A FEW BASIC FACTS! The basic facts on the flag bill were clear. Somehow, Poor Richard missed them: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, MAY 6, 2008
IN SEARCH OF THE NOVELS BIT CHARACTERS: Oddly, Outlook went there again. Were inclined to find this impulse revealing.
Where did Outlook go this Sunday? For the second time in less than two months, John Pomfret asked a novelist to review a major political event in the way that a novelist would. On March 16, Richard Russo imagined the novel he would write about the Eliot Spitzer affair (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/17/08). On Sunday, Yale professor Stephen Carter led the weekly section with a novelists take on the current White House campaign. This is the way he began:
The fate of the nation is at stake, the gentleman writes, but he seems unable to grasp this fact. In a profoundly fatuous piece, our Yale professor runs us through the lead characters and bit characters in this national moment. (For unknown reasons, Cynthia McKinney shows up in paragraph 5.) Of course, no thriller would be complete without red herrings, he writesand he offers one of them too. But what readers really want to knowthe sooner the betteris who the hero is, he typesand he then offers fatuous assessments of whether its McCain, Obama or Clinton. Late in his piece, we get the Standard Fatuous List of Playersthe type of thing a Post ombudsman ridiculed eight years ago:
Each of these people would be a good president! What possible difference does this bullsh*t make? (This is similar to what they said about Gore and Bush, you might recall).At any rate, as Carter defines the novels lead characters, we recalled the way ombudsman E. R. Shipp scolded the Posts reporters for engaging in such novelized nonsense eight long years ago:
Well guess what? McCain is still the war hero who speaks off the cuff and is, thus, a maverick, at least in the minds of these perfect dumb-asses. (Sorryat least in their novels.) Eight years ago, Shipp scolded the Post for reporting the race like a drama in which typecast candidates had been given pre-assigned roles. Eight years later, theres Carter, headlining Outlook, engaged in the same oddball practice. Make no mistake: This is the way these people think. They truly cant get beyond this. Such fatuity is their assigned role.
By the way, what is missing from this novelists take on the current White House campaign? Of course! Any sense of what may really be at stake in this novel. Carter skims the major issues of the campaign in paragraph 19 (out of 23). Sorry! To his novelist brain, its really all about the characters, the twists of the plot, the red herrings, the search for the hero. And make no mistake: This is the way the insider press thinks. How fatuous can their approach to life be? Accompanying Carters piece in Outlook was this gruesome companion piece, in which a 29-year-old Post reporter assesses the way Chelsea Clinton reflects her generations values and outlook.
No, were not making that up. Truth to tell, its hard to imagine a more pointless topicand its hard to imagine a dopier execution than the one Ian Shapira rendered. Indeed, the most disturbing thing about this piece is the fact that its writer claims to be a graduate of Princeton. How do such people get through any schoolincluding high school? Shapiras fatuity is evident throughout (note his apparent assumption that his generation comprises only upscale folk like himself). But he does express his solidarity with the fatuous values of his professional class. Doe anyone kiss/fawn/smooch to the elders quite the way this guy does?
Substance is boring: Its the law! To make your way in the upper-class press elite, you are required to roll your eyes when Democrats talk about policy. Shapira is more than up to this challenge. [H]er stature on college campuses means that she draws crowds and helps bolster youth activism, he writes. Although sometimes I wonder how many in the student crowds wish, in the middle of her discourses on her mom's green vehicular bond, that they hadn't skipped class after all. We said it to ourselves right then: Heythis kid is good!
Policy must be judged by the soul: Its the law! You cant judge a policy presentation on the merits; you have to analyze the motives (or thinking; or life-style) behind it. Don't we need to know more about this national figureother than that she wants her mom to be presidentto take her views on policy seriously? No, dumb-ass! You have to decide if her views make sense.
Show respect by playing some oldies:
Always recite the standard fatuities: During Campaign 2000, the press corps decided that authenticity was our greatest political virtue. (And, of course, they appointed themselves to decide which hopeful had it. The language seems to have bled into that years journalism from the Bradley campaign.) Theyve never dropped their compulsive search for this qualityperhaps because so many journalists are so aware that they themselves lack it. Late in his piece, Shapira ponders Clintons authenticity in an analysis so perfectly brain-dead that wed advise you to bet the house on the young mans future career. Shapira has mastered the ways of his class, in which the journalist mind-reads dumblynovelizes deeplyin search of his subjects soul.
In a monument to our fatuous discourse, Shapira closes with a portrait of the journalist as a young man. Remember: For this group, its all about the various characters engaged in our nations unfolding novel. In this passage, we glimpse a key rite of passage: The young journalist must somehow overcome his own God-given good judgment:
Shapira felt funny peeping through bookshelvesback then. Today, he wastes everyones time with a long and foolish piece demanding to know what Chelsea Clinton is really like deep down in her soul. We have to know this! How else can we judge her boring thoughts on the environment?
As Carter notes, the fate of the nation is at stake in the current election. (As it was in Campaign 2000.) It would be hard to understand that fact from looking at Sundays Outlook. Roughly 85 percent of the sections front page was burned up by these powder-puff pieces. In one, we saw our lives in the form of a fatuous novel. In the other, we got to waste our time wondering what Chelsea is like.
Whats Chelsea Clinton really like? Youre right; it doesnt really matter. But for these people, its all about the plot twists, the car chases and the red herrings. And always, above all, its about all those characterseven including those helpful bit characters, the ones who let us waste our time further. The Yale professor and the young Princeton grad have mastered the foolishness of this elite. As weve seen for many years: This is a fatuous, upper-class cohortone which can no longer force itself to examine the things of real life.
IF YOU DOUBT THAT: For another example, see Digbyclick here.
Simply put, you cant get dumber. In that February 5 column, Cohen had savaged Clinton for supporting that flag-burning bill; he said it showed that she couldnt match Obamas character. But Obama had supported the flag bill too! Cohen had done it again.
Cohen correctedbut this gang never learns. Since Gail Collins made pretty much the same presentation in last Saturdays column, lets recall what actually happened when it came to that flag-burning vote.
Ouch! It was June 27, 2006. Things were looking bad for the constitution as the flag vote approached. A constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning had been passed by the House the previous year; finally, this proposed constitutional amendment was coming up for a Senate vote. As usual, Republicans clowned and preened, and Democrats scrambled around, seeking a way to keep the amendment from passing As it turned out, the amendment failedby one measly vote! In the next days New York Times, Carl Hulse reported basic facts:
Clinton was among those opponents; she voted against the flag-burning amendment. So, of course, did Obama; they both voted no on the proposed amendment, along with most Senate Dems. But againthe proposed amendment only failed by one vote. Fourteen Democrats voted for it (names below), along with 52 Republicans.
On the constitutional amendment, Obama and Clinton both voted no. But then, there was that other votethe vote on the flag-burning bill, the one where they both voted yes. Well turn things over to Anne Kornblut now. She offered a separate report in the Times (for which she then worked) about a certain home-state senators role in this two-year process:
In 2005, Clinton co-sponsored legislation (not an amendment) which would have made flag burning illegal. In 2006, she co-sponsored a similar measurea measure offered as an alternative to the more drastic amendment. Duh! Surely, pretty much everyone knows why Dems propose these safety valve measures. But just for the record, lets have Kornblut describe that votethe vote for which Cohen savaged Clintons character two months ago:
Durbin brought the measure to the floor; more than half the Senates Dems supported it. Durbin voted for itand Clinton did too. And, as Cohen learned much later, so did Obama.
Pathetic! Two years later, Cohen said that this vote showed that Clinton lacked Obamas high character. But then, Cohen has blundered along in this manner for a very long time.
Lets make sure we understand why bills of this type get proposed. Before we see Bob Kerrey explain it, lets read a bit more Kornblut:
Duh. Bills like this are brought forward to give cover to red-state Demsand, perhaps, to Dems who may want to run for the White House. (The public luvs flag protection.) But then, Bob Kerrey had already explained this bone-simple matter in the Washington Post. In late 2005, you see, Richard Cohen had written another column, criticizingwho else?Hillary Clinton for the original 2005 measure. Kerrey sat down, crayon in hand, and tried to explain the facts of life to the worlds dumbest known man:
Kerrey explained, rather clearly, in crayon, the basic reason for bills of this type. At any rate, a similar bill was proposed six months later; Clinton and Obama both voted for it. So did Durbin. So did John Kerry. So did more than half of the Senates Dems. But so what? Two years later, Cohen wrote another column, savaging Clinton for her vote. He said it proved that she lacked Obamas character.
(Note to Obama supporters: This does not reflect on Obama. Were talking about Cohen here.)
Yes, its hard to get dumber than Cohen, as he has proven again and again. And yet, heres where the story gets good. Seven weeks after Cohen self-corrected, Collins pretty much typed the same column, drawing the same invidious comparison between Clinton and Obama! As well show you tomorrow, you can torture a technical defense for the construction Lady Collins authored. But in reality, the scribe was doing what her cohort does best. She was typing a Pre-Approved Press Corps Story. In this highly novelized cohort, story almost always trumps fact.
Clinton supported the flag-burning bill. So did Durbin, Kerry, Obama. But Lady Collins sat down last weekend and she warbled an olde press corps ballad. Ive looked at life from one side now, we thought we heard her sing.
TOMORROWPART 3: Good grief! A murderers row of scribes made Cohen look halfway intelligent.
TWELVE ANGRY DEMS: Twelve Democrats voted yes on the flag-burning amendment. Warning! Some of these folk were in red states. Some others were facing re-election:
On the amendment, those twelve voted yes. Obama and Clinton said no.