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A ONE-MAN THINK TANK BREAKS DOWN! Newt Gingrich has so many ideas he can’t recall what they are: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2011

Reading more of that stunning book: We thought we’d offer a few more thoughts on the fiery hero, Jonathan Chait, who has decided, twelve years later, to discuss the “media pathology” unloosed against Candidate Gore.

Just in the nick of time, Chait alerts us to this problem—in May 2011! But good God! In the last day, we’ve read back through the book he published in 2007. (Full title: The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics.) This re-reading has helped us remember why we were so stunned, in real time, by the part of Chait’s book which dealt with the press corps’ treatment of major Democrats, including Candidate Gore.

Our questions: Why didn’t Chait discuss this “pathology” in 1999, when it was actually happening? Why didn’t he discuss this pathology in the year 2000, as it continued to tilt the campaign in favor of Candidate Bush? A related question: Why did liberal writers in general fail to tell us about this “pathology?” Why did our fiery liberal heroes stay so remarkably quiet?

Make no mistake: Jonathan Chait could answer that question if he wanted to do so. On page 145 of The Big Con, he tells us this: “Having spent a great deal of time in the company of newspaper reporters, I can attest that they consider policy, especially economic policy, mind-numbing minutiae beyond their purview.” Can we talk? Chait has spent a lot of time around reporters—but he has also spent a great deal of time in the company of career liberal writers. He was at The New Republic all through Campaign 2000, when the journal utterly failed to challenge this pathology.

Why did Chait and his colleagues sleep? Chait could tell us if he chose. But Chait would jump off the Golden Gate Bridge before he would address such a question. And you can be sure of one other thing:

That big watchdog in Orange County will never confront him with such questions! Kevin Drum would take to his Jeopardy couch before an anti-tribal query like that ever passed his lips.

Why didn’t Chait speak up in real time? Drum will never ask.

Sorry! Your liberal heroes failed to warn you as that pathological, twenty-month war ground on. Today, they “warn” you twelve years later—and they will never, ever tell you why that silence occurred! Indeed, we strongly recommend chapters 5 and 6 of The Big Con for a stunning, textbook example of the way career liberals fight to avoid real discussion of the way the press corps works.

When Chait’s book appeared, we planned to spend a week on that part of the book—the part that deals with the press corps’ approach to presidential campaigns. We’re sorry now that we didn’t—though such a report would surely have troubled Drum, who is upset by the “millions of words” we’ve spent on such tedious topics. We will only tell you this: If you read chapters 5 and 6, you will see Chait do a good job defining a problem—a problem in which every major presidential Democrat had been getting slimed for his bad character. You will then see him go to heroic lengths to avoid discussing the role of the press corps in this pattern.

Chait insists that this pattern can’t reflect a political preference by the corps. He gins up silly “structural” explanations for the way this pattern obtains. He uses Nixonian passive constructions, taking away the press corps’ agency: In his telling, the GOP invents these phony character tales—and then, by some mysterious proves, they “find their way into the mainstream press.”

We wrote it in 2007, and we’ll write it again today: In that remarkable part of his book, “Chait does what so many career liberal writes have done in the past fifteen years—he goes to near-heroic lengths to downplay the mainstream press corps’ role in creating this pattern” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/2/07). Indeed: Early in this two-chapter chunk, Chait offers the following thesis statement. Within the guild, all good children know they must say these things:

CHAIT (page 142): Blaming the media is, of course, the easiest crutch of the frustrated partisan. We should therefore be clear about our parameters. It is certainly not the case that the media have systematically favored Republicans over Democrats. While decades of conservative complaint have made most reporters and editors ultra-skittish about perceived liberal bias, it is also true that most elite journalists vote Democratic and approach the liberal side of most issues with familiarity and understanding…

As he continues, Chait’s prose makes it clear that the media actually had “systematically favored Republicans over Democrats” in the years since Bill Clinton arrived on the scene. But he works extremely hard to explain those facts away, having told us, right at the start, that it certainly can’t be the case “that the media have systematically favored Republicans over Democrats.”

It couldn’t be the case—but it was! In truth, it couldn’t be said to be the case by a career liberal player.

Today, Chait speaks with fervor about that media pathology. In real time, he kept his trap shut for two years, as did his “liberal” colleagues. For ourselves, we sent them mailers, we posted press releases, but we simply couldn’t get them to speak. In Chait’s case, he wrote all kinds of tedious shit about Campaign 2000 as this ugly, destructive pathology just kept on unfolding.

They failed you badly (they failed the world)—and Chait could tell you why they did! But Chait will never tell you the truth, not in a million years. A team of monkeys will fly to the moon before he explains the silence of his friends and colleagues. And let’s give props to all the enablers! Stretched out on his comfy divan, Kevin Drum will never ask for an explanation. People! So many words!

Joan Walsh will be on Hardball tonight (or not), kissing her good friend’s ass.

A ONE-MAN THINK TANK BREAKS DOWN (permalink): On the Fox News Channel’s Special Report, they weren’t (quite) backing down.

On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Newt Gingrich had driven conservatives wild, trashing the Ryan budget plan and endorsing the individual mandate. The next morning, he ran out to reverse the things he had said. The man is a giant buffoon.

Conservatives were very unhappy. On last evening’s Special Report, Charles Krauthammer said Newt was done. “This is a big deal. He’s done,” Charles said.

Charles noted that Gingrich’s statements had been “contradictory and incoherent.” But another all-star couldn’t quite drop a treasured press corps narrative. As if by muscle memory, Mara dragged an old story-line in:

BAIER (5/17/11): Mara, do you think he can recover?

LIASSON: What I thought the role he would play—I didn't think he had a chance for the nomination. But I did think until now he had the chance to be a kind of intellectual leader in the party and he had a chance to come up with conservative argument to do away with free riders, which is what he was trying to say.

BAIER: Explain free riders.

LIASSON: Free riders are people who don't have insurance but they get health care if they show up at the emergency room, and we all have to pay in higher health care cost, because somebody pays for the healthcare if they don't have insurance. And that's what he was talking about in terms of independent responsibility.

People! As Dan Balz explained last week, Newt Gingrich is “a one-man think tank!” Gingrich is “an idea-spewing machine, unlike anyone else in the Republican Party.” This has long been a treasured press corps narrative, right up there with “John McCain is the world’s most honest man” and “Al Gore has a problem with the truth (just like Clinton).” And sure enough! Even after Gingrich melted down, Mara still felt the need to go there! She explained what Newt “was trying to say,” then tickled the keys once again. Until that very day, she said, she thought that Newt “had the chance to be a kind of intellectual leader in the party.”

Question: Why on earth—why in the world—would a sane person have thought that?

Why on earth have so many people called Gingrich a man of ideas? They’ve done so for the reason Chait won’t acknowledge; they’ve done so because mainstream “journalists” have been slaves to Republican-flattering narratives over the past twenty years.

Newt Gingrich is a man of ideas? As we noted last Friday, we have never had any idea what those “ideas” might be. And over the weekend, as it turned out, neither did Newt himself!

Perhaps he has so many ideas he just can’t keep them straight!

A one-man think tank imploded on Sunday. One day later, an aggressive prediction by Lawrence O’Donnell turned out to be totally right.

The biggest buffoon in the circus, Don Trump, announced that he wouldn’t be running for president. The announcement came on May 16. But O’Donnell had made that prediction, again and again, in the last four weeks:

O’DONNELL (4/15/11): So there’s just about 30 days left in the fake Donald Trump presidential campaign. Because when NBC announces its prime-time schedule for next season, which it will do on Monday, May 16, right here in New York, it will include Donald Trump. And he will no longer be able to pretend that he is still thinking about running for president.

O’DONNELL (4/18/11): Don’t worry about it. He’s not going to run. May 16 is when NBC announces its new schedule for shows for next year. Donald cannot afford to pass up his paycheck from NBC. There’s nothing else that gets him through the day. He is going to be an NBC star on television next season. He’s never going to be a presidential candidate.

O’DONNELL (4/19/11): His fake campaign will be over by May 16, when NBC announces its upcoming season, which will include Donald Trump as a paid performer for NBC…He will continue his venomous, poisonous, hateful attacks on the president and his ugly fanning of the flames of hatred for this president that exists among the people who do not believe Barack Obama’s presidency is legitimate. And he will do that until May 16, when NBC reminds you how this silly man really makes his living and then orders him to shut up.

O’DONNELL (4/20/11): Real billionaires, none of whom have the time to hang with Donald Trump, do not work as cast members in NBC prime-time entertainment shows, which, of course, is how Donald actually makes his living. His fake campaign will be over by May 16, when NBC announces Trump’s position in next season’s prime time schedule.

O’DONNELL (4/25/11): NBC executives know that Donald Trump`s presidential posturing is completely fraudulent. They know that on May 16, they are going to announce that Donald Trump will be returning for another season in NBC`s employ, pretending to fire people on TV.

We could go on, but you get the point. For the past month, O’Donnell has been predicting, with total assurance, that The Donald would take a powder right on May 16.

Maybe O’Donnell just got lucky. But yesterday was May 16—and Trump announced he was done.

O’Donnell was right on the money about Trump’s time-line—and last night, he went on and on, at considerable length, about the stupidity of TV pundits who had acted as if Trump really might run. “The real humiliation of the fake Trump campaign lies entirely with the political pundits who never understood the fraud that was being perpetrated on them every day by Donald Trump,” O’Donnell said. Also this: “From this point forward, you would do well to ignore every word spoken or written by any political pundit who gave one day of credence to the possibility of a Trump for president campaign. Political pundits have been given their first intelligence test of the 2012 campaign. I leave it to you to keep track of who passed and who failed.”

O’Donnell didn’t mention Chris Matthews by name, but we couldn’t help thinking that that’s who he meant. Meanwhile, Matthews was blundering ahead on his own cable show, as he’s done for the last fifteen years.

Trump and Gingrich are two of America’s biggest buffoons. But then again, so is Chris Matthews. But so what? Whoresome players have kissed his ass for years, begging for a bit of fame. Matthews is a thoroughly loathsome figure—but, as Krugman explained last week, elites like this never die in our culture. They just keep failing again.

That said, the world saw a bit of vintage Matthews on last evening’s Hardball. Acting on a very rare impulse, he had apparently asked his staff to conduct a bit of research. This research concerned the individual mandate. Like major buffoons worldwide, he had no compunction about showing the world how utterly clueless he is:

MATTHEWS (5/16/11): Welcome back to Hardball. Republicans have been quick to vilify health care reform under the president, and challenging the individual mandate has heart of, the heart of their case. But that’s a considerable change of heart from where the party has historically stood on this very issue.

In fact, prominent Republicans were actually for the health insurance mandate, just like the president, before they were against it.

[…]

It is stunning to me, after doing all the research our producers did—I didn’t know this, but people like Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch, Grassley, Newt Gingrich, Romney, Bill Frist, all of these top Republican guys, senators at the highest level of those committees who were chairs of all those committees, were all for pretty much requiring people to go out and buy health care if they can afford it, and paying to the amount they can afford, so that government and the hospitals don`t have to pay it. That sounds like a Republican solution. Now they are all running from it and calling the president a socialist.

Really? Until his producers conducted “all this research,” Chris Matthews didn’t know that a long string of major Republicans once supported the individual mandate? This fact has been widely discussed in the last few years. But Matthews, paid $5 million per year, said he was stunned to learn it!

Later last night, discussing the arrest of the head of the IMF, Matthews got his basic facts completely mixed up. With great tact, Newsweek’s Christopher Dickey had to straighten out his host’s grossly bungled time-line.

Trump and Gingrich are a pair of buffoons—but Matthews makes three. Indeed, buffoonism is the controlling norm in American public discussion. It has been the norm for a very long time, with clowns like Matthews leading the way. But careerists in the “liberal” camp have refused to notice this fact. These people want money and fame.

It’s much as Krugman said last week: Elites like Matthews never die. No matter how stupid or foolish they are, they’re never called on the carpet. Matthews was one of the two or three leading attack dogs in the “media pathology” Chait cited last week. But so what? The Walshes keep kissing his ass. Josh is a good boy too!

You’re left with buffoons at the top of your world, propped up by gruesome careerists.

What a weekend! A one-man think tank melted down; a circus clown quit on schedule. O’Donnell launched a veiled attack on a third large buffoon—but he will always have his boots licked by those who will prop him up.

For what it’s worth, Chris has been repurposed. The man is our absurd buffoon now. We love the dumb things he now says.