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THE DEAN OF ALL MEMORY LOSS! David Broder failed to recall one source of past partisan warfare: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JANUARY 23, 2009

“Some” have been “saying” again: In today’s Post, it has finally happened: “Some” have reached the front-page headlines! “Some” appear in the following headlines—headlines which sit atop Anne Kornblut’s “news report:”

Does a Glass Ceiling Persist in Politics?
Kennedy’s Withdrawal Illustrates a Double Standard, Some Say

Somehow, it’s fitting to see a Kornblut “news report” headlined with a question mark. At any rate, “some” had been “saying” something. So Kornblut typed it up!

For the record, what exactly had “some” been saying? This is how the scribe began in our hard-copy Post:

KORNBLUT (1/23/09): With her abrupt exit this week from consideration for the Senate, Caroline Kennedy added her name to a growing list: women who have sought the nation's highest offices only to face insurmountable hurdles.

Like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin before her, Kennedy illustrated what some contend is an enduring double standard in the handling of ambitious female office-seekers. Even as more women step forward as contenders for premier political jobs, observers say, few seem able to get there.

“Some” say “few” can get there!

For our money, “some” make a fairly shaky case in this “news report.” (No, the piece isn’t labeled “analysis.”) And it didn’t take long for Kornblut to offer some trademark puzzling prose:

KORNBLUT (continuing directly): In less than two months, Kennedy, 51, was transformed from a beloved, if elusive, national icon into a laughingstock in the New York media, mocked for her verbal tics and criticized for her spotty voting record. After she withdrew from consideration, speculation floated that she had done so to avoid discussion of an illegal nanny and back taxes, charges that people close to Kennedy disputed and that Paterson's office indicated in a statement yesterday were not factors. Paterson plans to name a successor today to Clinton, who vacated the Senate seat to become President Obama’s secretary of state.

Say what? Those charges “were not factors” in what? In her report, Kornblut says Kennedy withdrew her name from consideration, not that Paterson rejected her. How then is “Paterson’s office” able to tell us what the “factors” were?

Puzzling. But then, Kornblut’s work rarely makes much sense, except when she’s channeling disinformation straight from fevered Jim Nicholson. But she did know one thing to bury in her report, the one which appears in our hard-copy Post. As she chronicled the way “some say” that Kennedy got shafted because she’s a woman, she waited until the final graf to mention what everyone already knew: That Paterson was preparing to name another woman to the seat. “Some” had been “saying” that too—but it didn’t seem to fit Korny’s brief.

Did Kennedy get trashed because she’s a woman? We think the case is rather weak. But readers, so what? “Some” had “said!”

For an updated version of Kornblut’s report, you know what to do: Just click here.

Then there’s Milbank: Then there’s Milbank, whose principal job seems to involve making Kornblut seem sharp by comparison.

Today, the Skull-and-Bonesman goes to a familiar spot—to the dumbest f*cking place on the earth. Wars, financial meltdown, torture? Things like that don’t move this man. Instead, that question by Chuck Todd does. Milbank, you see, is troubled today by Robert Gibbs’ maiden press conference:

MILBANK (1/23/09): ...he'll have to spice up his act a bit. For the voice of an administration that came to office promising openness and transparency, he instead sounded, well, abundantly cautious.

"Out of an abundance of caution, Chief Justice Roberts came last night to readminister the oath," after he flubbed the swearing-in on Tuesday, Gibbs reported. "There are at least two examples in history where words have been misplaced in the oath and, again, out of an abundance of caution, a similar abundance of caution, the oath was readministered."

NBC's Chuck Todd asked whether Obama would re-sign the executive orders he issued "out of that same abundance of caution."

Gibbs repeated his view that the oath was redone only "out of an abundance of caution" and that no such caution is required for executive orders. "Out of an abundance of caution," he said once more, "the oath was readministered.”

Wars, financial meltdown, torture? Who cares about things like that? Milbank’s concerned with a different question: When Obama retook his oath Wednesday night, why in tarnation didn’t he re-sign that executive order?

You’ll have to read Milbank’s entire piece to appreciate the depth of the foolishness. For ourselves, we think it’s pretty silly that our old pal Chuck even wasted his time with that question. But only Milbank would take it and run, turning it into the starting-point for a plaintive cry of the heart. Complete financial meltdown? War? Who could possibly care about that?

Here’s the one good thing we’ll say about Milbank: He directs his persistent inanity (and his selective reporting) at targeted figures from both major parties. And oh yes—he makes Anne Kornblut seem sharp. It takes a real Bonesman to do it.

THE DEAN OF ALL MEMORY LOSS: Like us, David Broder thought he saw the end of a 16-year era as Obama entered the White House this week. More specifically, Broder said this in Thursday’s column: “[Obama’s] rapid rise from obscurity to the presidency may signal at least a cease-fire in the hyperpartisan warfare that consumed Washington during the 16 years of the Clinton and Bush presidencies.”

Broder thought he was seeing a new world order; the “hyperpartisan warfare” was gone! But uh-oh! Needless to say, a major group was MIA when Broder described that past warfare—the warfare Obama might be spared. Our question: As he recalls the Bush/Clinton years, which major group does Broder forget to include in his sweeping tableau?

BRODER (1/22/09): The second reason that Obama may see his hope fulfilled is generational. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush—our two baby boomer presidents after a string of chief executives stretching back to John F. Kennedy who were youths during the Depression and veterans of World War II—were cursed by their times.

They came of age politically in the 1960s—the time of the racial revolution, the women's revolution, abortion battles and, most of all, Vietnam. Years after that war ended, Clinton and Bush and their opponents were still debating in their presidential campaigns what they had done back then. Time never healed the wounds of their generation, and they could never earn the trust of those on the other side.

Obama, by virtue of his birth date and birthplace, is spared the psychological burden of those battles. He simply has no dog in those fights...

According to Broder, “Clinton and Bush and their opponents” kept kicking that baby-boom blather around. But wouldn’t you know it? He completely forgot to mention the role played by his cohort—the press!

At least he didn’t project the whole thing onto those “late-night comedians!”

For what it’s worth, Broder’s memory is a bit weak about Bush’s first White House campaign, the one he waged from June 1999 through November 2000. In fact, “what Bush had done” during Vietnam was almost completely ignored in that race; Dan Rather butchered the topic in the fall of 2004 because CBS, like almost every major news org, completely ignored Bush’s military record during Campaign 2000 (links below). They ignored this topic even after it became clear that basic questions had been raised about Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard. (Bush’s “opponents,” the Gore campaign, rarely mentioned this topic either.) But in 1992, Clinton’s Vietnam conduct was widely debated, along with his alleged puffs of marijuana—Mary Jane, herb, smoke, cannabis, weed. Yes, this was aggressively done by Clinton’s opponents. It was also pursued in the press.

But then, the press was on a mission back then. A bit of a personal story from the early days—1987:

In 1987, the press corps was on a Great Character Hunt—and Big Dem hopefuls were dropping like flies. Gary Hart had to quit the Dem race; a few months later, so did Joe Biden. Whatever one thinks of those episodes, they did seem to point to a new press culture, in which journalists would beat the bushes, helping elucidate candidates’ “character.” Because we’d been college friends of another Dem hopeful, we happened to get an early look at where this culture led.

In 1987, Al Gore was seeking the Dem nomination—and our phone was ringing surprisingly often. In all candor, it would be hard to overstate the sheer inanity of some of the questions journalists asked. The scribes were eager to figure out what the 19-year-old Gore might have done to showcase the troubling flaws in his character. Did he do drugs? It was endlessly asked. And no, this wasn’t his “opponents” asking this question (and many others). It was the mainstream press.

How silly could the snipe hunt get? We’ve never forgotten the silliest question one of the journalists asked us that year. No, we’re really not making this up. At one point, this question was offered:

TELEPHONIC INQUIRY (1987 or 1988): Did he ever use a hotplate in the dorm room?

No, we aren’t making that up. Apparently, hotplates in dorm rooms were against Harvard rules—and an inquiring mind was eager to know if the senator ever had gone there. (We don’t recall who this was. We weren’t press-watchers back then)

In fairness, this journalist might even have heard a bit of an actual, real-life story. During our senior year in college (1968-69), an old friend from our California high school came to spend several months in our rooms. (It wasn’t Sivils; he came in April.) And by the way, did we mention the state and the year? This visiting scholar was macrobiotic; he cooked his brown rice every day on a hotplate right there in our room. (We had a single room that year—no roommates. This was done so seniors could focus on how to “get out of” Vietnam,) We don’t recall knowing that hotplates were illegal, nor are we sure that they actually were. But one on occasion, the chef’s attention wandered a bit, and a great deal of acrid smoke was produced by a pot of burning rice. Who knows? It may be that someone recalled this incident and somehow mistakenly tied it to Gore. But at any rate, there was a journalist, on the line, asking if the White House hopeful had ever been linked to a hotplate!

Obviously, it would be hard to overstate the foolishness of this question. (Given the well-known practices of the 1960s, we also marveled at the questions these inquiring minds didn’t ask.) But this, it seemed, was the press corps’ new culture. In an earlier era, they sat about and picked their teeth while President Kennedy gamboled and played. Now, they wanted to get the straight dope about any hotplate usage! They now could see that such a foul deed might give us a glimpse of Gore’s character!

Clinton ran four years later. Tortured inquiries about his “character” ran down like rain. On Thursday, Broder remembered that this “warfare” occurred—but as is so often the case with his cohort, he absent-mindedly forgot one group which had been driving these questions. At any rate: Within a few years of Clinton’s election, Broder’s cohort was trashing both Clintons, in ways which should have been startling (Hillary never cheered for the Yankees!)—and they were inventing a long string of tales about Gore. Broder, of course, forgets about this. And to this day, the “career liberal” world has agreed not to mention it either.

Broder can see that this kind of warfare isn’t being aimed at Obama. (Mistakenly, he seems to think that this kind of warfare was aimed at Candidate Bush.) He invents an explanation: Obama isn’t a Nam-era boomer. But there are plenty of pointless topics which could be used to wage war on Obama. For whatever reason, the culture has changed for the nonce—and, of course, for the better.

As we’ve told you: The grinding nonsense of the Clinton/Gore years may return once Obama has cured the economy (assuming he’s able to do so). Yesterday, Broder absent-mindedly forgot to mention one major group which engaged in those wars. But then, the “career liberal” world has largely agreed to play this game too. You see, career liberal leaders ran and hid all through the wars against Clinton and Gore. They still play key roles in the “liberal” world—and they and their hirelings don’t seem inclined to review this unflattering history. Just read again what Ezra Klein correctly wrote, at the start of that Prospect piece (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/21/09). If what he wrote is true (and it is), this plainly explains how Bush got to the White House. And career liberals still won’t say it!

Go ahead! Just name the players who have ever connected those perfectly obvious, bone-simple dots! We’ve laid it out again and again—and in truth, it’s perfectly obvious, given the accuracy of what Ezra wrote. But you simply can’t get these players to go there. They seem to know that it just isn’t done.

It will be easier for the millionaire mainstream press corps to turn back against Major Dems some day, inventing more ludicrous “character tales”—because, in this day, it isn’t just Broder who’s keeping average folk in the dark. Readers! Kevin still has no idea how George Bush ever got to the White House! But then, the whole “liberal” world is still looking away from the accurate thing Ezra said.

Dean Broder had memory problems this week. But then too, he gets lots of help. Look inside the liberal world’s “sphere of deviance.” History is what you’ll find.

Visit our incomparable archives: During Campaign 2000, how thoroughly did mainstream news orgs ignore the questions about Bush and the Guard? They ignored these questions mightily; this explains why Rather’s cosmic bungle only occurred in 2004. For our four-part report on that matter, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/8/03. For links to all three previous reports, click there, then scroll on down. Beyond that, search on “Turnipseed” for reports from 2004.