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WASHINGTON AWOL (PART 2)! Alas! Lithwick’s fine cohort would never do what a judge and a brain doctor did: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, APRIL 5, 2005

WASHINGTON AWOL (PART 2): Dahlia Lithwick was shocked—just shocked!—to see her press cohort gone AWOL (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/4/05). But then, she knew why her colleagues stared off into air as Mark Levin’s new gong-show best-seller polluted the American discourse. They did so because they were “serious,” high-minded and fine—because it hurt them just to say Levin’s name. (“Jeff Rosen probably had to swallow hard—twice—before even referencing Men in Black,” she lamented.) And yes, among career typists, all good boys know to play this dumb game; indeed, see the Monthly’s Kevin Drum as he gushes about Lithwick’s brilliance. “This is why I love Dahlia Lithwick,” he writes, about Lithwick’s column. And don’t worry, Kevin. One fine day, the well-puffed Lithwick will say she just luvvs your work too.

But uh-oh! In fact, Lithwick’s cohort has been AWOL for years, even if she likes to say that they bravely debunked those Swift Boat claims, and even if she feigns shock—shock; shock!—to see them hand Levin their latest free pass. Yes, they went badly AWOL on the Swift Boat matter, as a trip to our archives incomparably shows; but then, it’s what they’ve done for the past several decades as the pseudo-right built a pseudo-con discourse on cable TV and talk radio. Not for them the nasty work of tackling Rush or Sean—or those rude, uncouth, frightening Swifties. As Lithwick notes, they’re just too fine to dirty their hands discussing the clowning of men like Levin. Lithwick is right to scold them now. But her class has been AWOL on these matters for years, a point she agrees not to notice.

Indeed, it’s so rare to see the Dumb Bunch challenged that it’s treated like news when it happens. Last Monday, neurologist Ronald Cranford had heard enough as he watched the latest Scarborough Country discussion of Terri Schiavo. “Joe doesn't have any idea what he is talking about,” he rudely ranted to NBC’s Lisa Daniels. “And you don't have any idea what you're talking about,” he added to the shocked scribe. On and on the nattering neurologist went—and Media Matters gave it large play. And Matters was right—this was indeed news. Indeed, it’s so rare to see anyone say the obvious about Scarborough’s nightly cable clowning that it did deserve a word of mention when somebody finally shattered the code. In particular, Dahlia Lithwick’s high-minded class would never dirty its hands fighting Scarborough. It would hurt too much to mention his name—and they want to appear on other NBC programs! And so the clowning of Scarborough—and of Chris Matthews before him—has persisted for years without complaint.

No, Lithwick’s high-minded class of “serious journalists” know not to dirty their delicate hands with the men who are actually shaping our discourse. But let’s give brief tribute to somebody else who broke the mold last week. That would be Court TV anchor Catherine Crier, who hammered her host all over the lot on last Wednesday’s Scarborough. Joe was bashing those activist judges. And Crier, a former judge, fought back hard:

CRIER (3/30/05): Joe, Joe, you—you are a lawyer. You understand they are going there are going to be disputes, and judges will come down on one side or the other, ultimately. This is not one court, but judge after judge, hearing after hearing. They have evaluated the evidence. They have looked at the presentations on both sides. They have made the—

SCARBOROUGH: You say they. Who is they?

CRIER: The judges that have reviewed this. This is not one judge. It's not two judges.

SCARBOROUGH: Judge Greer, though. But you know, though, it's a trial court judge that is the finder of fact. This trial court judge has decided and made some decisions, and all the appeals court judges have to defer to this single judge, do they not, on findings of fact?

CRIER: Absolutely not. They are able to look at it and see whether it was an abuse of discretion, whether or not the testimony was verifying the particular ruling by this court. This is not a rubber stamp, and you and I both know that. And I am sorry to hear, because it's a political debate, that you are ignoring what you, in fact, know goes on in the judiciary.

Ouch! Crier did what Lithwick’s cohort won’t—she directly told Scarborough that he was faking. Her aggressive performance went on and on—we strongly suggest that you read the full transcript. But like Cranford, she did what the good boys and girls never do—she directly attacked the host of one of our gong-show cable programs. And why does conduct this seem so amazing? Why was it news when Cranford did it? Because the fine boys and girls of Lithwick’s high class have spent two decades refusing to do this. It took a comedian, Al Franken, to write the book which tackled Rush Limbaugh. And it took a neurologist, Ronald Cranford, to go on TV and tackle Scarborough. The fine boys and girls of Lithwick’s high class all know they mustn’t behave so uncouthly. Result? They said nothing, for year after year, while Chris Matthews staged his long War Against Gore—and they said next to nothing while the wild uncouth Swifties conducted their jihad against Kerry last summer. Even now, it isn’t Lithwick’s class that confronts this clowning cable TV host. No, it’s a medical doc and a Court TV anchor who finally say they can’t take any more. By contrast, Lithwick’s “serious journalists” would stare into air for the next dozen years before they’d ever challenge this host. And out there on the careerist web, Kevin Drum would be cheering them on.

Lithwick’s high class has been AWOL for years. They’ve been too dainty to dirty their hands challenging Joe, and Chris, and the others. But Lithwick doesn’t seem to have heard. Career typists tend to be like that.

TOMORROW—PART 3: AWOL on Campaign 2000

THURSDAY: Bungling Rather—grand climax!

MARSHALL’S PLEDGE: Also this morning, Josh Marshall gives you his pledge—he won’t involve himself in “the repeated and convulsive expression of more or less contrived outrage,” the way so many uncouth fellows now seem to do on the web. And not only that, he won’t become an “outrage-addict,” in which the outrage is “not contrived, but more of an addiction.” This is the gentleman’s puzzling way of introducing a post about Texas senator John Cornyn—another fellow to whom Lithwick’s cohort long ago gave a big pass.

So why not visit our incomparable archives? In May 2000, Cornyn—then Texas Attorney General—committed an act of world-class clowning when a deeply shaky death penalty case came center stage during the Bush-Gore campaign. But how did our “serious journalists” act? Of course! They handed Cornyn their Standard Free Pass—and they gave such a pass to Bush as well, praising the Texan for the fine suit of clothes he wore when he made a fact-free announcement about the case’s disposition. Five years later, Marshall scolds Cornyn for his latest weird conduct, being careful to tell the world that we won’t ever see him express contrived outrage. But see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/6/02, for an account of this prior remarkable story—a story in which your “serious journalists” gave Cornyn and Bush a free pass.

Let’s say it again—Lithwick’s cohort has been AWOL for years, as Mark Shields made all too clear by his ludicrous punditry RE Bush and Cornyn back in May 2000. Or are we engaging in “the repeated and convulsive expression of more or less contrived outrage” when we dare remind our readers of how Lithwick’s cohort really behaves in serious matters like this? You’d certainly have to hunt high and low to find career journalists willing to discuss it. Go ahead—read about that prior case again, ands tell us why someone would have to contrive a spot of outrage regarding John Cornyn.