibal; his wife was accused of being a harlot. Closer to Joe Wilson's stomping ground, politics has always been a blood sport, and most natives are proud of it. In the election of 1832, mobs assaulted candidates. Not very civil, that.

How long has Parker been in her log? Searching her mind for previous examples of rudeness, she thinks of presidential elections—in 1828 and 1832! Did Parker intend to challenge her colleague, Marcus, for her newspaper’s Van Winkle Prize? We couldn’t help wondering when she let us know what has changed—since the doily arrangements of the 1830s, that is:

PARKER (continuing directly): Nonetheless, something has changed—and what has changed is media. I don't mean traditional media, the so-called mainstream media everyone loves to hate these days. In fact, old media have strict standards about civility and appropriate language in the public sphere. Such concerns prevented me recently from publishing the obscenity uttered in The Post newsroom that provoked an editor to hit a writer.

Most crucial in the viral growth of incivility are new media—the Internet, the blogosphere and all the social applications, from Facebook to Twitter, and whatever else may have developed since I began typing this page.

In what log has Parker been lolling? She slams the Internet’s incivility—and she praises the “strict standards” of the “old media.” In the process, she forgets to name one other famous part of “new media”—conservative talk radio.

Does anyone remember when Rush Limbaugh, on talk radio, rather flamboyantly spread the idea that Hillary Clinton, then first lady, was involved in the murder of Vince Foster? Frankly, this new Van Winkle doesn’t. She was asleep in her log.

We’ve covered the following ground many times. But Parker’s column brought it to mind again—and it continues to define our misshapen public discourse.

It was strange to see Parker return to 1832 in her search for incivility. If the Nexis archives can be believed, Parker was a regular columnist all through the Clinton/Gore years. (During much of that time she was a nationally syndicated columnist.) That said, she was discussing our politics during the years when these events occurred:

  • The Clintons were accused of serial murders.
  • Bill Clinton was assailed as a drug runner.
  • Major “journalists” went on cable TV and laughed at photos of the younger, funny-looking Hillary Clinton. (Who was a giant lesbo, of course.)
  • The press corps invented a string of fanciful tales, thus inventing AL GORE, LIAR.
  • The press corps drove a smut-laden campaign against Naomi Wolf, who reminded them of Miss Lewinsky in a wide assortment of ways.
  • Parker’s current patron, Chris Matthews, told the world that Gore “doesn’t seem very American even.”

Who drove these examples of incivility? America’s most famous men of the cloth. America’s most famous talk radio hosts. And, of course, the mainstream press corps, which has “strict standards about civility in the public sphere.”

Parker didn’t drive those campaigns herself, but she was a major columnist all through the relevant era. (In her first column of the Clinton era, she took Hillary Clinton’s side against those who were assailing her—like her own husband, for instance.) Yesterday, emerging from her log, she forgot that era’s history—was forced to return to 1828 to think of prior failings.

Why do Marcus and Parker forget? Because the liberal world permits it. Many of your favorite, fiery liberals took part in the slander campaigns against Clinton, then Gore. The others pretended they didn’t notice, thus maintaining establishment standing as acceptably Serious People. And right to this day, the liberal world has kept its trap shut about the real history of the last decade. Polite boys and girls become Serious People—thus permitting the kind of forgetting which pervades the Parker piece. Nor have career liberals ever complained about decades of lying about health care. Fighting off narcolepsy themselves, they recite their defining pseudo-lib mantra: People...

Marcus seemed to be surprised when she saw Republicans lie about health care. Parker had to journey in time to think of earlier incivility. You have the liberal world to thank for this nonsense—for this parade of Van Winkles.

Tromorrow, we’ll invite you to sneer at the liberal world as it too plays a bit of Van Winkle—this time, concerning abortion. Our own recollections seem to be challenged when this topic is forced into view.