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SYCOPHANT OLIPHANT! Has anyone ever pandered as hard as Sycophant Oliphant did? // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 2007

AT LAST, A BIT OF STRAIGHT TALK: On 60 Minutes, John McCain discussed his embarrassing statements about that Baghdad marketplace:
MCCAIN (4/8/07): I'm going to—I'm going to misspeak, and I've done it on numerous occasions, and I probably will in the future. I regret that, if—when I, when I divert attention to something that I've said from my message, but, you know, that's just life, and I'm happy with—frankly, with the way that I operate. Otherwise, it'd be a lot less fun.
Let’s hope McCain’s life is never “less fun!” After all, journalists told us, all during the 2000 primaries, how much fun it was on McCain’s big white bus (text below). But McCain finally offered a bit of straight talk when he said he’s misspoken “on numerous occasions.” As we showed you last week, McCain made all manner of clownish misstatement during the course of Campaign 2000—and a sycophant press corps refused to take notice (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/4/07). Indeed, as several major journos explained in December 1999, they would simply “take him off the record” when he made his most ridiculous statements. (At this very same time, of course, these same journos were working extra hard to gimmick up “misstatements” by Gore.) If you didn’t read our post last week, we strongly suggest that you read it today. Has McCain misspoken “on numerous occasions?” That barely scratches the surface.

But your “journalists” will never tell you the truth—will never give up their prize narratives. This morning, E. J. Dionne’s headline is “The McCain Tragedy;” he starts by recalling what a “joyous romp” McCain staged during Campaign 2000 (when he was making those clownish misstatements). And Dionne begs McCain—this “admirable man”—to reclaim his “maverick” status. According to Dionne, “His old straight talk would be such a relief after so much prevarication and fabrication from this White House.” Perfect! He’d worked in every sound-bite! Dionne had achieved the corps’ goal when discussing McCain; he had left no slogan behind.

No, Dionne will never tell you the truth about what has driven your electoral politics over the course of the past fifteen years. But then, this has really been the week to see your liberal career pundits fail you! Yesterday, even Paul Krugman made it clear; to the extent that his own employer is at fault, he simply refuses to tell you the truth about your recent political history, (Instead, he’ll just say that Fox did it.) And the reaction of liberal pundits to the Imus matter has reached the point of utter embarrassment (more below). But if no one else will tell you the truth, John McCain at long last has!

Again, we strongly suggest that you read last week’s post. Enjoy a good laugh at the sanctified solon’s clueless behavior during Campaign 2000, when journalists rode around “laughing and laughing” (full text below) as he staged that “joyous romp.”

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Richard Cohen, describing the fun in early 2000:
COHEN (2/8/00): Oddly enough, in all the analysis I've read of John McCain's unanticipated success, the word "fun" is never mentioned. But the man is having fun. It's clear. A trip on his bus is, well, a trip. You laugh and laugh—at least I do—and when, once, I asked him why in the world he would talk to the press hour after hour, totally on-the-record, he said it was "fun." He was having fun.
In reality, McCain would “talk to the press hour after hour” because they were taking him off the record. But why spoil the fun by mentioning that? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/15/99, for a bit of the story.

For the record, this column was Classic Cohen. In fact, every “analysis” of McCain had mentioned the big fun the journos were having. And the profiles all mentioned something else—they mentioned the way McCain just hates to discuss Vietnam, even as they quoted the latest tortured way he had managed to work Nam into conversation. In short, they were busy reciting the great man’s talking-points—as Dionne does again just this morning.

By the way, how did Cohen begin that column? Of course! He complained about the way another candidate made them think about policy matters! Yuck! The laughing boys just hated that! This is how Cohen began:
COHEN: First I read the interview Hillary Clinton gave to the New York Times explaining why she was running for the Senate. Then I watched her announcement extravaganza in which she explained why she was running for the Senate. Finally, I read news accounts of her speech, so I'm absolutely sure now I know why she is running for the Senate. She's doing it all for me.

I am touched. I am also appalled. I like it that she ticked off something like 125 issues that have absolutely compelled her to make this race. They include education, child care, the high rate of breast cancer on Long Island, the need for more cops, the need for fewer guns and the need to restore prosperity to upstate New York. I could go on and on because, literally, Hillary Clinton did.

But not once in the Saturday interview and not once in the Sunday speech did I hear Mrs. Clinton say anything about fun—that running for the Senate and being a senator would be fun. Instead, she came across as a social worker, dutifully checking off issue after issue, many of them designed to appeal to the constituency that has, for the moment at least, abandoned her—white women. Mostly for their sake, not to mention mine, she is running for the Senate.
In a word, these people are out of their minds. They made this clear long ago.

By the time of Cohen’s laughable column, McCain had bungled every major domestic policy matter, in ways which were often truly comical. (Again, be sure to see last week’s post.) But so what? Cohen got to “laugh and laugh” on that big white bus, so who cared if the great, great man was clueless? It was really Clinton who drove him nuts—Clinton, who walked about things like child care. Cohen didn’t say what was wrong with her thoughts. He was just peeved that she had them.

Of course, this complaint about Clinton has become a prime script. To see David Broder write this same column six years later, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/25/06. But then, these weak, inane boys hate all Big Dems who make them listen to things that aren’t fun. To see poor Broder “almost nod off” as Gore “goes through page after page of swell ideas,” see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/26/03. These people are simply out of their minds. They made it clear long, long ago.

SYCOPHANT OLIPHANT: Has anyone ever pandered to anyone the way Tom Oliphant pandered to Imus during yesterday’s radio program? At Media Matters, you can watch the first 4:35 of his outing, but the pander-thon part of Oliphant’s phone call extended from 8:31 Eastern until 8:42, with Oliphant barely emerging for air as he kissed up, lip-locked, pimped, smooched and fawned. And make no mistake; over the course of the past fifteen years, Oliphant was one of the fairest of all major pundits! No, he didn’t fight back during Campaign 2000; these people never discuss or criticize what their major colleagues are doing (as Oliphant proved during yesterday’s phone call). But Oliphant never took part in the War Against Gore; he never repeated one word of the bull-sh*t. But there he was yesterday, pandering hard, reinventing himself now as Sycophant Oliphant.

And yes; it only gets worse—much worse—after the Media Matters tape ends. Before it’s over, Oliphant even says that Imus is “ahead of the curve politically” because “green causes is one of the biggest civil rights issues in the country today.” (Imus’ wife, Deirdre Imus, is a major greenie. She’s called “The Green Ho” on the program.) And he blubbers about how brilliant Imus was when he interviewed reclusive Bill Russell long ago. (Russell could tell that Imus loves black folk, Oliphant more or less blubbered.) We’re not sure if we’ve ever seen anyone pander this long and this hard.

But then, we’re seeing the soul of the modern “press corps” as it reacts to the I-man’s latest. For our money, Gwen Ifill’s column in today’s New York Times has to be the most perfect expression of this cohort’s comical “values.” Yes, Ifill offers a brief consideration of the young women directly involved in this matter. But then, she spends half of her column talking about—who else?—herself! Enjoy the rich humor unintentionally found here as Ifill describes an incident that may not have actually happened—while insisting it’s not about her:
IFILL (4/10/07): The serial apologies of Mr. Imus, who was suspended yesterday by both NBC News and CBS Radio for his remarks, have failed another test. The sincerity seems forced and suspect because he's done some version of this several times before.

I know, because he apparently did it to me.

I was covering the White House for this newspaper in 1993, when Mr. Imus's producer began calling to invite me on his radio program. I didn't return his calls. I had my hands plenty full covering Bill Clinton.

Soon enough, the phone calls stopped. Then quizzical colleagues began asking me why Don Imus seemed to have a problem with me. I had no idea what they were talking about because I never listened to the program.

It was not until five years later, when Mr. Imus and I were both working under the NBC News umbrella—his show was being simulcast on MSNBC; I was a Capitol Hill correspondent for the network—that I discovered why people were asking those questions. It took Lars-Erik Nelson, a columnist for The New York Daily News, to finally explain what no one else had wanted to repeat.

''Isn't The Times wonderful,'' Mr. Nelson quoted Mr. Imus as saying on the radio. ''It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House.”

I was taken aback but not outraged. I'd certainly been called worse and indeed jumped at the chance to use the old insult to explain to my NBC bosses why I did not want to appear on the Imus show.

I haven't talked about this much. I'm a big girl. I have a platform. I have a voice. I've been working in journalism long enough that there is little danger that a radio D.J.'s juvenile slap will define or scar me. Yesterday, he began telling people he never actually called me a cleaning lady. Whatever. This is not about me.
If that isn’t Classic Press Corps Narrative, we don’t know what is. Plainly, Ifill doesn’t know if this incident happened. But so what? (Or, as she eloquently puts it: “Whatever!”) It suits the narrative, so Ifill recites it, devoting half her column to the apocryphal story—while insisting that this whole thing is not about her. And of course, this current incident wasn’t about her—until she decided to frame it that way. And you know the Times! Handed a column built around an incident which may not have happened, the great paper rushed it into print! But then, this is how our politics has worked for the past fifteen years, as mainstream press organs have repeated pleasing, script-friendly tales—whether or not they were accurate.

Readers, Al Gore said he invented the Internet! And: Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal! And: Al Gore said he inspired Love Story! Those tales were bogus, but they fit the script—so the New York Times kept printing them. Indeed, the Times invented two of these bogus tales—bogus tales which changed the world’s history. But yesterday, Krugman, playing it dumb, said that Fox has been mangling your discourse! He specifically mentioned the Whitewater hoax—which started in the New York Times, when Fox didn’t even exist.

Imus has a long, wrinkled history; we’ll discuss it a bit more tomorrow, focusing on the parts of his stupid misconduct which Ifill and Oliphant will never discuss. But isn’t it Classic Press Corps Conduct? Ifill doesn’t listen to Imus’ program—so naturally, the Times assigned her this column! No, you can’t get dumber than your “press corps” is. And no—they’ll never tell you the truth about the way their cohort really works.

Tomorrow, a word on those young Rutgers women. And a word on a few other Imus targets—the targets Gwen Ifill won’t discuss.

GWEN IFILL’S HOME COOKING: Don’t worry! Like Oliphant, Ifill knows how to pander to power. To see her play the fool for Darling Condi, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/1/03. Ten days later, the story got worse. For a taste of Ifill’s famous home cooking, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/11/03.

LET’S PLAY TWO: After his 11-minute pander to Imus, Oliphant went on last evening’s NewsHour and pretended that he’d slapped the guy around! Yes, he actually said what follows. For audio, just click here:
OLIPHANT (4/9/07): The most important thing is that people, if we have an opportunity through this, to teach people just how inexcusably horrible what Don said was. And one of the things that I take hope from is that the person who is most chagrined, down to his tootsies, I’d say, is Don Imus himself.

JEFFREY BROWN: So you think, if he goes out and he apologizes—

OLIPHANT: No, that’s not enough. And I don’t think he thinks that’s enough. I told him this morning—I think he had to realize two things.

First of all, the incredible pain he inflicted on those amazing athletes from Rutgers and their coach. I mean, getting almost to the NCAA championship, and then being dissed like that is a horrible thing. The reaction to it has been great hurt and shock in New Jersey. And that’s number one.

Number two is I think he has to understand—I tried to get him to imagine an 8-year-old kid in the car being driven to school by his mom or dad and hearing this on the radio, and turning to mom and dad, and asking, "What`s that?" And that’s how it starts. That’s how a kid feels the sting of this first.

So there’s a lot to understand. But the reason that I think he’s worth it is that there’s a person in there whose place in the public square is worth struggling to save.

BROWN: But if you go on the program are you not giving some legitimacy to, as Clarence [Page] said, the other side of Imus?

OLIPHANT: Yes, I don’t think there’s any question that that’s true.

BROWN: That’s true.

OLIPHANT: And it is a responsibility that I feel. And it is why you try, you know, in any setting you’re in, in the public square, you try to conduct yourself—yourself—in as honorable a way as you can.
Oliphant played moral hero—on PBS. But in fact, as you can hear on the Media Matters tape, he barely mentioned “those amazing athletes from Rutgers” when he spoke with Imus, and he spent all of 28 seconds on the problem dealt to the 8-year-old kid who gets exposed to Imus’ insults. Then, he quickly returned to his pander. And once again, it only gets worse after the Matters tape ends.

Why would Oliphant act this way? Sorry—we can’t answer that. For the record, Oliphant no longer works for the Boston Globe; his income now derives from writing books. (His wife, Susan Spencer, works for CBS.) And out in the marketplace, Oliphant would be able to sell maybe three books without the help of Imus.

Why do these people behave as they do? In the case of individuals, we simply can’t say. But that was some day-night double-header Oliphant staged on those two programs. Which reminds us! Speaking of baseball, why not think about buying his book on the life of Dodger legend Gil Hodges?

Special report: The 90 percent conundrum!


PART 2—INSTINCT FOR ERROR: Today belongs to panders, not blunders. We’ll pick up this story tomorrow.