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Print view: Schumer defined his party's position quite clearly. That doesn't mean they're right
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THAT DOESN’T MEAN HE’S RIGHT! Schumer defined his party’s position quite clearly. That doesn’t mean they’re right: // link // print // previous // next //

Fingering Weiner’s jewels/Excited by Palin’s breasts: As the press corps chases Rep. Weiner around, we continue to see the fruits of our post-journalistic culture.

Bottom line: If liberals are going to laugh and applaud when “journalists” clown about Gingrich’s jewels, we’ll quickly see them as they chase a big Democrat all around. And by the way: How unimpressive are the “journalists” to whom we keep granting this license? On page A18 of today’s New York Times, Raymond Hernandez offers this sensible news report about the Weiner flap. But on the same page, Richard Perez-Pena opens his own news report about Chris Christie’s chopper ride with this ridiculous framework:

PEREZ-PENA (6/2/11): Woe to the politician who claims to be fiscally responsible, in touch with regular folk, and turns out to have some pricey habits. Think Newt Gingrich and Tiffany, John Edwards and haircuts, Sarah Palin and clothes—and now, Chris Christie and helicopters.

Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, took a State Police helicopter to see his son play high school baseball on Tuesday. And whether that is important or trivial, it surely did not help the image of a conservative Republican who has won national notice for preaching belt-tightening and berating those who resist.

What do any of those highlighted examples have to do with being “fiscally responsible?” Nothing. But this is the way our post-journalists “reason.” This is why it’s a very bad idea to give them the power to stick their big, long, not-real-intelligent noses into everyone’s lives.

Speaking of a loud, astonishing lack of intelligence, Chris Matthews was stroking his own jewels quite hard on last night’s adventure show, Hardball.

The excitable man has his usual hard-on for the exciting Ms. Palin. Here’s the extremely dumb way he opened his pitiful program:

MATTHEWS (6/1/11): Good evening. And what a news day! I’m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Leading off tonight: Bus stop! She makes more excitement riding a bus than the others do actually declaring for president of the United States. The Iowa caucuses are seven months away, and who’s dominating Republican presidential politics? Sarah Palin.

The splash—the splash she continues to make in cities across the Northeast is trumpeting not just her electrifying stagecraft but the dowdiness of the Republican field. Romney, Pawlenty, Huntsman, no one can match her, and yet she doesn’t really seem serious about running.

And that’s why Republicans are still pining for a new star. Christie, Giuliani, Perry. Can any Republican eclipse Sarah Palin? That’s our top story tonight.

Sadly, that was this big buffoon’s idea of the day’s “top story.” (That said, this was also his top story the night before. Most likely, it will be tonight.)

Matthews was all worked up about Palin’s “electrifying stagecraft.” As his fatuous segment unfolded, he kept commenting on the excitement—though he couldn’t seem to put his finger on the source of the thrills up the leg. Can you determine the source of the hotness, of all the exciting excitement?

MATTHEWS: This is a strange time. The heat in Washington is already becoming what it often does, and it’s only June 1st. The summer doldrums are in, but Sarah Palin could not be hotter as a candidate.


MATTHEWS: I don’t know. I don’t know what it is. She goes to Times Square. She’s hitting all the beauty spots in American patriotism. And I agree with all those spots. She’s even found New York and she’s making Times Square look exciting. And Melania, most beautiful person in the world probably, there, right next to Donald Trump.


MATTHEWS: What’s she doing? Is she—is this a book tour? Is this a Hollywood star? Is this a political person?


MATTHEWS: Look, Mitt Romney—I’m going to talk about him later in the show—is actually running for president. He actually was governor of a state and he finished his term and he’s a real public servant who may well be the strongest opponent against President Obama next year, and we’re not—we’re going to cover him tomorrow, but we’re not getting— These pictures are [incredible? impressive?]


MATTHEWS: By the way, there’s something about her. It’s primordial. When she walks and moves, there’s something electric about it that she doesn’t do on television with Roger Ailes sitting in that booth in Wasilla. Look at, there’s something—other candidates don’t do this. She’s constantly in motion. She looks obviously very attractive. She’s doing something that works. If Mitt Romney were doing the same exact thing, Michael, nothing would happen. This is what’s going on here.

Matthews couldn’t quite put his finger on the source of all the excitement. He couldn’t quite define why “those pictures” were so incredible. (Or whatever it was he said. At that point, he seemed to say three words at once, he was so worked up.) He couldn’t explain what Palin was “doing” as she “walked and moved” all around.

And so, as a service, we will:

Palin is a good looking woman with a very hot figure. That’s what had Matthews so excited as she kept walking and moving around. (That and Melania’s beauty, of course.) Chris had two flunkies with him; they kept interrupting his frenzies, arguing in pre-scripted ways. But here’s your bottom line from this segment: Chris was very, very excited by the fact that Palin has breasts.

By way of contrast: If Romney “were doing the same exact thing,” he wouldn’t have breasts. That’s why “nothing would happen.” That’s why “Romney, Pawlenty, Huntsman, no one can match her.”

How hard is this to discern when Matthews froths as he did last night? To watch this whole segment, click here.

At the same time, Matthews got very, very angry about the fact that Palin’s comments at the Statue of Liberty made no apparent sense. At one point, he angrily complained about the way he himself was behaving:

MATTHEWS: She’s there with a national camera crew asking her questions and she comes out with garble like this, and we’re treating her like a presidential candidate! I think this is nonsense, what she said!

Suddenly, Matthews seemed to be very upset by the fact that he was “treating her like a presidential candidate.” Explanation: He’s doing so because she produces good visuals—visuals of a good-looking woman who has a very hot bod.

(We’ve never done this before, but Matthews’ subsidiary language was sexual throughout. At one point, his guests suggested that Palin might endorse someone else in Iowa. Matthews’ response: “You think she might kiss somebody and say, ‘This is the one?’ ”)

Truly, Matthews seemed to be off his meds as she ranted and raved all through this segment. But in this overheated discussion, you see the addled soul of our post-journalistic “press corps.” They want to finger Gingrich’s jewels; they want to show you “these pictures” of Palin’s hot body as she walks and moves all around. In the end, progressives can’t possibly hope to gain from playing along with such a monumentally dumb, fallen culture.

It was an embarrassment to see David Corn sitting at the right cheek of the father. Have we ever been more surprised to see an ex-journalist do this?

Special report: In search of a winning movement!

PART 3—THAT DOESN’T MEAN HE’S RIGHT (permalink): Betsy Fischer may be the most important journalist whose name you’ve never heard. As early as 2005, the Washingtonian mentioned her in its comically-named feature about Washington’s “50 best and most influential journalists.” The insider magazine told us this. On-line, its comical headline has been improved:

“At NBC and its cable operation, MSNBC, a trio of women—Tammy Haddad, Betsy Fischer, and Elizabeth Wilner—decides the political coverage, who makes it on the marquee Meet the Press, and who gets to play Hardball with Chris Matthews.”

Fischer’s official NBC bio will make you think she was listed among the top 50. That’s false, but you get the big picture here.

At any rate, Fischer had already been executive producer of Meet the Press for three years as of 2005. According to her NBC bio, she was named one of "Young Global Leader of the World” by The World Economic Forum in 2008, although we’d suggest you fact-check that claim if you actually care, given that previous semi-deception.

Presumably, it was Fischer and/or her staff who assembled last Sunday’s miserable panel, the panel which made such a miserable hash of its Medicare discussion.

Question: If Fischer is so influential, why haven’t you ever heard her name? In part, it’s because she works behind the scenes; she isn’t an on-camera presence. Presumably, though, there’s a second reason—no one would want to offend such a person by griping about her work. Due to the programs she books or helps to book, journalistic careers have run through Fischer’s office for years. Inside the careerist bubble, few journalists would want to offend such a significant person. (That isn’t Fischer’s fault.)

Presumably for that same reason, fiery liberals gave a free pass to Fischer’s boss, Tim Russert, down through all those bad years.

Fischer booked a miserable panel for Sunday’s Medicare discussion. In one of her “liberal” seats, she placed the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus, who is just this side of the most dogmatic Republican when it comes to fiscal affairs. But then, that resembles Russert’s posture during his tenure at Meet the Press—and how many liberal journalists ever challenged his budget dogmatics? In particular, we refer to Russert’s incessant lectures about Social Security, in which he rattled misleading right-wing talking-points in a way which must have made Jack Welch proud.

Given the vast liberal silence, the task of challenging Russert’s dogmatics was left to none other than Alan Keyes, a fellow who just didn’t care. To his great credit, Keyes told Russert to shut his big yap during a January 2000 Republican debate—a debate in which Russert kept telling the candidates what they had to think and do concerning Social Security. Quite correctly, Keyes told Russert to shut his big trap and let the candidates define the relevant facts (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/17/00). But we can’t recall seeing career liberal journalists doing such things during Russert’s reign as a Republican budget beard. Joan and David kept their traps shut. Today, they’re guest stars on Hardball.

If you’re a liberal or a progressive, you’ve been very badly served by your star journalists down through the years. (For one outcome, see note below.) In part, the intellectual framework of our current budget debate was created by those years of silence. In recent weeks, we think this poor service has only continued as our latest liberal star flounders, flails and fails to grasp the current Medicare debate.

We’ll say one thing for Sunday’s Meet the Press—in his segment with David Gregory, Chuck Schumer defined the debate with great clarity. There are three positions, Schumer said, and Democrats are in agreement:

SCHUMER (5/29/11): The bottom line is very simple. We already proved our bona fides in last year's bill, where we, where we extended Medicare's life by 12 years by doing some of the things that I talked about there on delivery system reform. And we're going to continue to do that.

There's a choice here—there are three choices:

One is to do nothing. One is to preserve the benefits but change the delivery systems and not let some of the providers, like the drug companies, get away with so much. And one is to end Medicare as we know it. Democrats are in the second one, Republicans are on the third one. Until Mitch McConnell abandons the third one, we are not going to get a budget deficit agreement. It's that simple.

And I got, was in touch with Bill Clinton last night. He agrees completely with what I said. There's no difference between Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Steny Hoyer, Chuck Schumer, Senate and House Democrats. The difference is between us and Republicans. They want to end Medicare as we know it. If you turn it over to a pure system where the, where the insurance companies govern, here's what happens according to CBO, nonpartisan: The beneficiaries, instead of paying 25 percent, pay 68 percent. But at the same time, the costs don't go down, they continue to rise because the insurance companies pass the costs to the beneficiaries. That is wrong.

That is not politics, I would say to my dear friend Senator McConnell. That is what America's all about. And we will, we will oppose them in the budget negotiations if they don't abandon Ryan, and it will legitimately be one of the major issues of the election year in 2012.

According to Schumer, Republicans want to end Medicare as we know it. Beyond that, he said Democrats are in total agreement about their own policy stand. No major Democrat wants to leave Medicare alone, Schumer said. Instead, they want to “preserve the benefits but change the delivery systems and not let some of the providers, like the drug companies, get away with so much.”

As best we can tell, Schumer is basically right about the position of major Dems. That doesn’t mean their position is right. On the merits, some progressives might prefer to leave the system pretty much as it is. On the politics, some progressives might prefer doing nothing for now. But these are important, serious questions—and these questions got thoroughly smudged in Sunday’s panel discussion.

They also get smudged almost every night on the eponymous cable show of a self-impressed cable star.

During the Russert years, there were no progressive cable programs. Today, we actually have our own shows, headed by our own progressive stars. But given the work Rachel Maddow is doing on Medicare, how much does such progress matter?

We think Maddow’s work on this issue has been very poor. Can progressives build a winning movement from such underwhelming work?

Tomorrow—part 4: Maddow on Medicare

The wages of silence: Many progressives don’t understand how badly they’ve been served in the past. On Monday, Paul Krugman complained about that Meet the Press discussion. (Largely, he was quoting a good, clear post by Steve Benen.) In reply to Krugman’s post, one frustrated reader said this:

COMMENTER (5/30/11): I'm not sure what criteria producers of the Sunday shows use in booking guests but there seems to be a disproportionate number of Republicans and right wing commentators. Where's Rachel? Bernie Sanders? Anthony Weiner? Amy Klobuchar? As you noted about this week's MTP, the shows become filled with the usual suspects of GOP politicos and insiders.

Tim Russert must be spinning in his grave.

This commenter seemed to think the panel discussions were better in the Russert era. We suspect it would be hard to back up that impression.

Today, this reader hears some critiques of Meet the Press. Back then, all was silent. Russert was awful on Social Security—but he was an untouchable star.