Steve Benens Hannityism: Well start by copping to a mistake. We were off by a week in the matter of the high Lady Collins.
On April 8, we suggested it might be time for the lady to pay a visit to Mitt Romneys dog. In an act of heroic self-abnegation, Lady Collins held off till last weekend. Last Saturday, she was discussing a Romney campaign book when, without warning, she struck:
By our count, thats the eighteenth column in which the lady has discussed Mitt Willards roof-strapped dog.
COLLINS (4/16/11): The book is heavy into policy and rather sparse on personal history, except for the parts that relate to his dad being a successful businessman and Mitt himself being an entrepreneurial hero along the deal-making, business-closing, job-slashing private equity line. Romneys earlier book, Turnaround, had some great stories about his Mormon ancestors, including a great-grandmother who single-handedly drove her children to Mexico in a covered wagon during the Indian wars. At one point along the way, she came across freshly slaughtered U.S. Cavalry horses. She paused only long enough to pry the shoes from the wasted horses, re-shod her own wagon horses, and journey on, he wrote. Truly, No Apology could use a whole lot more of Hannah Romney and a whole lot less about the causes of the decline of the Ottoman Empire.
Also, there is not a single mention in No Apology of the fact that Romney once drove to Canada with the family Irish setter strapped to the roof of the car. I regard this as a critical oversight, although perhaps it was Seamus that Romney was thinking of when he chose his title.
In a rare bit of good news for the republic, some of Collins commenters are starting to complain about this serial nonsense. But others cant get enough of the high ladys shaggy-dog tale. Here was Collins tenth commenter, opining at two in the morning:
COMMENTER 10 (4/16/11): Thank you Gail. The dog-on-roof story never gets old. In fact, it gets funnier and funnier every time.
Remember this the next time Digby tells you how stupid the other side is. Maybe its just our vast tolerance!
Lady Collins simply cant stop. But then, neither can Steve Benen, who treated us to more of his Creeping Hannityism in this absurdly deceptive post from last Saturday. Looking ahead to Sundays shows, Steve was complaining about the way the line-ups are egregiously dominated by The Other Tribe:
BENEN (4/16/11): We're accustomed to seeing Sunday show line-ups dominated by Republicans. A couple of months ago, the viewers saw two Republican senators, three Republican House members, three likely Republican presidential candidatesand zero Democrats from Congress or the Obama administration.
Tomorrow's guest lists aren't quite that egregious, but ABC's "This Week" will have a segment that's likely to stand out.
The headliner will be Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who certainly seems like a wise choice given the larger circumstances. But after him, host Christiane Amanpour will host a "Tea Party Panel." From ABC's press release:
Then, after the first 100 days of the new Republican Congress, the Tea Party has changed the debate in Washington. But for them, was the historic budget deal to cut federal spending a victory or a failure? Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL), Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), and Rep. Allen West (R-FL), all members of the House Tea Party Caucus, come to This Week to debate the looming debt crisis, whether they will vote to stop raising the debt limit, and if they are prepared for the potential fallout. And as Donald Trump courts Tea Party supporters as he weighs a bid for the GOP presidential nomination, do they think he can win?
Atrios joked yesterday that the House Progressive Caucus will surely "have their turn next week," knowing full well that this isn't going to happen.
In 2009 and 2010, Sunday show line-ups like these were common because of the abundance of far-right activism. In 2011, Sunday show line-ups like these are again common because there's a GOP majority in the House.
They were common for eight years because of the Bush/Cheney White House. They were common before that because of the Republican Congress.
I'm wondering what the circumstances might be that would tilt the scales in the other direction, but apparently they don't exist.
Sean Hannity has treated the rubes this way for roughly a thousand years.
Maybe Benen is just incompetent. Assuming he has minimal skill, that post is deeply dishonest. Reading that post, you might get the impression that Sunday talk line-ups have routinely been deeply unbalanced, extending back for many years. We're accustomed to seeing this crap, Benen boo-hoos as he starts.
In fact, there was nothing wrong with Amanpours line-up. Beyond that, there was nothing wrong with last Sundays line-ups generally. And Benen was misstating the facts and the context about that shattering Sunday from a couple of months ago. But then, hes now done so at least times.
What is it like to be treated like rubes? Consider the following facts:
Last Sundays guest lists: You'll note that Benen didn't link to last Sundays guest lists. He said those guest lists aren't quite that egregious as compared to the earlier Sunday, when he said no Democrats had appeared. But in fact, there was nothing egregious about Sundays guest lists at all. None of the four major programs (excluding Fox) were tilted toward Republican or conservative guests, with the possible exception of CNNs State of the Union. Meet the Press featured a solo segment with Obama official Tim Geithner and a balanced panel. Face the Nation featured one senator from each party. (On Fox News Sunday, the panel tilted right, as it always doesbut the guest list did not.)
In truth, the guest lists werent egregious at all. Steve knew that; the rubes did not.
Amanpours guest list: To state the obvious, a programs guest list doesnt have to be balanced every week. But there was nothing unbalanced about Amanpours guest list last Sunday. First, she did a full segment with Geithner, who expressed the White House position on budget matters; then, she did a segment with those House Republicans. To conclude, she offered a reasonably balanced panel. Her questioning of the Republicans was woefully weak, but nothing was wrong with her scheduling.
Guest lists from recent decades: Benen seemed to imply that unbalanced guest listseven egregiously unbalanced guest listshave been the norm since before the last decade. But where was the evidence of that? On several occasions, Media Matters has conducted exhaustive studies of Sunday guest lists. Steve didn't cite any such studiespresumably because they wouldnt support the grievance he described.
Those Sunday shows from a few months ago: This post represented at least the third time Benen has complained about the February 13 Sunday programs. Here as before, he writes that those programs featured zero Democrats from Congress or the Obama administration as opposed to eight Republicans. Depending on how you want to score it, that carefully nuanced statement might even be technically accurate. But in fact, OMB director Jacob Lew had a solo segment on State of the Union that dayand Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, was featured on Meet the Press. (He balanced a first-term Republican congressman on that programs panel.) Presumably, this helps explain Steve's tortured construction about zero Democrats from Congress or the Obama administration, although Lew is a cabinet member. Even with these corrections, that days programs still featured eight Republicansand only two Democrats. (Pundit panels were basically balanced.) But as she introduced one guest, Amanpour explained part of the reason:
AMANPOUR (2/13/11): Back here in Washington, as the Obama administration was keeping a close eye on the revolution in Egypt, the American Conservative Union held their annual CPAC conference. Potential Republican presidential contenders were critical of the President's foreign policy. One of them, Newt Gingrich, a man who led a revolution of his own in 1994 when Republicans took control of Congress, joins us now.
Three of the Republican guests had been interviewed at the CPAC conference. It isnt unusual for Sunday shows to tilt one way or the other at such times. As weve noted, you can only discern a general imbalance by conducting a multi-week study, something Steve chose not to do.
Benen got the rubes quite riled with this pathetic post. Sean and Rush have always toyed with the rubes this way. You will note that Steve's irate commenters, like those who call El Rushbo, enjoy being mocked this way too.
Are we really accustomed to seeing Sunday show line-ups dominated by Republicans? Thats what Steve told the rubes last weekendand the rubes really ate it up. But he presented no evidence that anything like that is the norm. Were last Sundays guest lists not quite that egregious? They werent egregious at all!
Creeping Hannityismthats what we call it. But then, we call it something else too. We call it deliberate deception, of the type our side claims to hate.
WHERE DID TRUMPISM COME FROM (permalink): The downward spiral of David Brooks continues to amaze.
This morning, Brooks devotes his whole column to Donald Trump. As his headline has it, he seeks to explain Why Trump Soars. Incredibly, Brooks ends his piece with words of affection for Trump. Before you review that cloying conclusion, please note the five words weve emboldened:
BROOKS (4/19/11): Now, I dont mean to say that Donald Trump is going to be president or get close. There is, for example, his hyper-hyperbolism and opportunism standing in the way.
In 2009, Trump published a book with a very Trumpian title: Think Like a Champion. In that book, he praised Obamas amazing and phenomenal accomplishments. Barack Obama proved that determination combined with opportunity and intelligence can make things happen and in an exceptional way, Trump gushed.
Now he spouts birther nonsense and calls Obama the worst president in American history. Now he leads rallies that make Michele Bachmann events look like the League of Women Voters. Even angry American voters want some level of seriousness, prudence and self-control.
But I do insist that Trump is no joke. He emerges from deep currents in our culture, and he is tapping into powerful sections of the national fantasy life. I would never vote for him, but I would never want to live in a country without people like him.
Now he spouts birther nonsense. In an entire column about Trumps surge toward the top of the polls, that represents Brooks only discussion of this noxious conduct.
I would never want to live in a country without people like him, Brooks says of Trump as he closes. Alas! Given the broken morals of his High Pundit Classgiven our storebought Career Liberal Culturethere is very little chance that Brooks will ever have to!
How nonsensical has Trumps birtherism been? It has been very nonsensical. Before we discuss the harm it doesbefore we discuss where this lunacy comes fromlets scan the ludicrous type of conduct David Brooks wouldnt want to live without.
How ludicrous has Trumps conduct been? It has been inexpressibly ludicrous:
Now, Trump calls Obama the worst president in American history, Brooks sadly notes. But for Trump, this makes Obama the third worst president ever in just the last thirty years! This is the way this big dumb clown was talking just four years ago, to CNNs Wolf Blitzer:
TRUMP (9/24/07): [President Bush has] been so bad that I think probably a Democrat has a huge advantage [in Campaign 08]. Now, crazy things happen in life, but a Democratic candidate, whoever wins [the nomination], is going to have a huge advantage because of Bush. People don't like him. People think he's been a horrible president, possibly the worst in the history of this country.
BLITZER: You believe that.
TRUMP: Oh, he's been a terrible president.
BLITZER: You think he's the worst in the history of the United States.
TRUMP: I don't think you can get much worse. Why? I mean, who's worse? Give me a couple of names. Who could be worse?
BLITZER: Well, because in the last interview we did in March, you said he was the worst.
Blitzer seemed to be exaggerating. As best we can tell, Trump only said that Bush was probably the worst in March 2007. But by September, he couldnt think of any president who had ever been as bad as Bush. Last week, though, as he spoke with Sean Hannity, recovered memory flowed in:
TRUMP (4/14/11): [Obama has] been a horrible president. I always said the worst president was Jimmy Carter. Guess what? Jimmy Carter goes to second place. Barack Obama has been the worst president ever. The history of AmericaBarack Obama is number one.
Using Nexis, we can find no sign that Trump had ever called Carter the worst president before last week, although its always possible. But as of last week, Obama was the third president in the last thirty years to rank as worst president ever! Perhaps because he was speaking on Fox, Carter was now the worst before Obamaand Bush disappeared from the list.
That said, Trumps ugly recent buffoonism has extended well past this meager example. Its hard to believe, but when he spoke with Hannity last Friday (part 2 of their talk), he even descended to this:
HANNITY (4/15/11): He went to a Muslim school in Indonesia. He talks about studying the Koran. He talks about one of the most beautiful moments being, you know, prayer times at sunset.
TRUMP: Look, he was born Barry Soetero. Somewhere along the line, he changed his name.
Truly, thats just stunningand of course, its balls-out false. And then, continuing directly, this ugly man offered us more:
TRUMP: Look, he was born Barry Soetero, somewhere along the line, he changed his name. I heard he had terrible marks and he ends up in Harvard. He wrote a book that was better than Ernest Hemingway, but the second book was written by an average person.
HANNITY: You suspect Bill Ayers.
TRUMP: I said, Bill Ayers wrote the book.
HANNITY: Why do you think it's Bill Ayers?
TRUMP: Because everyone says he's a super genius and he was a great writer.
Bill Ayers was a super genius. And a lot of people have said he wrote the book. While recently, as you know last week, Bill Ayers came out and said he did write the book.
Were sorry, but the book in question really wasnt better than Hemingway. Beyond that, Bill Ayers is not a super-geniusand Ayers didnt say that he wrote Obamas book. Meanwhile, note the way Trump assembles his knowledge. He heard that Obama got bad grades. Beyond that, a lot of people have said that Ayers wrote that book.
To refer to this swill as political porn would be far too kind. How does this bottom-feeding harm the republic? Millions of gullible voters simply dont know that Trump (and Hannity) are playing them for fools. They come to believe the things Trump is saying; this heightens their distrust of Obama. Beyond that, it heightens their distrust of any claims from the mainstream press, since the mainstream press is so plainly hiding the truth about Obama. And as millions of voters are turned into fools, millions of voters who read liberal blogs are, in turn, transformed into tribal haters. At sites like Digbys, the word they is used with increasingly reckless abandoneven as we assure ourselves that we are the most tolerant people who ever drew breath on the earth.
Tribal war is thus ratcheted up by Donald Trumps disgraceful behavior. The sheer stupidity of our culture is taken to the next level. And this morning, Davis Brooks, in a deeply disgraceful moment, tells us he wouldnt want to live in a country without such men. He wouldnt want to live in a country that isnt driven by ugly delusions.
Theres little chance hell ever have to. By now, we all live in the country Mark Twain described in his comical portraits from the frontiera world in which various touring buffoons mislead highly gullible people. In the current instance, Brooks cheers one of the vilest charlatans onand the editorial board at the New York Times still wont discuss Trumps behavior. In such ways, our highest-ranking journalists agree to accept our remarkable, gong-show political cultureas theyve done for a very long time.
In the case of the Times editorial board, they were there at this cultures birth, as they themselves spread wild claims all around about Clinton and then about Gore. For ourselves, we remembered those wildest political days as we watched Chris Matthews, and two handsome stooges, during last evenings Hardball.
By now, of course, Matthews has been repurposed; he supports the Democratic side, pimping in that direction. For that reason, he rails each night against Trumps conduct. Last night, he invited a pair of acolytes to help him deride Trumps conduct. Josh Marshall and David Corn knew just what they should sayand what they shouldnt. (To watch the whole segment, click this.)
Warning! If you understand Matthews role in the culture of the Clinton-Gore years, what follows represents a truly remarkable discussion. And dont worry: Marshall and Corn do understand the things Matthews did in those years:
MARSHALL (4/18/11): By some measure, [Trump] is the front-runner now for the Republican nomination. That doesnt mean hes likely to get it. But you know, that, thatthat segment really shows you Donald Trumps mentality, which is that the birther issue is a great product. And it is a great product. People love it.
I think the key is that, as you said, this is an issue that really divides the base of the Republican Party. And Donald Trump is in a position where the normal rules dont apply to him. Hes in, you know, the Donald Trump alternative universe. And the thing is, he would never, ever be the nominee of the establishment of the Republican Party, to put it mildly.
MARSHALL: So he has to play that sort of anti-establishment position that, you know, Sarah Palin was playing, and shes now falling to the side.
MATTHEWS: David, I think its one of those tests where you say to the people, If youre not willing to trash-talk Barack Obama, dont talk to me. Because we hate him.
MATTHEWS: So basically, thats what the right are saying. You got to say stupid things because thats the price of admission to our clubhouse. If you`re not willing to say hes ahes not an American, dont talk to us.
What does Donald Trump care most about in life these days? It seems to be ratings, ratings, ratings, Corn said. And when he says people love this issue, thats spoken like a true demagogue.
As people of his low class always do, Matthews put the principal blame on the foolish and gullible voters, not on the craven and powerful leaders. (When he described what the right are saying, he was speaking about Republican voters.) Aside from that, wed say that this exchange was highly accurate. But what made this exchange so remarkable? Just this: Especially during the twenty months of Campaign 2000, it was Matthews who lived in an alternative universe where the normal rules didnt apply. It was Matthews who shaped a new journalistic culture in which you had to say stupid things because that was the price of admission to our clubhouse. For the twenty months of Campaign 2000, guests on Hardball knew the rules: If youre not willing to trash-talk Gore, dont talk to me, because we hate him. A few weeks after September 11, it even reached the point where Matthews was willing to go on the Imus show and say, Hes not an American:
MATTHEWS (11/2/01): He doesnt look like one of us. He doesnt seem very American, even.
Incredibly, nowe arent making that up. And dont worry: Marshall and Corn know this history. They know they mustnt bring it up because thats the price of admission to our clubhouse.
More disgracefully, they also knew they mustnt challenge Matthews back in real time, when it might have mattered. As Matthews trashed Gore for two years, they kept their pretty traps shut, like all the other career players did.
Matthews insulted Gore for two years, in amazingly ugly ways. George Bush ended up in the White House.
Matthews helped create the ludicrous culture in which Trumpism thrives. Aside from Rush Limbaugh, we can think of no one who played a larger role in the invention of this culture during the Clinton-Gore years. Matthews motives were a bit different from Trumps; presumably, Matthews was serving the interests of his owner, Jack Welch, who was in turn making him a rich man. But his insults were every bit as stupid and ugly as Trumpsand they went on for two years.
Night after night, the insults rained as Josh and Davidand Joan Walshkept their pretty traps shut. They didnt do so because they were tolerant. They did so because they were on the make. Today, theyre cable stars.
To this day, liberal leaders wont tell you.
Its hard to find sufficient contempt for the players involved in this world. (We speak as folk who have always liked Corn, a good guy, a great deal.) For David Brooks, who wouldnt want to live without Trump. For the New York Times editors, who are too craven to speak. For people like David and John and Joanand for our tribal spear-carriers, who wont sell out their friends.
Even in the face of this mess, your leaders hand you the pleasing lieyour only problem is you are too tolerant! Actually, the problem is different:
We regular liberals tend to be gullible, much like the other tribe. And we have been played again and again, by the folk who get sold as our leaders.
Chris Matthews, repurposed, now rails against Trump. But people, where did Trumpism come from? The lunatic culture Trump now drives was invented on Chris Matthews show.
The ugly insults litter our archives. David and Josh, well-trained lads, were quite careful. They didnt tell.