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A ROLLING PLAGUE ON ALL OUR HOUSES! Jeffrey Rosen spread a plague. But so did several others: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, MAY 7, 2009

Biggest heist in history: Your HOWLER just keeps getting results! Last night, Naomi Klein appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/21/09.

We know what you’re thinking. Yes, we could go into court and demand pay, pleading theft of services. We could do it. But it would be wrong.

More striking was the substance of what Klein argued, in a segment which was largely a monologue. Midway through her segment, Klein made this remarkable statement about the ongoing bank bailouts:

KLEIN (5/6/09): I mean, the scale is absolutely unprecedented. And I do believe—you know, I hate to say this, people are feeling a little bit optimistic—that I really do think this will go down, the bailout will go down, as the greatest heist in monetary history.

The bailout will go down as the biggest heist in monetary history? Is there any chance that’s accurate? (To watch the Klein segment, click here.)

Is there any chance that’s true? For ourselves, we have no idea—in part, because we watch Maddow and Olbermann. At a time of massive upheaval, they flood their domestic coverage with utterly silly pseudo-events, giving almost no coverage at all to the monumental events Klein was discussing. (Or to health care. Or to low-income schools. Or to Obama’s budget, for good or for ill—except as a chance to shout sexual insults at the rival tribe.) A few weeks ago, we wondered why someone as smart and as central as Klein had never appeared on Maddow’s show—had appeared on Olbermann’s show only once. (In 2007, during her book tour. Right before Paris Hilton.) Today, we raise that question again, pointing to last evening’s statement.

Is there any chance the ongoing bailouts will go down as history’s biggest heist? We don’t have the slightest idea! We watch progressive news programs.

A ROLLING PLAGUE ON ALL OUR HOUSES: David Letterman showed astounding bad judgment on Tuesday evening’s program. Here’s the way the well-known humorist set the moment up:

LETTERMAN (5/5/09): So, uh, now Obama has to choose a replacement for David Souter. And he’s considering the first Hispanic nominee for the Supreme Court and her name is Sonia Sotomayor. And here we have a closer look at Sonio Sotomayor. Watch.

Intriguing! The first Hispanic nominee! What do you suppose that looked like—if you took Dave’s advice and “watched?” For a glimpse of Letterman’s unseemly vision, we strongly suggest that you just click this. As we watched, we were reminded of Chris Matthews’ astounding portrait, two years ago, of the sweaty, crazy, yelling people who drive the Democratic coalition (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/20/07). Through no fault of his own, Jimmy Carter was sitting right in the front row as Matthews made this astounding statement:

MATTHEWS (1/21/07): You know, I thought one of the smart things President Carter did as a candidate...was, every time President Carter won a primary, instead of standing on a platform with a bunch of sweaty, yelling people—you know, the scene with the Democratic Party usually, a bunch of crazy people yelling—and you had to have the full potpourri of Democrats present on that stage or someone would be ticked at you—you would meet in a hotel room and it was amazing. You’d sit down one-on-one, it was a unilateral, with some anchor or reporter, a serious reporter.

In Matthews’ memory, Candidate Carter was calm and serious, unlike the crazy, sweaty people found in the Democratic Party—and now, in that Letterman clip.

Letterman’s clip was openly racial/ethnic, a throwback to what once seemed to be an earlier day. With it, he gave viewers a throwback first impression of a sweaty, crazy, yelling jurist—of a woman who graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in her real life, among other acts of distinction. But this astounding bad judgment by Big Humor Dave followed an act of grotesque judgment by the New Republic’s Jeffrey Rosen. Rosen authored a gruesome post built on anonymous sources which—let’s be honest—openly trafficked in racial stereotypes. (Gender too.) To see Glenn Greenwald’s take on the Rosen post, just click here. (In one of his updates, Greenwald notes that Rosen’s brother-in-law stands to gain if Sotomayor is passed over.) For Joan Walsh’s post about “Rosen’s slimy piece,” just click this.

When it comes to journalism and political discourse, our society’s intellectual systems have lay in tatters for some time. Indeed, we’ve marveled at Rosen’s work several times before this, when he was pushing Standard Crap in which both Clintons had to be vile (links below). That said, the open racialism of this week’s post took our culture to a new low. It was disappointing—to us, quite surprising— to see Letterman run with this trash.

Our intellectual and moral systems virtually lie in tatters. But this downward spiral isn’t confined to garbage-can attacks “from the right.” Keith Olbermann was on the air Tuesday night, defending his program’s ugly conduct from the week before. I’m no worse than Laura Ingraham, the big fake fraud boldly said:

OLBERMANN (5/5/09): But our winner, Laura Ingraham, filling in for BillO last week, ripped Michael Musto’s appearance on this program. Fixed News once again making Countdown its lead story. Saying he had no right to criticize Carrie Prejean’s opportunism in hitching herself to the anti-gay marriage crowd, especially since he made reference to her breast implants.

She said: “To add insult to injury, she’s becoming a target of some of the most reprehensible far-left attacks you`ve ever seen, savage and the most personal, vicious way about her physique. I`m thinking to myself, where are the feminists? Are feminists not going to step and say, wait a second, you don’t go there with a young woman?”

Ah-hem. This is Laura Ingraham talking, insisting upon a know-nothing beauty pageant contestant’s right to go off on her political beliefs, the same Laura Ingraham who wrote a book in 2003 with instructions to the Dixie Chicks in its title, Shut up and sing. This is Laura Ingraham talking, who just last month dismissed Meghan McCain’s opinions of Dick Cheney by mocking her as a valley girl and calling her, quote, “plus-size.”

This is Laura Ingraham talking, hypocrite. And, at the end of the day, today’s worst person—oh, I’m sorry that’s a really bad picture!—in the world.

Shorter Olbermann: Ingraham is the world’s worst person. And I’m no worse than she is!

As usual, Olbermann was misstating. We hadn’t seen Ingraham’s guest-host appearance last Friday, but we went back and read the transcript. In no way did Ingraham say or suggest that Musto “had no right to criticize Carrie Prejean’s” views, or even her “opportunism.” From her very first reference forward, Ingraham complained about the “vicious” nature of the attacks—not about the fact that Prejean had been criticized at all. This was part of her opening statement, offered after showing tape of Musto’s truly remarkable insults. Sadly, Ingraham’s basic complaints are justified:

INGRAHAM (5/1/09): That’s so funny. Now let me be clear: I'm not in favor of calling in the thought police every time some frustrated entertainment writer makes a buffoon out of himself. But what was said about Ms. Prejean last night was beyond even minimal standards of decency. Imagine how the left would have reacted if a conservative commentator had said something similar about a Miss USA contestant who supported gay marriage. Or imagine if something as offensive was said about Michelle Obama.

The left rails against hate speech, but only a certain type of hate speech. You see, it's always hateful when people like Carrie Prejean speak their minds. But it's humorous and legitimate for someone like this Michael Musto character, an MSNBC host, to verbally savage this young woman in the most offensive terms only because she dared to disagree with their world view.

Many on the left say they merely want to defend the rights of gay people to be who they are. So how can they sit back and laugh while Carrie Prejean is ridiculed and demeaned for being who she is and standing up for what she believes? And where exactly are all the feminists? Well, their silence is deafening and telling. And that's the Memo. More on that later in the program.

We basically agree with most of that; your mileage may differ. But by any prevailing previous standard, Musto did “verbally savage” Prejean “in the most offensive terms”—in ways which had absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. And by the way: In that segment “later in the program,” Ingraham interviewed Gloria Feldt, former head of Planned Parenthood. Amazingly, Feldt went straight to sneers and jibes about Prejean’s breast implants too—and repeatedly refused to give a straight answer when Ingraham asked, again and again, why she would do such a thing.

Where are the feminists? Ingraham asked. We think it was a pretty good question, though the silence of others should be mentioned too. For years, Olbermann has lowered the bar when it comes to nasty attacks on women, who almost always turn out to be “know-nothings,” or of course “boobs.” He has vastly rolled back earlier standards of decency—much as Letterman did Tuesday night with his grimy clip about Sotomayor. Sorry—about that “first Hispanic.”

Our society’s intellectual standards have been in the trash can for decades. The entire world has paid the price for our astounding decline. (The watershed example: George Bush could never have reached the White House if normal intellectual standards prevailed within the press corps during the twenty months of Campaign 2000.) But the downward spiral of our intellectual and moral standards has never seemed quite so clear at it has this past week:

Walsh is right. Rosen wrote a slimy piece which slimed a highly accomplished person. The racial sub-text was clear.

Letterman showed astounding bad judgment when he followed up with that race-based “comedy” clip. Race-based—and blindingly stupid.

But then, Olbermann and Musto behaved like trash purveyors on last Thursday’s program. And Feldt behaved in a remarkable way the next night, when she rose to extend their remarks.

In all honesty, liberals can’t fairly complain about Rosen while accepting Olbermann and Feldt. On MSNBC, the development of “progressive” news shows has hastened an ugly tribal descent. Our society is currently dying from stupid. This past week provided a string of examples from our culture’s headlong decline.

Rosen? Letterman? Olbermann? Feldt? Might we borrow from the community? Sorry, folks: It’s all bad!

Earlier Rosenistics: We said it was time for Rosen to go in March 2008, as he faithfully, astoundingly quoted a pair of discredited Clinton-haters. (Kathleen Willey! Good God! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/3/08.) Two months later, he was at it again—and no, he never answered our e-mails, explaining what he had meant in this latest piece (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/9/08). In these episodes, Rosen was pushing the stylish Clinton-trashing which drove our mainstream “journalism” for a decade or more. In 1999, that Clinton-hatred was transformed into the press corps’ war against Gore, another intellectual gong-show. Are we happy with how that turned out?

Our society has been running on stupid for decades. (Hillary Clinton is a murderer! As seen on Hardball.)The results are visible all around us. Rosen took us there once again this week. But so does Olbermann, almost constantly. Increasingly, our moral and intellectual standards are found in a ditch—a ditch being dug by two tribes.

Paraphrasing Condi/the sequel: Speaking of intellectual gongistry, today we hit the New York Times, with its typically hapless attempt to “quote” Condoleezza Rice:

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (5/7/09): While such accounts are suppressed, culpable ex-officials are busily trying to rewrite history. Consider a recent chat at a college reception between a student and Condoleezza Rice, who as White House national security adviser was deeply involved in the development of the authorization of brutality and torture.

Among the many absurd things Ms. Rice did was to offer this argument that waterboarding is legal: “By definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.”

That notion is just as ludicrous today as it was when Richard Nixon used it more than 30 years ago to excuse his own brand of lawbreaking.

Yesterday, we sent several e-mails critiquing this specific act of “quotation.” The Times starts “quoting” Rice about halfway through the remarks she made at Stanford. In all candor, you have no real way of figuring out what she said or meant if you start your “quotation” there. But it does produce the desired result! Rice has made an historically “ludicrous” statement, the outraged Times gets to assert.

(The paper’s front-page critique of those new test scores was even dumber than this last week. We’d have to guess that its foolish frameworks may have been driven by a similar tribal animus.)

Gore was routinely “quoted” this way—by this same unimpressive newspaper, back when its targets of choice were different. (Under the unfortunate Howell Raines, its editorial page famously hated Bill Clinton. And then it was on to Vile Gore!) You’d almost think they might be chastened when they see how that earlier crusade turned out. But no! Our society has long been running on dumb for a very long time. There’s little sign that we’ll figure out how to emerge from this downward spiral. The tribal joys seem too strong.

By the way: This is how Rice was repeatedly “quoted” on Monday evening’s Maddow program. Our view? When even Rhodes Scholars with staffs “quote” public figures that way, the intellectual/moral problem we face has become apparent. (Again: As a general matter, you can’t figure out what somebody said or meant if you start to “quote” them halfway through their statement.)

As we’ve said: If Rice is quoted and paraphrased fairly, the problems with her statement are clear. But as in the 90s, so too today: It’s more fun to paraphrase wildly. The joys of the gong show are strong.