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Print view: What has Lieberman done wrong? Don't ask Slate's resident Yalie
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BAZELON AT YALE! What has Lieberman done wrong? Don’t ask Slate’s resident Yalie: // link // print // previous // next //

Long stories short: This has been a bad week for liberal journalism. We’ll restrict ourselves to two rather narrow examples.

For three nights, Rachel Maddow has thumped the tub for more coverage of the Spokane bomb incident (link below). On Wednesday night, she said this:

MADDOW (1/19/11): I still do not know why this is not a national story. This was not a theoretical bomb invented by law enforcement, that some would-be terrorists thought was real but never posed an actual threat. This was not an intended bomb poorly-constructed that would not have caused extensive damage. This was the real deal.

And so far, it has barely made a national ripple. Page A15 of the New York Times today, one wire service report.

To read that New York Times report, you can just click here.

Should Spokane be getting more coverage? So far, there really isn’t a lot to cover—unless you want to start thumping the tub about an incident which remains murky. But in fact, Maddow grossly misstated the basic facts about the coverage which had appeared to that point. According to Nexis, the story had already been reported in a large number of national newspapers by Wednesday morning—not just in the New York Times. Beyond that, it had been reported by Wednesday night on the Today show and on NBC Nightly News; on the Fox News Channel’s Special Report; on the CBS Morning News, the CBS Early Show, and the CBS Evening News (two nights); on Good Morning America, and on an array of CNN programs.

The Associated Press had filed three different reports.

Do you understand why you get handed “facts” like that? We don’t understand either. But then, how about this post by Steve Benen, in which Benen quotes from Leslie Stahl’s 1999 book, Reporting Live.

Benen presents the following excerpt, in which Stahl describes President Reagan’s bearing at a private meeting in 1986. According to Benen, this excerpt helps us grasp his key point: “I was under the impression that everyone, regardless of party or ideology, already believed Reagan's Alzheimer's symptoms were evident well before 1989.” Working tribally, Benen mocks the dumb conservatives who still won’t accept this obvious fact. Here’s the excerpt he gave to us liberals:

STAHL, AS QUOTED BY BENEN: Reagan was as shriveled as a kumquat. He was so frail, his skin was so paper-thin, I could almost see the sunlight through the back of his withered neck. His bony hands were dotted with age spots, one bleeding into another. His eyes were coated. Larry introduced us, but he had to shout. Had Reagan turned off his hearing aid?

"Mr. President!" he bellowed. "This is Lesley Stahl." He said it slowly. "Of CBS, and her husband, Aaron Latham."

Reagan didn't seem to know who I was. He gave me a distant look with those milky eyes and shook my hand weakly. Oh, my, he's gonzo, I thought. I have to go on the lawn tonight and tell my countrymen that the president of the United States is a space cadet. My heart began to hammer with the import. As the White House photographer snapped pictures of us—because this was a photo-op—I was aware of the delicacy with which I would have to write my script. But I was quite sure of the diagnosis.

Larry was shouting again, instructing the president to hand us some souvenirs. Cuff links, a White House tie tack. I felt the necessity to fill the silence. "This is my daughter, Mr. President," I said. "Taylor. She's eight." He barely responded but for a little head tilt.

Click. Click. More pictures. A flash. "When I covered Jimmy Carter," I said, "Taylor used to tell everyone that the president worked for her mommy. But from the day you moved in here, she began saying, 'My mommy works for the president.'" I wasn't above a little massaging. Was he so out of it that couldn't appreciate a sweet story that reflected well on him? Guess so. His pupils didn't even dilate. Nothing. No reaction.

Benen stops quoting Stahl at that point—right before the passage in which she describes Reagan snapping back to life and conducting a clever, informed conversation with her husband and daughter.

Irate commenters complained about Stahl, saying she should have gone on the air and announced that Reagan was senile. If you want to read Stahl’s full account, you can do so by clicking here, then using the “search inside” feature.

No, this really doesn’t matter. But Benen rolls his eyes at the hapless conservatives who refuse to accept the truth of this matter. As he does so, he offers his own cuckolded readers an utterly misleading version of Stahl’s account. We have no idea why he did this.

Why do we seem to get treated like fools in such ways? In part, we seem to like it.

Visit our incomparable archives: In 2002, Coulter ran the rubes in a different direction concerning Reagan’s alleged senility. Remember when conservatives alone toyed with rubes in these ways? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/26/02.

BAZELON AT YALE (permalink): Long ago, William F. Buckley wrote a famous critique of the intellectual culture at Yale. We thought of Buckley’s famous book when we read this remarkable piece at Slate, written by Emily Bazelon.

Poor Buckley! Here’s how Wikipedia describes his tome, God and Man at Yale:

WIKIPEDIA: Buckley wrote the book based on his undergraduate experiences at Yale University. In the book, he criticized Yale and its faculty for "forcing" liberal ideology on its students. He criticized individual professors by name for their trying to break down students' religious beliefs through their teaching. Buckley also states in the book that Yale was denying its students any sense of individualism by making them embrace the growing idea of liberalism.

We have no idea what Yale was like in 1951, when Buckley’s book appeared. But what could Yale be like today? What was it like in the 1990s, when Bazelon earned an undergraduate degree, then graduated from Yale Law School, having served as an editor of the Yale Law Review? What could Yale be like today, when Bazelon lives in New Haven with her husband, as assistant professor at Yale? (For Bazelon bio, click here.)

We ask these questions because of Bazelon’s piece at Slate—a piece which represents so much of the intellectual squalor now surrounding the liberal world. And because of her bungled piece for the New York Times magazine in 2008, a piece we’ll recall below.

What’s wrong with the upper-class liberal world? That’s a very good question! While we’re at it, what’s wrong with mainstream press organs like Slate—and with Slate’s owner, the Washington Post, which published that ludicrous, simpering piece by Amy Silverman last Sunday? (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/19/11.)

Is some undiscovered virus eating America’s upper-class brains? Go ahead—try to figure it out! Just take the Bazelon Challenge!

In her piece, Bazelon described her “loathing” for her retiring senator, Joe Lieberman. There’s a great deal to criticize about Lieberman’s performance in the past decade. (For a long list of possible offenses, see this post by Glenn Greenwald.) That said, critiques from the liberal world this week have been doctored, trivial, persistently hapless.

Yesterday morning, for example, Lieberman “kissed the Gaffney Stone” on Morning Joe; he said the Duelfer Report had concluded that Saddam Hussein “had every intention particularly to develop nuclear weapons, was developing chemical and biological weapons and had a structure in place, including nuclear scientists, that he was prepared to support if he broke out of the [U.N.] sanctions, which he was inclined to do.” As best we can tell, Lieberman overstated the findings of the Duelfer Report, but his overall description was probably more accurate than the instant debunking offered by Arianna Huffington, who called Lieberman’s statements “completely unfounded.” Was Arianna’s factual claim correct? This is part of Dana Priest’s front-page report in the Washington Post when the report was first issued:

PRIEST (10/7/04): Hussein, the report concluded, "aspired to develop a nuclear capability" and intended to work on rebuilding chemical and biological weapons after persuading the United Nations to lift sanctions. But the report also notes: "The former regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners separate from Saddam" tasked to take this up once sanctions ended.

Would that be a reason to march off to war? Around here, the answer is no. But rather than debate that seminal point in the wake of Lieberman’s statement, we liberals began to criticize him for spelling out Duelfer’s name when he spoke with Arianna—and for calling her “sweetheart.” (We liberals can still get upset by sexist behavior—if it’s done by the other tribe.) Last evening, our cable hosts thundered and raged, with Chris Matthews lodging an especially ludicrous complaint about Lieberman’s (completely conventional) use of the term “WMD.” Matthews then declared that he planned to marry Josh Marshall, who had politely agreed with every word the irate cable host had said.

Are viruses eating American brains? You can say no if you want to.

Back to Bazelon, lounging near Yale: For the record, her piece was posted one day before Lieberman kissed the Gaffney Stone. That said, she quickly displayed the fatuous frameworks which have virtually come to define upper-class “liberal” culture:

BAZELON (1/19/11): My corner of Connecticut was covered in ice today, until news broke of Sen. Joe Lieberman's impending retirement. Magically, a warm glow spread. It was a delicious feeling: the end of the reign of the politician I despise most.

Why do I loathe, loathe, loathe my 68-year-old four-term senator? My feelings are all the stronger for being fairly irrational.

Bazelon is a graduate of Yale Law School; her husband is a Yale professor. But so what? Instantly, she adopted the fashionable upper-class pose in which we delight in the fact that our judgments are largely irrational. (In fairness, this is a growing pose in the world of certain upper-class women, who follow the Ladies Dowd and Collins in chasing the once-abandoned tone of the mid-century “women’s pages.”) How silly is Bazelon willing to be? This is the way a ranking Yale graduate now talks about Major Issues:

BAZELON: It wasn't always so, at least not to me. When I first moved to Connecticut in 1989, during Lieberman's first term, he seemed entirely unobjectionable. In 1998, after I moved to the state a second time, I went to hear him speak. In 2001, I wrote a respectful piece for the Washington Post (I can't find it online) about how Lieberman's observance of Jewish law, as Al Gore's running mate, had offered a welcome means for thinking about the accommodation of religious differences. What was I thinking? How did I miss the sanctimony beneath the kippah? As my friend Caleb puts it, "Even when he was a good liberal Democrat (coming up through the state legislature and as attorney general in the '70s and '80s, for example), it was driven, I am sure, by opportunism rather than conviction."

Another friend, Judy Chevalier, burned up her iPad tonight when I asked her to enumerate why she hates Joe Lieberman. She ticked off a half-dozen reasons and then said, "The thing is, I did not come up with most of these myself. They come from many rounds of playing the peculiar Connecticut liberal cocktail party game 'I hated Joe Lieberman before you hated Joe Lieberman.' " Longtime Lieberman haters, she says, look all the way back to 1993, when Lieberman led a hedge-fund-friendly charge in the Senate against the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which at the time wanted to close the accounting loophole that let corporations duck the recording of stock options on their balance sheets.

Lazily lounging in her upper-class aerie, Bazelon offers a speculation about Lieberman’s motives in the 1970s, based on the fact that a fatuous friend has voiced this speculation. She then quotes another friend describing a game the lazy libs of this upper-class world very much like to play.

And uh-oh! When Bazelon finally seems to speak for herself, she displays the fashionable ignorance which characterized her hapless work in the Times magazine, four summers ago. There’s a great deal to criticize in Lieberman’s performance. But this was the first offence which popped into Bazelon’s mind:

BAZELON (continuing directly): More old-timer liberal grudges against Lieberman: He denounced Bill Clinton in 1998 over Monica Lewinsky, a gift to the president's enemies. He selfishly held on to his Senate seat in 2000 when he ran with Gore; if they'd won, Lieberman's replacement would have been appointed by a Republican governor. A creative grudge from Caleb: Lieberman failed to bury Dick Cheney in the vice-presidential debate in 2000 because "he clearly had no interest in showing the public what kind of leader Cheney really would be."

Caleb was mind-reading once again—and Bazelon leaped to report it. But what about the one complaint Bazelon seemed to conjure all by herself? In the world of bug-eaten liberal brains, we tend to recite the highlighted tale, in which Lieberman becomes a demon for criticizing Bill Clinton. But is that really the way it happened? Does that represent a sensible criticism? Years ago, we provided the wider record, in which a long string of major Democratic senators instantly echoed what Lieberman said, including such major liberals as Feingold, Boxer and Durbin (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/24/06). We even recalled what the late Senator Wellstone had said about Clinton’s conduct, one week before Demon Lieberman spoke. “(It's reprehensible," Wellstone had said. "I don't support it. It's not defensible.”) But so what! The Bazelons lounge in university towns, dispensing their memorized fairy tales and praising themselves for the transparent fact that their judgments are “fairly irrational.”

For whatever reason, by whatever means, this represents the reigning culture of upper-class “liberal” America. This culture leads a rag like Slate to post Bazelon’s silly yammering; this culture led the parent company, the Washington Post, to print that ludicrous piece by Silverman, in which she offered a set of ridiculous reasons to make a truly repellent claim: The state of Arizona “is ripe for a copy-cat killing.”

This week, Bazelon has merely been silly as she interrupts her other duties at Slate. (Reviewing the TV show Friday Night Lights; musing on the glories of yoga.) But this culture doesn’t restrict itself to the silly popping of bon-bons. In the summer of 2008, Bazelon committed a very serious act, writing this massively bungled, know-nothing piece for the New York Times magazine.

Long story short:

For unknown reasons, the Times had asked Bazelon, then a “legal writer,” to review the large public school system in Wake County, North Carolina (Raleigh and environs). By this time, Wake County had been conning the public for years—and the public deserved to be told that. But Bazelon got totally tooken by the powers that were.

So much for that Yale “education!”

Long story short: Passing rates in the Wake County schools had been dramatically rising, for years; Wake County kept claiming that this resulted from the way it balanced (integrated) its school populations according to social class. But uh-oh! In fact, passing rates had been rising all over the state, by almost precisely the same amounts; anyone with an ounce of technical skill—anyone with an ounce of sense—would have seen how silly it was to act as if Wake County’s improved passing rates needed a special explanation. By now, almost everyone has come to see what was blindingly obvious even then; almost certainly, the state’s passing rates had been rising so dramatically because the statewide tests had been getting easier. (Prefiguring what happened in New York State this past year, North Carolina has introduced new statewide tests in recent years—and passing rates went into free fall, once again all over the state.

Bazelon went off to North Carolina and got herself totally tooken. But then, it was only the lives of black kids which were at stake—and who gives a crap about them? At one time, we liberals said we did—but that was a very long time ago. Today, graduates of the Yale Law School lounge about New Haven eating bon-bons and boasting that their judgments are silly, irrational.

For our first post about Bazelon’s blunder, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/25/08. To see the sad state of the upper-class liberal world, read her piece from this week. Bazelon doesn’t seem to know squat about Lieberman, whose conduct calls for a serious review. But then, insects are eating the brains of the upper-class. Has there ever been a week when this was so blindingly obvious?

Buckley scalded Yale in 1951! Thank God he can’t be here today!

What followed: Bazelon is still upset about the way Lieberman criticized Clinton. For the next two years, the whole press corps made up crap about Gore. This conduct sent George Bush to the White House! Bazelon didn’t notice or say.