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Daily Howler: Post ''liberals'' routinely pander to cons. ''Liberal spokesmen'' all know not to say so
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SHIP OF FOPS! Post “liberals” routinely pander to cons. “Liberal spokesmen” all know not to say so: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2005

PART 4 TOMORROW: Our fact-finding tour of red-state America robbed us of our prep time this weekend. Tomorrow, we continue to examine the way your “liberal spokesmen” bungled the Dan Rather episode. For ten years, the press corps battered, first Clinton, then Gore—but pseudo-cons still get to yell “liberal bias!” How can this odd situation obtain? We start playing rough on the morrow.

SHIP OF FOPS: Yes, it’s truly amazing that pseudo-con spinners can still decry that “liberal” press corps. Just consider three different pieces in this morning’s Washington Post.

First: On the paper’s op-ed page, “liberal” pundit William Raspberry is making his latest confession. I got suckered by Alan Greenspan, the credulous Post liberal says. At long last, Raspberry says that Greenspan “does appear to be acting more as apologist for the Bush administration than as wise and independent elder.” But the fiery liberal was slow to suspect, as he himself relates:

RASPBERRY (3/14/05): Maybe I should have suspected a shift in Greenspan's role early in George W. Bush's first term, when the longtime chairman's support of the president's proposal for a massive tax cut for the richest Americans virtually ensured its passage. But the Treasury was enjoying a heady surplus at the time, and I thought Greenspan was being merely pragmatic when he said we could afford to cut taxes and continue the debt reduction scheme initiated by Bush's predecessor, Bill Clinton.
According to eighth-grade civics texts, journalists are supposed to “suspect” the motives of big power brokers. But Raspberry—the Post’s idea of a fiery liberal—didn’t suspect Greenspan’s motives when he made his odd defense of Bush’s tax cuts back. Instead, the Razz took Greenspan at his word—just as he later did when Colin Powell made that crucial speech to the UN in March 2003. At the time, Raspberry rushed to affirm Powell’s brilliance (quotes below)—a fact the liberal pundit obfuscates in this morning’s column:
RASPBERRY (3/14/05): Let me be clear: I was personally disappointed when former secretary of state Colin Powell used suspect evidence to back his boss's desire to launch a war against Iraq. But I understand that secretaries of state are members of administrations. They may argue against a policy behind closed doors. But once the president has decided, they are expected not to go public with their independent notions to the contrary.
“Let me be clear,” Raspberry writes—and then, he smudges what actually happened. In real time, Raspberry didn’t show any sign of “understand[ing] that secretaries of state” may pimp a view they don’t really believe. Nor did it seem to enter his head that Powell might be using “suspect evidence.” Instead, Raspberry did hand-stands in praise of Powell. In real time, here’s how he began his column about Powell’s “tour de force performance before the U.N. Security Council:”
RASPBERRY (2/10/03): It was a spectacular performance, and by the time Colin Powell was finished, I was a complete convert.
Now that’s a fiery Post liberal! In real time, Raspberry didn’t question a single word Powell said—on the contrary, he vouched for him totally. No, he still wasn’t sure that war was the answer. But he was sure about Saint Powell:
RASPBERRY (2/10/03): I had my doubts as to how much active production of weapons of mass destruction was happening in Iraq. Powell's display removed those doubts.

What the earnest, effective and utterly believable secretary of state did not remove—at least not yet—are my doubts on two other scores.

Ugh! Even as Powell convinced the pundit of things that were false, Raspberry praised the Secretary’s character. Powell was “earnest” and “utterly believable,” he said—and he didn’t question, in any way, the sheer perfection of Powell’s motives. Indeed, how thoroughly did the Post liberal fawn? Here’s how he ended that column:
RASPBERRY (2/10/03): I'm not yet converted to war, or to the Bush administration's rationale for it.

But I am unabashedly converted to Colin Powell.

Gag us with a silver spoon! Today, Raspberry makes it sound like he knew all along that Powell might be fudging a bit, the way big pols so frequently do. He makes it sound like everyone knows that pols can be less than transparent. But in real time, Raspberry affirmed every word Powell said—just like a parade of Major Post Liberals. But then, he had also believed every word two years before, when Greenspan pimped Bush’s big tax cuts.

But then, that’s how “liberals” seem to work on the Washington Post op-ed pages! Indeed, note today’s piece by Sebastian Mallaby, a semi-liberal Post columnist. For himself, Mallaby prefers “add-on” accounts to Social Security, the proposal major Dems have offered. But so what? With the unerring instinct of a well-trained Post “liberal,” Mallaby builds his column around the latest RNC spin-points. Like a string of obedient pundits before him, Mallaby trashes those perfidious Dems for not presenting a full-blown SS plan:

MALLABY (3/14/05): Democrats...are so anxious to denounce private accounts that they fail to acknowledge the most basic point: Social Security has a serious deficit. The Post reported Friday that nearly every Democratic senator refuses even to contemplate the Bush proposals. But the Democrats have no proposal of their own. They sound negative and irresponsible.
To a comma, those last two lines are prevailing RNC spin, recited by obedient columnists everywhere (links below). “Democrats have no proposal of their own,” Mallaby says—while failing to note that Bush has also failed to present a proposal! Readers, what’s Bush’s plan for changing SS? No one knows; five years into the debate he began, Bush has still failed to present one! But so what? The RNC has been pimping the line that Democrats need to present a plan—and Mallaby happily recites it today, just as so many other Big Pundits have done.

Indeed, is there any major RNC line the liberal pundit doesn’t recite? We’re not sure what it could be. Is it true, what Mallaby says? Is it true that Democrats “fail to acknowledge the most basic point: Social Security has a serious deficit?” Only in the crackpot world of RNC spin—and in Mallaby’s column this morning. And is it true, what Mallaby says? Is it true that “a party whose senators unanimously refuse to contemplate carve-out accounts is a party that's closed its collective mind?” In fact, Bush has also “closed his mind” to one major option—a higher payroll tax rate. But in the world of Post “liberal pundits,” this makes the Dems “a party of ostriches.” Bush’s refusal to consider a different key option? That isn’t even mentioned.

Yes, this is how “liberal columnists” behave at the Post; they affirm what they’re told by conservative icons, and they rush to recite silly RNC spin. But how utterly foppish will the Post be? To answer that question, we must visit a front-page “news report”—Donna St. George’s fawning profile of GOP bete noire Kenneth Starr.

The clowning is right in the headline: “Outrage, Question of Fairness Drive Starr to Death Row Case.” Poor Ken Starr—the man is just so goldarn fair that he has taken a death-row case! Whoever wrote that fawning headline was eager to pimp Ken Starr as a gem—a moral man whose inner decency has him defending a death-row dweller. But is that why Starr has taken this case? Neither St. George nor her editor can possibly know, a fact which doesn’t intrude on the front-page fawning. Indeed, is it possible that Starr took this case just to generate such pleasing headlines? This possibility doesn’t enter St. George’s head—and it doesn’t intrude on that pandering headline.

That headline shows how far the Post is willing to go to pander to conservative icons. But consider the way Post “liberals” behave on the paper’s op-ed pages. Eugene Robinson? You have to force him to criticize Condi, but he runs to trash Barbara Boxer. E. J. Dionne? When Big Republicans obfuscate, he rushes to call them “brave” and “forthright.” Raspberry? First be believed what Greenspan told him. Then he believed what Powell said. Mallaby? Trashing Dems as “a party of ostriches,” he recites the RNC’s silliest lines. But despite all this, pseudo-con pundits still get to swear that the press corps is driven by “liberal bias!” Why are pseudo-cons free to prosper this way? Tomorrow, we’ll continue to answer that question as we study the way your “liberal spokesmen” bungled the Dan Rather matter.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: From the RNC’s lips to Mallaby’s ear, Democrats are “the party of no!” But then, Gloria Borger and Joe Klein have recited this well-scripted story-line too. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/23/05.

THEIR OWN SHINING STARR: Why in the world would the Washington Post fawn to Starr in so silly a way? At the height of impeachment:, uber-insider Sally Quinn explained in a famous report:

QUINN (11/2/98): [I]ndependent counsel Ken Starr is not seen by many Washington insiders as an out-of-control prudish crusader. Starr is a Washington insider, too. He has lived and worked here for years. He had a reputation as a fair and honest judge. He has many friends in both parties. Their wives are friendly with one another and their children go to the same schools. He is seen as someone who is operating under a legal statute, with a mandate from the attorney general and a three-judge panel, although there are some lawyers here who have questioned some of Starr's most aggressive tactics.
Congratulate Quinn for being so frank about your ludicrous “press corps.” Why did press insiders tilt toward Starr in his battle with Bill Clinton? Easy! Unlike Clinton, Starr was “a Washington insider, too!” He had friends in both parties, and—incredibly enough—“Their wives are friendly with one another and their children go to the same schools.” Apparently, Starr’s “friends in both parties” were all men, since Quinn went on to report about “their wives.” But in Quinn’s remarkable report, you were given a startling look at the way the insider “press” really “thinks.” Today, that thinking is found on the Post’s front page, and the foppish thinking of Washington’s “liberals” is found on the paper’s op-ed page. Yes, your insider press is a ship of fops—but your “liberal spokesmen” all know not to say so! More on this problem—much, much more—as our series resumes tomorrow.