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Does Rich ever know what he's talking about? Liberals should be concerned
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RICH, LAZY AND DISHONEST! Does Rich ever know what he’s talking about? Liberals should be concerned: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, MAY 4, 2010

History can be quite squalid: We’ve posted the first half of Chapter 5 at our companion site, How he got there. Why have we posted just half the chapter? Therein lies a long, squalid tale.

(To see chapter 5, just click here.)

Chapter 5 deals with November 1999, which we’ve dubbed the “month of Wolf.” On October 31, 1999, Time magazine reported that Naomi Wolf was advising the Gore campaign, much as she’d done for the Clinton campaign just four years before. But by now, the mainstream press corps was waging an ugly war against Candidate Gore. (Four days earlier, they had hissed and jeered Gore all through that first Democratic debate, as described by Jake Tapper, Eric Pooley and Howard Mortman. See chapter 4.) There followed an astonishing month, a month marked by the mainstream press corps’ moral and intellectual squalor.

There are so many parts to this “month of Wolf,” the story simply can’t be told at normal chapter length. We have now posted an account of the sexual trashing of Wolf—and this account, all by itself, starts approaching normal chapter length. We haven’t yet discussed the more famous part of this squalid month—the press corps’ assault on Gore’s disturbing wardrobe, highlighted by the inane but iconic claim: Naomi Wolf told Al Gore to wear earth tones!

(We haven’t yet discussed those other squalid claims, recited by pundits with true moral fervor: Al Gore hired a woman to teach him how to be a man! Al Gore doesn’t know who he is!)

We’ve spent the last month immersed in the press corps’ sexual trashing of Wolf. We’ve found their moral and intellectual squalor almost literally sickening. That said, we strongly recommend the material we have now posted. The better known tale, about Gore’s troubling clothes, is yet to come. (His suits! His boots! His polo shirts! The height at which he hemmed his pants! The number of buttons on his suit jackets! The way he wore casual clothes to some events, more formal attire to others! And those damnable earth tones!)

The moral and intellectual squalor was simply staggering during this month. And by the way—all your favorites played along. Half your favorites hunted Wolf down. The other half kept their traps shut. George Bush ended up in the White House. Are you happy with how that turned out?

Again, we’ll ask for your financial support if you think this project is worthwhile. Don’t worry—this sort of thing will happen again at some point if “liberals” continue to keep their traps shut tight about what they did during this era. A vast Code of Silence persists to this very day. Nothing to look at! Nothing happened!

You might consider your contribution to be a medical contribution. The squalid material we’ve now posted would make any sane person ill. And of course, the squalor only gets worse as this chapter continues.

Moral and intellectual squalor sent George W. Bush to the White House. Go ahead—read it and weep. Most voters haven’t yet heard.

(By the way: December 1999 was the month of Love Canal! Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal! It went from Ceci and Kit’s fever-dreams directly to your ears. But that is for Chapter 6.)

RICH, LAZY AND DISHONEST (permalink): In this morning’s New York Times, a new poll measures the public’s views on the Arizona immigration law. Four percent of respondents said they had no opinion about the new law. But uh-oh! Of the 96 percent who did express a view, this is how things break down:

Views on Arizona’s new immigration law:
51 percent said the law was just about right
9 percent said the law didn’t go far enough
36 percent said the law went too far

In short, only 36 percent of respondents expressed the liberal view when asked about this new law. Sixty percent said the law got things just about right or wasn’t tough enough. Given the norms of American politics, this is a fairly predictable breakdown. This kind of breakdown is what people mean when they say, somewhat incoherently, that the United States is “a center-right nation.”

(What make that construct a bit incoherent? We’ve never understood how a nation’s electorate can be to the right, or to the left, of itself.)

As is often the case on such matters, the liberal view about this new law is the minority view. In a rational world, this would present an obvious question: How can liberals persuade the public that the law really does go too far? Just a guess: It probably doesn’t help to suggest that support for the law must stem from bigotry or racial animus. This is especially true if liberal advocates seem to disregard legitimate types of concern which are almost surely driving support for the law.

Unfortunately, white liberals love to accuse other people—specifically, white conservatives and centrists—of bigotry and racism. This instinct is especially noxious when one considers the lazy indifference white liberals have shown toward actual racial concerns in the past several decades—toward low-income schooling, for example. But let’s put that to the side for now:

In recent years, no one has played this liberal race card any more grandly than the New York Times’ Frank Rich. On Sunday, we thought Rich’s column displayed the kind of lazy, contemptuous work liberals should have rejected long ago. It’s hard to believe that work like this doesn’t hurt the liberal cause on matters like this new law.

Ironically, Rich was on his best behavior when it came to matters of race. In his opening paragraph, he accused “Arizona” of “hysteria”—of succumbing to “a political virus whose cure is unknown,” of being on “the dark side.” (Presumably , this accusation would include Arizona’s voters) But in what may be a new world record, he nobly waited until the third paragraph to start his overt racial talk:

RICH (5/2/10): Don’t blame it all on Arizona. The Grand Canyon State simply happened to be in the right place at the right time to tilt over to the dark side. Its hysteria is but another symptom of a political virus that can't be quarantined and whose cure is as yet unknown.

If many of Arizona's defenders and critics hold one belief in common, it's that the new ''show me your papers'' law is sui generis: it's seen as one angry border state's response to its outsized share of America's illegal immigration crisis. But to label this development ''Arizona's folly'' trivializes its import and reach. The more you examine the law's provisions and proponents, the more you realize that it's the latest and (so far) most vicious battle in a far broader movement that is not just about illegal immigrants—and that is steadily increasing its annexation of one of America's two major political parties.

Americans, have every right to be furious about Washington's protracted and bipartisan failure to address the immigration stalemate. To be angry about illegal immigration is hardly tantamount to being a bigot. But the Arizona law expressing that anger is bigoted, and in a very particular way. The law dovetails seamlessly with the national ''Take Back America'' crusade that has attended the rise of Barack Obama and the accelerating demographic shift our first African-American president represents.

Struggling like Strangelove to rein himself in, Rich heroically waits until his third paragraph to suggest that support for this new law “dovetails” with negative reaction to that (wink-wink) “accelerating demographic shift.” As he continues, he offers this thought, which inevitably seems to reflect on 60 percent of the nation’s voters:

RICH (continuing directly): The crowd that wants Latinos to show their papers if there's a ''reasonable suspicion'' of illegality is often the same crowd still demanding that the president produce a document proving his own citizenship.

We know, we know! Bowing to demands of THE HOWLER, Rich is trying to be more nuanced, a bit more fair, than he normally is. Magnanimously, he says that voters aren’t necessarily bigots if they’re angry about illegal immigration! But he never quite brings himself to make this concession about voters who support the new law. Nor does he ever explain who died and made him God—who asked him to parade so grandly about, politely assuring the nation’s voters that they aren’t necessarily bigots.

But then, Rich is a fatally pompous fellow—and he’s exceptionally dumb. He’s a man who spent the Clinton/Gore years swallowing whole, and then reciting, every pseudo-conservative line, helping send Bush to the White House. In the case of Gore, he kept it up right through 2006, loudly complaining to his pal Imus about how dumb and phony Gore’s “high school” film about climate change was. (And yes, this was after he saw it.) Within the context of recent American politics, it’s very hard to get dumber.

But as dumb and gullible as Rich was back then, he may be more destructive now—and he remains just as lazy, and just as dishonest. Consider the lazy, contemptuous way he faked his way through Sunday’s column.

Doers Rich ever know what he’s talking about? Let’s start with his less significant errors—his errors about the blowhard J. D. Hayworth, who is running for the Senate in Arizona against John McCain:

RICH: McCain, like other mainstream conservative Republicans facing primaries this year, is now fighting for his political life against a Tea Party-supported radical. His opponent, the former congressman and radio shock jock J. D. Hayworth, is an unabashed birther who frames the immigration debate as an opportunity to ''stand up for our culture,'' presumably against all immigrants, legal and illegal alike. In this political climate, he could well win.

Does Rich ever know what he’s talking about? On-line, he linked his claim that Hayworth is “an unabashed birther” to this blog post—a post that is more than three months old (January 26). Has Rich been napping on Neptune since that time? In late February, Hayworth became highly “abashed” about Obama’s place of birth. More specifically, he went on America’s highest-rated cable news program, where he explicitly said he believes Obama was born in Hawaii. How well-known was Hayworth’s statement? Good God! So well-known that even Chris Matthews managed to hear about it:

MATTHEWS (3/1/10): Just a month ago here on Hardball, Hayworth again said the president needs to come forward with proof he was born in the U.S. of A. Well, Hayworth has just had a change of position. Here he is on FOX: (videotape, 2/26/10)

BILL O’REILLY: I want you to tell the American public how you view the birther movement. Is it legitimate?

HAYWORTH: Look, Barack Obama’s the 44th president of the United States. His election is certified. I believe he was born in Hawaii. I made certain statements on the air to—to provoke conversation. That’s what happens in broadcasting.

(end videotape)


Duh! Hayworth said this more than two months ago, on America’s biggest cable new program. Rich still hasn’t heard. (His editor ain’t too bright either.)

Meanwhile, how about Rich’s claim that Hayworth “frames the immigration debate as an opportunity to ‘stand up for our culture,’ presumably against all immigrants, legal and illegal alike?” In this case, Rich linked to this yellowing book review, from February 2006. But over and over, again and again, from its headline right on down, this four-year-old book review repeatedly notes that Hayworth was talking about illegal immigration in his book. But so what? In his standard corner-cutting way, Rich tossed us liberals some juicy red meat—just as he used to toss us meat about the evils of Clinton and Gore, about the way Candidates Bush and Gore couldn’t be distinguished.

Rich likes to toss us red meat. He just isn’t very honest about it, and we’d have to guess that his perpetual dishonesty is still harmful to liberal causes, just as it was the 1990s and 2000, when he peddled his endless bullsh*t about the Clintons and Gore.
Rich’s error and spin about Hayworth are relatively non-consequential. For a bit of classic blowhard behavior which is potentially more significant, consider the way he presented McCain in Sunday’s column. This is the fuller paragraph from which the previous excerpt was taken:

RICH: What a difference the Tea Party makes. This time McCain endorsed his state's new immigration law as ''a good tool'' and ''a very important step forward,'' and propagandized in favor of it with his widely ridiculed televised canard that illegal immigrants were ''intentionally causing accidents on the freeway.'' McCain, like other mainstream conservative Republicans facing primaries this year, is now fighting for his political life against a Tea Party-supported radical. His opponent, the former congressman and radio shock jock J. D. Hayworth, is an unabashed birther who frames the immigration debate as an opportunity to ''stand up for our culture,'' presumably against all immigrants, legal and illegal alike. In this political climate, he could well win.

To help us see what a fake McCain is, Rich cited an odd-sounding statement about illegal immigrants “intentionally causing accidents on the freeway.” On-line, he linked us to this HuffPo post to let us enjoy a good solid laugh at McCain’s expense. He failed to link us to this HuffPo report from the very next day, a news report headlined “John McCain’s Campaign Clears Up Controversial Illegal Immigrant Quote.” In this report by Sam Stein, we learn what McCain was talking about when he made his slightly bungled statement. In fact, McCain had been referring to an actual public safety concern, as described by the Pinal County sheriff, Paul Babeu, in a press conference that very day. Going further, Stein reported what Babeu had said on MSNBC that same week:

BABEU (4/20/10): Just last month alone we have had 64 [traffic] pursuits. That's where these illegals are failing to yield to lights and sirens, as every good citizen would pull to the side of the road, they are intentionally causing serious traffic hazards. They have caused wrecks, running red lights. It puts our deputies and officers in harm's way. One thing new in their tactics, nearly every one of them is armed.

Babeu had talked about certain illegal immigrants who were intentionally causing serious traffic hazards,” and thereby “causing wrecks.” McCain got one word wrong in his slightly bungled account of what Babeu had said. In typical fashion, Rich played the minor misstatement for laughs. In the process, he made a joke of the safety concern which may seem quite real to Arizonans.

Should anything that Paul Babeu said lead to support for Arizona’s new law? That is a matter of judgment. But in this instance, Rich did what he constantly does: Having made up his mind about the new law, he simply fed you the type of pleasing tale which would tend to make you agree with his judgment. For many years, he did this sort of thing to Clinton and Gore, helping send Bush to the White House. (Al Gore said he inspired Love Story! Way back in 1997, Frank Rich played the starring role in inventing that destructive canard.) Now, he plays the same disingenuous games in support of the liberal view of Arizona’s new law.

For better or worse, 60 percent of American voters are inclined to think the new law makes sense. Presumably, many voters may feel that way because of the kinds of safety concerns Babeu and McCain discussed. Rather than address these concerns, Rich played us liberals for fools—again.

Do you really think this kind of thing leads to liberal political victories in this “center-right nation?”

Rich is back in the liberal camp, having spent about a decade repeating crap about Clinton and Gore. In candor, liberals might be better off if he didn’t argue the liberal side of these issues. This kind of lazy, dishonest work has always fueled the widespread idea that American liberals are limousine liberals—condescending dandies who can’t be trusted, elitists who sneer at valid concerns. Because he’s dishonest to his core, Rich will never stop fueling this perception. And then too, there’s the deeply puzzling thing Michel Martin recently said.

Tomorrow: Martin and the Minutemen. Coming: Joan Walsh, Charles Blow.