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WE’RE ALL NEWT GINGRICH NOW! Gingrich explained the death of a child. Yesterday, we followed suit: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2010

Twice-delayed history appears: Over at our companion site, we have posted the twice-delayed Chapter 4 of our incomparable book, How he got there. The chapter is longer than we would have liked. But the episodes this chapter describes remain profoundly instructive.

For Chapter 4, click this. For the full site, just click here.

Long chapter short: This chapter describes the sorry state of the mainstream press as Campaign 2000's primary races began to take shape. Key event: Late in October 1999, Gore and Bradley conducted their first Democratic debate. Three different journalists described the press corps hissing, jeering and laughing at Gore all through the hour-long session. One of them is now famous—Jake Tapper. (Reporters had to watch the event in a near-by press room.) In his own report of this astonishing incident, Time’s Eric Pooley compared his jeering colleagues to “a gang of 15-year-old Heathers.” With apologies for the gender denigration—15-year-old Brandons will sometimes go badly wrong too—we think Pooley’s description serves quite brilliantly as we review the press corps’ devolving culture and broken practices in the fall of 1999.

George Bush ended up in the White House, in case you no longer recall.

This chapter turned out a few thousand words longer than we would have liked. On the other hand, we had to leave out remarkable stuff to bring it in at this length. (Eventually, we’ll add full appendices. We may still add a few tweaks.) By the way: Four days after that first debate, the press corps seized on Naomi Wolf, and they began to imagine wild things. A month of outright lunacy ensued. It was followed by a second month of lunacy, this time about Love Canal.

In those two months, the die was cast. Those months of lunacy—and eight years of Bush—were brought you by Pooley’s Heathers.

In modern times, some of this chapter’s leading Heathers have been re-purposed as liberal stars. They now appear on our own TV channel, filled with the highest integrity. Their keisters get kissed by grasping figures—by the kinds of pseudo-liberals who will simply never tell you the truth about the way we all got here. You see, the truth is very bad for business. Grasping stars have to get paid; grasping stars have to stay famous.

Chapter 4 describes astounding events. Chapters 5-7 will describe disasters. This is the real history of your time. Again, we’ll ask your contributions, where possible, to help us complete this project.

Peter Baker devolves: We were struck by the way Peter Baker deferred to Lamar Alexander.

In this morning’s New York Times, Baker reports on the recent changes in student loan procedures. (These changes were accomplished as part of the “reconciliation” package.) This was Baker’s own explanation of what has occurred:

BAKER (3/31/10): The new law will eliminate fees paid to private banks to act as intermediaries in providing loans to college students and use much of the nearly $68 billion in savings over 11 years to expand Pell grants and make it easier for students to repay outstanding loans after graduating. The law also invests $2 billion in community colleges over the next four years to provide education and career training programs to workers eligible for trade adjustment aid after dislocation in their industries.
The law will increase Pell grants along with inflation in the next few years, which should raise the maximum grant to $5,975 from $5,550 by 2017, according to the White House, and it will also provide 820,000 more grants by 2020.

Let’s say it again: That is Baker’s account of the facts. That is his account of the changes produced by this new law. But alas! Weirdly but typically, a bit later on, he loaned two paragraph to Alexander. Are Alexander’s claims true? Who cares?

BAKER: But Sallie Mae said the law would cost jobs, telling news outlets that it may have to eliminate a third of its 8,500 positions nationwide. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican whose state of Tennessee is home to big players in the private student lending industry, said the changes over all would cost 31,000 private-sector jobs.

In a statement, Mr. Alexander said students would be overcharged on their loans with the proceeds to be used to pay for the health care law, and he bemoaned the government's getting more deeply into the lending business. The Obama administration's motto,'' he said, ''is turning out to be: 'If we can find it in the Yellow Pages, the government ought to try to do it.' ''

Is that true? Will students be “overcharged” in some way? Will some proceeds somehow be used to pay for the health care law? If these claims are actually accurate, you’d almost think they’d be included in Baker’s account of the new law. But Baker simply lets Alexander make his statements. He makes no attempt to tell readers if these claims are accurate.

Are Alexander’s statements true? As we’ve long told you: The very notions of “truth” and “facts” play a remarkably limited role in the press corps’ devolving culture.

Alexander was allowed to declaim. Are his claims true? Who cares?

WE’RE ALL NEWT GINGRICH NOW (permalink): Your DAILY HOWLER keeps getting results! This time, it was David Letterman himself who jumped to our tune!

Background:

Some weeks ago, David Barstow did a lengthy profile of the Tea Party movement on the New York Times front page. Barstow focused on Pam Stout, a 66-year-old Idaho woman, making her a principal face of the Tea Party movement. At the time, we said we’d like to see Barstow asked why he decided to focus on Stout. And we said we’d like to see Stout interviewed on the TV machine thingy, as our progressive clowns call it.

We said we’d like to hear Stout’s account of the Tea Party movement—her account of her political views.

The silly children on MSNBC failed to jump to our tune. Last night, they played their schoolyard games as Letterman interviewed Stout! You can watch the bulk of the segment here, unless CBS has had the tape taken down. (The last few moments are not included.) We thought Letterman did a good job with the interview in certain ways. In other ways, his lack of political savvy showed.

But then, you’ve already grown accustomed to that if you watch our progressive channel.

Go ahead—take a look at that tape. If you prefer (and many will), you’ll be able to find some ways to insist that Stout is a snarling racist. (Though you’ll have to struggle a bit.) If you’re alternately disposed, you may notice that Stout could play the title role if some producer ever decides to cast Santa Claus as a woman. For our part, we aren’t inclined to agree with Stout’s views—at least, with the emphases she places. And the interview only ran nine minutes. And, of course, it only involved one member of a large movement.

Question: Can you watch that interview and imagine that Stout is a decent person? By now, many liberals quite likely cannot. Just consider the question of who killed Phoebe Prince, age 15.

With apologies for the need to politicize the death of a child:

Yesterday, the New York Times published this news report about Phoebe Prince’s death. About that death, we will only say this: Yesterday, the blogger we read first every day tied the death of this child to “the violent, apocalyptic rhetoric of the right over the past few years.” (Click here.) For the record, we read this person first every day because her work deserves attention.

Anything can be true, of course. Every possible cause of an action can at least be imagined. In the present case, quite a few commenters called this blogger’s analysis a stretch. A few said it had merit.

Everything is possible. For ourselves, when we read that post, we thought back to Newt Gingrich.

In 1994, a South Carolina woman named Susan Smith drowned her two young children. In one of his least-hinged moments ever, Gingrich tied these killings to party politics. One day before the 1994 congressional elections, the AP’s David Pace penned this fair-minded report on Gingrich’s statements:

PACE (11/7/94): Newt Gingrich came under fire Monday for using the South Carolina child-murder case to urge voters to back GOP candidates.

The House Republican whip, asked by two elementary school teachers why he had tried to make an issue of the Union, S.C., mother who confessed to drowning her two sons, insisted that his comments had been taken out of context and distorted by the media.

Gingrich said he wasn't trying to link the slayings to Democratic policies but simply was using the case as an example of why "we have to have very deep, very big changes."

During an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, Gingrich was asked how the campaign was going in the final week.

"Slightly more moving our way," he replied. "I think that the mother killing the two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we need to change things. ...

“How a mother can kill her two children, 14 months and 3 years, in hopes that her boyfriend would like her, is just a sign of how sick the system is and I think people want to change. The only way you get change is to vote Republican. That's the message for the last three days.”

Vice President Al Gore, campaigning Sunday in Illinois, called Gingrich's comments "outrageous" and said candidates should "have a bipartisan agreement to stop stirring up hatefulness and bringing something like this into partisan politics.”

[...]

In Union, where Susan Smith was charged last week with the murder of her two sons, her lawyer and the prosecutor said they were dismayed that Gingrich tried to inject the case into a political campaign.

"I can't imagine how this heartbreaking tragedy might have anything to do with an election," said David Bruck, Mrs. Smith's lawyer.

Prosecutor Tommy Pope, a Republican, said the case "is about people, not about parties."

Gingrich said his comments Saturday were no different from what he has been saying for the past two years about how violence sweeping the country illustrates the failure of the Democratic-controlled political system.

"This is an example of the press taking out of context a very specific statement I've made for two years," he said. "The system is decaying. You watch the decay on the local television news in every major city in this country and we need very deep change if we're going to turn this country around."

Asked if the change he is seeking would prevent killings like those in South Carolina, Gingrich replied, "Yes. In my judgment, there's no question. Those of us as old as ... me grew up in a world where this would have been unthinkable.”

For the record, you can even imagine that Gingrich’s analysis was correct. But, along with that possibility, many people could pretty much see that it was virally tribal.

Love of the tribe is bred in the bone; love of the tribe can make us all blind. But are we all Newt Gingrich now? When we watch the well-twinned children on our corporatelib channel, we and the analysts wonder.

Might we tie this rumination to this recent post by Steven Benen? In the post, Benen discusses the recent spitting and racial epithet incidents outside the Capitol building.

Unless we’re mistaken, there is barely a fact about these incidents that Steve doesn’t tilt or misstate. He says the person who spat on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver was arrested. But according to the AP, the Capitol police issued a statement explicitly saying that they didn’t make an arrest. Steve says there’s a tape of this incident; while this is true, the tape leaves some question about what happened, especially about the question of intent. (It seems quite clear that Rep. Cleaver felt he had been spat on.) And Steve says that many journalists witnessed the racial insults hurled at Reps. Andre Carson and Lewis. As far we know, that isn’t the case. In its original reporting, the AP reported what Rep. Carson and a spokesperson for Lewis said about the incident. The AP didn’t claim to be a witness, although one leading liberal gave a different impression in her own high-minded report.

After that, she ran off and kissed Chris Matthews’ keister. As you know, the corporation has re-purposed Chris as a fiery progressive—even on matters of race!

Have other reporters claimed to be witnesses? As far as we know, the answer is no. We’ll be happy to stand corrected, though Steve gives no examples.

We make these observations for a reason, offered in the form of a question: How respectful are we about matters of race when we treat racial incidents in this manner? When we use racial incidents to fuel our own preferred tribal tales? When we don’t even learn basic facts about such incidents?

Are we all Newt Gingrich here too?

We’ve seen a string of liberals and ranking mainstreamers prance and play with these recent incidents, while embellishing or misstating obvious facts. We saw Jon Meacham clear his throat and declaim grandly on these events, while thinking that Lewis had been spat on. We saw Joan Walsh spin up a number and imply that the AP had witnessed the slurs. We saw a “Democratic strategist” on the O’Reilly Factor say that Rep. Clyburn had been spat on. We saw Al Sharpton claim he had seen a tape of the slurs; he quickly backed down when O’Reilly told him there was no tape of the slurs. (For the record, we’re fans of Sharpton around here. In this matter, fairly plainly, he was not being truthful.)

How respectful are we about race when we make these kinds of misstatements? And by the way: If Republicans confused Reps. Lewis, Clyburn, Carson and Cleaver this way, can’t we pretty much all write the jokes our top schoolboy would deliver?

Because of their work at an earlier time, every person in the country owes a debt of gratitude to Lewis and Clyburn. Is it possible we could get our facts straight when we discuss these men? Or does tribal pleasure come first?

By the way: Remember when we all longed to pretend that some tea-bagger hanged Bill Sparkman? (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/25/09.) How decent was our tribe in that case? Were we all Newt Gingrich then too? Weren’t we behaving like children?

In one of his least hinged moments ever, Gingrich explained the death of two children. Are we all Newt Gingrich now? To answer, watch the tape of Stout. Ask yourself a simple question: Can imagine that Pam Stout, 66, could be decent, well-intentioned—but wrong?

Final point: Tribal claims produce tribal rage in return, perhaps delaying wider progress. Questions: Did Dr. King conduct himself this way? How about Mandela?