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THE USES OF PAPA CASS! On Glenn Beck’s show, Cass Sunstein loves Mao. Why won’t David Brooks say so? // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 28, 2010

History takes time: Darn it. Chapter 5 for our companion site, How he got there, is taking longer than we’d hoped. (On the other hand, we like the way it’s shaping.)

In Chapter 5, we’re discussing the “month of Wolf,” November 1999. It was during this month that our mainstream press corps conducted their wilding of Naomi Wolf, who was advising Candidate Gore. We’ve discussed this episode at some length before—in a five-part series in 2003, for example. (For links to all five parts, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/10/03). But an astonishing moral and intellectual squalor lay at the heart of this stunning episode—an episode which went on for a month, with few words of complaint from your “liberal” heroes. We think the story should be told in full, at something resembling full length.

That is taking some time. Here’s the deal:

Next Tuesday, we’ll post at least the first large chunk of the chapter, concerning the remarkable sexual trashing of Wolf. (Needless to say, this involves several bogus claims about the post-Lewinsky press corps’ favorite topic, oral sex.) This leaves untold the part of the story which became truly iconic—the press corps’ endless, vacuous claims about Al Gore’s disturbing “earth tones.” Incredibly, the New York Times was still correcting its gong-show assertions about this matter as late as July 2007 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/30/07). George Bush would not have reached the White House had the “press corps” not staged this group breakdown.

Maureen Dowd is right in the center of this story, of course, describing Wolf, in a pair of mocking columns, as “wacky,” “airy,” “a flashy Culture Babe” who was “the moral equivalent of an Armani t-shirt.” Wolf had “urged women to release their inner sluts,” Dowd smuttily declared, not even remembering which of Wolf’s three honored books this non-existent claim was supposed to reside in. (For a bit of perspective on this moron’s performance, two of Wolf’s books had been selected as New York Times “notable books of the year.” In 1998, the Times had included Wolf’s first book, The Beauty Myth, in its retrospective volume, Books of the Century.) This morning, we thought of Dowd’s smutty, death-dealing performance when we read her newest column, in which she complains about the bad faith of one of Manhattan’s finest:

DOWD (4/28/10): Continuing to talk about himself in the third person, [a Goldman Sachs honcho] wrote, ''Standing in the middle of all these complex, highly levered, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all the implications of those monstruosities!!! Anyway, not feeling too guilty about this. ...''

In an e-mail to his girlfriend, he called his ''Frankenstein'' creation ''a product of pure intellectual masturbation, the type of thing which you invent telling yourself: 'Well, what if we created a ''thing,'' which has no purpose, which is absolutely conceptual and highly theoretical and which nobody knows how to price?' ''

In another e-mail to her, he blithely joked that he was selling toxic bonds ''to widows and orphans that I ran into at the airport.''

Look who’s talking, the analysts cried. Dowd seemed to be describing herself, the idealistic young workers complained.

Dowd has sold a lot of toxic work to a lot of people over the years—and there’s little sign that she’s feeling too guilty. The miracle lies in the fact that this squalid, broken-souled smut-hustler still holds her high-level job.

Very few of your fiery heroes complained! Or did we already say that?

Special report: Brooks & Dumb!

PART 2—THE USES OF PAPA CASS (permalink): David Brooks has written some extremely weak columns in the past several weeks. But last Tuesday’s column was really a dumb one (just click here). In this column, Brooks discussed a new study which explored the way people cruise around on the Net. Absurdly, he claimed that the study’s findings suggest that we Americans are not restricting ourselves to media which “confirm our [political] suppositions” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/27/10).

Politically, we aren’t all locked in our own little worlds in the way we might have thought!

David Brooks was playing Pangloss in this foolish column. People who visit Glenn Beck’s web site also visit the New York Times site, he cheerfully said. And not only that! “People who spend time on the most liberal sites are more likely to go to foxnews.com than average Internet users!” Rosily, Brooks used these facts to suggest that things may not be quite as bad as it seems. These facts “suggest that Internet users are a bunch of ideological Jack Kerouacs,” Brooks rosily claimed. “They're not burrowing down into comforting nests. They're cruising far and wide looking for adventure, information, combat and arousal.”

We’re not as self-segregated as it has seemed! We really do seek all points of view! Unfortunately, very little about this new study seems to suggest this rosy conclusion. And Brooks really queered his case by starting his column with Cass Sunstein, who wrote an essay in 2001 about political self-segregation.

Can a major columnist possibly be as clueless as Brooks seemed to be in this piece?

Who is Cass Sunstein? Until recently, he was a pillar of the mainstream establishment. According to Wikipedia, Sunstein is “an American legal scholar, particularly in the fields of constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law, and law and behavioral economics.” (Are there any other fields of law?) He taught for 27 years at the University of Chicago Law School, before accepting his current post at Harvard. Currently, he is Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

In an April 10 report in the Washington Post, Sunstein’s name appeared on a medium-length list of possible Supreme Court nominees. Just a guess: Whoever assembled that list for the Post is just as clueless about our devolving political/journalistic world as the panglossian Our Mister Brooks. (We can’t find a link to this piece at the Post web site, although it appears on Nexis.)

Why is it extremely unlikely that Sunstein could be a Supreme Court nominee? Because Sunstein took on a whole new life last summer, as one of Glenn Beck’s favorite Communists! Since last July, Sunstein has stood at the very center of the crackpot political world whose power and prevalence Brooks downplayed in last week’s know-nothing column. On a regular basis, millions of people hear Sunstein named as one of the people around Obama who are plotting to bring down their country.

These people go to Glenn Beck’s site—and sometimes, to the Times site too. Over the course of the past twenty years, people like Brooks have been too clueless (or too cowardly) to tell these people, and us, the truth about our political world.

Let’s treat ourselves to a lightning-fast tour of Sunstein’s reinvention:

According to the Nexis archives, Sunsetin made his debut on Beck’s Fox program on July 22, 2009. At first, he got off easy, described as follows by David Martosko of the Center for Consumer Freedom:

BECK (7/22/09): I want you to tell me a little bit about this regulatory czar that they say is going to be an easy shoo-in. He is just going to be passed right through. Tell me who this guy is.

MARTOSKO: Well, Cass Sunstein, like you said, is a friend of Obama's. They go way back to Chicago. He is—to be fair—a constitutional scholar, a serious guy. He's a Harvard professor, used to teach at the University of Chicago. He also happens to be a raving animal rights nut.

Trust us: On Beck’s program, this was one of the last times anyone would attempt “to be fair” to Cass Sunstein! Within minutes, Beck linked Sunstein to the idea that you can turn “grandpa” into “soylent green.” Moments later, Beck played audiotape of himself to help prove this hypothesis:

MARTOSKO: And when you embrace this whole utilitarianism idea, guess what else comes in the back door? Some animals—according to [Peter] Singer—are worth more than some humans. A smart border collie, he says, is worth more, inherently, than a retarded child. He doesn't care whether that child is yours or mine or anybody else's.

So, now, Cass Sunstein has embraced the whole enchilada. He believes—and this is straight out of the PETA playbook, this is out of the Humane Society of the United States, some of the real radical animal rights group out there—he believes that animals should have the same rights as humans, in fact, greater rights than some people—including, as you mentioned, the right to file lawsuits.

BECK: Do we have the—do we have piece from radio? Do we have this yet, guys? We do? Play this. This is from March 2008, over a year ago. This is what I said on the radio. Listen to this.

BECK (audiotape): The day may not be far off, animal lawyers say, when animals are not only present in the courtroom, but even participating in the proceedings. Some day, the attorney says, a chimpanzee could express himself through sign language to a judge to point where the judge feels that the chimpanzee was able to articulate his own interests. That would help make the case for recognition of legalized personhood for animals. Have we gone insane? [end audiotape]

BECK (live on Fox): Yes, we have, because now we have a guy who actually believes this nonsense as one of the czars or soon to be the regulatory czar, which basically means this is the guy—there is no laws that's going to be changed. [sic]

MARTOSKO: Right.

Beck went on and on this day. Since that time, Sunstein has been discussed on 32 more broadcasts of his Fox program. Keeping a ludicrous story short, this is some of what was said on October 15, 1999, on a program Nexis headlines, “Radicals Around Obama:”

BECK (10/15/09): I did not erase this chalkboard last night, because I wanted to show you where we left off yesterday. These—these are all people who are into social justice, environmental justice, redistribution of wealth. That's Marxism. They may not only love Mao, but some of them love Castro. They love Che, and Chavez—people like Van Jones, Mark Lloyd, Carol Browner, Cass Sunstein.

We, honestly—honestly—we have been so lacking in our charge of vigilance in this country, we got fat and lazy. We didn't think anybody inside would ever hurt us. But those names of Chavez and Castro and Che, they're just images on T-shirts now.

The video I'm going to show you here in a minute is video -- is video that I will show you if you needed more evidence that the enemy is not only in the gates, they're inside the house!

We aren’t going to waste our time hunting the most ludicrous claims about Sunstein. But this has gone on for almost a year on Beck’s highly-watched Fox program. And yet, at the Washington Post, Sunstein is still being listed as a possible Supreme Court nominee. And just last week, Brooks put Sunstein and Beck in the same column—a column in which he assured the world that we aren’t as politically segregated as we might have thought.

Over and over, Glenn Beck’s viewers are told that Sunstein is a dangerous radical—an enemy within, a lover of Mao. At some point, in a rational world, it would fall to privileged people like Brooks to warn these people that their hero may be running a bit of a con. But Brooks seemed totally clueless last week about the oddness of his conjunction—the oddness of a column which discusses Sunstein and Beck, then draws a happy conclusion.

Plainly, Brooks thinks Sunstein is an intelligent social observer. And he thinks that people who visit Beck’s site aren’t as segregated as we once might have thought! Question: Is David Brooks really this clueless? Or is he just playing it safe? In fact, our world is sinking deeper and deeper into an intellectual abyss—a descent which, left unchecked, will lead to Death by Dumb.

Why won’t David Brooks stand and complain? Why won’t our high lord Dionne?

TOMORROW—PART 3: Let this Cupp pass from our ears