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JOSH SHOWS UP TEN YEARS LATER! Josh Marshall, throwing hay to the rubes, finally shows up—ten years later: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JANUARY 25, 2008

FRONT-RUNNER FOLLIES: Omigod! Even when Saint John McCain seemed to lie, Russert failed to follow up! It seemed to us that something had changed since October 30. More to follow.

By the way: McCain and Giuliani have paraded about, saying that lower tax rates produce higher revenues. That’s like saying the earth is flat. How did you like it when Russert and Williams held their feet to the fire about that one? But then, you pretty much knew how Tim and Bri would react to such scripted deception.

JOSH SHOWS UP TEN YEARS LATER: Simply put, there are no words. Unless someone has hacked into TPM, John Marshall offered this remarkable post at 10:39 PM. Last night:

MARSHALL (1/24/08): If you're watching the post-game on MSNBC, Matthews' inner Clinton-hating id has been released. And yes, I know you thought he'd given it full rein before.

His headline: “CHRIS MATTHEWS ON CATNIP”

Simply put, there are no words. It’s hard to find the words to explain—well, there are few words with which we can explain our reaction to that paragraph.

A bit of background: Our opinion of Josh has dropped and dropped over the past several years. In our view, he was out there in the summer of 2002, saying things he knew were untrue, and he has refused to tell you, over the years, about the real shape of your politics. (Today’s post in an example.) With growing surprise, we’ve watched him turn himself into the Inconsequential Republican Blow-Job Police, presumably as a way to throw bones to his readers, whom he apparently takes to be dimwits. (If we may borrow from the Steinbeck: Whenever an inconsequential state senator gives someone a blow job, Josh will be there.) A few months ago, we reviewed his work from 1999 and 2000, and we were truly stunned by its brilliance—stunned because we’d grown accustomed to the dumbed-down version of Josh we’d been reading over the past several years.

But last night’s post really does take the cake for disingenuous running of rubes. With this post, Josh sends his readers a message: Hey, you big dumb f*cking rubes!

Here’s some background to Josh’s post—and to our reaction:

In the past few weeks, liberals and progressives have discovered Chris Matthews. But as Josh has always known, Matthews’ loathsome Clinton-hating has been abundantly, crazily clear for at least the past decade—for roughly the past dozen years. (Thanks to careful “leaders” like Josh, we liberals catch on very slowly.) It took its most destructive form in Matthews’ endless trashing of Candidate Gore during Campaign 2000—something Josh knows all about. We documented this in real time—and we’ve continued to do so, in “almost insane detail,” in the years since that campaign ended. And yes, Matthews’ insults and lying were simply stunning during this history-changing war. One example: In July 2000, the Project for Excellence in Journalism released this startling if bungled study of the way the “character issue” was being covered in the spring of 2000, as the War Against Gore reached full fury (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/20/02). Candidate Bush was getting massively better treatment than Candidate Gore, the Project said it had found. And surprise! At one point, the Project went out of its way to cite the work of just one cable gong-show:

PROJECT FOR EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM (7/00): Television played a big role in conveying the scandal theme [about Gore], especially TV talk shows. Fully 17 percent of the statements about Gore's ties to scandal came from just one prime-time talk program, Hardball with Chris Matthews on CNBC.

Two years later—two years too late—Josh ran onto CNN to make an accurate statement about the press corps’ attitudes in this campaign. “I think deep down most reporters just have contempt for Al Gore. I don’t even think it’s dislike. It’s more like a disdain and contempt,” he said. “And this was, you know, a year-and-a-half before the [2000] election, I think you could say this.” In fact, the trashing of Gore started twenty months out; but aside from that minor book-keeping point, Josh’s statement was perfectly accurate—right straight on the money. And no one played a bigger role in this remarkable story than Matthews, who had transferred his earlier, blatant Clinton-hating into his vicious Gore-trashing. And by the way: If you think Josh somehow didn’t know this, we have a yellow brick road to the Bridge to Nowhere that we’d be willing to sell you.

Basic history: Matthews was an overt Clinton-hater long before the War Against Gore. Like the rest of his dumb, trashy cohort, he simply transformed his Clinton-hatred into that open “contempt” for Gore. Josh has known this all these years—and, for reasons we can’t explain, he has been massively quiet about it. (By the way: In 2004, some voters swallowed the swift-boat campaign about Kerry because they hadn’t ever been told about the swift-boat campaign against Gore.)

Silent during Campaign 2000. And silent about Campaign 2000 in the critical years which followed. Silent about Matthews’ gender-based trashing of Hillary Clinton during 2007. Why, Josh even kept quiet as he live-blogged the October 30 debate, as Russert and Williams pig-piled on Clinton, completely transforming the Dem White House race; somehow, he just failed to see it. And now, because it’s finally safe and completely conventional, Josh is handing his readers this snark. Of Matthews’ Clinton-hatred, he now says this: “I know you thought he'd given it full rein before”—failing to tell them how long ago he himself could have warned them about it.

We can’t tell you why Josh has played this game, but his persistent failure to lead has been deep and consequential. But then, Josh has hardly been alone in this gut-bucket conduct. A very long line of housebroken “good liberals” have kept their delicate traps tightly shut about the mainstream press corps’ conduct over the past dozen years. They’ve done what’s safe; they’ve protected their careers. And they gave you the dead of Iraq.

This morning, E. J. Dionne—a higher-placed version of Josh—shows what we mean by that.

Omigod! Finally, E. J. is ready to tattle about the press corps’ “irrational Clinton hatred!” But omigod! What cowards they be! He does so only as a throw-away in a safe and conventional column about the Clintons’ vile conduct. After typing some perfect conventional wisdom, E. J. the Brave hands you this:

DIONNE (1/25/08): Let's grant the Clintons their claims: The press is tougher on Hillary Clinton than it is on Barack Obama; the old, irrational Clinton hatred is alive and well in certain parts of the media; Hillary Clinton gets hit harder when she criticizes Obama than Obama does when he goes after her.

Let's further stipulate that Obama's formulation—he said Reagan "changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not"—was guaranteed to enrage the former president. In Democratic circles, associating someone with Nixon is akin to a Roman comparing an emperor with Caligula.

None of it justifies the counterproductive behavior.

We offer a chunk of E. J.’s piece—but it’s the highlighted section we ask you to ponder. As we do, we’ll suggest that you note the “Clintonian” way E. J. brings down his rough judgment.

Finally! Ten to fifteen years later, E. J. finally notices something about “certain parts of the media.” Omigod! Fifteen years after the Whitewater hoaxings; fifteen years after the murder charges (later rerun on Hardball, of course); eight years after the war against Clinton’s vice president (the one who’s now honored all over the world); after a full year of rank gender-trashing; E. J. finally notes a few facts about “certain parts” of his cohort! Finally! “The press is tougher on Hillary Clinton than it is on Barack Obama,” he finally tells us; “the old, irrational Clinton hatred is alive and well in certain parts of the media.” But isn’t it just like a gut-bucket coward? Absent-mindedly, E. J. completely forgets to tell readers which “parts of the media” he is discussing! He doesn’t tell them he means Chris Matthews (on whose show he’s a regular guest); he doesn’t say that he means Maureen Dowd—or perhaps the sneering, simpering Kornblut, of his very own newspaper. Like so many others before him, E. J. simply forgets to say who he’s actually talking about! And many readers will therefore think this: Surely, he must mean Fox—and Rush! He must mean the “right-wing press corps.”

In these ways, our leaders maintain their place in the klub, while issuing a few worthless peeps—a dozen years later, of course. In this way, your most vital interests have been sent down the drain, thrown like dust into the wind. In this way, Bush ended up in the White House. In this way, Dionne’s cohort got to enact their “irrational hatred” over the course of a good many years. Carefully failing to name any names, E. J. pipes up today. Finally!

Irrational Clinton-hatred? It had been locked into place by the mid-1990s—but just like Josh, E. J. watched his cohort go after Gore, and he chose to keep quiet. And just like E. J., Josh has kept his mouth shut about this matter right up to this dying day. And now, in history’s most disingenuous paragraph, he runs to catch up with conventional wisdom. Let us marvel, once again, at how disingenuous a paragraph can be:

MARSHALL (1/24/08): If you're watching the post-game on MSNBC, Matthews' inner Clinton-hating id has been released. And yes, I know you thought he'd given it full rein before.

That’s cute. “Yes, I know,” Josh tells his readers. In fact, Josh has “known” for a very long time; he just didn’t choose to tell. Years of careful silence are masked by the gentleman’s statement.

We’ll suspend further operation today so you can gaze on the way your world works. Have you ever seen a paragraph so fake? In which a leader ran so hard to get in front of his restive admirers?

AN IMPORTANT POINT TO CONSIDER: None of what follows is meant as a criticism of Clinton or Obama; this is about the work of the press corps. But Dionne cites a second important fact, even as he forgets to say who he’s talking about. Focus again on this statement: “Hillary Clinton gets hit harder when she criticizes Obama than Obama does when he goes after her.”

Huh! No, really—that’s intriguing! What could he mean by that?

This isn’t a criticism of Obama or Clinton; this is a comment about the way the press corps rations your “information.” We’d planned to explore that very matter today—but we think Josh deserves special attention. We’ll plan now to start there on Monday.

To what might E. J.’s statement refer? We’ll enthusiastically support Obama or Clinton. But if you want to know how the world works, we think E. J. has made an important point—a point that deserves explication.

NOW ALLEGEDLY COMING MONDAY: As Paula Poundstone used to say: Apparently, we can’t have nice things! Now coming Monday: A special Monday edition of “Philosophy Fridays.” Next Friday: A first “brush with greatness.”