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Print view: A millionaire preacher saw Beelzebub when Mike Pence engaged in vile conduct
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NO SUBSTITUTE FOR THE OTHER! A millionaire preacher saw Beelzebub when Mike Pence engaged in vile conduct: // link // print // previous // next //

Bono remembers: Is it just us, or was this tribute to Sargent Shriver semi-disrespectful?

The tribute was penned by Bono, the greatest known person on earth. As he starts, the self-adoring singing star recalls the scenes of his youth:

BONO (1/20/11): The Irish are still mesmerized by the mythical place that is America, but in the ’60s our fascination got out of hand. I was not old enough to remember the sacrifices of the great generation who saved Europe in the Second World War, or to quite comprehend what was going on in Vietnam. But what I do remember, and cannot forget, is watching a man walk on the moon in 1969 and thinking here is a nation that finds joy in the impossible.

The Irish saw the Kennedys as our own royal family out on loan to America. A million of them turned out on J.F.K.’s homecoming to see these patrician public servants who, despite their station, had no patience for the status quo. (They also loved that the Kennedys looked more WASP than any “Prod,” our familiar term for Protestant.)

I remember Bobby’s rolled-up sleeves, Jack’s jutted jaw and the message—a call to action—that the world didn’t have to be the way it was. Science and faith had found a perfect rhyme.

In the background, but hardly in the shadows, was Robert Sargent Shriver. A diamond intelligence, too bright to keep in the darkness.

Really? Bono “remembers Jack’s jutted jaw?” Bono was born in May 1960, just three years before “Jack” was murdered.

The New York Times worships celebrity! How strange—to eulogize Shriver, a very good man, through the memories of a celebrity who seems to have met the subject “in the late ’90s” (Bono’s words)—a man who seems to have few real recollections to share:

BONO: Robert Sargent Shriver changed the world more than a few times and, I am happy to say, changed my world forever. In the late ’90s, when the Jubilee 2000 campaign—which aimed to cancel the debts that the poorest nations owed to the richest—asked me to help in the United States, I called on the Shriver clan for help and advice. What I got were those things in spades, and a call to arms like a thump in the back.

In the years since, Bobby Shriver—Sarge’s oldest son—and I co-founded three fighting units in the war against global poverty: DATA, ONE and (RED). We may not yet know what it will take to finish the fight and silence suffering in our time, but we are flat out trying to live up to Sarge’s drill.

I have beautiful memories of Bobby and me sitting with his father and mother at the Shrivers’ kitchen table—the same team that gazed over J.F.K.’s shoulder—looking over our paltry attempts at speechifying, prodding and pushing us toward comprehensibility and credibility, a challenge when your son starts hanging round with a bleeding-heart Irish rock star.

Really? Sargent Shriver and his wife were “the same team that gazed over J.F.K.’s shoulder?” Question: Does this column exist to lionize Shriver—or does it exist to lionize Bono? To imagine him right at JFK’s side? To praise his own vast greatness?

Sadly but plainly, the New York Times defers to celebrities and to billionaires. (Can you believe that they gave this much op-ed space to the foolish Steve Martin, on Sunday, December 4?) That said, this may be the strangest eulogy we have ever read. Meanwhile, right next door, the Lady Collins was wasting her time with her latest silly column, a column about Joseph Lieberman. Depending on your political judgments, there’s a lot to criticize about Lieberman. But Collins’ effort is basically silly—her latest burning of time.

It’s great to see that nothing is wrong with the world! That would be the judgment we reach, scanning Collins’ personality-driven piece, right next to a very strange piece in which the Times uses its space to kiss the hem of one of the world’s biggest stars.

Bono is ushered to help us recall a man he doesn’t seem to have known very well. This newspaper’s judgments can be deeply strange—except as expressions of upper-class culture, which is of course eating the world.

INSISTING ON THE OTHER (permalink): A civility variant was running amok as the ladies and gentlemen of the House debated repeal of the health care law.

On last evening’s Maddow Show, Rachel Maddow played tape of Rep. George Miller (D-CA) arguing against repeal. Maddow didn’t comment on Miller’s language, but the veteran congressman was rather plainly watching his P’s and his Q’s:

MILLER (1/19/11): Faster than a speeding rocket, faster than a speeding airplane, faster than Superman. Health care costs have gone up because of the insurance bureaucracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman’s time has expired.

In fact, the traditional language famously says that Superman is “faster than a speeding bullet.” Presumably, everyone Miller’s age would be familiar with this language. Presumably, Miller chose to adjust this language, removing imagery which could evoke, provoke, suggest or cause us to think about acts of violence.

There’s nothing “wrong” with what Miller did. Indeed, the late Abe Pollin—a good, decent man—changed the name of his Washington Bullets in 1995, for this same reason. But your nation’s tribal wars continued last night as cable hosts explored the extreme bad faith of the other tribe—as they insisted on warning their viewers about the vile, gruesome Other.

As they insisted on dumbing us down—as they kept inventing The Other. Just consider something we read in today’s New York Times.

In this news report, Jennifer Steinhauer considers the civility factor in yesterday’s House debate. Early on, she makes a subjective judgment: “The exceptions and the more openly provocative statements came mostly from the Democratic side.” In fairness, a standard “Goebbels comparison” by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) helps justify this conclusion—and later, Steinhauer balances off her subjective judgment with an especially silly description of the dynamics surrounding a statement by a freshman Republican.

On balance, Steinhauer says that “both sides for the most part avoided personal attacks of the sort that was condemned after the Arizona shootings.” In support of her judgment about good Republican conduct, she has already offered this subjective assessment:

STIENHAUER (1/20/11): If the overall tone was more subdued than it was over the last two years as the health care bill made its way through Congress and became a flash point in national politics, the substance of the debate the last two days remained so polarized that it often seemed as if members were talking about two different laws. Depending on your side of the aisle, it will either raise taxes, increase unemployment and sever the patient-doctor relationship or help heal the economy, reduce the deficit and save lives.

Largely avoiding phrases like “job killing” and rarely raising their voices, Republicans, mindful of the political penalty they might face for excessive acrimony, politely laid out their case, arguing that the law imposed too many mandates, was unconstitutional and cost too much.

Really? Republicans “largely avoided phrases like ‘job killing?’ ” We were surprised by this assessment because of the presentation we saw Maddow make last night.

Maddow has been monitoring these language choices all week. Last night, she offered an assessment that differed from Steinhauer’s view by 180 degrees:

MADDOW (1/19/11): First, we have one more thing about the Republicans’ terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad day in health reform repeal. Remember how Republicans for a couple of days stopped calling health reform “job-killing?” In the wake of Tucson, they took “killing” out of the way they were talking about this. They started calling it “job-destroying” instead of “job-killing.”

Now apparently, though, that’s over. Today, they went back to saying “killing” all the time:


REP. JOHN KLINE (R-MN): We find that incredible, that repealing this job-killing legislation is actually going to cost us money. They support repeal of this job-killing legislation.

REP. JOE PITTS (R-PA): The costs of leaving this job-killing health care law in effect are much too high.

REP. LYNN JENKINS (R-KS): Additional job-killing taxes, it was irresponsible to pass this massive job-killing plan.

(end of videotape)

MADDOW: Not to be outdone by all the “killing” talk, Congressman Mike Pence of Wants To Be Presidentville decided today that not only wasn’t it too soon to bring back all the “killing” talk in Congress, he decided it was also not too soon for this:

Before we show you what Pence said, let’s ponder that assessment by Maddow.

Steinhauer says in this morning’s Times that Republicans “largely avoided phrases like ‘job-killing.’ ” But according to Maddow, Republicans used that specific phrase “all the time.” We can’t find a transcript of the House debate to let us quantify this dispute. But to support her sweeping claim, Maddow presented three examples—which doesn’t mean that there may not have been many more, ofcourse.

So who do you trust in this dispute—the lady or the tiger? Forgive us if we’re somewhat skeptical about Maddow’s sweeping assessment. As she continued, she grew a bit histrionic, letting us know how vastly wrong it was when Pence said the vile thing he said. We’ll supply the stage directions as liberals are turned into fools:

MADDOW: Not to be outdone by all the “killing” talk, Congressman Mike Pence of Wants To Be Presidentville decided today, not only wasn’t it too soon to bring back all the “killing” talk in Congress, he decided it was also not too soon for this:

PENCE (videotape): Today, House Republicans are going to stand with the American people and vote to repeal their government takeover of health care lock, stock and barrel.

MADDOW: (Meaningful semi-pause) Congressman Mike Pence, everybody. (Meaningfully drumming fingers on table) Congressman Mike Pence.

Maddow helped us see how horrid it was that Pence said this bad, awful thing.

For ourselves, we weren’t troubled by Pence’s conduct, but we think Maddow’s conduct was sad. Should Pence have cleaned that figure of speech from his statement? Did it even occur to him that this was a type of gun reference? We have no idea what went through his head, but Maddow’s insistence on playing Church Lady struck us as utterly silly—and as borderline evil. In our view, Maddow was teaching viewers how to hate—and how to be massively dumb.

We humans love inventing The Other. We love inventing Demon Zona; we love to scold vile figures like Pence, drumming our fingers on our tables as we display our mock anger. Barack Obama recently said that we should “expand our moral imaginations”—but imagination was working in other ways as we liberals were handed our demons last night. Olbermann has once again dropped his “Worst Persons” segment, possibly so he can’t be (unfairly) blamed if the next person to pick up a gun is someone who has been watching his overwrought conduct. But he was riled up last night too. He was angry at Vile Demon Joe—slamming him, among other things, for supporting the Bush tax cuts:

OLBERMANN (1/19/11): On tax policies, unlike JFK, Mr. Lieberman, like Mr. Bush, supported taxing the rich at the lowest rates they could get, about half of the 65 percent rate favored by President Kennedy.

For more on Mr. Lieberman’s parting claim that the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in himself but in us, here is MSNBC contributor Dave Weigel, also political reporter for

Good evening, Dave.

WEIGEL: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Lieberman’s standard formulation is that he was a Republican on foreign policy and a Democrat on domestic—except for the estate tax, the Bush tax cuts, school vouchers, gay marriage, homeland security, the public option, the Medicare buy-in, privatizing Social Security and tort reform. Did I leave anything off the list?

WEIGEL: That was almost complete.

Except that Lieberman voted against Bush’s 2001 tax cuts—and against Bush’s 2003 tax cuts. This year, he initially favored extending the upper-end tax rates for one year, while saying he wouldn’t filibuster a bill which extended the Bush tax rates at the lower levels. (In November, he said this to the Washington Post: "I think there's a reality here, which is that while it might be best to continue the middle-class tax cuts and raise taxes on higher-income people, the votes are not there to do that.”)

There’s more. In 2005, Lieberman opposed Bush’s proposal for private accounts in Social Security. (In March of that year, he joined 42 Democratic senators in a letter urging the president ''to publicly and unambiguously announce that you reject privatized accounts funded with Social Security dollars.” The proposal never came to a vote.)

More questions: Did Lieberman oppose the Democratic Party on gay marriage? We don’t really know what that means; to this day, President Obama doesn’t support gay marriage, like all presidential-level Democrats before him. Earlier, Olbermann, employing his best angry voice, trashed Lieberman for his un-JFK-like stands on “civil rights for Muslims”—failing to note that Obama is un-JFK-like here too.

For the purpose of last night’s demon fest, Olbermann even pretended to care about school vouchers. Manifestly, he doesn’t—but the gent has a job to perform.

There are many things to criticize when it comes to Lieberman, but KO decided to gambol and play—while feigning anger, of course. But then, a great deal of clowning could be observed on this news channel last evening. This clowning makes liberals and Democrats dumber. It burns up time which could be used for seeking winning approaches.

Does it teach us liberals to hate?

Was Maddow teaching her tribe to hate? We humans love inventing the demon. Verily, a millionaire preacher saw Beelzebub when Mike Pence emitted some very vile words on the floor of the House, in debate.