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SCHALLER’S FOLLY! Tea Party supporters looked shaky on race. But so did Tea Party opponents: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, MAY 12, 2010

Career liberal pimping of Kagan: As Glenn Greenwald notes at Salon (click here), David Brooks wrote an intriguing column this week about Elena Kagan. Kagan is very smart, Brooks writes. But where the heck is Kagan’s soul? To Brooks, Kagan is a very smart person who has carefully kept his views to herself, carefully planning for the day when she might make her way to the Court. At Salon, Greenwald has excoriated Kagan for her silence on the issues of the past decade, even as Bush was destroying the legal landscape of the known world. This is the way Brooks closed his column on the same subject. (To understand his reference to “Organization Kids,” you’ll have to read the full column.):

BROOKS (5/11/10): What we have is a person whose career has dovetailed with the incentives presented by the confirmation system, a system that punishes creativity and rewards caginess. Arguments are already being made for and against her nomination, but most of this is speculation because she has been too careful to let her actual positions leak out.

There’s about to be a backlash against the Ivy League lock on the court. I have to confess my first impression of Kagan is a lot like my first impression of many Organization Kids. She seems to be smart, impressive and honest—and in her willingness to suppress so much of her mind for the sake of her career, kind of disturbing.

If Kagan is a person who “has been too careful to let her actual positions leak out,” it’s hard to know why you’d go out of your way to call her “honest.” But such are the professional courtesies which drive the establishment world.

For ourselves, we don’t know what Kagan is like. We don’t know what kind of Justice she will turn out to be, if confirmed. But we’ve been warning you about this type of upper-end “career liberal” player for quite a few years now. These hustlers killed you in the 1990s (through Campaign 2000), when they sat out the wars against Clinton and Gore for the sake of their precious careers. If Brooks and Greenwald are right, they may be selling your interests out again in the matter of Kagan.

Lawrence O’Donnell is one of the players who aggressively sold you out in the Clinton-Gore era. (As late as October 2000!) Last night, O’Donnell was on Countdown pimping for Kagan. The permanent establishment is lining up to support the permanent establishment, just as they did in the Clinton-Gore years—the years the “career liberal” establishment still refuses to discuss.

O’Donnell was pimping the insider line. But a much more remarkable case occurred on Monday’s night’s Maddow Show, when pro-Kagan hustler Larry Lessig basically lied in your faces, about Greenwald himself, all through his session with Rachel. For her part, Rachel kissed Lessig’s keister, in typical fashion, when his performance was done.

Background: Greenwald appeared first on Monday night’s program, making the case against Kagan. After that, out came Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor—and a Kagan hire. Lessig trashed Greenwald all up and down, making a series of claims about the things Greenwald and Kagan have said which are quite hard to square with reality. We won’t review the facts here, but this rebuttal by Greenwald makes the case rather convincingly, even though Greenwald is much too polite about Lessig himself. (If Lessig has just “spewed total falsehoods on TV,” as the headline asserts, why does Greenwald continue to praise him? As we said moments ago, such are the professional courtesies...)

In 1999 and 2000, these insider, establishment “career liberal” types lined up to support the stance of the clan. None of them told you what was apparent—that the clan was lying its keisters off about the hated Candidate Gore, spawn of the hated Bill Clinton. Half of these types drove the war against Gore. (This includes O’Donnell and Arianna.). The other half of this bankrupt group agreed to let them do it. (This includes E. J. Dionne and Keith Olbermann.)

The same configuration presented on Monday’s Maddow Show.

Last night, Maddow took the night off. Tonight, her viewers are owed an explanation for the extraordinary things her second guest, Lessig, said on Monday night’s program. Did Lessig really “spew total falsehoods” on her show, on the TV machine thingy? Remember how we all insisted, a few weeks ago, that we want our big news programs to fact-check matters like this?

Of course, that pretty much wouldn’t be Rachel’s style. This is how she closed Monday’s segment—kissing establishment keister, as always:

MADDOW (5/10/10): Professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School, I have to tell you, the Supreme Court nomination process, in my view, has become a process where nominees try to prove how conservative they are, either small "C" or large "C," depending on who’s president.

Talking with you and Glenn tonight just makes me really wish that it was a big fight amongst liberals and centrists. I think it could be really, really interesting to get in to all this stuff in great detail. I really thank you for your time tonight.

LESSIG: I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Thanks.

Kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss! Maddow, a prime self-promoter, has never met a useful keister she wasn’t prepared to kiss, often loudly. (Gwen Ifill! Andrea Mitchell! Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson! And good God: In a thoroughly gratuitous move, even the loathsome Chris Matthews!) Lessig had just filled viewers’ heads full of smack about Greenwald—and, to a lesser extent, about Kagan. Rachel thanked him for his brilliance, falling all over herself with praise for how “interesting” it had been.

It’s quite possible Maddow didn’t know the problems with the things Lessig had said. By now, she certainly does.

Alas! Whatever her various merits may be, Maddow’s a bit of a self-promoter. That said, she does owe viewers an explanation for the remarkable things they heard on her show Monday night. Remember when we all swore that we want this kind of fact-checking?

These hustlers ate you alive in the Clinton-Gore years. Whatever Kagan’s merits may be, they seem to at it again.

Special report: The race follies!

PART 2—SCHALLER’S FOLLY (permalink): Is the Tea Party’s anti-Obama sentiment driven by racial animus?

Presumably, some of it is, though it would be hard to say how much. In his column in Saturday’s New York Times, Charles Blow made some intelligent statements about this general point (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/10/10).

“There is no way to know how many Tea Party supporters—or supporters of any group—are motivated by racism, or to what degree,” Blow wrote, perhaps overstating the problem a tad. “There are no easy answers,” he said, “but blanket accusations and denials are worthless and disingenuous.”

We agree with almost everything Blow wrote in that passage. It is hard to measure the degree of racial animus directed at President Obama, especially given the severe (and irrational) hostility directed at President Clinton before him. (President Obama was born in Kenya. President Clinton was a serial murderer.) But liberals love to call conservatives racist; we sometimes seem to love it more than life itself. And so, sure enough! Within three paragraphs, Blow renounced his basic good sense. He made something resembling a “blanket accusation,” basing it on a bungled study from a big football school:

BLOW: [Tea Party leader Amy] Kremer credits the Tea Party’s racial problems, to the extent that she would agree they existed, to an unwelcome “fringe.” This seems plausible at first blush. There is often rabble at rallies.

However, widely cited polling, like the multistate University of Washington survey released last month, has found that large swaths among those who show strong support for the Tea Party also hold the most extreme views on a range of racial issues. The fringe theory is a farce.

That isn’t quite a “blanket” accusation, but for political purposes, it comes pretty close. According to Blow, “large swaths” among the Tea Party movement “hold the most extreme views on a range of racial issues.” Gone was the day, three paragraphs earlier, when there was “no way to know how many Tea Party supporters are motivated by racism, or to what degree.”

Repeat: Liberals love calling people racists—as long as the people in question belong to The Other Tribe. It often seems that liberals know no other political move.

Unfortunately, the research on which Blow bases this claim is, simply put, a multiply-bungled pile of pseudo-academic crap. But so what? The liberal world has rushed to embrace this pleasing study. (The study was presented by assistant professor Christopher Parker.) In the process, the liberal world has showcased its bad judgment, its bad faith on matters of race, and its generally low IQ.

Liberals should be embarrassed to see such bungled work hailed by its biggest players.

Who has hailed this multiply bungled study? Let’s start with this post at 538.com by Professor Tom Schaller. We like Baltimore’s own Schaller a lot around here, but “Tom Terrific” embarrassed himself as he raced to affirm this pleasing but bungled project. Schaller’s post was one of the first which sent this bungled study to fame in the liberal world.

Joy to the world! At a liberal site known for its technical savvy, Schaller announced the great new findings which had emerged from Parker’s study! At the start of his post, he presented two charts, titled “White Views of African-Americans” and “White Views of Latinos.” And he quickly announced the Good News—white Tea Party sympathizers express very bad attitudes about these minority groups:

SCHALLER (4/12/10): The survey asked white respondents about their attitudes toward the tea party movement—and their attitudes toward non-whites, immigrants and homosexuals.

The charts contained herein show the disparity between whites who strongly approve and disapprove of the tea party movement. In a few cases—attitudes toward Latinos, for instance—the differences were small. But only in a few cases: tea party sympathizers believe blacks are less intelligent, hardworking and trustworthy. They appear to be particularly wary of immigrants. And they don't much care for gays, either. (Although note that two-thirds of them support gays in the military, an issue on which policy has long lagged public sentiment.)

Let’s repeat that highlighted claim: “[T]ea party sympathizers believe blacks are less intelligent, hardworking and trustworthy,” Schaller said, writing unclearly. (“Less intelligent” than whom?) And that’s not all! “Parker's study shows much higher levels of intolerance among whites who sympathize with the tea party movement,” Schaller soon said. But that claim, however appealing, simply isn’t supported by the charts which Schaller produced.

Warning! Parker bungled his study in a wide variety of ways. For today, let’s concentrate on the data which went into Schaller’s charts about “white views of” blacks and Latinos. Do Schaller’s charts of Parker’s data really show “much higher levels of intolerance among whites who sympathize with the tea party movement?” Not really. In fact, if we take Schaller’s data at face value, the charts seem to show extremely high levels of intolerance among whites who oppose the Tea Party too.

Warning: Parker bungled the part of the study to which Schaller’s charts refer. And Schaller failed to see the way Parker had bungled. But let’s assume that none of that is true; let’s assume that Schaller’s data are fairly transparent. It’s stunning to think that the liberal would want to take a bow for the data as Schaller presents them.

Look at Schaller’s first chart, for example—the chart called “White Views of African-Americans” (for an enlarged version, click here). As Schaller presents it, this chart seems to say that only 45 percent of white Tea Party sympathizers view African-Americans as intelligent. (Though Schaller doesn’t describe the question which produced those results.) That seems like a rather low figure, as Schaller helps triumphant liberals see—until we look at the comparable figure for white Tea Party opponents. (For simplicity sake, you might call this second group “liberals.” You might even call them “us.”) Uh-oh! According to Schaller’s chart, it looks like only 59 percent of this group view African-Americans as intelligent! Yes, that is a higher number than obtained among the white Tea Party supporters. But are liberals really prepared to parade about, claiming their own moral greatness, on the basis of data like these? On the basis of such minor differences?

That said, the difference between Tea Party supporters and Tea Party opponents is even smaller when it comes to Latinos. Judging from Schaller’s chart (click here), it seems that only 44 percent of white Tea Party supporters view Latinos as intelligent. (What question had they been asked? We weren’t told.) That number is low—but the corresponding figure for white Tea Party opponents (us) is only 56 percent! It’s stunning to think that liberals like Schaller are willing to trash Tea Party supporters on the basis of their numbers on this question, whatever it was, while ignoring the very low numbers recorded by Tea Party opponents. If these numbers say what they seem to say, the news was bad about white Tea Party supporters. But the news was almost as bad about white Tea Party opponents—about people in our own tribe

What does it say when liberals are prepared to claim “victory” from marginal data like these? Are prepared to parade about, proclaiming our own moral greatness? Most obviously, it says that we liberals maintain a very low standard for ourselves—for those in Our Own Shining Tribe. (More simply put, it says that we liberals aren’t especially moral.) But in this highly bungled case, our cry of victory says several things beyond that.

In this case, it says that Schaller misrepresented what these data meant, right from the start. It says that Schaller failed to understand the various ways Parker bungled his study. And uh-oh! Since Schaller is a bright young liberal academic, writing at what is supposed to be one of our brightest liberal sites, this says something quite unflattering about the basic intellectual capital of the liberal world.

Go ahead—examine those charts again. It’s clownish to think that the liberal world was prepared to claim a moral victory from data like these—data which make white Tea Party opponents look almost as bad as white Tea Party supporters. Even more shocking is the fact that we were too dumb to know how to interpret such data—how to spot the problem with Parker’s work. That we’re so careless in talking about something as crucial as race.

What actually happened in the case of this study? Professor Parker mishandled his project from the get-go, bungling in innumerable ways. Along came Professor Schaller, and he failed to notice. And alas! In the weeks which followed, a laundry list of bungling triumphalist liberals only made matters worse; this was especially true at Salon, from triumphalist editor Joan Walsh on down. And then, last weekend, Blow made it official: The bungled study drove a bungled column on the New York Times op-ed page—the prime location for clownish bungling in the world of American journalism.

Moral of the story? If a study calls the Tea Party a bunch of bigots, its results will be trumpeted widely by “liberals,” even if the study is so bungled that it’s a virtual hoax. But so it goes as the “liberal” world pretends to care about race. So it goes as the “liberal” world keeps showing us how liberals lose.

Tomorrow—part 3: Parker’s folly