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FRUIT OF THE MONKEY BUSINESS! The scandal culture is dragging us down. It dates back to poor Gary Hart: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JUNE 8, 2010

History inches forward: Over at our companion site, we’ve posted another chunk of chapter 5, “A virtual wilding—the month of Wolf.” This chapter discusses November 1999, the month when the mainstream press corps extended its war against Candidate Gore through a full-blown assault on Naomi Wolf, who was advising his campaign. (For chapter 5, just click here.)

Posting this chapter has gone rather slow. Here’s part of the reason:

Before we started posting How he got there, we prepared provisional versions of its first seven chapters. For that reason, we thought we’d be able to post new chapters on roughly a three-week schedule.

Alas! When we started to finish chapter 5, we could see it was grossly inadequate. We had written it down to standard chapter length—roughly 10,000 words. But you simply can’t tell this part of the story at that length.

The press corps’ remarkable wilding of Wolf took on many forms. In the material we’ve already posted, we’ve told the story of the sexual trashing extended to Wolf when the press corps learned that she was advising the Gore campaign. This doesn’t involve the most famous part of the month of Wolf, the part involving the press corps’ ludicrous “campaign about clothing.”

Naomi Wolf told Al Gore to wear earth tones! This is one of the most iconic battle cries of the press corps’ twenty-month war against Gore. In the new chapter chunk we’ve posted, we describe the part of the press corps’ “campaign about clothing” which existed before the press corps learned that Wolf was advising Gore.

A lot more work will have to be done to finish chapter 5. Unfortunately, this will produce a very long chapter—a chapter of roughly double length. Truth to tell, there’s no other way to tell this part of the story. In the fall of 1999, the lunacy of the press corps’ conduct was quite extensive.

Here at THE HOWLER, we’ve come to accept a basic fact—we’re writing this book for people of the future. The contemporary political world has agreed to pretend that the press corps’ astonishing conduct in the Clinton-Gore years simply didn’t exist. For liberals, modern political history tends to begin with the Florida recount, or with the war in Iraq. “Epistemic closure” keeps us from discussing the press corps’ conduct during that earlier period.

In the fall of 1999, the press corps staged a remarkable “campaign about clothing”—a campaign designed to prove that Candidate Gore was a phony, based upon his troubling wardrobe selections. This involved Gore’s boots; his suits; his polo shirts; the number of buttons on his suit coats (three); and of course, the troubling colors he wore, including green, olive and brown. Essentially, the mainstream press corps staged a group nervous breakdown during this remarkable period. Eventually, their conduct sent George Bush to the White House. Perhaps for that reason, we know of no journalists who have been willing to discuss this conduct now.

The “campaign about clothing” had been under way for two months when the press corps began its wilding of Wolf. We’ve now posted this part of the story. The rest of the tale is to come.

FRUIT OF THE MONKEY BUSINESS (permalink): Last Sunday, Kathleen Parker began to earn her recent Pulitzer Prize. A resident of suffering South Carolina, Parker critiqued the sexy-time sex obsession which has engulfed her state’s politics in recent years; this includes the sexy-time foolishness in the state’s current GOP primary. “To outsiders, this is the sort of delicious material that allows comedy writers to sleep in,” Parker wrote. “To South Carolinians, these unfolding events are a blight.”

The current nonsense is “a blight,” Parker correctly wrote. This particular blight involves allegations about Nikki Haley, front-runner for the GOP nomination for governor. In her column, Parker seemed to say that she takes one of Haley’s accusers at his word—and that she also takes Haley at her word when she denies his accusation. Putting that murkiness to the side, Parker proceeded to ask the right question. And she voiced an accurate judgment:

PARKER (6/6/10): I also know Haley and take her at her word when she denies the allegations. But let's get at the deeper truth and ask: Is this really where we want our politics to go? Are only perfect people acceptable for public service? As Bill Bennett once put it to me: "If perfection is our standard, then no one gets to talk."

This obsession with people's personal lives, including the hand-wringing analyses of Al and Tipper Gore's marriage, has turned us into a nation of purse-lipped old maids. No offense to purses. I've resisted commenting on the Gores' decision to split after 40 years of marriage because what possibly could I know? Apologies to the deeply conflicted, but the Gores' divorce has no bearing whatsoever on my life.

“Is this where we want our politics to go?” It’s much too late to be asking that question; unfortunately, our politics has been built around sex, entertainment and pseudo-scandal for a long while now. Sad, empty losers get thrills up the leg as they obsess over “peoples’ personal lives.” There is no sign that these people intent to stop.

Alas! Our politics has been built around sex and lies and pseudo-scandal for a good long while. The culture of our journalistic elite is built this way now too. Last Saturday, Lady Collins, grand duchess of Lower Inania, gave voice to this simpering, brain-dead culture at the start of her latest New York Times column. Go ahead! Gaze on the mental/emotional life of America’s journalistic elite:

COLLINS (6/5/10): Elections Aren’t for Sissies

Loads of exciting primaries next week! Although it’ll be hard to top the one in South Carolina, where two Tea Party candidates are fighting about a lie detector test and a state senator has argued that racist comments he made over the radio don’t really count since the interview occurred in a bar.

I’ve been paying a disproportionate amount of attention to Republicans this election cycle, but it’s not my fault. Most of the Democratic primaries are incredibly boring. There are a couple of bitter battles, like the one Tuesday that will determine the fate of Senator Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas. But it’s hard to combine the phrases “Senator Blanche Lincoln” and “really exciting story” in the same sentence.

Lady Collins is almost impossibly inane, but at least she’s prepared to speak openly. This highest lady enjoys campaigns which overflow with sex and racist comments. All other campaigns are “incredibly boring,” this blight on our consciousness says.

This inanity might be understood as the fruit of the Monkey Business.

Until 1987, you see, journalistic tradition kept losers like Collins from acting on their longings. For better or worse, “this obsession with [politicians’] personal lives” had long been considered off-limits to major journalists. That culture died on the Monkey Business, when presidential candidate Gary Hart let Donna Rice wriggle up on his lap.

Hart was driven from the White House campaign on May 8, 1987. (To read Wikipedia’s account of this sexy-time scandal, just click here.) Journalists also scalped Candidate Biden in that campaign, and they chased Candidate Gore around pretty good, as we can tell you from personal experience. (We got lots of phone calls from journalists who longed to hear that Gore had done something wrong as a college student.) A new culture—a culture of pseudo-scandal—began taking hold of American politics and journalism. Many pseudo-scandals later, New York Times readers take it in stride when the duchess of Lower Inania writes columns like the one we’ve quoted—columns which define American politics as a flight from upper-class boredom

People like Collins used to pop “dolls.” Now, they write about politics.

Indeed, the duchess has written that column again and again, endlessly begging for a politics which will rid her soul of its ennui. The fatuous outlook that column describes increasingly shapes our discourse.

For the record, the culture of pseudo-scandal hasn’t just been a “blight” on South Carolina. It has been a blight on American thinking, dumbing us down to a very low place. For whatever reason, this addled journalistic culture has harmed Democrats, and liberal interests, in vastly disproportionate measure. After getting the scalp of Hart, they chased Bill Clinton around for the sex; they chased Al Gore around for the lies. (By way of contrast, George W. Bush had to destroy the known world before losers like Collins began to take notice.) Just last Saturday, Adam Nagourney recalled the era in this fashion, in our greatest newspaper:

NAGOURNEY (6/5/10): Over the years, a parade of politicians from both parties— John Kerry, Al Gore, Tom Harkin, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and David Duke, to name a few—have had to account for what opponents portrayed as exaggerations or worse about their military service (or their attempts to avoid service altogether). Some of those candidates and many others have been called out for less-than-fully-truthful statements on countless other topics as well.

Interesting! As Nagourney let his pea-sized brain range back through the age of pseudo-scandal, he recalled Major Pols “from both parties” being forced to “account for what opponents portrayed as exaggerations or worse about their military service.” But when he listed the members of that parade, he remembered four Big Democrats—and only one Big Republican.

Just a guess: Power being what Power is, the childish culture of pseudo-scandal will always tilt against progressives and in favor of Power. If progressives and liberals had any sense, we would be working to undermine this brain-dead culture, which has been such a blight on our politics. But many of us don’t have much sense. You’ve seen this if you’ve read Josh Marshall’s panting coverage of South Carolina—his web site’s utterly silly, childish “reporting” about the Haley accusations. How silly, how childish has that coverage been? Even Collins had the good sense to include a skeptical note in last Saturday’s column. Here’s why lady doesn’t much believe Larry Marchant, one of Haley’s accusers:

COLLINS: Recently, two political consultants came forward and claimed that they had had sexual encounters with Haley, whose campaign puts quite a bit of stress on God and her happy marriage. Haley says she smells a Bauer plot.

Indeed, one of the consultants, Larry Marchant Jr., was working for Bauer until this week when he announced that he and Haley had hooked up during a school choice conference in Utah in 2008.

Marchant spun his saga of vouchers and lust. (“We’d gone to dinner. I had some drinks. Things happened.”) Much harder to believe was the part where he kept the story secret until the last week of the gubernatorial primary when he suddenly felt compelled to confess to his pregnant wife, his employer and the world.

I am a very credulous person. There was a minute there when I believed that John Edwards’s married gofer was the father of the lusty videographer’s love child. But this one is a reach.

In that reference to Edwards’ gofer, Collins noted one of the facts of modern life: In our sex-drenched, brain-dead political culture, some political hacks will do and say anything to support the boss. With that precedent in mind, even Collins was able to understand that Marchant may be lying too. But in this childish report at TPM, Josh’s gofer plainly suggested that Marchant must be telling the truth—after all, this savant reasoned, who would lie about something like that? And in a pitiful post at The Daily Beast, Dana Goldstein brought the eternal note of sadness in. Try to believe that leading liberals “reason” in this manner:

GOLDSTEIN (6/9/10): Two South Carolina political operatives have now claimed to have had affairs with Haley, a state legislator and married mother of two who denies the allegations.

But with records of three-hour midnight phone calls between Haley and her former staffer Will Folks, and with lobbyist Larry Marchant naming the specific date and Salt Lake City hotel where he and Haley supposedly had sex at a 2008 education-reform conference, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to believe that Haley hasn’t been naughty.

See there? Tattle-tale Marchant has even named the hotel at which the alleged sexy-time conduct occurred! On the basis of that “evidence,” Goldstein finds it hard not to believe him.

Sadly, this is the way we humans “reason” when the rules allow us to indulge that “obsession with people's personal lives.” Before 1987, the rules of the game kept children like Goldstein from musing this way in public. But in 1987, those rules changed. That simpering column by Lady Collins is one fruit of the Monkey Business. So too, the pitiful reasoning offered by hapless Goldstein.

One more fruit of the Monkey Business was offered on Friday night’s Real Time, where village nitwit Andrew Sullivan mused about the size of Al Gore’s member, explaining what’s “well known in Washington.” If Katrina vanden Heuvel had any sense, she would have told him to stop playing the fool. Instead, this other High Lady played along with the fools, even making a joke on a deathless theme: Black men have the really large members! We strongly suggest that you watch the tape, thus gazing on the fruits of the Monkey Business.

Twenty-three years ago, rules were changed. We are left in this sad situation. Leading journalists discuss who has the big members—and the editor of The Nation sits on TV, making jokes about black guys’ large dicks. Has your computer ever been attacked by malware? That’s roughly what is happening here, as your nation’s political culture slides beneath the waves.

Repeat: This culture of sex, lies and pseudo-scandal has disproportionately harmed Major Dems and liberal interests. On balance, we’ll guess that this pattern will obtain as long as this brainless culture exists. But certain liberals are very bored too—and certain liberals are seeking new readers. Like Collins, they’re thrilled by South Carolina. This culture may be a blight for your political culture. For them, it represents increased ad rates, or escape from “incredible boredom.”