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WHAT, US WORRY? Josh didn’t worry during Campaign 2K. He plans to not worry again: // link // print // previous // next //

RETROGRADE QUEEN OF THE CATFIGHTS: Why did Nancy Pelosi reject Jane Harman for chair of the Intelligence Committee? We don’t have the slightest idea. But Maureen Dowd is an Inka-style oracle, able to mind-read everyone’s meanings. And, of course, she’s incurably fatuous. Hence the start of yesterday’s column, in which she hiss-spit-meowed this:
DOWD (12/20/06): The only sects that may be more savage than Shiites and Sunnis are the Democratic feminist lawmakers representing Northern and Southern California.

After Nancy Pelosi and Jane Harman had their final catfight about who would lead the House Intelligence Committee, aptly enough at the Four Seasons' hair salon in Georgetown, the new speaker passed over the knowledgeable and camera-eager Ms. Harman and mystifyingly gave the consequential job to Silvestre Reyes of Texas.
It’s an offshoot of “rule by the wrong.” Many pundits can’t even imagine the possibility that pols like Pelosi base their decisions on matters of substance. Hence, it may not enter their heads to think that Pelosi may have deep-sixed Harman because Harman was wrong on Iraq. Meanwhile, like her culture-mate, Chris Matthews, Dowd is a hopelessly retrograde throwback to 1950s Irish Catholic culture. Indeed, Dowd’s purring style comes straight from the “women’s pages” of mid-century newspapers. She and Matthews define a distant era, in which powerful Democratic women stage “catfights” in “hair salons”—and of course, remind us of strippers (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/20/06).

In an Imus appearance a few weeks ago, Dowd went on and on in this vein as she discussed Pelosi and Harman. Her conversation was so utterly vapid that it fell to Imus, of all people, to suggest that Pelosi may have dumped Harman due to matters of substance. We kept the tape, but haven’t yet punished ourselves by transcribing Dowd’s backwater musings. Yesterday, though, she turned loose a bit of her soul, as her culture-mate did Tuesday evening.

We grew up Boston Irish Catholic ourselves—but somehow managed to move past the 50s. But make no mistake—Washington punditry in the past fifteen years has been heavily driven by a group of retrograde, 50s-era Irish Catholics. (For quite a while, that was all they hired at “Catholic Central”—NBC/MSNBC. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/7/05, for a brief discussion.) They led the chase after Bill Clinton’s sex life, then turned their powerful guns against Gore. Today, they tell us that Hillary Clinton’s like a stripper and that Nancy Pelosi engages in catfights. And by the way—it’s Gail Collins who puts this bullshit in print. All hail the incoming Andrew Rosenthal!

How should Dems and libs view this? That’s a good question. Read on.

WHAT, US WORRY: My, how polite and professional we’ve become when it comes to massive reinventions! In the past year, Mitt Romney has undergone everything but a soul transplant in his drive to become a standard conservative. But in today’s Post, Dan Balz is calm and collected about Mitt’s flips—just as a reporter should be. Indeed, here is the gentleman’s nugget statement. Good grief! How fair we’ve become!
BALZ (12/21/96): The apparent gulf between the candidate who ran for the Senate in 1994 and the one getting ready to run for president has raised questions as to who is the real Mitt Romney. Is he the self-described moderate who unsuccessfully challenged Kennedy in the year of the Republican landslide, the self-described conservative now ready to bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, or merely an ambitious and adaptable politician? The answer could be crucial to Romney's presidential ambitions.
Who knows—maybe Romney is just “adaptable!” Maybe that explains the “apparent” gulf between these dueling Romneys! Later, Balz actually crosses a line in his attempt to be extra-fair. He credulously repeats, in his own voice, Romney’s claim about the process which led to his flip about Roe:
BALZ: He ran for governor in 2002 promising to preserve the status quo on abortion in Massachusetts, saying he would oppose changes that either liberalized or restricted access to abortion. He has lived up to that promise. But in late 2004, as he studied the issue of embryonic stem cell research, he underwent what he has called an awakening that led him to the conclusion that "the sanctity of life had been cheapened" by the Roe decision.
Did Romney’s flip have anything to do with his (alleged) study of embryonic research? We don’t have the slightest idea—and, most likely, Balz doesn’t either. But in this passage, Balz flatly says that Romney flipped because he studied this issue at that time. It’s hard to see how Balz could know that. But so what? He typed it up anyway.

For the most part, Balz’s report is as it should be—dispassionate, fair and professional. In recent weeks, though, we’ve been struck by all the fairness and dispassion in the press corps’ discussion of Romney’s flips. That’s because we remember the way they chased after Kerry and Gore on such matters, real and imagined. Omigod! Their flips—real and imagined—were just completely defining! In the case of Kerry, the corps played dumb for months about his vote on that $87 billion. (Kerry’s clumsy statement was easily explained—he had supported one version of the spending bill, and had opposed the other. Just like Bush.) In the case of Gore, they struggled and strained—and kept making shit up—as they invented his troubling reinventions.

But the F-word—“flip-flop”—has been MIA as the corps discusses Romney’s “apparent” transformation. And yes, this leads us to Josh Marshall’s post about the great saint, John McCain. In his post, Josh can’t imagine why we should worry about McCain’s appeal to independent and centrist voters. Good grief! Over the years, Josh has done tons of superlative work on his two sites; just yesterday, we linked to his sites several times. But in our view, the dude remains willfully blind on the matters involved in this post.

“Why do we think John McCain is going to play like he did in 2000 after he's turned himself into a gruffer version of George W. Bush?” Josh asks at the end of his post. “People aren't that stupid,” he says, referring to American voters. But American voters are that “stupid”—at least, in the limited numbers it takes to change the outcome a White House election. And for many voters, McCain may continue “to play” like history’s most honest man for a perfectly obvious reason—because the mainstream Washington press corps may continue to dress him that way.

How will the corps present McCain? We can’t read the future—and the solon’s standing with the press has at times seemed damaged by his own reinventions. But it’s entirely possible that the press will persist with its long-standing John McCain Novel, in which McCain is the ultimate upright straight-shooter, the “hero of the Straight Talk Express” (David Broder). To Josh, of course, this is all absurd—a fantasy driven by worry-wart dingbats. Uh-oh! Josh said nothing during Campaign 2000, and he’s prepared to Not Worry again:
MARSHALL: The idea that John McCain is going to stay the darling of self-identified independents and centrist Democrats while acting like a partisan right-winger and supporting a deeply unpopular war reminds me of those dingbat prognosticators who argue, in so many words, that now that the GOP has the racist vote sewn up all they have to do is get the blacks too and then the Dems won't ever be able to win an election again.
Why, you’d have to be a dingbat to think it! But let’s state the unpleasant truth once again. Josh played “What, Us Worry” during Campaign 2000 as the corps savaged Candidate Gore; indeed, he was still saying things about that race which he knew were untrue as late as the spring of 2002 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/12/02). And now, he’s advising us not to worry again! For Dems and liberals, this is madness. But it’s a familiar form of madness, one that seems bred in our bones.

In the 1960s, Republicans began to fight against what they described as the press corps’ liberal bias. For forty years, they’ve never stopped pressing that claim, which is now iconic—with extremely good results. But on our side, we don’t just refuse to engage this fight—we name-call those who have sensible concerns! Hillary Clinton? She’s like a stripper! Nancy Pelsoi? Nothing but catfights! Barack Obama? Middle name is Hussein! But why should we worry about the way the press corps may present their greatest saint, John McCain? Only a dingbat would worry, Josh says! Good God! What born losers we be!

It may turn out that the Washington press corps changes its novel about their great saint. But Josh’s judgment here comes straight from Neptune. (On other matters, he’s done tons of superlative work.) What—Us Worry? the gentleman says. Sadly, that’s how Gore was destroyed. And yes, that’s how it could happen again—it still could be the Love Boat this time. Why in the world do our leaders persist in promoting this strange form of blindness? Why do they have such dreadful judgment about the forces which sent George Bush to the White House—and the U. S. Army to Iraq? Why do we insist on denying the shape of our own recent history? Why do we insist on pretending that the press couldn’t do it again?