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IT’S THE STUPIDITY, STUPID! Meyerson lodges our nastiest charge—and shows us the shape of our problem: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2008

IT TAKES A (CONSERVATIVE) VILLAGER: Uh-oh! Howard Kurtz was describing the press corps’ “blowout coverage” of Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama. Along the way, he quoted a conservative Village insider:

KURTZ (2/4/08): “A lot of journalists have shining memories of JFK and Bobby, and always hoped someone would recapture it," says National Review Editor Rich Lowry. " 'Passing the torch'—that gets all the high-end pundits really excited. With average voters, I can't believe that makes much of a difference."

At the same time, says Lowry, "the press hates Hillary. There's real glee over the prospect of being done with the Clintons."

Wow! For what it’s worth, it was fairly clear that Lowry was talking about the mainstream press. It was hard not to think about what E. J. Dionne had said in the Post just last week:

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.

This has nothing to do with the actual merits of Clinton and Obama. (Our reaction to the last debate: It’s a shame that one of these two has to lose.) But these statements clearly are relevant to a very important question: Who might be more electable?

So yes, this is a vital topic. But isn’t it odd? That so many well-placed Village People openly cite the media’s “hatred”—but it never seems to rise to the level of an open discussion? That even our greatest liberal leaders (see below) seem to avoid this terrain? That this has gone on for sixteen years—and our “leaders” still avoid it?

IT’S THE STUPIDITY, STUPID: There’s no real doubt that Harold Meyerson is one of our most brilliant liberal leaders. Indeed, Meyerson has often acknowledged this fact himself, if sometimes by indirection. In last Wednesday’s Washington Post, for example, he told us about his year-long colloquy with Michael Walzer, “our nation’s preeminent political philosopher;” in these discussions, the twinned savants had tried to determine whether Clinton or Obama has the better shot at winning the White House.

A few days later, Meyerson took to the pages of Tapped, where he defended a judgment he’d made with the help of another exceptional friend. Once again, he let us know how impressive he and his friends are:

MEYERSON (2/1/08): [M]y friend is very savvy about the kinds of things that go on in Los Angeles-area elections. As am I. I was the political editor of the L.A. Weekly for 14 years. I am still the L.A. Times' go-to guest writer when they want pieces on L.A. politics for the Sunday Opinion section.

Impressive, if he does say so himself. Meanwhile, in an earlier post which he was defending, Meyerson had told us more about his very savvy pal: “My friend, I should say, is a notable political figure in L.A. who lives in a very upscale neighborhood...”

We’re selectively editing that last quote a tad, as you will see in the full quote which follows. But surely, we liberals should thank our lucky stars that individuals of this high caliber are willing to help us puzzle out the questions surrounding our White House elections. And we can feel certain of one thing: Surely, a man of such brilliance and savvy as Meyerson will always be extremely careful in his political judgments.

Which brings us around to the gruesome bad judgment Harold Meyerson has shown. Once again.

What are our liberal intellectual leaders really like? Over the course of the past many years, why have progressive and Dem Party interests been in such constant political peril? To examine those critical questions, let’s consider the gruesome thing this self-admitted savant has done. As we do, let’s focus on one major point: Let’s notice how stupid you have to be to behave like this great liberal giant.

What was Meyerson defending in the post from which we have quoted? He was defending an earlier post—a post he offered beneath the following headline, a headline which appeared in bold caps:

HILLARY PLAYS THE RACE CARD

Wow! That’s the ugliest charge you can make in our politics—and there was this man of such great savvy making it! Surely, this giant must have had very strong evidence before he wrote that headline.

Not.

Not! Sadly, Meyerson had no reason to think that Clinton had “play[ed] the race card.” As he would later admit, he had no reason to make that nasty charge. Why have liberal interests been in such peril over the course of the past many years? In part, because those interests have been defended by “intellectual leaders” like this.

Simply put, how big a dumb-ass is Harold Meyerson? For now, we’ll leave aside the honesty question; what follows is the original post this great liberal savant posted at Tapped. Let’s just say it: After twenty years of Lee Atwater politics, a progressive has to be a consummate dumb-ass to author a judgment like this. What follows is pure political porn—and a portrait of our side’s greatest problem:

HILLARY PLAYS THE RACE CARD.

I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles this morning when what can only be described as a Clinton Dirty Trick intruded upon us. My friend, I should say, is a notable political figure in L.A. who lives in a very upscale neighborhood—one in which few African Americans reside—and is a Clinton supporter (he greeted me holding a Hillary lawn sign).

We were sitting in his kitchen when the phone rang. He answered it and looked startled. On the line, he said the moment he hung up, was a high-decibel gentleman with a very exaggerated, old style—Amos 'n Andy, in fact—black pattern of speech, singing the praises of Barack Obama. When I lived in L.A., I occasionally got calls that purported to be from one campaign but were actually from another, presumably pitched to the leading ethnic group in my neighborhood (Jewish), but calculated to inflame Jews against the candidate the caller claimed to support. Looks like the same thing is happening now in selected neighborhoods as a Clinton ploy against Obama.

With the race narrowed down to two candidates, deniability is getting harder. And if this call was what it seemed to be, it looks like the Clinton campaign, or that of one of the groups campaigning on her behalf, is playing the race card discreetly—and despicably.

—Harold Meyerson

Let’s say it again, because this is important: After twenty years of Lee Atwater-Karl Rove politics, a progressive has to be a total dumb-ass to author a post like that.

What’s so perfectly dumb about that? Let’s examine what happened:

First, we’ll assume that Meyerson isn’t lying—that this incident really occurred. For the sake of argument, we’ll assume that Meyerson’s friend interpreted this phone call correctly—that this really was a “dirty trick” call, in which someone was playing an ugly old race card. (For the sake of the record, we’ll note that Meyerson authored this post about a call he himself hadn’t heard.)

So we’re assuming that someone did play a race card, in a famous and ugly and tragic old manner. But: After twenty years of Atwater-Rove, note the absolute grinding dumbness of the first thing Meyerson says:

MEYERSON: I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles this morning when what can only be described as a Clinton Dirty Trick intruded upon us.

It can only be described as a Clinton Dirty Trick! What have we meant when we’ve told you, down through the years, that your liberal “intellectual leaders” are really as dumb as a bag of old rocks? That, right there, is what we have meant! Even after the past twenty years, it didn’t enter this old coot’s head that this might be a Rove Dirty Trick! After two decades in which Dem Party leaders have been Willie Hortoned, Whitewatered, Gored and Swift-Boated, it still doesn’t enter this genius’ mind that Karl Rove likes to play dirt-ball politics! That this call might not have come from the Dem Party side. That it wasn’t from Hillary Clinton!

It’s almost impossible to be that dumb—unless you’re part of the “mainstream press corps,” and a “liberal intellectual leader” to boot. It’s very hard to be that dumb—but our leaders pull it off every time.

Did Karl Rove have something to do with that phone call? Like Meyerson, we don’t have the slightest idea. That’s why you haven’t see a bold, all-caps headline on our site saying this: ROVE PLAYS THE RACE CARD. But Meyerson, one of our brainiest leaders, ran to make the nastiest charge in our politics. And of course, he didn’t make it against Karl Rove. He made it against a Major Democrat—even though he had no reason to think that she was involved in what happened.

HILLARY PLAYS THE RACE CARD, he wrote. Although he knew no such thing.

And then, after that, the great man began lying. At Tapped, readers complained about his nasty charge, and Meyerson proceeded to do what comes naturally. Tapped “edited” (cleaned up) his original post, and, in Meyerson’s second post, he misrepresented what he had originally said. So it goes when our “liberal leaders” have to respond to unwashed liberal masses. For a full play-by-play of the great man’s three posts, we recommend this post by Taylor Marsh, or this post by Media Matters. Yes, you’ll note the dishonesty here. But we advise to you to focus elsewhere.

Tomorrow, we’ll continue with this topic. But please understand this one basic thought: It’s the stupidity, stupid!

Readers, are you really surprised that your “liberal leaders” haven’t noticed the mainstream press corps’ wars against Clinton/Gore/Clinton? Good God! Why expect them to notice anything? After twenty long years of Atwater-Rove, these very savvy leaders still haven’t noticed the basic shape of modern Republican politics!

Are you surprised that progressive interests have been in such peril down through the years? When people of Meyerson’s obvious brilliance have been shaping our liberal conceptions?

TOMORROW: There’s more where this savvy man comes from.

OH, FREEDOM: Our analysts simply love the way our liberal intellectual leaders “think.” Here, again, is the deathless sentence which ended Meyerson’s original post—the one he later “edited:”

MEYERSON: And if this call was what it seemed to be, it looks like the Clinton campaign, or that of one of the groups campaigning on her behalf, is playing the race card discreetly—and despicably.

Sentences starting with “if” can be fun! Why, this would be another example of that useful genre:

SAMPLE SENTENCE: And if Harold Meyerson has been robbing banks and shooting the tellers, then he’s a viciously murderous bank robber.

Oh, freedom! The world can be any way we like—if we just start off with “if.”

JUST NOTICED THIS POST: By Scott Lemieux, who actually is a savvy observer. We’re big fans of Lemieux around here. We’ll respond tomorrow.