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Daily Howler: Salahi pretended to be a cheerleader. But Dowd's a pretender too
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GOLD MEDAL OF FAUX! Salahi pretended to be a cheerleader. But Dowd’s a pretender too: // link // print // previous // next //

Can’t explain sh*t/Will accuse of lying: On last night’s Ed Show, Ed Schultz seemed to practicing modern America’s flagging journalistic culture.

In this culture, you 1) misstate or truncate the facts, then 2) accuse others of lying:

SCHULTZ (12/1/09): Welcome back to The Ed Show.

So, they’ve been lying to you. What else is new? The insurance companies and the Republicans are lying when they say premiums are going to skyrocket and go through the roof if health care reform is passed.

Well, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says premiums for most Americans buying insurance on their own will go down. For people with good employer coverage, premiums will stay the same.

Increasingly, modern journalistic culture is built around twin pillars: The inability to explain sh*t. And the accusation that The Other is lying, or is perhaps psychiatrically impaired. (Their limbic brains may not be working.)

In that passage, Schultz gives a bungled account of what the CBO said. Then, he accuses others of “lying” when, in many cases, they have made accurate statements.

In fact, premiums will rise for those who buy their own insurance, according to that CBO report. According to the CBO, those premiums will rise even faster than they will rise if we pass no “reform” bill at all! For people who get government subsidies, the amount they themselves have to pay for those premiums will come down, in many cases. But the cost of the premiums themselves will go up, at an even faster rate than will obtain if we pass no bill at all.

Meanwhile, consider the following statement by Schultz: “For people with good employer coverage, premiums will stay the same.” In fact, the CBO said something quite different: For employer-based coverage, premiums would continue rise under the Senate bill, just as fast as they will rise if we pass no bill at all.

At best, Schultz’s explanation was grossly misleading. (It also pimped for The Interests!) Seconds later, Ron Wyden politely played along:

SCHULTZ: Senator, good to have you with us tonight.

In your opinion, Ron, is there teeth in this CBO report? I mean, shouldn’t this really wipe out a bunch of right-wing bullet points who—you know, the folks that are against reform?

WYDEN: Ed, there’s no question that the Congressional Budget Office report is a significant plus. They looked at all of the major groups, big employers, small employers, individuals, and the fact of the matter is that millions are going to get some real relief from these skyrocketing premiums.

Now, we still have more to do. Senator Reid, to his credit, has made it clear that he wants to take steps to hold the insurance companies accountable.

Wyden’s statements are technically accurate. But note what he correctly says: Millions of people will get relief—“from these skyrocketing premiums.” According to the CBO, premiums will continue to rise, at least as fast as they will rise in the absence of reform. Presumably, this will continue to make The Interests quite rich.

Our country is an international joke due to our current level of health care spending. According to that new report, The Interests will get even fatter under terms of the Senate health bill. Premiums will continue to rise in both major categories (self-purchased, employer-purchased). For people who buy their own insurance, premiums will rise even faster than they’ll rise if we pass no bill!

Did Schultz misunderstand the CBO? Or was he playing by modern rules, in which you tell the story you like, then accuse The Others of lying?

GOLD MEDAL OF FAUX: Unless you study the matter full-time, it’s almost impossible to comprehend the incompetence of the mainstream press corps over the past several decades.

In part, our journalists simply aren’t very smart. This is of course an awkward point, but it must be said. But part of this cohort’s stunning incompetence stems from its broken-souled values.

In this morning’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd takes the occasion of last week’s state dinner to vent at the latest “statuesque” woman she doesn’t much seem to like (text below). But before the columnist takes out her familiar knives, she draws an unintentionally comical portrait of her own cohort’s values. In the part of her column which follows, one phrase recalls an earlier episode—an episode which helped to change the history of the world:

DOWD (12/2/09): This decade will be remembered for the collapse of the Twin Towers, the economy and any standard of accomplishment for societal prestige. TV and the Internet wallow in the lowest common denominator.


But if Congress investigates social climbing and party crashing in Washington, it won't have time for anything else.

Because even the outrage over the fakers is fake. The capital has turned up its nose at the tacky trompe l'oeil Virginia horse-country socialites: a faux Redskins cheerleader and a faux successful businessman auditioning for a ''reality'' show by feigning a White House invitation.

Yet Washington has always been a town full of poseurs, arrivistes, fame-seekers, cheaters and camera hogs.

Yes, you read that correctly! In that passage., Maureen Dowd says that other groups “wallow in the lowest common denominator.”

Go ahead! Laugh out loud!

In fairness, Dowd is right about one thing. Washington has been—still is—full of poseurs; she herself is surely the leading example. Michaele Salahi seems to have lived as a faux Redskins cheerleader. But Dowd has long lived as something much worse—as a faux political journalist.

Salahi has done little harm through her apparent posing. Dowd has helped harm the whole world.

“We live in an age...overrun by fakers,” Dowd writes. She herself is the prime example. (For our money, the other medalists in the past twenty years would be Matthews and Rich—silver/bronze.)

How incompetent is Washington’s press corps? This morning, Dowd discusses the way her cohort “has turned up its nose at... a faux Redskins cheerleader.” We recalled the day when they ran to affirm the claims of a faux beauty queen.

That faux beauty queen was Gennifer Flowers, who took big six figures to lodge thrilling claims in a national tabloid. In short order, it turned out that Flowers, like Salahi, had a rather shaky resumé. In their book, The Hunting of the President, Lyons and Conason offered a quick review of the problems (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/3/09):

LYONS/CONASON (page 25): Musicians and club owners who had worked with Flowers described her as manipulative and dishonest. Her resume falsely proclaimed her a graduate of a fashionable Dallas prep school she’d never attended. It also listed a University of Arkansas nursing degree she’d never earned and membership in a sorority that had never heard of her. Her agent told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that contrary to her claims, Flowers had never opened for comedian Rich Little. A brief gig on the Hee Haw television program had come to a bad end, the agent would later confirm, when Flowers simply vanished for a couple of weeks with a man she’d met in a Las Vegas casino—and then concocted a tale about having been kidnapped. She had never been Miss Teenage America. Even her “twin sister Genevieve” turned out to be purely a figment of Flowers’ imagination.

If reports are accurate, Salahi has paraded about, pretending to be a former cheerleader. But among a string of false claims, Flowers had even pretended to be a former Miss Teenage America!

Would you buy hot stories from someone like that? As of 1998, the entire Washington press corps did! By now, they were waging full-blown war against Bill Clinton—a war they extended to Candidate Gore one year later. Star-struck losers stood in line to swear that Flowers just had to be telling the truth about Vile Clinton. (In our view, Frank Rich made the most foolish statement on Flowers’ behalf. But he had lots of company.) The fools soon extended their umbrella of protection to Kathleen Willey, swearing that what she was saying simply had to be true. Alas—wrong again! By the time these matters were finished, Kenneth Starr’s successor reported that he considered filing perjury charges against Willey, she had misstated so often.

Today, America’s most hapless “professional” elite has turned up its nose at a faux cheerleader. But in the last decade, they fell at the feet of a cosmically faux beauty queen.

Do you think this group is changing its ways? Is that what Dowd is trying to tell us? Not likely. Consider the way Dowd takes the occasion in today’s column to do the thing she has always done best—to aim long knives at some statuesque woman who has rubbed her the wrong way.

Today, the target is Desireé Rogers, White House social secretary. Dowd seems very happy today. You see, Rogers has been “cruising for the bruising” Dowd is dishing since last April! Here’s how a nation’s discourse looks when it has a faux press corps:

DOWD: Desirée Rogers, who has also been asked to testify Thursday, has been cruising for a bruising since telling The Wall Street Journal in April: “We have the best brand on Earth: the Obama brand. Our possibilities are endless.” She wanted to pose for The Journal in an Oscar de la Renta gown in the first lady’s garden, but the press secretary, Robert Gibbs, vetoed that.

The statuesque social secretary brandishing a Harvard M.B.A. and animal-print designer shoes is not any mere party planner. The old friend of the first couple from Chicago has the exalted and uncommon title of social secretary and special assistant to the president.

Does Rogers have good judgment? We have no idea. (For our money, it’s a bad idea to mix politics with extensive notions of “branding.”) But Dowd’s takedown of Rogers is quite typical of this dysfunctional prize-winner’s work. The green-eyed monster is frequently present when Dowd starts to hiss at “statuesque” women whom she finds in “exalted” positions. For one example, Dowd was trashing Naomi Wolf long before trashing Wolf was cool. In the past decade, she has hissed and spat, in brainless ways, at a long string of wives and daughters.

Afghanistan is center stage today; so is national health care. But like the bulk of our celebrity press corps, Dowd is more faux than any Salahi. She doesn’t do policy, she long ago said. And so, she rushed off to type this:

DOWD (continuing directly): Instead of standing outside with a clipboard, eyeballing guests as Anne Hathaway did in “The Devil Wears Prada,” Desirée was a guest at the dinner, the center of her own table of guests, just like the president and first lady.

As Michael Isikoff wrote in Newsweek, Rogers sidelined Cathy Hargraves, the East Wing staffer whose job it was to go to the East Gate portico and check off the names of each guest from a printout.

Rogers told Hargraves that the Obama team felt no need for those services because, given the recession, there wouldn’t be many lavish dinners. But even if it’s just two state dinners a year, as the first lady plans, one big mistake is too many.

Also, the rejection of the Bush appointee has unseemly echoes of Hillary Clinton sacking the White House travel office staff, unnecessarily politicizing an office that required old pros.

Rogers also conjured up a White House closing ranks on itself, allowing far too many West Wing staffers, mid-level political aides, press flacks and speechwriters to attend the prestigious premiere state dinner, rather than people more relevant to the Indian guests of honor. The Obama team always talks of making the White House “the People’s House,” so why let it look like the White House Mess?

Even before the Salahis swept in preening, the Obama staffers were there preening, standing around celebrating themselves. And of course, savoring the wonder of the Obama brand.

Hiss! Hiss-spit! Hiss-spit! Mee-ow! Dowd even managed to mention Travelgate, thus keeping old gong-shows alive! (The 90s remain the best!) As for Rogers, she should have behaved as Anne Hathaway did, in that wonderful movie! But then, this faux elite has always specialized in advertising its lack of intelligence.

In Dowd’s column, the Salahis were preening, and so were the staffers. But no one has ever preened like Dowd! A modern nation is in deep peril when it puts its public discourse into hands as faux as these.

Let us return to our opening statement: Unless you study the matter full-time, it’s very hard to comprehend the extent of this press corps’ incompetence. Most simply put, they can’t explain sh*t; it’s the rare day when they actually try. You see, explaining is hard—and novels are fun. This deeply incompetent national “press corps” tends to type novels, not news

“We live in an age...overrun by fakers!” So spake Dowd, who surely knows. In fact, when it comes to “preening” and “faux,” the Salahis are a bit like the spray that blows up off a vast, mindless ocean.

We’re all on our way to that ocean’s floor. Dowd, who wins the gold for faux, has long been steering us there.

How a faux journo reports: Dowd has always been a fool. Consider the way she reports:

DOWD: The Washington Post reported the Secret Service guard waved in the Salahis, breaking the rules, because he “was persuaded by the couple’s manner and insistence as well as the pressure of keeping lines moving on a rainy evening.”

But the Washington Post did not “report” that. The Post reported that “a [single] source” said this had “apparently” happened. For hacks like Dowd, that’s good enough.

Dowd’s class has typed novels for decades. A single source is plenty good—if he tells the story she likes. And words like “apparently” can be disappeared. You see, this is entertainment!

(Washington Post, 11/30/09: “A source who had spoken to senior Secret Service officials said the Salahis were allowed inside in violation of agency policies by an officer outside the front gate who apparently was persuaded by the couple's manner and insistence as well as the pressure of keeping lines moving on a rainy evening.” That’s a single unnamed source, saying what “apparently” happened.)