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LIPS LOCKED ON HARDBALL KEISTER! Brother Matthews sold you smack all through an astounding program: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, MARCH 19, 2010

The oldest story, Maddow/Matthews edition: Just this once, you can ask us about our business. Since you’ve asked, we’ll tell you the truth:

Here’s the truth:

We don’t care if John Ensign had an affair with one of his best friends—a woman who was married to his other best friend, his chief of staff. We don’t hugely care if he broke a few rules to cover it up.

We don’t care if Mark Sanford had an affair with the love of his life. We don’t care if he paid $74,000 in fines yesterday. We don’t hugely care if he was guilty of (to quote the AP’s language) “improperly buying first- and business-class airline tickets, violating a state law requiring lowest-cost travel; improperly using state-owned aircraft for travel to political and personal events; and improperly reimbursing himself with campaign cash.” (Despite settling, Sanford denies wrong-doing.)

But then, we didn’t especially care when Bill Clinton engaged in a foolish sexual relationship with someone who wasn’t a 21-year-old intern. We didn’t much care when he tried to avoid blurting the truth about it.

By way of contrast, Sister Maddow does care, a large amount, at least about Sanford and Ensign—two men who are in the wrong tribe. For the past year, she has chased their sexy affairs all over town, clattering and wailing about the way Ensign even arranged a $1000-a-month internship for his chief of staff’s 19-year-old son! (This was supposed to be part of the cover-up. Sister: “That damage control included putting his mistress’ teenage son on the Republican Senate Campaign Committee’s payroll.” With Sister, the son typically belongs to the “mistress,” not to the chief of staff.)

Last night, the cable evangelist explained her concern, speaking extremely sincerely with her cable channel’s official preacher, the Reverend Dr. Weldon Gaddy. For our money, Gaddy has started wading too far into this channel’s scams:

MADDOW (3/18/10): No one—at least I wouldn’t be talking about Senator Ensign’s extramarital affairs, Governor Sanford’s extramarital affairs, had they not campaigned as family values politicians.

GADDY: Right.

MADDOW: It’s part of how they got the political standing that they’ve got. And so, therefore, their hypocrisy is a news story. Is that hypocrisy connected to that sort of—I guess, theological arrogance?

GADDY: Well, it can be.

MADDOW: Yes.

GADDY: It may not be. There may be something else going on.

Maddow wouldn’t be discussing these sexy-time affairs if it weren’t for [FILL IN THE BLANK]! A nagging thought entered our heads: Where have we heard that before?

Oh yes! We heard that all through 1998 and 1999, when it was President Clinton who was being chased all around by the other side’s tribals.

For the record, the contrast between Ensign/Sanford’s rhetoric and their affairs may have been worth discussing. In all honesty, Sister rarely discusses such things. It’s the hypocrisy, she told us last night. Here on earth, the analysts writhed. On Olympus, the many gods roared.

But good God! Earlier that evening, on that same cable channel, Brother Matthews—now a man of the people—interviewed Ken Gormley, author of the new Clinton/Starr tome. And good God! You can watch the segment here. If you do, you may well get the impression that Matthews opposed the Clinton impeachment—thought it was all a big scam.

Good God, what a fraud this man is! Last night, his program was a stunning series of deceptions, with Joan Walsh cheering him on at the end. But that segment about impeachment really did take a large cake.

Go ahead—watch that segment. You might even get the impression that Matthews thought the GOP was way out of line. Last evening, this was Matthews, one of the great frauds of our time:

MATTHEWS (3/18/10): Should there have been—I have heard different stories about this, that there are ways that it could have been avoided. They could have avoided impeachment. They could have just done a resolution of some kind.

GORMLEY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Why didn’t that happen? Why wasn’t something done appropriate to the misbehavior, instead of putting the black mark against President Clinton for life, really, in the record books?

From that and other ridiculous statements, you might have gotten the impression that Matthews was a Clinton-defender back when it mattered—that he thought the Republicans could have “done something appropriate to the misbehavior.” In fact, no one chased Clinton around much harder than Matthews did—and in 1999 and 2000, he endlessly chased Al Gore around, endlessly berating “the bathtub ring” for the capital crime of having defended Clinton against that same impeachment.

No one chased the bathtub ring—“the bathtub yuk”—quite as hard as Matthews did. Of course, he worked for Jack Welch in those days. He hadn’t yet been re-purposed.

On Hardball, was impeachment viewed as the fault of the GOP, who could have done something more appropriate? To refresh your sense of the era, what follows is part of the Hardball program on the night Clinton’s impeachment trial ended. As usual, all guests believed and said the same exact thing this night:

MATTHEWS (2/12/99): We have a lot of historians joining us now in addition to Elizabeth [Drew], who's a distinguished journalist. Let me ask you the first question of the night. These are all tough questions. They have answers that are simple. Don't give me an Arlen Specter answer. Don't give me the Scottish answer of not proven. Who is most to blame for this year of—of scandal and impeachment, the president or his critics? Who is most to blame?

DREW: You're asking me?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

DREW: It's easy, the president.

MATTHEWS: Larry Sabato, who is most to blame, the president, Bill Clinton, or his critics, for this year of catastrophe?

SABATO: I couldn't agree with Elizabeth Drew more. That's the easiest question I've been asked in months. The president.

MATTHEWS: Douglas Brinkley, same question.

BRINKLEY: The president.

MATTHEWS: Carl Bernstein.

BERNSTEIN: The president.

That was the whole dad-burned panel! We’re not even saying they’re wrong. We’d just ask you to keep that passage in mind when you gaze on Matthews’ reinvented outlook, as expressed on cable last night.

Last night, Matthews played you for fools all through his program (see below). At the end, a fiery progressive locked her lips hard on his keister.

By the way, it’s like Sister said: With Clinton, it wasn’t about the sex! It was about [THE LYING]!

Howell Raines, not unlike Collins: Idiocracy is powerful. Yesterday, we perused the latest inanity from Gail Collins, who ran the New York Times editorial board from 2001 through 2007. Her predecessor was Howell Raines. He held that important post from 1993 through 2001.

The idiocracy is vast. On Sunday, Raines wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post “Outlook” section. In the piece, he tried to criticize Fox News. That wouldn’t seem like a difficult task. But the idiocracy is strong.

Yesterday, we saw Collins’ inanity. In this, the first five grafs of his piece, Raines put ineptitude on display. The idiocracy is vast:

RAINES (3/14/10): One question has tugged at my professional conscience throughout the year-long congressional debate over health-care reform, and it has nothing to do with the public option, portability or medical malpractice. It is this: Why haven't America's old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration—a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?

Through clever use of the Fox News Channel and its cadre of raucous commentators, Ailes has overturned standards of fairness and objectivity that have guided American print and broadcast journalists since World War II. Yet, many members of my profession seem to stand by in silence as Ailes tears up the rulebook that served this country well as we covered the major stories of the past three generations, from the civil rights revolution to Watergate to the Wall Street scandals. This is not a liberal-versus-conservative issue. It is a matter of Fox turning reality on its head with, among other tactics, its endless repetition of its uber-lie: "The American people do not want health-care reform."

Fox repeats this as gospel. But as a matter of historical context, usually in short supply on Fox News, this assertion ranks somewhere between debatable and untrue.

The American people and many of our great modern presidents have been demanding major reforms to the health-care system since the administration of Teddy Roosevelt. The elections of 1948, 1960, 1964, 2000 and 2008 confirm the point, with majorities voting for candidates supporting such change. Yet congressional Republicans have managed effective campaigns against health-care changes favored variously by Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Clinton. Now Fox News has given the party of Lincoln a free ride with its repetition of the unexamined claim that today's Republican leadership really does want to overhaul health care—if only the effort could conform to Mitch McConnell's ideas on portability and tort reform.

It is true that, after 14 months of Fox's relentless pounding of President Obama's idea of sweeping reform, the latest Gallup poll shows opinion running 48 to 45 percent against the current legislation. Fox invariably stresses such recent dips in support for the legislation, disregarding the majorities in favor of various aspects of the reform effort. Along the way, the network has sold a falsified image of the professional standards that developed in American newsrooms and university journalism departments in the last half of the 20th century.

It isn’t hard to find fault with the work of Fox. It’s stunning to think that this was the best Howell Raines could manage.

First: It’s painful to see Raines complain about journalistic “propaganda campaigns.” All through the 1990s, he lay at the center of something similar, through his endless editorials ranting against Clinton, in support of Ken Starr. (For Michael Tomasky’s painful rundown, just click this.) After chasing Clinton around for years, Raines and his own “cadre of raucous commentators,” including one of his former girl friends, then turned their guns against Gore. The types of shortcuts and errors which litter Sunday’s piece were endlessly used against him.

Second: Note what happens as soon as Raines starts trying to argue a claim. He almost seems to be citing a quote from Fox: “The American people do not want health-care reform.” But has anyone at Fox ever made that actual statement? Raines never names any person by name; he never cites what any named person has said. Presumably, the words inside those quotation marks were actually meant as a paraphrase of things that are generally stated on Fox. Would it really have been that hard to cite real statements by actual people? Instead of doing such a thing, Raines treated himself to a bit of a shortcut. Instantly, Mr. O rebutted, playing tape of himself saying this: “I think most Americans want health care reform.” (Mr. O says such things all the time.)

Of course, the New York Times dreamed up a lot of “quotes” when Raines ran its editorial board (and later, when he ran the whole paper). This sometimes cut hard against Gore.

Third: Note the consummate dumbness. Within his first four paragraphs, Raines has Fox News saying two things. On the one hand, Fox says that the American people do not want health-care reform. But Fox also says that “today's Republican leadership really does want to overhaul health care.” How well do those ideas go together? Discuss: What did Raines mean to say?

Fourth: “The American people...have been demanding major reforms to the health-care system since the administration of Teddy Roosevelt?” Sorry. That’s just perfect nonsense, of the type a fly-weight like Raines will invent to help drive a claim.

Fifth: Raines describes that recent Gallup poll (48 percent opposed, 45 percent in favor) as “a recent dip in support for the legislation.” In fact, recent polling is as favorable to the Obama reform proposal as polling has been in some time—and even that Gallup poll produced a more favorable result than many other polls. What sorts of polls does Fox really cite? Last night, Fox was citing its own new poll (click here). It shows 35 percent in favor, 55 percent opposed.

Discuss: Does Howell Raines ever watch Fox?

Raines is out of the business these days. Presumably, he had plenty of time to assemble this piece, which concerns an important subject. Despite that, his piece was riddled with schoolboy bungles and schoolboy errors, even in its first five paragraphs. But so it went at the New York Times when Raines sat at the to of the pile. So it tends to go at the top of the mainstream heap. The idiocracy is strong—and it’s vast.

Collins had been away for a month; she chose to talk about Eric Massa. Raines has been away for years; this was the best he could manage. Note to tribals: Yes, his prose made you feel good. But would his effort convince someone else? Did it give you winning information? Did it give you winning arguments?

It isn’t hard to make a case against the work that’s done at Fox. But the spirit is weak in the upper-class press corps, as Collins is constantly trying to show us. Raines let us see the intellectual weakness inside the high walls of Versailles.

LIPS LOCKED ON HARDBALL KEISTER (permalink): Last night’s Hardball was something to see, pretty much from its start to its finish. Its reinvented, re-purposed host pretended to be a man of the people. He seemed to pretend that he’d been a Clinton-defender. He lied in your face about policy matters (see below).

And then, that ludicrous tape! We haven’t seen so clownish a tape since October 2000, when the cables assembled that foolish loop tape showing Gore’s many troubling sighs. (Culled from a 90-minute debate.) If you want to get played for such a fool again, just click here, then watch the tape MS has been pimping around.

The tape shows brief clips from Bret Baier’s interview with Obama. In our view, Baier did interrupt too much—though Chris Hayes, who actually watched the interview, said it didn’t bother him, thus ruining Wednesday night’s Countdown. But do you think, for even a minute, that Matthews ever watched the interview? Please! This was the best this big slug could manage, discussing the session last night:

MATTHEWS (3/18/10): People have to make their own judgments. I’m sure there’s other versions of that interview available on the web. You can probably find other versions. But looking at that, it looked like he was interrupted like 16 or 17 times, and clearly those were a lot of real interruptions in a reasonably brief interview.

In fact, the full interview had been on-line at Fox since the previous evening. Do you think this consummate fraud ever watched it? “Looking at” his own network’s gong-show tape, “it looked like he was interrupted like 16 or 17 times,” Matthews stupidly said. He also didn’t seem to know how long the interview was.

In a more rational world, a fraud like Matthews would have had his big fat ass fired right there.

But this is typical stuff for Matthews. The fraud he committed while talking to conservative activist Tim Phillips was perhaps even worse.

Uh-oh! On Wednesday night, Ron Brownstein had actually told Chris something! Brownstein was responding to Chris’ favorite new script: Republicans don’t try to pass their health care measures when they’re in control! Uh-oh! Responding, Brownstein said this about that:

MATTHEWS (3/17/10): Ron Brownstein’s political director—you know that is pretty—I saw you shaking your head positive. I know that you are a straight arrow here. But the fact is, it is a fact. Republican offer these wonderful sounding, moderate alternatives, but only in the face of a Democratic progressive suggestion.

BROWNSTEIN: The story’s a little bit more nuanced. The fact is that these are ideas that Republicans had during—when when they unified control of the House and the Senate and the White House, under Bush. Some of them did pass the House. Their idea of association health plans did pass the House. Medical malpractice, at one point, did pass the House. The interstate health insurance never did pass the House because that is a much more controversial idea that it is usually explained to be, because it essentially allows the states that regulates least to set the rules for everyone.

MATTHEWS: You go state shopping.

BROWNSTEIN: But fact is that all of these ideas were never able to achieve consensus when Republicans controlled government. They could not get them out of the Senate. They could not get 60 votes. And in—

MATTHEWS: You know why? They really didn’t want to do it!

Two of these ideas got defeated by filibuster. And of course! When the other tribe gets defeated that way, it’s because they really didn’t want to do it. If your IQ is 7 or 8, you will find that novel persuasive.

(Small hint: Republican do want to pass these measures. The measures just aren’t any good.)

Brownstein handed Matthews a bit of knowledge. For better or worse, Republicans did try to pass three health reforms; two passed the House, but were then filibustered. But so what? One night later, on last night’s program, Chris skedaddled right back to his thin, tiny script. This is what he’s paid to do. He’s paid to sell you dime novels:

MATTHEWS (3/18/10): You and the Republican Party— I have guys on here like [Mike] Pence. Night after night, they come on and they say, if only we had power. And I say, guys, when you were in power under President Bush, when you had both houses of Congress, you didn’t do any of this stuff. You did squat. You never do anything. You wait for the Democrats to propose something and you point to the flaws in their proposals and have a big rally about it, how excited you are to point to the flaws, but you have no program.

For Chris, it was straight back to the script, one night after Brownstein told him the script just isn’t real accurate.

What’s wrong with this lazy, insulting conduct? Just this: Chris is too lazy and indifferent to learn how to argue the merits of these proposals. What’s wrong with those GOP proposals? On Hardball, you’ll never find out! Chris will just hand you lazy sh*t, the way he did all through the 90s, when he was taking out Clinton and Gore. He’ll hand you his crap all night long.

After that, Cynthia Tucker and Joan Walsh will arrive, to ooh, aah, gasp and applaud him. It’s quite a feat—to keep sucking Hardball teat while your lips are locked on Hardball keister.

Why must liberals be treated this way? Cracker, please! Follow the money!