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TRUST US, THE VOICES HAVE SAID! Kagan’s friends keep telling us rubes to defer to their wonderful judgment: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, MAY 14, 2010

Doggone it: Doggone it! Yesterday, we were called away from our desk again, on another mission of national import. For that reason, we will postpone our ongoing series until Monday.

What was wrong with that recent survey on race—and with the liberal world’s reaction? If we liberals actually care about race, we think we ought to know. To review part 2 of our report, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/12/10.

TRUST US, THE VOICES HAVE SAID (permalink): On Wednesday night, you got your answer from the Maddow Show.

Sorry! When people “spew total falsehoods on TV,” you will not see such statements fact-checked—if the spewer is well-connected, if his spewing occurred on Maddow. In this case, the spewer in question was Larry Lessig, whose keister got thoroughly kissed by Maddow herself on Monday night’s program (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/12/10). On that evening’s Maddow Show, Lessig spewed quite a bit of blatant nonsense about Glenn Greenwald. On Wednesday night, when Maddow returned to the air, you got exactly no explanation—no correction, no clarification, nothing resembling a fact-check.

Remember when the liberal world was promoting the idea that TV news programs should fact-check their guests? Let’s make sure we know what we really meant: TV news programs should fact-check their guests, unless the guests are connected “liberals.”

TV news shows should fact-check their guests—if they come from the other tribe.

Wednesday, on Democracy Now, Lessig and Greenwald continued their debate about the Kagan nomination, with Lessig dropping the blatant falsehoods he spewed on Monday night. To watch their improved debate, just click here. But when it comes to the Maddow Show, you can just stick it up your fat keisters.

Larry Lessig is part of the clan. Maddow will not fact-check or clarify his blatantly bogus remarks.

But so it has gone as a fraternal/sororal order promotes Kagan, who is one of their own. For ourselves, let’s make it clear—we have no idea what kind of Justice Kagan would turn out to be. Greenwald has argued that this makes Kagan a shaky choice; we think his argument has obvious merit. But all around the world of the clan, clan members—“made men”—have been stepping forward, telling us to settle down and trust their superlative judgment about their colleague and friend.

“Trust us, the Voices said.” So wrote Robert Frost.

How many Voices have told us to trust them in the matter of Kagan? Before we review Dionne and O’Donnell’s recent advice, consider this letter in the New York Times from a college associate of Kagan’s. Today, Brian Dickerson is an editor at the Detroit Free Press; we’ll assume he’s a very good one. But for our money, he doesn’t even seem to understand one prime critique of Kagan:

DICKERSON (5/13/10): The Elena Kagan I recall was spontaneous, funny and more than willing to engage in spirited debate on any subject. She was respectful but hardly dispassionate, and fearless about challenging anyone whose arguments she found spurious.

I haven’t talked to Ms. Kagan since we were students, and it’s likely that she has become somewhat more circumspect in her public utterances. But I submit that any such caution reflects the rational judgment of a woman who aspires to high judicial office, not some characterological aversion to intellectual risk.

Kagan was spontaneous in college! If she kept her trap shut in the past decade while Bush as dismantling the known legal world, it’s just because she aspired to hold a high office!

She was just looking out for Number One! That would explain why she didn’t speak up! For ourselves, we can’t tell you the truth about Kagan’s motives. But Dickerson doesn’t seem to realize that his letter reinforces one concern about Kagan’s character.

In yesterday’s Washington Post, E. J. Dionne became another Voice saying we should trust him in the matter of Kagan. He knows Kagan too, he said. Beneath a wonderfully ironic insider’s headline (“The Elena Kagan you won’t see”), Dionne assures us that we’d be thrilled if we could just know Kagan personally. He praises her “lovely sense of humor,” then lists some of the traits that will make her an excellent Justice. Trust me, this second Voice says:

DIONNE (5/13/10): A couple of years later, I ran into Kagan. After we exchanged warm greetings—her assets include an open and welcoming personality and a lovely sense of humor—I raised the recruiting controversy, saying I thought the universities were wrong.

Several things about her response show why she will make an excellent justice. First, she understood we were debating in good faith. She doesn't turn disagreements into personal quarrels.

Second, she spoke with genuine feeling about her respect for the military. When she offers this view during her hearings, as she no doubt will, people should know it's a sentiment she has expressed in private.

Third, she made a superb argument based on a careful balancing test: Yes, in a free and democratic society, the military should be able to recruit on campuses, but university officials have an obligation to maintain policies that protect groups that are part of their student population from discrimination. At Harvard Law, Kagan struck this balance by allowing recruiters access through a student veterans group but not through its main career office.

In the end, her argument made clear that we agreed on both of the core imperatives but weighed them differently. Her approach—simultaneously careful and principled—is what makes for thoughtful judging.

In a generally fatuous list of points, Dionne tells us that Kagan would make a good Justice, in part because she once “spoke with genuine feeling about her respect for the military.” (“People should know” that Kagan has expressed this sentiment in private, we are told, from behind the curtain.) Does Dionne know that some people are troubled by the possibility that Kagan may perhaps be too deferential to the preferences of such authorities? Singing the praise of his fellow clan member, the gent doesn’t seem to have heard.

Last evening, Lawrence O’Donnell completed the hat trick, schooling us about Kagan’s suitability while serving as guest host on The Ed Show “Attention rubes,” he all but cried. “Dear Leader has chosen this person!” At the end of a generally fatuous analysis, we were offered this fatuous homily:

O’DONNELL (5/13/10): Elena Kagan has obviously lived her entire professional life for this moment. She has carefully avoided controversy, unlike the justice she clerked for, Thurgood Marshall, who, as a lawyer, bravely threw himself into the center of the most controversial cases of his era. Marshall risked his life trying cases in southern towns where he was not allowed to sleep in hotels and where he knew he was not safe.

Elena Kagan is no Thurgood Marshall. No one on the Supreme Court is.

The weight of the court now is to avoid controversy. So we don’t know a lot about Kagan, but we do know a lot about the man who appointed her. Barack Obama is the wisest and most learned legal scholar ever to occupy the White House. That`s who Kagan would have had to fool if she really were some sort of stealth conservative.

And Elena Kagan is very smart, but not that smart. I don’t think she fooled Barack Obama.

Good lord. That was straight from the clan!

“Elena Kagan is no Thurgood Marshall?” The real complaint has been somewhat different. According to the real complaint, Elena Kagan is no Diane Wood—no Harold Koh, no Pam Karlan. But it’s just like members of the clan to treat us rubes like low-IQ proles, to offer us such perfect pabulum in the place of an actual argument.

Kagan could never fool Wise Leader, this primal clan member told us last night. Does O’Donnell know that some people are troubled by the idea that Kagan may have been chosen because she’s inclined to defer to Wise Leader? Singing the praise of Obama, the gent doesn’t seem to have heard.

Dionne and O’Donnell offer “arguments” which amount to two words: Trust us. Unfortunately, there is a very grim back-story here.

Dionne and O’Donnell belong to a clan—a clan which has served you very badly over the years. The clan’s judgment has been astoundingly poor—and its character has been even worse. Like Kagan, clan members have kept their traps shut at pretty much every critical juncture, thus protecting their own career status. It’s no wonder they leap, as if by muscle memory, to defend the fellow-traveler who kept her own trap shut all through these past many years.

She would have spoken up, we’re told. But she wanted to land that good job!

This clan is powerful, and it lives for the clan. It has served you amazingly poorly over the course of the past twenty years. You are in Iraq because these perfumed losers refused to speak when the speaking was dangerous—when it meant opposing the views of the clan. This dates to 1999, of course, when the clan went to war with a candidate. (O’Donnell helped drive that war. Dionne refused to complain.)

And now, in the matter of Kagan? Trust us, these Voices have said.

The benjamins and the sump pumps: Maddow must be the world’s biggest hustler, intentionally or not. She left you barefoot and pregnant this week, failing to clarify or explain the “total falsehoods” you heard on her high-minded program. But land o goshen! She really knows how to push your buttons concerning the other tribe! In a self-glorying report last night, Maddow complained about the big money Sarah Palin makes, without discussing her own giant salary. And, as always, she broadcast her contempt for the cultural proles of the world—for the utterly low-class losers who make things like sump pumps:

MADDOW (5/13/10): But first, a few holy mackerel stories in today’s news, starting with the new applause line in the traveling Sarah Palin for-profit road show. The new applause line is me—weirdly, really weirdly. Last night, former half-term governor Palin was in Rosemont, Illinois, for one of those speeches she gives for an undisclosed but reportedly very large amount of money. Here’s the new piece of red meat she is throwing to her fans:

PALIN (videotape): A gal looked up and asked him where he was from, and he said, "Alaska," and then, all of a sudden, the clerk, she turns beet red and the veins pop out of her neck, kind of like Rachel Maddow does sometimes. Now watch, that clip’s going to be on air for her, doggone it. Get her some ratings.

MADDOW: For all the things I thought might change in my life when I got a job in TV, I did not foresee becoming a stump speech applause line for politicians who won`t agree to do interviews with me. Also super weird, just like what Senator Tom Coburn said about me, Sarah Palin’s case against me is also that I’m inappropriately emotional.

PALIN (videotape): She turns beet red and the veins pop out of her neck, kind of like Rachel Maddow does sometimes.

MADDOW: For the record, I don’t know why she’s looking at my neck. I think my neck is actually kind of always bulgy, no matter how I’m feeling. I think I just have sort of a bulgy neck. When I get frustrated, I actually think I get more blotchy than bulgy, right? See, blotchy.

Honestly, weird as it is to have my looks picked on by Sarah Palin, I’m not going to get too excited about this. I mean, I have been used to raise money for right-wing politicians and causes before—Hi, Senator Brown! Hi, John Birch Society! Still waiting for my cut of the proceeds on those fund-raisers!

But I will make one last comment on this, to report a couple of facts about Governor Palin’s speech with me as the applause line. I think it’s important for you to know that Sarah Palin’s appearance in Rosemont, Illinois, was co-sponsored by, A, a company that makes sump pumps, and B, a conservative radio station with the call letters WIND.

Really, I got to say, it was just an honor to be there.

Maddow constantly punches your buttons about the big money Palin makes. But how much money does Maddow make? She always forgets to tell you! And this may be an actual problem; you see, people like Maddow may allow connected guests to “spew total falsehoods” to protect their own access to such mountains of dough. People will put up with lots of crap to maintain such big-keistered pay-days.

Saddest of all, Maddow never misses the chance to mock the kinds of low-class people who produce low-class objects like sump pumps. It’s second nature for players like Maddow—and it’s one of the ways liberals lose.

Why did Lessig “spew total falsehoods?” Screw you for even wondering, this last Voice has now said.

So it goes inside the clan which has screwed you blue for decades. Can you spot the patterns here? Or do these plainly high-minded people seem to be on your side?