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Daily Howler: Peter Fenn seems like a nice guy. He won't tell the truth even now
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WE SIMPLY REFUSE TO BE TRUTHFUL! Peter Fenn seems like a nice guy. He won’t tell the truth even now: // link // print // previous // next //

WE GOOFED: Yesterday’s HOWLER didn’t get posted. To ponder what might have been, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/7/08.

CHARLIE AND BETSY SPIN SOCIAL: In our view, two major traits of America’s press corps have presented in the sixteen years.

One such trait is the corps’ increasing bias against major Dem politicians. It may turn out that this was mainly an artifact of Clinton-hating. Or this trait may continue to present if Obama becomes the Dem nominee—and hopefully, in that case, the next Democratic president.

The second trait is the corps’ sheer stupidity—an artifact of palace culture. Did she cry on purpose? they’re asking today. Well, no, she didn’t, we confidently state. If you think she did, you may not understand why acting schools exist. Or why they can be ineffective.

But our press corps is deeply, Antoinette-level dumb. They love what’s silly—and despise what is “hard.” Hence the striking account of Social Security offered by ABC News during Saturday’s Dem debate. Like that phone call to C-SPAN in yesterday’s HOWLER (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/7/08), we thought this moment deserved recording. Charles Gibson and Betsy Stark were at fault:

GIBSON (1/5/08): I'm going to move on to domestic policy—how much the government is spending, how much you would spend with the programs you've proposed and the promises you've made. And some of that is entitlements. For a little background, ABC's Betsy Stark.

STARK (videotape): Every hour this new year another 400 baby boomers will turn 60, swelling the ranks of those soon eligible to collect Social Security and Medicare. The forecasts are foreboding. By 2017, the Social Security surplus runs dry and the system begins taking in less tax revenue than it pays out in benefits.

For Medicare, the problems are even more severe. By 2013, the program's hospital insurance fund is expected to fall into the red and the insurance premiums seniors pay for doctors' visits and prescription drugs are projected to keep rising.

Many young Americans simply assume there will be nothing left for them to guarantee the security of their old age. Charlie?

There’s no perfect way to explain the status of Social Security in just a few sentences. But that presentation is awful—and it comes from the very top of our nation’s mainstream press corps.

Stark’s presentation is highly selective. After calling the situation “foreboding,” she says that “the Social Security surplus runs dry” by 2017. That statement can be defended as technically accurate, but many viewers won’t really know what it means. And uh-oh! Stark fails to mention the system’s giant trust fund, which (under standard projections) enables the system to pay full promised benefits until some time past the year 2040. She fails to note that many experts think those projections are unduly gloomy—that without any changes at all, the system may be able to pay full promised benefits for some number of years after that.

Stark’s presentation is highly selective. And it favors a “conservative” line.

Much, much worse was Stark’s irresponsible—and utterly stupid—statement as she finished (see above). Guess what? “Young Americans” believe many things which aren’t accurate—but journalists don’t normally recite such beliefs as if they were well-founded. Again, what Stark says here is technically accurate; according to a great deal of reporting, many young Americans do believe “there will be nothing left for them to guarantee the security of their old age”—that they will “never see” Social Security. But in a rational world, journalists would explain why that belief is so cock-eyed. By contrast, Stark simply recites this famous cant, as it if made perfect sense.

Yesterday, we linked to Paul Krugman’s column about “conservative” spin-and-deception machines. And we introduced you to a C-SPAN caller who had been bamboozled by one of the confections these dissemblers have offered us down through the years. But these same dissemblers have spent many years deceiving young people about Social Security. More college students believe UFOs exist than think they’ll ever get Social Security, they’ve endlessly bruited. On Saturday night, Stark recited this scripted deception, in the latest groaning display of her group’s vast incompetence.

These people are deeply, deeply inane. They’re not very smart; they don’t care very much; they tend to mouth even the dumbest points. They love what is silly—and hate what is “hard.” Gibson is paid multiple millions per year—and this is his pitiful issue.

And by the way, they can’t even get their inanities right. In her inane report about Obama’s clothes, the Washington Post’s inane Robin Givhan inanely told us that Obama “generally shuns bold red ties,” refusing to “wear patriotism on his sleeve” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/14/07). But uh-oh! As we told you at the time, Obama had appeared at the previous night’s Democratic debate—turned out in a red cravat! And as Stark’s report aired at Saturday’s debate, Obama stood in a bold red tie again. They’re inane—and they’re constantly wrong.

You can’t get dumber than these palace-dwellers. This fact won’t occur to many voters. As Dems and liberals start a new era, it’s time that bold patriots said this.

WE SIMPLY REFUSE TO BE TRUTHFUL: We don’t know Democratic strategist Peter Fenn; he seems to be a very nice person. But last night, Fenn appeared on Tucker—and the story of the past sixteen years was captured in a striking exchange, an exchange about what makes Dems “likeable.” Here’s a large chunk of this striking exchange. In our view, Fenn’s highlighted closing comment captures the past sixteen years:

CARLSON (1/7/08): Let me get right to the nub of tragedy of this impending election tomorrow. Hillary Clinton—you can say all you want, “Mark Penn did a bad job,” “they should have emphasized this rather than that.” The truth of it is—we all know this on some level—voters just like Barack Obama better. He is a more appealing figure. There’s nothing you can do to Hillary Clinton to make her more appealing than Barack Obama because she’s just not, on an elemental level. The dogs aren’t eating the dog food. That’s the bottom line in this election.

FENN: I disagree with that, Tucker. I will say this—look, you know, I —

CARLSON: Then why’s she losing?

FENN: The moment in the debate where she was asked about likeability, I thought she was absolutely terrific. I thought it was hilarious. I thought she was very funny and very self-deprecating. I thought it was a good moment. I think that people who meet her—if you talk to the little old ladies from Buffalo who were supposed to not like her when she first ran for the Senate, they do like her. They voted for her in droves.

And the non-likeability thing—I’m not defending Hillary all the way here. We have great candidates. As you know, I haven’t endorsed anybody in this thing. But I will tell you that I think it is a bum rap. You know, I think it is not fair to say that—to say that about somebody who is absolutely likeable.

CARLSON: What do you think—I’m not, I’m not saying she is a bad person. I`m merely saying he’s better than she is. That’s the bottom line.

FENN: He is very likeable. He has a great smile. He has a great way about him. I tell you, I like Barack Obama. Everybody is liking him. But the problem is you haven’t—you haven’t been—he hasn’t been bashed for 15 years by the Republicans and Fox News.

In Fenn’s last statement, you see the basic shape of Democratic politics over the course of the past sixteen years. You see a basic part of that remarkable history—our steadfast refusal to tell the truth about the shape of our politics.

For the record, we agree with the basic thrust of Carlson’s remarks: By all measures (and it’s measured endlessly), voters find Obama more “likeable” than Clinton. We also assume that Fenn is right when he says that Clinton’s a likeable person. Why, then, is she perceived as she is? Let’s reprint the remarkable thing Fenn said when he tried to explain this:

FENN: [Obama] is very likeable. He has a great smile. He has a great way about him. I tell you, I like Barack Obama. Everybody is liking him. But the problem is you haven’t—you haven’t been—he hasn’t been bashed for fifteen years by the Republicans and Fox News.

Obama has an advantage, Fenn said. Unlike Clinton, he hasn’t been bashed for the past fifteen years by Republicans—and by Fox News.

There’s a great deal of truth to what Fenn said. And there’s a great act of deception.

Let’s understand the basic shape of Fenn’s remarkable comment.

As he spoke, Fenn was appearing on MSNBC, a cable channel on which Clinton has been mercilessly bashed for the past many years. Chris Matthews, the network’s top political figure, has displayed a loathing for Hillary Clinton (and for Bill Clinton and Al Gore before her) that surpasses the boundaries of comprehension; Matthews and his NBC buddies are major opinion leaders of the mainstream, insider press corps. Meanwhile, Carlson himself has often spoken about Clinton’s castrating ways. (And about what a fake, phony asshole Gore is.) In this conduct, MSNBC has reflected the Clinton-Gore hatred that has driven so much of the mainstream press elite over the past sixteen years.
But so what? Fenn, explaining why Clinton isn’t liked, says she’s been beat up by Fox!

And there you see, in all its glory, a central deception of the past sixteen years—a lie that has been handed to voters by a long string of liberals and Dems. To this day, major Dems and major career liberals pretend that it was the “right-wing machine” which led the attacks on the Clintons and Gore. In last night’s comment, Fenn refuses to tell the truth about the main source of the Clinton/Gore-trashing. But many, many others like him have told this bogus tale through the years. To this day, they still haven’t told you the truth about the trashing of Gore. And in the course of the past few months, they’ve walked away from the truth about Clinton.

If the mainstream press corps turns on the next Dem nominee, will voters understand what they’re seeing? Or will they assume that, since it’s not Fox, the trashing must be well-founded?

The dead of Iraq are in the ground because of the story we liberals wouldn’t tell. Peter Fenn seems like a nice guy. Last night, within the context of insider Washington, he did keep himself highly likeable.