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Daily Howler: A troubling thought came to mind as we scanned Sarah Palin's new book
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WHERE THE GIRLS ARE! A troubling thought came to mind as we scanned Sarah Palin’s new book: // link // print // previous // next //

Kristof knows history: Nicholas Kristof’s column today does suffer from one key omission. That said, the gent recalls important history as he starts his piece:

KRISTOF (11/18/09): Critics storm that health care reform is “a cruel hoax and a delusion.” Ads in 100 newspapers thunder that reform would mean “the beginning of socialized medicine.”

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page predicts that the legislation will lead to “deteriorating service.” Business groups warn that Washington bureaucrats will invade “the privacy of the examination room,” that we are on the road to rationed care and that patients will lose the “freedom to choose their own doctor.”

All dire—but also wrong. Those forecasts date not from this year, but from the battle over Medicare in the early 1960s. I pulled them from newspaper archives and other accounts.

Yet this year those same accusations are being recycled in an attempt to discredit the health reform proposals now before Congress.

Kristof recalls a lot of history in his column—the history of disinformation about American health care. The Interests have always peddled this type of shrieking disinfo. And of course, as Kristof notes, they’ve “recycled” similar notions this year.

Last week, Ruth Marcus was shocked—just thoroughly shocked—to see disinformation on the floor of the House (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/13/09). But the disinformation of which Kristof speaks has been peddled to the American public down through the annals of time. It helps explain why it’s still so hard to sell health reform, despite the groaning state of the American health care “system.”

We had two reactions to Kristof’s column:

First reaction: We were saddened by the omission of Ronald Reagan. Perhaps it was a bridge too far for Kristof, who remains a Serious Person. But Reagan is the best known conservative of the past half century—and back in real time, he made shrieking, utterly ludicrous predictions about the dire effects Medicare would surely have. (For Jonathan Chait’s review of this matter, just click here.) Despite his fame and gong-show predictions, Reagan is absent from Kristof’s column. We wish he’d been included.

Second reaction: We’re always struck by how long disinformation campaigns can persist without any real attempt at rebuttal by the liberal world. Why are these types of complaints still effective today? Because the liberal world has been so inept at fashioning counter-messaging. Example: Very few voters have ever heard the ludicrous predictions Reagan made. That’s because the liberal world has never had the first idea how to fashion political movements: How to spread information, potent messaging, frameworks for understanding.

On the other hand: Is it possible that the liberal world just doesn’t care enough to do these sorts of thing? Doesn’t care enough to build winning messages? Doesn’t want to embarrass Saint Ronnie? Would rather talk about total trivia? Would rather discuss Carrie Prejean?

Tomorrow, we’ll look at Gail Collins’ column, which appears right across from Kristof’s piece. In it, a major “liberal” talks about health care. Our advice? Avert your gaze.

WHERE THE GIRLS ARE: Sarah Palin may well have been the worst candidate in presidential/vice presidential history. She was grossly unprepared to discuss national issues. She misrepresented her Alaska career in ways which set new world records.

That said, all good pseudo-liberals know what to say when asked about Palin’s vile new book. Palin’s a mean girl, we know we must say, using oddly gender-tinged language even as we complain about Newsweek’s sexist new cover. After that, we feign indignation about Palin’s assaults on the “little people” in McCain’s campaign. In particular, we shed big tears over poor Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace. We boo-hoo about their mistreatment.

Rachel Maddow—current press agent for Colin Powell and the sainted Col. Wilkerson—of course assigned herself the task of acting as Wallace’s beard this week. (Partial transcript below.)

Could we be dumber? the analysts asked. Sadly, we gave this response:

We’ve met the mean girls—and they are us! Our view only strengthened yesterday afternoon, when we read the chapter in Palin’s book about Campaign 08.

Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Pseudo-liberals are shedding big tears about Palin’s mistreatment of Wallace and Schmidt. For ourselves, we had a rather different reaction to that part of the mean girl’s book.

Tone of the book: Sorry. We didn’t think the tone of Palin’s book was especially “mean.” Palin does describe the various events of the 2008 campaign. In most cases, there’s no way to know how accurate her accounts may be; this is true of all such inside-account books, of course. It’s fairly clear that she isn’t the biggest fan of Schmidt or Wallace, although says also many complimentary things about them.

Our reaction? Pseudo-liberals should go off and enjoy a good solid cry—and then, they ought to get over it. At the end of Campaign 08, unnamed advisers in McCain’s campaign trashed Palin rather hard in the press. (Some of this happened during the campaign.) There’s no earthly reason why she shouldn’t give her own account of these events. In this morning’s New York Times, for example, the stylist assigned to buy Palin’s convention wardrobe finally describes those events, on the record (just click here)—and she backs Palin’s account of what happened, implicitly disagreeing with some of the screeching (anonymous) complaints from inside McCain’s campaign.

None of these utterly pointless matters were ever worth talking about, of course. But you know us pseudo-liberals! We’ve long complained that Democrats like Al Gore didn’t defend themselves strongly enough. Sure enough! When a Republican stands to defend herself, we also complain about that!

Correcting Salon: Really? Palin is the “mean girl” here? We saw Joan Walsh reciting that point last night—after her own Salon printed that ludicrous critique of Palin’s book, a critique which was offered by a writer who hadn’t yet seen the book in question! In Salon, Thomas Rogers mocked Palin’s account of “the phone call from McCain, when he offered her a place on his ticket” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/18/09). But uh-oh! Reading Palin’s actual book, we saw that she was describing a different phone call altogether—the phone call in which McCain asked her to come to Arizona to interview for the possible job.

Let’s get clear: Salon lets people “fact-check” books they haven’t even seen. They trash the author for “bizarre passages” which they completely misconstrue. But Palin is the “mean girl” here! So we pseudo-libs figure.

By the way: As you observe this hapless behavior, do you start to understand why the liberal world is such a yowling mess—why nothing resembling a progressive politics has ever been built in your nation?

A few things sounded quite credible: For the most part, there’s no way to know how accurate Palin’s various accounts may be. But several parts of her book did sound remarkably true to life. Two examples:

Her account of Katie Couric’s constant interruptions reminded us of Couric’s hapless interview with Non-Candidate Gore in November 2002—the interview Frank Rich dishonestly transformed into a testimony to Gore’s lack of character. Couric kept interrupting Gore as he tried to answer her question about what the U.S. should so in Iraq (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/25/02). Palin describes something quite similar.

Second example: Palin’s accounts of back-stabbing, self-dealing campaign aides also rang a bell. We were reminded of something we were told years ago by a major journalist in a position to know: The initial attacks on Naomi Wolf in the fall of 1999 came from rival staffers inside Gore’s campaign, not from the RNC, we were told. It was these staffers, we were told, who mailed around the “dirty parts” of Wolf’s (outstanding) books, hoping to undermine Wolf as a rival for Gore’s attention. This conduct was loathsome, of course; given the mayhem these staffers helped create, they plainly helped send Bush to the White House. Our question: What on earth would make liberals think that Republican staffers are more moral, more decorous, more morally pure, more dignified, more discreet? By now, Maddow has become press agent for a wide array of people who helped take the U.S. to Iraq. Watching her vouch for Wallace on Tuesday night, the analysts bellowed and yowled.

Down toward the trivia-in-themselves: As we’ve noted, Palin was a horrible candidate. In our view, she remains a person with very poor judgment about the nation’s problems. But inside the pseudo-liberal world, this week has brought a set of screeching complaints about all manner of pointless trivia—including complaints by “book reviewers” who haven’t seen the book they’re critiquing! Can we talk? We’re small, and we’re dumb, and we love to talk trivia! Put another way: We’ve met the mean girls—and they are us! We wouldn’t know how to build a progressive politics if it hit us over the head.

Given the gruesome state of our health care system, how can it be that we’ve done so poorly in this year’s hunt for health reform? Can it be because we’re the mean girls here? Because we’re too dumb to play this game? Too undisciplined? Too self-involved? Too easy for The Interests to roll?

Bonus—Wallace’s agent: What actually happened between Palin and Wallace? Like you, we have no real way of knowing. Nor do we especially care—though we didn’t find the tone of Palin’s book to be especially “mean.” Nor do we have any view about Nicolle Wallace as a person—although she did fight long and hard to help Bush destroy the known world.

Today, though, you can forget about that! Wallace has a new press agent! Here she is, on her Tuesday night program, adding Wallace to the sanctified Powell and Wilkerson, her previous list of clients:

MADDOW (11/17/09): Nicole Wallace was a senior adviser to the McCain-Palin campaign. For her trouble, Nicole Wallace has been on the business end of a lot of retrospective sliming by Sarah Palin. Ms. Wallace spoke to our show, going on the record, to de-slime herself and to try to set the record straight. It is well worth a listen.

But how could Maddow possibly know if Wallace was “setting the record straight?” Meanwhile, avert your gaze at Maddow’s hapless first question to her expert guest, Ana Marie Cox.

Good lord, the analysts sadly cried. Could our side get any dumber?

We didn’t know quite what to tell the young scholars. But we’ve had funny thoughts this week about where the “mean girls” are.