Reading more of that stunning book: We thought wed 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 problemin May 2011! But good God! In the last day, weve 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 Chaits book which dealt with the press corps treatment of major Democrats, including Candidate Gore.
Our questions: Why didnt Chait discuss this pathology in 1999, when it was actually happening? Why didnt 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 reportersbut 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 didnt 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 laterand 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 Chaits book appeared, we planned to spend a week on that part of the bookthe part that deals with the press corps approach to presidential campaigns. Were sorry now that we didntthough such a report would surely have troubled Drum, who is upset by the millions of words weve 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 problema 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 cant 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 talesand then, by some mysterious proves, they find their way into the mainstream press.
We wrote it in 2007, and well 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 yearshe 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, Chaits 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 cant be the case that the media have systematically favored Republicans over Democrats.
It couldnt be the casebut it was! In truth, it couldnt 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 couldnt get them to speak. In Chaits 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 lets 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 friends ass.
A ONE-MAN THINK TANK BREAKS DOWN (permalink): On the Fox News Channels Special Report, they werent (quite) backing down.
On Sundays 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 evenings Special Report, Charles Krauthammer said Newt was done. This is a big deal. Hes done, Charles said.
Charles noted that Gingrichs statements had been contradictory and incoherent. But another all-star couldnt 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 playI 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 worlds 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 earthwhy in the worldwould a sane person have thought that?
Why on earth have so many people called Gingrich a man of ideas? Theyve done so for the reason Chait wont acknowledge; theyve 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 cant keep them straight!
A one-man think tank imploded on Sunday. One day later, an aggressive prediction by Lawrence ODonnell turned out to be totally right.
The biggest buffoon in the circus, Don Trump, announced that he wouldnt be running for president. The announcement came on May 16. But ODonnell had made that prediction, again and again, in the last four weeks:
ODONNELL (4/15/11): So theres 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.
ODONNELL (4/18/11): Dont worry about it. Hes 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. Theres nothing else that gets him through the day. He is going to be an NBC star on television next season. Hes never going to be a presidential candidate.
ODONNELL (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 Obamas 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.
ODONNELL (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 Trumps position in next seasons prime time schedule.
ODONNELL (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, ODonnell has been predicting, with total assurance, that The Donald would take a powder right on May 16.
Maybe ODonnell just got lucky. But yesterday was May 16and Trump announced he was done.
ODonnell was right on the money about Trumps time-lineand 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, ODonnell 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.
ODonnell didnt mention Chris Matthews by name, but we couldnt help thinking that thats who he meant. Meanwhile, Matthews was blundering ahead on his own cable show, as hes done for the last fifteen years.
Trump and Gingrich are two of Americas 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 figurebut, 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 evenings 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 thats 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 didI didnt 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 didnt 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, Newsweeks Christopher Dickey had to straighten out his hosts grossly bungled time-line.
Trump and Gingrich are a pair of buffoonsbut 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.
Its much as Krugman said last week: Elites like Matthews never die. No matter how stupid or foolish they are, theyre 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!
Youre 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. ODonnell launched a veiled attack on a third large buffoonbut he will always have his boots licked by those who will prop him up.
For what its worth, Chris has been repurposed. The man is our absurd buffoon now. We love the dumb things he now says.