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Daily Howler: When Coulter called Hillary Clinton ''pond scum,'' Jay Carney knew how to play it
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CARNEY’S KNOWLEDGE! When Coulter called Hillary Clinton “pond scum,” Jay Carney knew how to play it: // link // print // previous // next //

CARNEY’S KNOWLEDGE: For all we know, it may be true! It may be true that flamboyant public crackpot Ann Coulter is one of the world’s “most influential people,” as Time magazine judges this week in its annual hackery issue. Indeed, that’s precisely the problem we’ve discussed here for years, most recently in yesterday’s post (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/14/05). It’s true: Kooky-con pundits like prime nutcase Coulter do gain influence in the culture when “liberal spokesmen” act like cowards, refusing to challenge their absurd, phony work. When the mainstream press corps takes a pass on discussing Coulter’s bad faith, average Americans remain uninformed. And her influence grows in the culture.

And uh-oh! Coulter’s kookery goes undiscussed when self-dealing “journalists” like Time’s Jay Carney are assigned to discuss her great work. Carney’s profile of Coulter in this week’s mag is a perfect study in journalistic bad faith. Here’s the way the brilliant fellow begins his three-paragraph portrait:

CARNEY (4/18/05): To Ann Coulter, liberals are worse than wrong; they are traitors out to destroy the American way of life. That view is at the core of her columns, her TV appearances and her best-selling books. But it is not just her perspective that has made Coulter, 43, an icon to her fans and malice incarnate to her critics. It is the way she delivers it–in ferocious, lucid, hyperbolic bursts of invective. It helps too that she is a tall, thin, attractive blond who favors miniskirts and furs. Coulter is the right-wing pinup of partisan vitriol.
Note the oddness of that opening sentence–a sentence which is perfectly accurate. At present, about twenty percent of American adults identify themselves as “liberal.” But according to Coulter, these people–one-fifth of the nation’s population–are a group of “traitors” who are “out to destroy the American way of life!” Obviously, this is the view of a raving lunatic, if the view is sincerely held. But Carney’s magazine wants to pander to people who find themselves drawn to Coulter. Therefore, Carney is paid a very good wage to type a paragraph like the one that follows. Yes, this actually is the way he ends his three-paragraph profile:
CARNEY: In her books, Coulter can be erudite and persuasive, as when she exposes the left's chronic softness on communism. But her signature is her gleeful willingness to taunt liberals and Democrats, to say out loud what some other conservatives dare only think–that Bill Clinton is a "horny hick," for example, and his wife "pond scum." It's what makes Coulter irresistible and influential, whether you like it or not.
According to Carney, Coulter–who thinks that twenty percent of the public are traitors–is frequently “erudite and persuasive, as when she exposes the left's chronic softness on communism.” But as Digby pointed out earlier this week, Carney is cleaning up for Coulter when he presents this mild construction. What does Coulter actually say in Treason, the book to which Carney alludes? As Digby notes, this is the way she starts her critique of the left’s great softness on Communism:
COULTER: Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason. You could be talking about Scrabble and they would instantly leap to the anti-American position. Everyone says liberals love American, too. No they don't. Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy. This is their essence. The Left’s obsession with the crimes of the West and their Rousseauian respect for Third World savages all flow from this subversive goal. If anyone has the gaucherie to point out the left's nearly unblemished record of rooting against American, liberals turn around and scream "McCarthyism!”
Is Coulter sincere–or is she just playing the rubes, separating them from their money? We don’t have the slightest idea. (For what it’s worth, she has always struck us as the one public figure who may well be mentally ill.) But as almost any sane person can see, that is the work of a screaming nutcase if we assume that Coulter is sincere. Indeed, Treason was such a nut-cake book that a long string of major conservative writers stepped forward to denounce it when it appeared. But not Carney! Carney pretends that Coulter made an “erudite” presentation, a presentation that was quite “persuasive.” In fact, Treason was denounced as the work of a crackpot all across the conservative world. But Carney is playing Time’s readers for fools. So Time’s readers don’t have to be told.

Why did Carney write this odd profile, ending with this odd summation? After all, a person like Coulter can be quite “influential” without being “erudite” (or “persuasive,” if judged by normal standards); why did Carney feel he had to pretend that Coulter makes perfect good sense? Simple answer! Like Coulter, Carney is being paid good money to play the rubes for total fools. His owners want to sell them mags, and they want Carney to keep them happy. So Carney typed what he was told. He’s paid good money for typing this drek–and like good boys throughout human history, he was willing to work for the dough.

Here we see a bit of the pattern discussed by Dahlia Lithwick last week (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/4/05). Lithwick read Mark Levin’s crackpot book, Men in Black–and she seemed surprised to find that the book was a complete, total joke. And she seemed surprised by something else–she seemed surprised that the mainstream press wasn’t debunking the pseudo-book, a book she presumed to be influential because of its current best-seller status. But as we noted several times last week, this behavior has long been the norm among Lithwick’s class, although she didn’t seem to know it. For decades, her powdered cohort–those “serious journalists”–have agreed to give a string of free passes to a long list of kooky best-sellers. Members in standing still don’t seem to know it. But crackpot books like Levin’s have long been ignored–or pimped, as Carney has done.

Yes, Carney has those Millionaire Pundit Values, and he’s willing to type what he’s told. (Put it another way: Carney’s a “right-leaning dinner-party centrist.” Just see our next item.) And oh yes! The perfect last sentence!! When Coulter describes Hillary Clinton as “pond scum,” he’s even willing to speak up for that! Indeed: “It's what makes Coulter irresistible,” he says, luring conservative dollars to Time. Our question: When will cowardly “liberal spokesmen” stand and fight this corruption of our culture? When will they challenge these crackpot books–and describe the way their mainstream press corps ignores, enables, and sometimes pimps them? When will they be honorable enough to confront the Jay Carneys by name?

WHY GOOD BOYS DO WHAT THEY’RE TOLD: Why does Carney type what he’s told? Have we mentioned his cohort’s Millionaire Pundit Values? Fellows like Carney do what they’re told so they can stay within the circle. Less than two years ago, for example, this item appeared in the Washington Post’s gossip column, “Names and Faces:”

NAMES AND FACES (9/5/03): Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his wife, Tanya, kicked off the season with their own bash at FedEx Field. Among the 65 VIPs in the owner's box for last night's opener against the Jets: NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, Cablevision Chairman Chuck Dolan, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and his wife, NBC's Andrea Mitchell, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, Sens. George Allen, John Sununu and John Ensign, and Mayor Tony Williams, reports The Post's Roxanne Roberts.

The list also included former football greats Jack Kemp and Michael Irvin, sportscasters Chris Berman and George Michael, radio host Rush Limbaugh, and a few favorites from the media: ABC's Claire Shipman and her husband, Time's Jay Carney, Chris and Kathleen Matthews, and Bernie Shaw.

Good boy! Scribes like Carney do what they’re told so they can stay within the circle–“among the 65.” By the way, when Shipman left CNN in 2001, USA Today’s Peter Johnson wrote that her new network, ABC, “will pay Shipman big money–more than $700,000 a year–and plans to make her a big player.” Throughout the course of human history, good boys and girls have done what they’re told when confronted with pay-days likes that. So let’s close with an irresistible question. Hey Claire! When you married your fair-haired boy, did you know he’d find it “irresistible” when female public figures were referred to as “pond scum?” Or was that always part of the bargain? Was that always the way the lovebirds agreed to keep themselves inside the circle?

PAINTON’S KNOWLEDGE: On Monday night, Bill O’Reilly questioned Time’s executive editor, Priscilla Painton, about the “most influential” list. Fairly quickly, he challenged the choice of Coulter. And viewers learned an important fact: Priscilla Painton will do and say anything:

O’REILLY (4/11/05): All right–Ann Coulter. Wow! Ann Coulter?

PAINTON: Ann Coulter is big.


PAINTON: She had a huge best-seller, as you know, this year. Everywhere she goes, she attracts throngs of people.

O'REILLY: But doesn't she just speak to the choir, almost like [Jon] Stewart?

PAINTON: Well, yes, she does. But that doesn't mean that that isn't influential. I mean, in the sense that when there's a big debate, usually it's her funny, amusing, outrageous quips that people walk around–

O'REILLY: Do you think people, Americans, listen to Ann Coulter? Do you think she has influence in public opinion?

PAINTON: I think so. I think the way she sort of summarizes issues and twists them with humor has a big impact. But I also think people read her books.

O'REILLY: Well, obviously. She's another best-selling author.

You see? When Coulter called Hillary Clinton “pond scum,” that was just another of her “funny, amusing, outrageous quips!” It was just the latest example of the wonderful way she “summarizes issues and treats them with humor!” We don’t know how much dough Painton makes, but we can be fairly sure of one thing: It’s more than she could ever earn doing a job that did not involve soul-selling. Result? Monday night, she showed the world that she’ll do and say anything to keep her big fat pay-days in place. Does somebody want to call up Lithwick and explain how her tribe really works?

IN FAIRNESS, LITHWICK WAS RIGHT: To be fair, Lithwick was right on target when she complained about the major free pass being given to Men in Black. To her vast credit, she complained about something that no one else within her class ever mentions! Her basic reactions were right on the money, even if she was weirdly unaware of the prevalence of this press corps conduct. We hope she’ll write about this type of misconduct again. And don’t worry! The next time a kooky best-seller appears, “serious journalists” will give her the chance.

ONE LAST POINT: Oh yes, one last point. Nicholas Kristof thinks it’s “grossly unfair” when people think ill of the mainstream press corps! To put a humorous point on the matter, people who think such things are pond scum–traitors to their great country.

APPARENTLY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS: Sorry. Thanks to Carney, we had to postpone our promised “Smile-a-while” feature. We’ll plan to tack it on Monday.