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Daily Howler: The loonier wing of the Dowd-Matthews axis toys with the country again
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OBJECTIVELY ANTI-AMERICAN! The loonier wing of the Dowd-Matthews axis toys with the country again: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2008

Expressions in shagtime/Mr. Sulzberger’s shagtime band: Lying face-down on JFK’s favorite shag, Maureen Dowd was thinking through her upcoming New York Times column. And then, of course! She had it at last! “I’ll do some mind-reading,” the lady defiantly told herself, “extending my Susannian novel!” Thus fortified, the lady slept. She later dictated this morning’s piece, which offers her country these excursions into her characters’ minds. Some of these statements are “probably” true. Some are outright fact:

“Bill [Clinton] has the satisfaction of seeing that he has roiled the previously serene and joyous Obamaland.”

“It may be Obama’s very willingness to take the albatross of Bill from around Hillary’s neck and sling it around his own that impresses Bill.”

“If Hillary gets to be [Secretary of State], Bill’s guilt over his primary tirades, which hindered her chances of becoming president, would be alleviated.”

“[Bill Clinton] will probably always be somewhat steamed at [Obama].”

“Bill [Clinton] is surely jealous that his Democratic successor got a majority of the popular vote with 53 percent.”

“Seeing Obama pictured on the cover of Time as the new F.D.R., [Bill Clinton] will certainly fret that the younger pol will eclipse the Clinton era.”

Hiss! Hiss-spit! Hiss-spit! Meee-ow! Meanwhile, why does “the pompous John Kerry” want to be Secretary of State? “You know he just wants to swan around in those striped pants,” Dowd slurred to a helper.

Just last week, Nicholas Kristof was dreaming a dream; he dreamed that his nation’s long “War on Brains” might, at last, be nearing and end. We suggested that he read his own op-ed page (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/14/08). We’ll suggest that he go there again.

Ongoing “War on Brains” to the side, it’s an astounding insult to the national interest that this public crackpot remains in print, at the very top of our “press corps.” Has any “journalist” ever conducted such an extended, transparent breakdown? The lady has compared the last two Democratic nominees to the haughty Mr. Darcy, whose pride initially kept him from appreciating the wonders of the witty Miss Elizabeth Bennet (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/4/08). The lady has dispatched these complaints from the shag rugs once owned by a third.

But Dowd is part of an Antoinette class. Their culture revolves around riding to hounds, the pheasant hunt and the dance; they care not a whit for the national interest. It’s a War on Brains—but it’s their War on Brains. And so they barely notice it.

All that said, there is good news for both Obamas in the lady’s latest dispatches. Yes, we’re in a bad housing market. Even so, if the Obamas want to sell their Chicago home, the lady will hasten to buy it. “How would that make Oprah feel?” she purred to unnamed friends.

Discourse on methode: The lesson regarding our comments on Darcy: Any damn fool can play this game, if a “newspaper”—or “editor”—lets her.

Easy to be hard: Yesterday, we mentioned the good work Media Matters has done in the past about Sunday booking patterns. This post appeared a few hours later. We thought the weaknesses of this new analysis was worth noting today.

The post concerns two Sunday shows—Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday. Here’s the summary:

MEDIA MATTERS (11/18/08): A Media Matters analysis found that, on the first two Sundays following the November 4 elections, in which a Democrat took the White House and the party added to its majority in the House and Senate, conservatives and Republicans dominated post-election analysis on both Fox News Sunday and Face the Nation—a pattern that is consistent with their guest and panelist lineups in the first weeks after the November 2004 elections.

But conservatives and Republicans didn’t ”dominate” on Face the Nation in the past two weeks—and we’d say the claim is a stretch in the case of Fox News Sunday. Here’s the methodological shortcoming with the Media Matters analysis:

The analysis simply counts the number of guests presented on these programs. It doesn’t consider how much time the various guests are afforded. This method can lead to a skewed conclusion. For an example, consider Fox News Sunday’s line-up on November 9.

The program started with John Podesta, in a relatively long, stand-alone segment—a segment he shared with no other guests. Then, the program did a shorter segment with two Republicans—Mike Pence and Eric Cantor. According to the Media Matters methodology, this represents a two-to-one Republican advantage—a guest line-up which heavily tilts to the right. But the program’s guest line-up really tilted Dem. According to Nexis, Podesta’s segment lasted 2736 words. The two Republicans had to share a 2042-word segment between them.

Similarly, on the November 9 Face the Nation, Rahm Emmanuel was afforded a stand-alone, 2149-word segment; John Harris and David Brooks shared a shorter, 1483-word segment. By the Media Matters methodology, this show was perfectly balanced—one conservative (Brooks), one neutral (Harris), one Democrat (Emmanuel). In fact, Emmanuel got much more time than the other two fellows combined.

This Media Matters methodology may work better with larger samples, where “stand-alone” segments for the two parties may tend to even out. But in the past two weeks, Democrats have gotten more stand-alone segments on the Sunday programs (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/18/08). As we review those two Face the Nation programs, we simply can’t say that Republicans and conservatives “dominated.” In our view, that claim would even be a stretch about these two Fox News Sunday shows.

We’ve been through a long “War on Brains” in this country. In our view, the progressive world would prosper if voters came to regard it as smart and fair—as an actual source of reliable “straight talk.” The dumbness of the pseudo-con world has been an offense to the national interest. In our view, the progressive world would be very smart to make an issue of this long offense.

To do that, we have to be sure that we don’t produce erroneous—or utterly silly—versions of “working the refs.” The dumbness and dishonesty of the pseudo-con world represents a large, groaning target. But we can’t take this case to the public if we play the same sorts of games the mainstream press—and the RNC—have tended to play in the past. For the record, we’re sure that the Media Matters analysis was produced in good faith. But its methodology was basically flawed.

By the way: We’ve seen at least one major progressive who couldn’t even count the number of guests after this past Sunday’s programs had aired. By our count, this past Sunday’s shows featured nine appearances by current Republican office-holders and four appearances by such Democrats—not seven and three. Are we really unable to count up to four? Is this how we use our majority? (One apparent problem: The AP listings omitted Palin. Despite that fact, she was there. We know that because we watched—and then fact-checked.)

Final note: To some extent, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the type of Republican you put on the air if you want to tick off Republicans. (He skipped the Republican Governors conference.) Here too, we see the difficulty involved in trying to quantify matters like this—especially when we try to do so with small, short-term samples.

Objectively anti-American: Who would be Obama’s best choice for Secretary of State? We don’t really have an opinion. But Digby’s a bit more sanguine than we about the way the possible choice of Hillary Clinton could perhaps shake out:

DIGBY (11/18/08): The Clintons simply drive some people crazy. It's a clinical diagnosis.

I heard someone on the radio yesterday talking about it as if she should be fired for the corruption in the State Department of the past few years (Blackwater etc.) Seriously.

I actually think Obama may be picking her for this purpose. She can absorb all the looney criticism from the right and the Village and he can go about his business above the fray. It's actually smart to give them someone else to hate. And if the Clintons are good at anything, it's being hated and successful at the same time. Indeed, they seem to thrive on it.

Digby may have been working a bit tongue-in-cheek—perhaps not. But for the record, we don’t think the appointment of Clinton would likely work that way. Within large parts of the upper-end “press corps,” Clinton/Gore-loathing is a religion; it became one a long time ago. Most likely, the loathing wouldn’t be quarantined at Foggy Bottom. In the press corps’ Dowdier precincts, the loathing is more extreme than that. It would more likely spread to Obama himself—to the man who decided that such a vile woman could be suitable for such a top job.

This morning, David Broder voices the Village’s judgment in a polite, well-mannered way. (We’re stunned to learn that Broder has been “a fan of the former first lady's since [he] covered her efforts for health-care reform 15 years ago.”) But you have to chuckle at the way this cohort argues such manifest cases. Technically, there’s no self-contradiction in the following passage. But The Dean sure is cutting it close:

BRODER (11/19/08): What Obama needs in the person running the State Department is a diplomat who will carry out his foreign policy. He does not need someone who will tell him how to approach the world or be his mentor in international relations. One of the principal reasons he was elected was that, relying on his instincts, he came to the correct conclusion that war with Iraq was not in America's interest. He was more right about that than most of us in Washington, including Hillary Clinton.

Of course, he will benefit from the counsel and the contacts that his secretary of state can offer. But remember, he provided another and probably more expert source of that wisdom when he picked Joe Biden, the veteran chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as his running mate. The last thing Obama needs is a secretary of state carving out an independently based foreign policy. He needs an agent, not an author.

As always in Standard Village Constructs, Clinton is disqualifyingly bossy. But note the comedy in The Dean’s treatment of the run-up to war in Iraq. Clinton and Biden both voted yes on the war resolution. This is cited as a principal reason to pass over Clinton. And it isn’t mentioned in the next paragraph, where we are helpfully told that Biden is “probably more expert.”

As Broder continues, he hits the real problem—the looming presence of Bill Clinton. Once again, The Dean is polite. But other pundits have carried on loudly. And his paper’s reporters have quickly offered tortured complaints such as this:

SHEAR (11/17/08): Even without a wife in Obama’s Cabinet, [Bill] Clinton has already raised eyebrows with his speeches. In February 2005, Clinton spoke about AIDS to a Swiss biotech firm whose American subsidiary eventually agreed to pay $704 million after pleading guilty to conspiracy. In 2001, he was paid $125,000 to speak to International Profit Associates, an Illinois company that was the focus of a federal investigation and a government lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment.

Really? Bill Clinton “has raised eyebrows with his speeches?” We’d have to say he hasn’t raised many, judging from Shear’s two examples. As best we can tell, that speech to International Profit Associates raised so many eyebrows that, preceding Shear’s report, the Post gave it three paragraphs, over eight years. Even then, a key fact was fudged: Did Bill Clinton know that IPA was “the focus of a federal investigation?” Meanwhile, note the key wiggle word, “eventually,” in Shear’s first example.

Over eight years, these are the most troubling speeches the Post was able to find?

As noted, we have no particular view on Hillary Clinton as Sec of State. But we do have a reaction to the pundit corps’ renewed Clinton/Gore-loathing: Things have reached the point where these sad life-forms are “objectively anti-American.” The nation is in a set of major messes; a new president is trying to pick the people he thinks will serve him best in a difficult time. But so what? Even in such a perilous time, the loonier members of the Dowd-Matthews axis can’t quit their Clinton-loathing. Nothing will keep them from this vast pleasure, the one pleasure of their sad lives.

It’s almost like they loathe the country itself. In the past, they’ve done astounding harm to that country through their aggressive Clinton/Gore-trashing—especially when they worked so hard to put George Bush where he is. But even now, they refuse to abandon their childish games. Nothing will ever make them stop. They care about little else.

Dean Broder was polite today, as befits a high-minded man. But Chris Matthews has been actively clowning on Hardball—and does anyone really doubt this report? These palace dwellers have done vast harm to this country in the past sixteen years. Their Clinton/Gore-loathing remains their great joy—and it could be a national problem again if Obama and Clinton combine.