DOWD COPS TO THE TRIBE: For the most part, well wait a day or two to assess press reaction to Obamas speech. But in todays column, Americas most visible crackpot cops to the ways of the tribe:
DOWD (3/19/08): [Obama] was spot-on about my tribe of working-class Irish, the ones who have helped break his winning streak in New Hampshire and Ohio, and may do so in Pennsylvania.
Obama's warning about race in America was redolent of Eugene O'Neill's observation about Ireland: ''There is no present or future,'' O'Neill said, ''only the past happening over and over again.''
Only the past happening over and over again? A few paragraphs earlier, Americas most visible nut-case had actualized ONeills diagnosis:
DOWD: Unlike what the Clintons did to Lani Guinier, responding to her radical racial ideas by throwing her under the bus, Obama went to great pains to honor the human dimension of his relationship with his politically threatening ''old uncle,'' as he calls him.
Unlike what the Clintons did to Guinier! In 1993, that is.
Within the mainstream press corps, Dowds tribe has played an outsized role in the 16-year war against the Clintons and Gore. (Russert. Matthews. Connolly. Kelly. Carlson. Dowd. How did Frank Rich get in there?) Actualizing ONeills diagnosis, they just cant let Miss Lewinsky goand theyll even revive Guinier when shes needed! After many years of this lunacy, we finally decided that the quirks of this tribethe tribe we grew up in—ought to be offered as a part of the story. This morning, Americas best-known lunatic cops. We suppose thats a small sign of progress.
WHAT JESSE MET GRANDMA: Lets move one day ahead of ourselves: Youd think Dems would know that it isnt an insult to mention Jesse Jackson. (We recall being told, in mid-December 2000, by an exceptionally high-ranking and world-famous Democrat, that no one stood behind [Al Gore] in Florida the way Jesse Jackson did.) But to a racial savant like Chris Matthews, when Bill Clinton mentioned Obama and Jackson, he was ghettoizing Obama. Quite a choice of words.
We will assume, until were shown different, that Matthews is sincere when he says hes been inspired by Obamas presentations about race. (Many people have been, for obvious reasons.) That said, we wouldnt rush to nominate Chris as a guide on racial affairs. But so what? At present, people with Matthews limited horizon are helping us see who the vile racists are. And those lovable losers in the pseudo-lib world have signed on for the full package.
With these incomparable thoughts in mind, we chuckled mordantly at one part of Obamas speech. (For the record: We thought Obamas speech was brilliant—on the merits. Unfortunately, the merits dont define how politics typically works.) Our thought? Obama can ease up on Grandma a bit. Are we the only ones who recall what Jackson said in 1993? Just to be completely perverse, well let Bob Herbert relay it:
HERBERT (12/12/93): Jesse Jackson is traveling the country with a tough anti-crime message that he is delivering to inner-city youngsters. In Chicago he said, "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery—then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."
Jacksons remark was widely discussed at the time. Understanding the tragedy of urban crime, Herbert reacted to it approvingly. There is almost no way to overstate the problem, he wrote. In Washington, black youngsters are so aware of the danger of being murdered that some are selecting the outfits they want to be dressed in for their own funerals.
Obama said many wise things yesterday—and, in our mind, one or two which were not. Well go ahead and cite this passage as one of his wisest and soundest:
OBAMA (3/18/08): [Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation] came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.
Jesse Jackson is one of those people. Long ago, he made a statement which tracked Obamas dear one.
RED-FACED WITH RAGE: Barring some sort of extraordinary event, its hard to see how Hillary Clinton can end up getting the Dem nomination. So how did the Dem nomination fight flip? For one thing, Obama is an exceptional candidate in many ways (as is Clinton). And then too, the press corps helped—as they tried to do during Campaign 2000, when Bradley, their massive preference in the Dem race, was less outstanding than Obama. In 2000, Gore made it through. This year, the press corps interceded surprisingly late, but in three major ways:
October 30, 2007: Russert and Williams changed the campaigns dynamic with their unprecedented gang bang debate. Go ahead! Show us any previous presidential debate which was conducted like this one.
November 2007: Thanks to the excitement about Clintons bad debate, the press corps began to hunt as a pack. They began doing what they did to Gore from Day One—-taking every pointless event and turning it into a vast moral outrage. Readers, did you hear that Clinton criticized Obama for something he wrote in kindergarten?
November 2007-February 2008: By far, the biggest play involved the lurid novel the press corps began to type about race. With the skill which they alone (among humans) possess, pundits began hearing dog whistles everywhere. As late as Monday night of this week, Nancy Giles was inventing blatantly bogus facts about Bill Clinton in South Carolina (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/18/08). But then, people like Giles will do and say anything to keep their fat yaps on the air.
Bill Clinton has been a major character in this particular lurid novel. Yesterday, we saw Giles invent a fake chapter. Today, lets review the way an early (fake) chapter was composedat the great New York Times.
This chapter concerned Bill Clintons appearance on the December 14 Charlie Rose program. Several ludicrous themes were created from this tedious, uneventful appearance. At the New York Times, one theme grew like topsy. The fun began with a Patrick Healy news report on December 16:
HEALY (12/16/07): During the Charlie Rose interview, Mr. Clinton looked agitated at times as he talked about recent campaign problems faced by his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, and her tough race against Mr. Obama and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina in Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest on Jan. 3. At one point, Mr. Rose said that, in his control room, aides to Mr. Clinton were trying to persuade the show's producers to end the interview.
Clinton looked agitated at times, Healy said—so agitated that his aides tried to end the interview! Media Matters has conclusively shown how bogus that latter suggestion was (just click here) As usual, Healy had made a mistake—but so what? At the Times, a pleasing notion began to spread: Clinton was out of control on the program! One day later, Healy teased the claim again:
HEALY (12/17/07): More than anything, Mr. Clinton is increasingly angry with the news media over what he sees as overly critical coverage of Mrs. Clinton and kinder treatment of Mr. Obama, advisers said.
They say he allowed that frustration to spill over on ''The Charlie Rose Show'' on Friday night, when he criticized the news media as forgoing tough scrutiny of Mr. Obama.
A quick tip on how to read press corps novels: Note how often these novels emerge when someone has criticized the press corps! In this case, Clinton has been complaining about the press—and at the Times, journalists could quickly see how unbalanced such thinking was. Result? A few days later, a pair of big pundits put their stamp on the emerging theme. This pair of novelists embellished a bit, as theyve so often done:
DOWD (12/23/07): [Clinton] got so agitated with Charlie Rose—ranting that reporters were ''stenographers'' for Obama—that his aides tried to stop the interview.
RICH (12/23/07): Early this month the former president criticized the press for not sufficiently covering the candidates' ''record in public life'' and thereby making ''people think experience is irrelevant.'' His pique boiled over on Charlie Rose's show on Dec. 14, when he made his now-famous claim that the 2008 election will be a referendum on whether ''no experience matters.'' He insinuated that Mr. Obama was tantamount to ''a gifted television commentator'' and likened a potential Obama presidency to a roll of the dice.
Dowd repeated the bogus claim that aides tried to stop the show because of Clintons ranting. (It had been debunked five days earlier.) Mining the same vein, Rich said that Clintons pique boiled over on the program. He also teased Clintons roll of the dice remark, a passing comment which pundits were now reinventing as an outrageousperhaps racist!—event.
At any rate: Two days before Christmas, Dowd and Rich had Clinton boiling over and ranting on Roses program. By mid-January, Clinton actually had thrown a few rants at reporters expense—and the corps was willing to punish him for it. Healy journeyed back in time, pretending that Roses show had featured one of those rants. At some length, he re-pimped the notion that Clinton had staged an outburst:
HEALY (1/18/08): Mr. Clinton's temper has been an issue for him as long as he has been in public life. But it has played an unusual role during the current campaign, his face turning red in public nearly every week, often making headlines as he defends his wife and injects himself, whether or not intentionally, into her race in sometimes distracting ways.
Some Clinton advisers say the campaign is trying to rein him in somewhat, so that his outbursts become less of a factor to reporters, but his flashes of anger only seem to be growing. Last week, for instance, a clearly agitated Mr. Clinton told Dartmouth students that it was a ''fairy tale'' for Mr. Obama to contend that he had been consistently against the war in Iraq. And in December he said that voters supporting Mr. Obama were willing to ''roll the dice'' on the presidency.
But some advisers say a former president at times prone to outrage can draw attention to issues as no one else can. They say Mr. Clinton's ''roll the dice'' comment, made on the PBS television program ''Charlie Rose,'' helped focus public and media attention on Mr. Obama's scarce experience relative to Mrs. Clinton's
According to Healy, roll the dice was one of the red-faced flashes of anger. Soon, Jeff Zeleny said it too. Good times! In Zelenys version of the novella, Clinton became sharp and red-faced during a fiery appearance:
ZELENY (1/23/08): By contrast, Mr. Clinton's fiery appearance on the PBS television program ''Charlie Rose'' last month caught some Clinton advisers off guard. They had known he would pick apart Mr. Obama's record, but they had not expected that he would become so sharp and red-faced in asserting that Obama supporters were willing to ''roll the dice'' on the presidency.
By late January, it was a familiar claim in the Times. Unfortunately, the claim was bogus. It was an invention, a novel—a lie.
No, Clintons aides didnt try to stop the program because he was boiling with rage; that initial claim had simply been false. But lets go beyond that: Did Clinton get agitated on the program at all? Did he become sharp and red-faced during a fiery appearance? Did he show flashes of anger—did his pique boil over? Did he allow his frustration to spill over when he talked about rolling the dice?
Actually, no—he did not. And pretty much anybody can see that. You can just click here for the tape of the full Charlie Rose program (12/14/07). The exchange about that roll of the dice comes in the 33rd minute.
For the most part, claims about a persons demeanor are subjective. But lets be honest: No one but a New York Times journalist would claim that Clintons demeanor that night resembled what the Times repeatedly said. In fact, a theater critic would more likely complain that Clinton was a bit laconic during this rather dull program. But as you can see, no one would say what the New York Times saidexcept the New York Times.
Of course, this sort of thing has gone on for years, accepted by the pseudo-lib world. Yesterday, we watched as social commentator Nancy Giles created a new bogus tale about Clinton. Today, we revisit the way the New York Times invented two tales about that Rose program. But this has gone on for many years at the major mainstream news orgs which establish mainstream journalistic careers. And make no mistake: To the lovable losers of the pseudo-lib world, this novelization is perfectly A-OK.
You can say whatever you want about Clinton, just as you once could do about Gore. Your liberal journals accept this process. So do the liberal webs famous pool boys. Lets not mention Kevin or Josh.
WATCHING CHRIS WORK: On Monday, Hardballs high-minded gang was wringing its hands about the role of race in the Dem campaign. Once again, Matthews pimped the claim that Bill Clintons use of the term roll of the dice was some sort of racial act:
MATTHEWS (3/17/08): Gene, you and I have talked for months about this campaign. Watching it go along well without the ethnic factor being raised. This was a bad week for that goal.
ROBINSON: It was. You know, race came kind of roaring into the race. It was probably inevitable. You know, race has been a constant theme of American society since the first importation of slaves in 1619. That's almost 400 years, and we haven't gotten rid of it yet.
MATTHEWS: That's a pretty bad run.
ROBINSON: It's a bad run, and it's not quite over. You know, but what's the context? The context this time is that an African-American is right now the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. So, in that sense, there has been progress. But it looks like it could be ugly for a little while.
MATTHEWS: All right, let me ask you, Andrea, the tough question. Did the Clinton people, the thinkers in that campaign, do they think or voice or in any way evidence the fact they think there might be a plus in this? In terms of their argument, which has been pretty relentless, This fellow, Barack Obama, is not electable in November.
MITCHELL: They deny that. They say that that goes against everything that they've ever stood for. But their critics, and some of them are in the Obama campaign, suggest that these things have been insidious in the way they have filtered into the debate. And
MATTHEWS: Rolling the dice.
MITCHELL: Yeah. And no, I do not think that they were responsible for Gerry Ferraro and what she said, and the fact that it was so abhorrent to a lot of people.
More than three months later, Matthews is still using Clintons one-time use of that phrase as a marker for racial misconduct. Weve never seen Matthews explain this claim. But then, explanations arent required on Hardballas long as you stick to the scripts.