THE ABCs OF MODERN PRESS CULTURE: Weve been borrowing computer time most of the week. For that reason, we hadnt seen this astounding report, by ABCs Brian Ross, about Hillary Clintons White House schedules. Ross makes the Washington Post and the New York Times look like paragons of sanity and restraint. For Susie Madraks take on this journalistic obscenity, go ahead: just click here.
For the record, Ross is ABCs top investigative reporter.
Mainstream press conduct of the past sixteen years raises a fundamental question: What kind of creatures are we really? As of (lets say) 1992, who could have imagined that grown men and women would stoop to the nasty, sheet-sniffing, thigh-rubbing inanity found in Ross report? Weve long told you this: Washingtons modern mainstream press corps displays an utterly broken-souled culture. Have you thought that was a bit hyperbolic? If so, read Ross report.
The fact that our press corps inhabits this world is a national security problem. Beyond that, progressive interests will be at a disadvantage as long as liberal elites tolerate this groupits sheer inanity, its broken-souled conduct. Liberal elites have accepted this culture for decades (more next week). Will anything make them resist?
THE NOT-SO-RATIONAL ANIMAL: But then again, its much as weve told you: A fantasy lies at the heart of the western worlds basic understandings. Man is the rational animal, we were told, long ago. (In this usage, man means human.) From that time forward, this ideawhich is utterly falsehas suffused the western worlds basic notions.
But in fact, we humans just arent very rational. Have they kidnapped the real Josh Marshall, for instance? (Josh really put on his tin-foil hat when he tossed this latest sweet hay to the rubes.) And then, theres this unfortunate piece by progressive titan Barbara Ehrenreich. We got to this astounding, sad piece via this Kevin Drum post.
With unfortunate justice, Kevin refers to Ehrenreichs screed as an unusually ugly character assassination. For ourselves, a bit of background: Weve been interested in Jeff Sharlets work ever since his 2003 Harpers piece. We look forward to reading his forthcoming book. But lets scan Ehrenreichs piece with some care: Putting her tin-foil and her Hitler tales to the side, heres what she actually reports about Hillary Clinton in her spectacularly low-IQ post:
In 1993, Clinton joined a Bible study group composed of wives of conservative leaders like Jack Kemp and James Baker. (Absent-mindedly, Ehrenreich omits the names of several Dems in that group.)
In 2001, when she entered the Senate, Clinton began taking part in the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast, which included, until his downfall, Virginia's notoriously racist Senator George Allen.
She has written that religious honcho Doug Coe is a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God."
And of course:
She has displayed a tormented search for identity, marked by ever-changing hairstyles and names: Hillary Rodham, Mrs. Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and now Hillary Clinton.
Good God! Those ever-changing hairstyles again! If you thought Maureen Dowd was a screaming nut-case, you can add one more name to the list.
Here at THE HOWLER, were not religious ourselves. But within the context of American politics, it would be hard to overstate how stupid it is to complain about praying with Susan Baker. (Incidentally, this whole thing is such a secret plot that the quote about Coe which Ehrenreich cites comes from Clintons best-seller, Living History.) Meanwhile, we suggest that you read the Mother Jones piece from which Ehrenreichs fever dreams are derived. Indeed, this exercise provides a good reading lesson: Note how lurid a tale can be derived from so benign a source. The Mother Jones piece has a point of view. Ehrenreich makes it into a swamp dream.
Ehrenreichs piece poses a challenge. If youre a liberal, can you see the squalid nonsense of which conservatives and liberals are so plainly capable? Repeatedly, weve been reminded in recent weeks of one of our favorite homilies:
There was once a golden age of liberal politicsthe period after the invention of talk radio but before the invention of the web. During that period, only conservatives had a way to show how stupid they were.
Today, we liberals have a way to play too. Liberals and progressives have to decide: Do I plan to use it?
TYPICAL CULTISH CONDUCT: We congratulate the Post and the Times; this morning, each paper avoids the nonsense concerning Obamas radio remark about his grandmother. (Theres one tiny reference in the Times.) In our view, Obamas recent comments about his grandmother have been a bit oddly reasoned. But yesterday, Obama referred to his grandmother, in passing, during an interview, as a typical white person. Inevitably, the famous Cult of the Offhand Comment swung into action. Pundits parsed and pulled at Obamas remark through much of last nights cable.
If you aspire to be intelligent, you have to understand the following: People frequently make extemporaneous remarks which sound imperfect, odd or unfortunate. If you want to play the fool, you will wait until some such remark is uttered by some pol you arent supporting. You will then rise up in outrage. You will begin to paraphrase freely, mind-reading the speakers motive and outlook. You will thus establish yourself as a fooland you may win a top spot on cable.
Obamas offhand remark wasnt worth discussingand he was saved from the Cult of the Offhand Comment by the announcement of the passport matter. But then, Geraldine Ferraros extemporaneous remark to the Daily Breeze wasnt much worth discussing either. As Obama said in this weeks speech: We can run our campaigns on distractions. But if were bright, we will not.
Please note: The nitwits of the world spend their time doing this: Explaining why offhand remarks by the shirts are just vilewhile remarks by the skins just are not.
THE CARD NOT PLAYED: While were at it, lets offer an important point for certain adepts of that cult. Tapes of Reverend Wrights sermons have been on sale (at his church) all through Campaign 08. For the past three or four months, youve spent your time in your tin-foil hats, helping us see what slobbering racists those two vile Clintons are. (How dare Bill Clinton say fairy tale? How dare he name Jesse Jackson?) But uh-oh! To all appearances, the Clinton campaign never pimped those sermons around, despite the harm they could have done to Obama! Some will now start inventing novels in which that doesnt mean that the Clinton campaign decided to pass on the use of this race card. You see, the team these novelists love is the shirtsand this year, Bill and Hill are the skins.
WHO IS MICHELLE BERNARD: In prime time coverage of a White House election, no cable news network has ever been as propagandized as MSNBC currently is. On Fox, Hannity was always paired with Colmesand OReilly, who is a nut on some topics, is relatively fair about major pols. (In Campaign 2000, for example, he was massively more fair to Gore than most big cable hosts were.)
But on MSNBC, the performance of Hardball, Countdown, and now Race for the White House often resembles that of a cult. This brings us to a peculiar question: Who is Michelle Bernard?
On the surface, the question is easily answered. At present, Bernard is CEO of the Independent Womens Forum, a conservative womens group founded in 1992. (According to Wikipedia, the IWF grew out of an ad hoc group created to support Clarence Thomas.) The groups directors emeritae include such conservative stars as Lynn Cheney, Wendy Gramm, Midge Decter and Kate OBeirne. To peruse the groups web site, just click here.
The IWF, like many such groups, is founded as a non-partisan 501(c)(3) group. As such, the group does not endorse candidates. But it does promote a range of conservative causes.
All that is well and goodand Michelle Bernard is the groups CEO. Which leads us to a puzzling question: As a major conservative, why is Bernard appearing on Hardball so oftento gush about Obama?
Bernards remarkable Hardball run began on Thursday, January 24. Since then, she has become a frequent guest on the propagandistic program. Here is the list of dates on which she has appeared:
Thursday, January 24
Friday, January 25
Monday, January 28
Tuesday, January 29
Wednesday, January 30 (regular program)
Wednesday, January 30 (special post-debate program)
Tuesday, February 5
Tuesday, February 12
Wednesday, February 13
Thursday, February 14
Tuesday, February 19
Tuesday, February 26
Tuesday, March 4
Wednesday, March 5
Tuesday, March 11 (regular program)
Tuesday, March 11 (special post-primary program)
Wednesday, March 12
Friday, March 14
Tuesday, March 18
According to Nexis, Bernard has appeared nineteen times since January 24, an eight-week period. During that time:
Who knows? Maybe theres a legitimate reason why Bernard, the head of a major conservative group, is promoting Obama so effusively. But Bernard is appearing on a cable network which is perhaps more propagandized than any such network ever has been during a White House campaign. And she is appearing at a time when at least one major writer is asking a question: Have some conservatives been supporting Obama because they think he would be the easier Democratic candidate to beat? (For Wayne Barretts Village Voice piece, just click here.) For ourselves, we dont know who would be the stronger Dem in Novemberand we dont know what different conservatives think. But as weve watched Hardball, weve become increasingly puzzled by Bernards effusive praise of Obamapraise which has never yet been questioned by her host.
Our question: Why is the head of the IWF gushing so over Obama?
And make no mistakeBernard has been gushing hard about the Dem front-runner. (Such gushing is par for the course on Clinton/Gore-loathing MSNBC.) This Tuesday night, for example, the head of a major conservative group said this about Obamas speech:
BERNARD (3/18/08): I think that this is probably the most important speech that I have heard in my lifetime. I would say this is probably the best speech and most important speech on race that we have, that we have heard as a nation since Martin Luther King`s "I have a dream" speech. Every single word was riveting. I thought that the way Barack Obama started off the speech talking about how perfect and howyou know, the ideals set forth in our Constitution, but slavery being the original sin of our nation and how our forefathers left it to further, further generations to perfect this union and giving the impression that that time for change is now.
I was riveted by his ability in the speech to actually talk about and explain in a manner that is not scary to the nation the type of anger that consumes men like Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and explain it in an important way by talking about what black men in this nation faced in the 50s and in the 60s and not as a way toto get away from the fact that some of the problems that still plague black America need to be fixed within the community.
He did a great job of, for example, talking about the importance of personal responsibility in the black community, but also balancing that out with saying we need to fix our public education system so that you don`t see such a great disparity between black children and white children. I think, overall, you know, it ranks right up there as one of the best speeches Ive ever heard.
On balance, we thought the speech was quite good toobut then, we dont head the IWF, a major conservative group. But then, Bernard had gushed the previous week, defending Obama during the controversy about Ferraro:
BERNARD (3/12/08): Well, I got an e-mail from a viewer who sent me an e-mail and said, Look, heres the thing about Geraldine Ferraroif her premise was correct, why wasnt Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton ever elected president? If all it takes to be a blackto become president of the United States is to be a black man, we would have seen one a long time ago. And that`s why its offensive.
He is not an affirmative action candidate. He is highly qualified. He is well spoken. He has captured the imagination of whites, blacks, Hispanics. Hes captured the imagination of everyone in this nation, and she seems to really be denigrating him and kind of saying, You know what? Realize your place. Its almost as if we are beginning to see the evolution of the angry white female, or the angry Democratic white female in this election.
Say what? According to the had of a major conservative group, Barack Obama has captured the imagination of everyone in this nation? That would have struck us as somewhat odd, coming from the head of the IWF. Except for the fact that, just one night before, we had seen Bernard gush like this:
BERNARD (3/11/08): I think Iowa, New Hampshire, and all of the states that followed, particularly Iowa, you turn on news and there are literally thousands of white people, you know, standing in line to shake his hand and voting for him and they are
MATTHEWS: What was your feeling in seeing that?
BERNARD: I was proud. I thought it was a wonderful time in our history. Weve had other African Americans run for president, Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton. Barack Obama represents a new type of black politics.
MATTHEWS: Define it, if can you.
BERNARD: Well, we are going beyond color. You are seeing African Americans competing with whites on their own territory. Like his wife going to Princeton, like Barack Obama going to Harvard Law School. Speaking just as well as the whites, not speaking Ebonics. Going out and giving great speeches.
Barack Obama isnt speaking Ebonics! It made Bernard feel proud!
At any rate, you get the general idea: Bernard has been pimping Obama quite hard. As such, she fits right in with Hardballs requirementsand good news! On March 11, Matthews introduced her, for the first time, as an MSNBC political analyst. Like Rachel Maddow before her, Bernard seemed to have said the right thingsand seemed to have reaped the reward.
In fairness, Bernard is a young African-American high-achiever herself. (She doesnt speak Ebonics either!) One might imagine that this helps explain the oddness of seeing the IWF head praising a major Dem in this manner. But few Hardball viewers will find themselves wondering about Bernards endless praise for Obama. As weve noted, Matthews keeps forgetting to tell his viewers that the IWF is a conservative entity; he introduced Bernard as a conservative on January 28 and February 5, but that was the last time he let viewers know about her political orientation. And something else has never happened. As far as we can tell, Matthews has never asked Bernard an obvious question: Why do you, the head of a conservative group, praise the Democratic front-runner so effusively? That is a baldly obvious question. The question has never been asked.
Why in the world is Michelle Bernard praising the Dem front-runner this way? Is this just another of the Jack Welch Nets endless scams? Why is Michelle Bernard gushing like this? There may be a very good answer to thatbut its high time the question was asked.
CLOWN COLLEGE: To earn a spot at Jack Welchs net, you have to prove that youre willing to clown. For our money, Bernard earned her spurs on March 11 and 12.
On March 11, she took offense when Pat Buchanan praised Obama:
BERNARD (3/11/08): For the record, can I please ask: Why is it that, whenever we talk about an African-American, like Barack Obama, that we have to use the word articulate, as if he`s going to go on TV speaking Ebonics?
Yep! On March 11, Bernard was miffed when Obama was described as articulate. But the very next night, she rushed to say that Obama is quite well-spoken:
BERNARD (3/12/08): He is not an affirmative action candidate. He is highly qualified. He is well-spoken...
Obama was speaking just as well as the whites, not speaking Ebonics, she said that same night (full text above).
Well-spoken, si! Articulate, no! Its how the clowns tumble into the ring on the scam-ridden cable show Hardball.