LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (5/4/06): The "debate" in the blogosphere over Stephen Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner misses the point. The routine was neither a flop nor very funny.Well guess that may be right. And well be honest—we hate that. Was Colbert trying to please his real audience? Unfortunately, he was being paid by the attendees—by the people he said he would entertain. To the extent that this letter is right, we think Colbert became the thing he denounces for just a moment—a pompous, self-impressed man.
Mr. Colbert's aim wasn't to please the attendees; there was no trace of anxiety when a "zinger" was received in silence. His real audience was at home, and his aim was to make his allegiances clear. On that score, it was no flop.
Oh! But, oh! some readers will say. Importantly, Colbert spoke truth to power! We dont buy it. For a decade or more, we liberals have haplessly lolled about, refusing to confront the mainstream press corps where it actually defeats us (see below). Again this week, we settle for a petty distraction—for a bit of semi-pointless theater, which often just backfires. The bulk of the public doesnt care what Colbert thinks or says (unless its funny). And many centrist voters will agree with Cohen; Colberts conduct will strike them as rude. We dont think that any of this is the end of the world. But it struck us that way a bit too.
By the way, that letter writer agreed—Colbert wasnt funny. And uh-oh—heres the explanation. If his performance wasn't funny, perhaps it was because he wasn't joking. Exactly—that was the problem!
WHAT COHEN SAID: By contrast, Atrios comes down on Cohen, leading to this readers comment:
COMMENT TO ATRIOS: Can anybody explain to me why some so-called liberals/Democrats feel any need whatsoever to denigrate Colbert? I'll bet Cohen thought Don Imus' anti-Clinton performance was hilarious.Darn it! We only wish that Duncans readers would bring their wagers here to us! This was Cohens view on Imus, stated in real time:
COHEN (7/30/96): In reading the extensive literature about Don Imus, I was struck by how, over and over again, politicians defended going on the show by saying Imus has an audience. Yes—and so what?For more on the corps real reaction to Imus, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/2/06. By the way, why are we so sure about things which arent true? Could it be due to chump-runs like this?
Imus also has a taste problem. Making jokes about Bill Clinton's purported (rumored, alleged, suspected, widely believed) extramarital affairs in the very presence of the Clintons is, no doubt about it, boorish behavior. At last March's by-now famous Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner here, he made Bill and Hillary Clinton feel uncomfortable—she more than he, I was about to say, but, really, who's to know?
But Imus has done far worse—although not in the presence of the Clintons. He has used a parody of the song "The Lady is a Tramp" that was about Hillary Clinton. It mentioned how she "fornicates," "menstruates" and "urinates" and concludes, "That's why the first lady is a tramp." No, that's why Don Imus is one.
The fact is I hesitated before repeating these words from Imus's show. But then I had to remember that they are the very words that came out of a radio—any radio in any house or any car. A newspaper has to be bought, and editorial pages are not where you are likely to find the kids going. But a radio? Just turn it on, kiddie, or just listen along with mom and dad as they rock with laughter about what Imus had to say about Hillary Clinton.
SOME HAVE ASKED: What do we think about Colbert in general? We thought he was great on The Daily Show. We think his own show hasnt been that good. Yet.
Special report—Punditry lost!
ENJOY EACH PART OF OUR CURRENT SERIES: Joe Kleins new book is definingly daft—and Peter Beinart rushed to praise it! Be sure to read each thrilling episode. More on this daft tome next week:
PART 1: Joe Kleins new book is fake and inane. And Peter Beinart is there to applaud him. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/1/06.Today, we ask an historical question. How long has Beinarts mouth been wide shut?
PART 2: To Klein, Dem hopefuls must all be fake. But one must be Most Fake of All. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/2/06.
PART 3: Klein lies in his readers face—and shows us his own dreadful ethics. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/3/06.
PART 4—MOUTHS WIDE SHUT: That passage in Politics Lost would be stunning—if it werent totally standard (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/3/06). In his definingly laughable book, Joe Klein was typing a standard press script: Dem White House hopefuls are fake, inauthentic. Republican hopefuls are straight-shooters. But as it is typed in all Great Pundit Scripts, one Dem had to be Most Fake Of All—the apotheosis of political inauthenticity. And as its been written, that Dem is Al Gore. Result? Because Gore had to be Most Fake, Klein conjured a perfectly dreadful moment—a moment when the fake, phony Dem showed he was slavishly devoted to polls, with every word he uttered. (According to Klein, Gore had been polled and focus-grouped and dial-grouped and market-tested literally to the point of distraction. Kleins emphasis.) But uh-oh! Because Klein could find no such actual moment, he decided to make one up—he invented a perfectly dreadful moment! In essence, Joe Klein lied in his readers faces, as we saw in yesterdays post. And yes, this part of his book would be stunning—if it werent perfectly standard.
But Kleins lies about Gore—his lies about Dems—are in fact perfectly standard. Our millionaire pundits have been inventing such tales at least since March 1999—and as theyve done so, our brave liberal leaders have stood by politely and stared into air. Meanwhile, some of our most brilliant leaders will actually run to vouch for the lying! One such fellow is the brilliant Peter Beinart, who read Kleins definingly laughable book—then praised it, in last Sundays Post. According to the silly sycophant, Politics Lost provides a highly entertaining tour of how political consultants progressively hijacked the presidential campaigns of the last 40 years. Of course, part of Kleins entertaining tour was that bald-faced lie about Gore—about Dems. But Beinart, a very well-trained boy, has agreed to purchase this package. He hands us a taste of Kleins brilliance:
BEINART (4/30/06): Another great strength of Politics Lost is that, whether by accident or design, it models the kind of political discourse Klein would like to see. Against the neutered, white-washed language that dominates contemporary American political life, Klein counterposes his own edgy, raw and often hilarious rhetorical style. Again and again, he uncorks one-liners so good that the reader stops to savor. Carter was "as serious as cancer and as colorful as cement." "The 1970s were the 1960s for nerds." Dukakis "hailed from the National Public Radio wing of his party." In their obsession with the minutiae of environmental policy, Democrats "had trouble seeing the forest for the tree huggers.Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! And yes, as you can plainly see: In the daft world of this fallen class, hilarious rhetoric is all aimed at Dems, who are like cancer, cement. And as we showed you in yesterdays post, a great deal of this hilarious rhetoric is simply and plainly made up. Kleins hilarious takedown of Gore—like so many in the past—is, in simplest language, a lie. And Beinart—a future millionaire pundit—is eager to stand up and praise it.
Thats right. Klein can clown and deceive all he likes—because Beinart, so well trained, will praise him. But then, the obedient fellow has been playing this game over these past several years.
True story! By May of 2000, wed been describing the mainstream press corps War Against Gore for over a year. And uh-oh! Here came a brush with greatness! We got a call from Marty Peretz, owner of The New Republic, asking if wed do a lengthy piece discussing this ongoing matter. We typed, and sent, the requested piece. It bore this tangy synopsis:
To date, the "character problem" of this election has been that of the Washington press corps.For what its worth, the piece was never published by TNR. But through the miracle of the world wide web, you can see it posted—right here. And yes, well suggest that you take time to read it. Treat yourself to some forlorn knowledge—to a sense of What Might Have Been Said.
Why didnt this piece get published? We dont have any idea. (We never heard back from Marty. Never got paid by him, either!) As a matter of fact, we wouldnt have published this piece ourselves, for at least two different reasons. But if wed been running The New Republic in the spring of the year 2000, we damn sure would have published some piece about the ongoing War Against Gore—the war which eventually sent Bush to the White House. In fact, we would have published such reports again and again, as long as that war kept unfolding. We would have wanted to let readers know what was happening to their election—to their democracy, indeed to their lives. Because we arent the stupidest critters on earth, we would have thought it was our obligation.
We would have thought it was our obligation. But uh-oh! Peter Beinart became editor of TNR in September 1999. In the fourteen months which followed, Beinart never published any such piece. Beinart performed like a very good boy—a very good boy, then as now.
Why was Beinarts mouth wide shut? We offer these helpful insinuations:
Chuck Lane was editor at TNR before Beinart took over the job. Starting in March 1999, the press corps War Against Gore unfolded—driven by the Washington Post. Lane never published a word about this. In September 1999, he left TNR—for a job at the Washington Post.
Dana Milbank was TNRs campaign reporter in 1999. Starting in March of that year, the press corps War Against Gore unfolded—driven by the Washington Post. Milbank never published a word about this. In January 2000, he left TNR—for a job at the Washington Post.
And Beinart performed like a very good boy, all the way to the end of the race. Last Sunday, he praised Kleins book—once again, in the Washington Post! And hes been busy this week too, as we see in this mornings paper. To see how such fellows make their way in this town, you know what to do—just click here.
That passage in Politics Lost would be stunning—if it werent so completely the norm. But we think you know those Millionaire Pundit Values! Mainstream pundits have been printing hilarious lies about Dem White House hopefuls at least since March 1999. And future millionaires—those very good boys—tell us to savor their insight.
TOMORROW: Why are others on the liberal web such big fucking simps on these matters?
ALSO TOMORROW: Well let you enjoy a good solid laugh as Klein limns the great Saint McCain! (With help from David Ignatius!)
MONDAY: We start a four-part look at the major themes of Politics Lost. How inane is Kleins millionaire cohort? Well begin to sketch that strange tale out—as Beinarts praise rings in our ears.