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Daily Howler: Seeking the counsel of other rough men, a working-stiff star went to Bozeman
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GALLATIN CHIC! Seeking the counsel of other rough men, a working-stiff star went to Bozeman: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JUNE 6, 2008

THE ROAD TO PUR-DITION: Yes, we’re going to parse Todd Purdum. But we thought it should wait.

CANDY’S GRACE NOTE: We’d call it a Classic Pundit Moment. On Anderson Cooper’s 10 PM hour, Candy Crowley had her facts wrong. But so what? The pundit was quickly able to tell us what her bungled fact meant.

The background: As the hour began, Cooper and the rest of the gang had a stake-out going. They had been told—erroneously, of course—that Senators Obama and Clinton were locked in a meeting at Clinton’s home. Cooper rat-a-tat-tatted the background. “Sources now tell CNN that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, after one of the toughest primary campaigns in memory, are sitting down behind closed doors at Clinton's home in Washington,” he said.

Needless to say, Pundit Excitement was building. Soon, Cooper was speculating about what “may” be true. And sure enough! Crowley was able to tell the panel about “a gesture” she thought she’d discerned:

COOPER (6/5/08): You know, Candy, it's remarkable when—you said that it may just be the two of them. It may be a smaller group—a larger group, but a very small group in number. It's remarkable to think that after, you know, a year-and-a-half of campaigning, after all the thousands of people they have been surrounded with at rallies, all the advisers they have, that it boils down to a room in her house where either the two candidates are meeting or a handful of other people are meeting. It's remarkable that it now just boils down to that small core group.

CROWLEY: It is. And I also think it's interesting that it's at her home. I think there is a gesture in here somewhere.

Huh! In fact, the meeting wasn’t at Clinton’s home. (It had been held at Dianne Feinstein’s crib.) But Crowley thought it was “interesting” that the meeting was held at the Clinton manse—and she somehow thought that she had discerned what the choice of location meant! As always, the gesture which she thought she’d spotted conformed to Basic Pundit Narratives. Indeed, it’s the modern pundit’s most basic skill: Even when her facts are wrong, she still knows how to interpret them:

CROWLEY: And I also think it's interesting that it's at her home. I think there is a gesture in here somewhere.

He's the nominee. He went to see her. I think there is something—there is a graciousness in that, that is fully intended, I'm sure, by the Obama campaign. And, yes, I mean, in the end, politics is about people. And the people the politics have been about this year is Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And they know, at different levels, how important this meeting is. I don't think it will probably be the last meeting, certainly probably won't will be the last conversation. But she clearly wanted to have this meeting before she talks to her supporters on Saturday.

Maybe we should have seen it coming. But Crowley—flatly wrong on her facts—already knew what the bungled fact meant! The solons were meeting at Clinton’s home? To Crowley, that meant that Obama was being “gracious!” The graciousness was “fully intended”—Crowley was “sure”—by the Obama campaign!

Does hackwork ever get more hacksplendent? A bit later, Ed Rollins had a slightly more mundane idea:

COOPER: Ed, as we look at this picture of the house, do you make much of the fact that Barack Obama went to her house?

ROLLINS: Well, I assume she has the big house, and he has the apartment somewhere.


COOPER: You think it could be as simple as that?

In fairness, Cooper frequently corners the market on simple. Last night, though, he threw in wrong.

At any rate, this was truly a wondrous example of two Modern Pundit Imperatives. First: The pundit must interpret all pieces of trivia. And second: Her instant assessments of character must conform to Hard Pundit Corps Scripts.

How pathetic was Crowley’s performance? Let’s imagine that Cooper’s gang had somehow been right on its facts. Our question: If there had been a meeting at Clinton’s home, why would that make Obama “gracious?” Why wouldn’t it make Clinton “gracious?” Why couldn’t it mean that both solons were “gracious?” (More simply: Why would a journalist offer such judgments?) It’s hard to know why major pundits offer such perfectly ludicrous thoughts. But everyone will understand this: Crowley’s instant assessment of character conformed to long-standing narrative lines. In short, she was reading a novel again. Her facts were wrong, and her judgment was daft. But purity had been extended.

Final questions: Who was the “source” for Cooper’s false fact? And who was being “gracious” last night? It begins to look like Obama’s campaign graciously misled a gang of reporters, graciously letting them fly to Chicago, although Obama wasn’t on the plane. According to the New York Times, Robert Gibbs, the campaign’s communications director, wasn’t communicating real well—at least, not “until after the plane landed in Chicago.” Was something wrong with that conduct? For ourselves, we’re not sure we care. But Crowley is clearly a master of insight. We’ll wait for her to say what this means. Question: Do guild rules permit that?

Weisman is also a genius: At the Post, Jonathan Weisman can read the soul too. In this report, he correctly says where the meeting was held. But uh-oh! He is somehow able to tell us what the meeting now means! Weisman: “Coming just before Clinton's expected departure from the race, it was seen as a reconciliation gesture to the senator from New York and her millions of disappointed supporters.” The gesture is now one of reconciliation—by Obama again! “It was seen” that way, Weisman wrote. Seen by whom? Such tools never tell.

IN RE UNITAS—AND CLINTON: In response to popular demand, here’s the anecdote about Johnny Unitas which we mentioned yesterday. Why have candidates sometimes fought to the death? We suggested a basic fact: They’re often very competitive people. Bill Bradley, for example, was a world-class athlete. Often, these people don’t like to lose.

Which brings us back to Johnny U, in the last years of his career.

By now, Unitas was no longer a great NFL quarterback. He wasn’t even especially good—and he’d become a pain in the keister because he refused to accept or admit it. Fans were starting to get annoyed. Finally, a Balitmore sportscaster said:

Stop complaining about this! He gave you all those thrills through the years because he had supreme self-confidence. Have a little appreciation for the traits that got us all here. He won all those games because he's like this. The trait you’re complaining about today is the trait you adored in the past.

While recommending this post by Digby, we’ll offer a similar thought about Hillary Clinton. And about Bill Clinton. And about Robert Kennedy, Gene McCarthy—Hubert Humphrey.

Some people wanted a concession on Tuesday. That’s fine, but historically, people don’t do that. By the way: It would be weird to spend all day Tuesday asking people to vote for you—then to show up at 8:30 PM and say, “I’m out of here—please vote for the other guy.” Whatever you think of Clinton’s speech, it would be somewhat odd to endorse on the night you ran in two primaries, trying to win. Historically, people don’t do that.

(There’s one other point to consider here: For ourselves, we weren’t heart-broken by this campaign’s outcome—but a great many Dem voters were. Historically, pols don’t kick voters to the curb on the night their dream has died. They give them some time to adjust to what happened. But then, this is basic human relations, a subject the life-forms comprising our pundit corps tend to know little about.)

But let’s get back to Johnny Unitas. And to Bill Bradley; and Jerry Brown; and Ted Kennedy and John McCain. And let’s understand the kinds of competitors both the Clintons are.

Hillary Clinton has gotten this far because she doesn’t quit real quickly. By the way: When’s the last time you saw a Big Dem who didn’t quit at the very first chance? The roll-over for the October 02 war resolution vote was the most gruesome example. (“Let get the resolution out of the way so we can talk about health care for a few weeks.”) For our money, Clinton’s refusal to quit in the past few months makes her a remarkable role model. We hope other Dems will recall her approach and learn to roll over less quickly.

But as pundits bellow and wail, saying she hung on too long this week, we’ll suggest you remember the tons of pure horse-sh*t this person has fought through over the years. Typically, she did this while receiving no help at all from the famous front-runners who whined and complained this week.

Hillary Clinton tends not to quit. That’s how she persisted through so much sh*t with so little help from “career liberals.” Just consider three events from 1999 alone:

In June, the cowards and clowns of your “mainstream press corps” invented that ludicrous Cubs-Yankees scandal. They called her every name in the book. But go ahead! Search the work of your favorite “career liberal.” You’ll find him hiding under his desk, too frightened to complain about this—or about the pseudo-lies being invented about Candidate Gore.

In August, they dragged out Gennifer Flowers to inform us about Hillary Clinton’s murders. (And about the fact that she’s the world’s biggest lesbo.) Yes, that’s right—about her murders! Flowers clowned about this for a half-hour on Hardball—then was rewarded with the full hour on Hannity. (Fox re-broadcast the program that weekend.) Go ahead! Search the work of your favorite “career liberal.” Give us the name of even one person who complained about this assault on everything decent people should hold dear.

But anyway, Hillary Clinton, like Gore, was the world’s biggest liar—and she’d committed a long string of murders! And not only that! She had been funny-looking in the 70s! In August, Bill Clinton made a major mistake; he described how he fell in love with his wife when they were students in law school. In response, Brit Hume posted a photo of a young Mrs. Clinton—a photo he plainly found unattractive. For the next several minutes, Hume’s pundit panel on Special Report staged the kind of discussion that was increasingly a stain on the cartel described as a “press corps:”

HUME (8/23/99): The picture he paints of Mrs. Clinton is of a sort of a femme fatale. Now [posting the picture] that’s about what she looked like then.


And one—one can’t help but wonder about this.


Apparently, the photo didn’t evoke Pamela Anderson, so Hume’s all-male panel treated itself to a good solid laugh. After speculating about the Clintons’ marriage, they returned to that decades-old photo:

JUAN WILLIAMS: The that nobody can believe, one, that she was this beautiful woman in college—anyone who’s seen the pictures. And two, who can believe that she didn’t know that this guy was a skirt-chaser all along?

JEFF BIRNBAUM: Well, I should point out, about the love-in-college part, that love is blind.


But that also—

HUME: Well, he never said she was beautiful. He said she was “compelling looking.” And that she may well have been!


Go ahead! List this week’s nit-picking “career liberal” pundits. And then, spend your weekend searching for anyone who said one word about this.

What happened as the press corps’ war against both Clintons, then Gore, rolled on? Gene Lyons spoke up. Joe Conason spoke. Eric Boehlert arrived on the scene; Robert Parry got mad. But you’ll have to search under many desks to find other major-name pundits. Some played an active role in the warfare (Robinson); some simply kept their lovely traps shut (Dionne). Of course, they’re all full of front-running brilliance this week. This week, they’re founts of Group Wisdom.

Simple story: Both Clintons have fought through astounding misconduct, with almost no help from the “career liberal” firmament. For ourselves, we don’t know why Bill Clinton lost the ability to keep his thoughts about the press to himself. But does anyone really not understand why he loathes the press corps so much? Do we really not understand the press corps’ role in this campaign? Bill Clinton made a giant personal blunder during his time in the White House. But this lunacy had been directed at both Clintons for years by the time that incident broke—by the time the press corps amazed itself by getting a scandal-claim right.

Why didn’t Clinton endorse Tuesday night? We’re not sure, but we’ll take a guess: In part, because—unlike the bulk of “career liberal” players—she doesn’t roll over and die real good. The career kids are whining, nit-picking, eye-rolling. And of course, they all ran off and hid in tall grass during the history-changing wars against both Clintons and Gore.

Final note: Robert Kennedy is being remembered this week. We recommend this piece by his daughter Kerry; she recalls a warm, loving father—and two tree houses, in the same tree. But back in 1968, many High Liberals were criticizing Kennedy as the opportunist in that race. (Then, they proceeded to wring their hands about vile Hubert Humphrey.) In this piece, Harold Meyerson recalls the enmities inside the McCarthy camp against the man we now remember so warmly: “[M]ost of us, despite our unspoken misgivings about McCarthy's staying in the race, were so entrenched in our loyalties and enmities that going over to Kennedy seemed beyond the pale.”

But guess what? McCarthy, Kennedy and Humphrey were all decent people—and none was the sun god returned to earth. That has also been true of the Major Dem hopefuls in this campaign. This week, Meyerson offered his recollection as a way of urging Clinton’s supporters to join with Obama. So typical! It’s just like this cohort to withhold their wisdom until it will service their preference.

But then, these folk have always been like this. Go ahead! Look back and see how hard Meyerson fought during the wars against the Clintons and Gore. Hillary Clinton persisted through that—but Meyerson? The one good thing about making that search is it won’t take you real long.

GALLATIN CHIC: We mordantly chuckled on Tuesday night when Brian Williams began emoting to his friends, Tim and Chris. His revery was inspired by an interview with Montana’s first-term senator, Jon Tester.

We’ll admit it—we don’t like this stuff:

WILLIAMS (6/3/08): Here's my question: As you may know, Chris, Keith and Tim, I spend a fair amount of time out there. Most of it at a place called Gallatin International Speedway, which is just on the outskirts of Bozeman, Montana. And they race on Friday nights. And it is just a fantastic collection of Americans. A hugely patriotic crowd. During the anthem at the start of the race card, you can hear a pin drop. I would give anything right now to have a focus group, a camera crew out there this coming Friday night to find out how that crowd is going to vote in this upcoming election.

It's a largely, you know, tough working-class bunch of folks. They come out to see, in many cases, friends, family and neighbors running super-stocks, modifieds, just basic entry-level stock car racing on a dirt track, on a Friday night. It's a slice of heaven. And I would just love to know—all of us have our favorite focus group for these elections, whether it's a firehouse, a union hall, whatever. But that's mine. And I would love to know how this election's going to break at Gallatin International Speedway.

Of course, since Williams is paid $10 million per year, he could afford to pay the tab for that focus group he longs for. But we really don’t like this sort of thing, where well-known Price Club shoppers like Williams explain who the real Americans are. We vacationed in Montana once ourselves (snow-storm on the Fourth of July, high in Glacier), and the state is full of very good people. But so is the state of New Jersey, where Williams developed his average-Joe ways. We really don’t like it when these big hacks pimp us their patriot chic.

As someone said in 2004 (and we’re paraphrasing): People do red things in the blue states. And people in red states are blue.

Anyway, we thought this provided the perfect chance to semi-finish our series on Williams, the one we never quite completed (link below). Yes, he loves that “tough working-class bunch” in Montana. But for unknown reasons, he has decided not to “rough it” when forced to spend time in Manhattan. Don’t look for Williams at the Y, or at the Wellesley Inn on Route 1! Reading Howard Kurtz’s Reality Show, we softly chuckled at the news of his Gotham “pad.” So you’ll know, Jeffrey Immelt is CEO of GE. GE owns NBC News:

KURTZ (page 350): Jeff Immelt made sure to meet with his anchor. They lived near each other in Connecticut, and Williams had bought his Manhattan apartment in the same East 50s building where Immelt lived. He was the bog boss, but he had also become a friend.

Good grief. We mordantly chuckled—and almost pitied those GE CEOs.

We Irish! Matthews and Russert had stationed themselves on Nantucket, where they could keep a close eye on Jack Welch. Back in town, Williams decided to move right in the same building as Welch’s successor! Please understand: For all we know, Jeffrey Immelt may be the world’s nicest man. But we think the public should know about the life-styles of their celebrity journalists—especially since they go to such lengths to convince us they’re really quite earthy. (As you may recall, Kurtz’s book is full of portraits of Williams’ average-shlub ways.)

We’ll take a guess: There may be a few fantastic patriots inside Immelt’s building too. Yes, Williams prefers a tougher, working-class bunch. But some decent people may even be found inside the precincts that Williams just hates—inside the building he’s forced to frequent in the zip code he never discusses.

They’d been trumped: Chris and Tim were plainly flummoxed by their pal’s Gallatin chic:

WILLIAMS: ...All of us have our favorite focus group for these elections, whether it's a firehouse, a union hall, whatever. But that's mine. And I would love to know how this election's going to break at Gallatin International Speedway.

MATTHEWS: Well, I can't beat that Tim—how about you? I don't have any raceway experience.

RUSSERT: You know, actually—

MATTHEWS: That is really a remarkable story. Brian, I thought you were an east coast guy. I mean, how do you do this?

WILLIAMS: Man, wherever cars are going too fast in a circle, I will be there.


RUSSERT: Hell, all I talk to is my father and three sisters.

MATTHEWS: That's my focus group, too.

At long last, “Big Russ chic” had been trumped! Chris copied off Russert’s paper.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: For the first three parts of our Williams profile, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/14/07.