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BOUNDLESS INANITY! A column in the Washington Post worked from an old, inane template: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8, 2011

Chris Matthews, when Vitter fell: Put aside questions of ideology: MSNBC has always been a weirdly unprofessional enterprise. It’s a channel which can’t even manage to do the basics.

This week, the channel has gone into one of its swoons where it fails to post its transcripts. We wanted to show you how many times Chris Matthews tried, on Monday’s Hardball, to drag Huma Abedin into the Weiner mess, suggesting that she might be at fault in her husband’s recent behavior. (Perhaps even in legal peril.)

Matthews, a truly horrid person, tried to do this at least three times. But we will wait for the transcript before we detail it for you.

(Isn’t it sickening, to see Joan Walsh vouch for this horrid person, as he has done for so many years? We only hope Joan’s money spends good. She’s done a lot to obtain it.)

That said, Matthews was still ranting and raving about Weiner’s disturbing behavior last night—and he had some of his favorite trained apes on hand to help. This brought a question to mind:

How much did Matthews rant and rave when David Vitter fell?

Tomorrow, we’ll walk you through the history of Hardball’s treatment of Vitter. For today, let’s get clear on the relevant dates in this history.

In the summer of 2007, the public learned that Senator Vitter’s name had appeared, five different times, in the records of the “D.C. Madam.” The first key event occurred on July 9, 2007. The next morning, the Washington Post’s Shailagh Murray explained what had transpired:

MURRAY (7/10/07): Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) apologized last night after his telephone number appeared in the phone records of the woman dubbed the "D.C. Madam," making him the first member of Congress to become ensnared in the high-profile case.

The statement containing Vitter's apology said his telephone number was included on phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates dating from before he ran for the Senate in 2004.

The service's proprietor, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, 51, faces federal charges of racketeering for allegedly running a prostitution ring out of homes and hotel rooms in the Washington area. Authorities say the business netted more than $2 million over 13 years beginning in 1993. Palfrey contends that her escort service was a legitimate business.

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," Vitter, 46, said in a statement, which his spokesman, Joel DiGrado, confirmed to the Associated Press.

"Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling," Vitter continued. "Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there—with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way.”

For ourselves, we can’t say we hugely care about this. But then, we don’t care much about the Weiner mess either—and by the standards of Weinergate, that was some pretty hot stuff!

(That same July 10, Jeanette Maier, the "Canal Street Madam", alleged that Vitter had been a customer on more than one occasion in the 1990s. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Maier “offered no evidence or documents to support her claim.” Last night, Matthews was ranting about material he said he couldn’t confirm.)

The second major date in this case was July 16, 2007—exactly one week later. On July 17, Elizabeth Williamson shared that news with Post readers:

WILLIAMSON (7/17/07): Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) ended a week of seclusion yesterday to say he'll return to work in Washington, ending speculation that the Republican would resign after his telephone number appeared last week in the records of an alleged Washington prostitution ring.

"I want to, again, offer my deep, sincere apologies to all those I have let down and disappointed with these actions from my past," Vitter said in a news conference yesterday in his home city of Metairie. "I am completely responsible. And I am so very, very sorry."

Vitter, 46, was accompanied by his wife, Wendy. Looking pale and grim, she told reporters that "like all marriages, ours is not perfect" but that "I am proud to be Wendy Vitter."

[…]

Vitter, a staunch social conservative known for his outspoken condemnation of Bill Clinton's extramarital dalliance, issued a brief written apology for his "very serious sin" on June 9, then went into hiding, as reporters looking for him camped on his lawn and at his offices in Louisiana and on Capitol Hill.

We can’t say we care much about that either, except to feel for Vitter’s wife. But then, we haven’t been jumping around like a monkey this week, stroking our privates, throwing feces and screeching about someone’s wee-wee.

Chris Matthews has ranted hard the past few nights, helped along by a gang of trained seals. But what did he do when Vitter fell?

Information tomorrow—but isn’t it great? To see the way Matthews gets enabled by fiery, high-ranking “liberals?”

Special report: The culture that has no name!

PART 2—BOUNDLESS INANITY (permalink): A culture pervades the mainstream “press corps”—a noxious, nation-eroding culture which still has no fixed name.

A few weeks ago, Gail Collins put this culture on full display in an on-line discussion with her pal, David Brooks (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/6/11). For that reason, we should return to one of the things Collins said.

Collins cited the recent House election in New York State. This election turned on the future of Medicare, a very important subject. The winning candidate, Democrat Kathy Hochul, had argued her Medicare stance rather well—unless you read what Collins said in her chat with her best buddy, Brooks. In that all-too-familiar discussion, Collins rolled out the noxious, snide, insipid culture which shapes our public debates:

COLLINS (5/25/11): O.K., let’s get to the issue. You do agree that yesterday’s vote was all about Medicare, right? Here’s a super-Republican district and two relatively anonymous candidates—their debate high point came when they both admitted to owning four cars, but squabbled over whose fleet was more expensive. The only notable thing about the campaign was that the Democrat kept pounding away at the Republican for supporting the Paul Ryan budget plan, which included an end to Medicare as an entitlement.

I know you like Ryan and let me throw in some praise for him. I agree with the people who say he was brave to open up this conversation. Although it appears now he did not actually appreciate that the voters were going to hate, hate, hate his idea. So maybe a combination of brave and out of touch.

Collins vouched for Ryan’s good character—and she mocked the candidates in that election. According to this noxious high lady, the high point in their debate “came when they both admitted to owning four cars, but squabbled over whose fleet was more expensive.”

Collins is a disgusting person—one of the most fatuous residents of the press corps’ Versailles. She has never met a political debate at which she wouldn’t roll her eyes. For years, her columns have featured this sickening theme, in which she complains about all the silly, dull political talk she is forced to endure.

In the world of the high lady Collins, there are too many presidential debates. There are also too many candidates—and they give too many speeches. Their books are dumb, but she reads them all anyway. When there are only two candidates, they turn out to be fatuous, dumb.

When two candidates debate a massively serious issue, this high lady will simper away, saying they wasted everyone’s time with their ridiculous side-car discussions. She will make no real attempt to explore what the candidates said.

Collins is a sickening person, a high priest of a noxious culture which is eating this nation away. Kathy Hochul, who won that House election, is about a hundred times smarter than Collins—and a thousand times more honest.

Darlings! The issues are boring! So are the various candidates, with their boring discussions! High ladies like Collins just want to have fun; they want to offer their empty assessments of various politicians’ souls. These assessments will often be patently phony, as was the case with Collins’ assessment of Ryan, whose soul she savaged back in April—when she spoke to a liberal audience.

Collins is repellent, unwell. But what about her circle’s prevailing culture? That culture is noxious—and deeply inane. It still bears no real name.

What is the shape of the press corps’ culture? Consider a piece which appeared last Saturday in the Washington Post’s op-ed section. (To access this ludicrous column, click here.) Written by the Post’s Alexandra Petri, it bore this astonishing tag-line:

“Alexandra Petri writes The Post’s ComPost blog—where a longer version of this piece was published.”

Tearing their hair and screaming in pain, the analysts looked with wondering eyes. Could it be true, they sadly asked. Could there be a longer version of this inane piece of work?

In fact, palace “journalists” have been writing longer versions of Petri’s column since 1999. Her piece was an utterly childish complaint about “Mitt Romney, America’s Awkward Stepdad.” She didn’t mention Romney’s policy views, which she quickly said she found boring. Instead, she focused on the things that matter—the candidate’s hair and clothes:

PETRI (6/4/11): I mention this because on Thursday, Mitt Romney announced that he is running for president of the United States.

I have been watching his efforts to seem “hip” and “relaxed” for some time, and I have to say, Mitt, cease and desist.

Dad can be uncool. We are stuck with him. But you are America’s Awkward Stepdad, trying to win our approval, but hopelessly unsure of how to do it. I see you gelling your hair and slipping into those jeans you surreptitiously purchased at Urban Outfitters.

Troubled by Romney’s clothing and hair, Petri quickly made the move these talented ninnies will often perform. In her next paragraph, she pretended that her own empty soul really belongs to the voters:

PETRI (continuing directly): We can see how Mitt would make this mistake. After all, the American voting pool has the approximate maturity of a five-year-old with severe ADD. “Talking hair! Sex! Weiners!” we scream, running dizzily around in circles. “Whose undershorts are those? Get Paul Ryan out of here, he’s boring us with numbers!”

“We.” It’s a slick, slippery word.

Ironically, Petri is dumb as a rock. As these empty souls often do, she quickly said that her own immaturity belonged to “the American voting pool,” a group which “has the approximate maturity of a five-year-old with severe ADD.”

She imagined the voters screaming in pain, saying they’re bored by Ryan’s numbers. But why would voters ever say that? Thanks to people like Collins and Petri, Ryan’s numbers never get mentioned! They get disappeared from the world.

Let’s be clear: There are more than one hundred million voters in this country. They cast their votes for all kinds of reasons; presumably, many people cast their votes for reasons which may seem fairly dumb. But fatuous nitwits like Collins and Petri make a fetish of such silly dishing, as you’ll see if you make yourself read Petri’s piece—which is just a shortened version of her full exploration, of course.

Petri is troubled by Romney’s clothes—by his clothing and hair. More remarkably, she is able to make all kinds of assessments from such observations. That said, her factual claims may not be all that. Consider her stupid, inaccurate claim about that key pizza incident:

PETRI: But as Jean Kerr once wrote, “The real menace in dealing with a five-year-old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old.” And this is already happening to Mitt.

He comes out swinging for Scotty McCreery on “American Idol.” He sends pizza to the Obama headquarters—as a joke? A nice gesture? It’s hard to say. And have you noticed that he’s stopped wearing ties? Every fiber of his 64-year-old body seems to be straining to convey relaxation and effortless cool. I worry he’ll rupture something.

“It’s hard to say,” this dimwit says. For ourselves, we won’t waste our time explaining how stupid that highlighted passage is. Go to google and click around to see how dim Petri is.

Petri’s piece was mindless, inane. But as everyone surely knows, she was working from a press corps template which is at least a dozen years old. All the way back in March of this year, Brendan Nyhan had already diagnosed it. The former Spinsanity ace is now an assistant professor—but that’s the only bad thing we can say about him and his work. Back in March, he had already seen where these fools were headed:

NYHAN (3/8/11): The media's coverage of Mitt Romney is showing signs of the pathologies that afflicted its coverage of Al Gore in the early stages of the 2000 presidential campaign.

In 1999 and 2000, the press pummeled Gore, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, with absurdly trivial and hostile reporting and commentary on the number of buttons on his suits, his cowboy boots, and the color of his attire, which were framed as evidence that Gore was a phony who was reinventing himself to get elected. These factually dubious claims were used to manufacture a narrative of Gore as a calculating liar that may have contributed to his puzzling underperformance in the 2000 election. While any politician changes and evolves over the course of their career, Gore's trajectory was framed as a series of phony personas (a sample from Howard Fineman: "By my count we're on about the fifth or sixth Al Gore now").

Quite correctly, Nyhan used the word “pathologies” as he described this ridiculous culture. Already, he had noticed that people like Petri were returning to one part of the “war on Gore” playbook.

We’ll recommend Nyhan’s whole post, although we will make two criticisms:

First, Brendan displayed a very good ear, noticing the way some journos were reverting to an older template. That said, the press corps’ remarkable war against Gore’s boots, suits, polo shirts, blue jeans and buttons dwarfs the amount of similar nonsense aimed at Romney to this point. It’s important to note that distinction.

Beyond that, Brendan takes the easy way out as he explains why the press corps played these brainless games with Gore. Please! They did so because they had gone to war, not because “the press tends to be more negative towards frontrunners,” not because Gore came from a state that was a “relatively poor fit to [his] presidential primary electorate.”

By the fall of 1999, the mainstream press corps had rather plainly gone to war against Candidate Gore, Vile Clinton’s disgusting successor. That is why they spent three months waging what Paul Krugman would later call “a campaign about clothing.” Dartmouth professors should step to the plate and tell students the truth about that.

That said, Nyhan had an eagle eye for the foolish attention being paid to Romney’s clothes—for the fatuous assessments journalists were already making, based on this key evidence. Whatever you may think about Romney, it takes a very silly person to build her assessments from his hair and his clothes—or from that very key pizza incident. But the press corps is crawling with people like Petri. Chris Matthews was going this route with Romney last week, before he was handed a greater gift—the gift of Weiner’s live penis.

Petri was working within a long-standing culture—a culture which still has no name.

Tomorrow—part 3: Talker’s lament