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Daily Howler: Why in the world is Michelle Bernard praising Obama on Hardball
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WHO IS MICHELLE BERNARD! Why in the world is Michelle Bernard praising Obama on Hardball: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 2008

THE ABCs OF MODERN PRESS CULTURE: We’ve been borrowing computer time most of the week. For that reason, we hadn’t seen this astounding report, by ABC’s Brian Ross, about Hillary Clinton’s White House schedules. Ross makes the Washington Post and the New York Times look like paragons of sanity and restraint. For Susie Madrak’s take on this “journalistic” obscenity, go ahead: just click here.

For the record, Ross is ABC’s top “investigative reporter.”

Mainstream press conduct of the past sixteen years raises a fundamental question: What kind of creatures are we really? As of (let’s 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?” We’ve long told you this: Washington’s 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 group—its 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, it’s much as we’ve told you: A fantasy lies at the heart of the western world’s basic understandings. Man is the rational animal, we were told, long ago. (In this usage, “man” means “human.”) From that time forward, this idea—which is utterly false—has suffused the western world’s basic notions.

But in fact, we humans just aren’t 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, there’s 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 Ehrenreich’s screed as “an unusually ugly character assassination.” For ourselves, a bit of background: We’ve been interested in Jeff Sharlet’s work ever since his 2003 Harper’s piece. We look forward to reading his forthcoming book. But let’s scan Ehrenreich’s piece with some care: Putting her tin-foil and her Hitler tales to the side, here’s 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, we’re 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 Clinton’s best-seller, Living History.) Meanwhile, we suggest that you read the Mother Jones piece from which Ehrenreich’s 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.

Ehrenreich’s piece poses a challenge. If you’re a liberal, can you see the squalid nonsense of which conservatives and liberals are so plainly capable? Repeatedly, we’ve been reminded in recent weeks of one of our favorite homilies:

There was once a golden age of liberal politics—the 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 Obama’s radio remark about his grandmother. (There’s one tiny reference in the Times.) In our view, Obama’s 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 Obama’s remark through much of last night’s 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 aren’t supporting. You will then rise up in outrage. You will begin to paraphrase freely, mind-reading the speaker’s motive and outlook. You will thus establish yourself as a fool—and you may win a top spot on cable.

Obama’s offhand remark wasn’t worth discussing—and he was saved from the Cult of the Offhand Comment by the announcement of the passport matter. But then, Geraldine Ferraro’s extemporaneous remark to the Daily Breeze wasn’t much worth discussing either. As Obama said in this week’s speech: We can run our campaigns on distractions. But if we’re 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 vile—while remarks by “the skins” just are not.

THE CARD NOT PLAYED: While we’re at it, let’s offer an important point for certain adepts of that cult. Tapes of Reverend Wright’s sermons have been on sale (at his church) all through Campaign 08. For the past three or four months, you’ve 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 doesn’t mean that the Clinton campaign decided to pass on the use of this “race card.” You see, the team these novelists love is “the shirts”—and 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 Colmes—and O’Reilly, 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 Women’s Forum, a conservative women’s 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 O’Beirne. To peruse the group’s 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 good—and Michelle Bernard is the group’s CEO. Which leads us to a puzzling question: As a major conservative, why is Bernard appearing on Hardball so often—to gush about Obama?

Bernard’s 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:

  • She has almost never been identified as a conservative.
  • She has repeatedly and effusively praised Obama.
  • She has never been asked why she, as a leading conservative, is promoting the Democratic Party’s most likely presidential nominee.

Who knows? Maybe there’s 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 Barrett’s Village Voice piece, just click here.) For ourselves, we don’t know who would be the stronger Dem in November—and we don’t know what different conservatives think. But as we’ve watched Hardball, we’ve become increasingly puzzled by Bernard’s effusive praise of Obama—praise 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 mistake—Bernard 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 Obama’s 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 how—you 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 to—to 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 I’ve ever heard.

On balance, we thought the speech was quite good too—but then, we don’t 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, here’s the thing about Geraldine Ferraro—if her premise was correct, why wasn’t Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton ever elected president? If all it takes to be a black—to 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 it’s 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. He’s 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.” It’s 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. We’ve 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 isn’t 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 Hardball’s requirements—and 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 things—and seemed to have reaped the reward.

In fairness, Bernard is a young African-American high-achiever herself. (She doesn’t 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 Bernard’s endless praise for Obama. As we’ve 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 Net’s endless scams? Why is Michelle Bernard gushing like this? There may be a very good answer to that—but it’s high time the question was asked.

CLOWN COLLEGE: To earn a spot at Jack Welch’s net, you have to prove that you’re 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! It’s how the clowns tumble into the ring on the scam-ridden cable show Hardball.