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CONFEDERACY OF PUNDITS! Quinn and Yglesias and Crowley and Giles spoke from a planet of chimps: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, JUNE 12, 2008

BLAME THE TEACHERS WELL: It seems like only yesterday! Reporter Bill Turque was counting the buttons on Candidate Gore’s deeply troubling suits—and offering psychiatric explanations for Gore’s deeply troubling conduct. (Link below. Brian Williams is involved.) By contrast, in this morning’s Post, Turque reports the latest lofty statement about public schools from the nation’s high-minded reformers.

As a nation, we might have been better served if Bill had just counted their buttons.

The high-mindeds had all reported for duty! “ ‘Standing Up for the Children,’ ” the headline says, quoting one of their lofty statements. But uh-oh! Here’s paragraph 3:

TURQUE (6/12/08): Flanked by a group of prominent education officials and advocates, including D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, Baltimore City schools chief Andres Alonso and former Colorado governor and Los Angeles Schools superintendent Roy Romer, the two [Joel Klein and Al Sharpton] endorsed no candidate and offered few specific policy directives. But they said they intend to drive the debate through position papers, public forums planned at national conventions in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul and behind-the-scenes advocacy with the campaigns.

Darn it! Klein and Sharpton forgot to say what should be done—though they promised they’d fill us in later. But it seems that Sharpton may have blurted a bit of their high-minded thinking:

TURQUE: “To me this is not just an issue of school reform," Klein said. "It is a civil rights issue, the civil rights issue of our time."

Sharpton, a 2004 presidential candidate who has close political ties to Klein's boss, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said it was time for the traditional civil rights coalition to seek "a new paradigm," confronting old allies such as the teachers unions and insisting that they become more accountable for student performance.

"Who is standing up for the children?" Sharpton asked.

Of course! It’s time to stamp our feet at the teachers! Meanwhile, at the New York Times, Sam Dillon tattle-tales a bit more about this group’s lofty thinking:

DILLON (6/12/08): Democrats are dividing into camps as they debate a new course for education policy after President Bush leaves office.

On Wednesday, a group of a dozen prominent educators and lawmakers, led by Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and the Rev. Al Sharpton, said the United States’ public schools shortchanged poor black and Latino children in a way that was “shameful,” and urged Washington to squeeze teachers and administrators harder to raise achievement among minorities.

You know the Times has stopped playing fair when they blame “Democrats” for a gang like this! At any rate, Dillon went into more detail about the plan to “squeeze” those teachers:

DILLON: Mr. Klein and Mr. Sharpton’s statement argued that federal policy should continue to hold schools accountable for raising the achievement of poor African-American and Latino youths, which is a focus of the federal law, but should also seek to assign more effective teachers to the nation’s neediest classrooms. This is an area where the statement said the law had been weak.

It’s the most familiar proposal in the annals of history: Hold the other guy accountable! In this case, the principle devolves to this: Blame the teachers well!

Blame the teachers (and the administrators) well! As we’ve explained in the past, it has been the foundational theory of upper-class “school reform” since we entered the Baltimore City Schools way back in 1969. From way-on-the-outside peering in, high-minded elites have always insisted that everything would turn out fine if those teachers would just start doing their jobs. At first, we were told the teachers weren’t doing their jobs because they were such slobbering racists. When these elites finally learned that many black kids were actually being taught by black teachers, we were then told they weren’t doing their jobs because they were so g*d-damned lazy. And basically, that’s the theory that obtains today among these lofty, high-minded reformers. We’ll just stamp our feet at the teachers, they say—we’ll just “insist” they “become more accountable!” Throw in high-minded statements about “standing up for the children” and you have a formula for more decades of fumbling improvement.

We’ll be eager to see what these high-minded people finally propose by way of reform. But be careful what you read in the papers! Also today, Sheryl Gay Stolberg presents a detailed New York Times report about the history of No Child Left Behind. But uh-oh! The Times includes a pair of graphics purporting to show “Students at or above basic achievement levels in the public schools.” The Times seems to be using test scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, although it clumsily fails to say. But in this morning’s hard-copy editions, the Times has plainly bungled the data in its math graphic. Sorry! That graphic is just flat-out wrong. The reading graphic is basically accurate.

Reading right, math hopelessly bungled? That represents a score of 50—and that has long been a passing grade when the nation’s elites peer in at the schools.

A little tip: Watch the press corps beg Obama to second this high-minded strategy. It’s a Sister Souljah moment!

Visit our incomparable archives: Brian Williams was visibly disturbed—and he wanted a straight-talking answer: Why in the world did Candidate Gore sometimes wear casual clothes on the trail? Why didn’t he always wear suits? Turque came through with the Standard Reply. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/11/02. For a real-time report on this evil conduct, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/15/00.

Yes, this is how George Bush got where he is. In his memoirs, Josh will explain it.

A CONFEDERACY OF PUNDITS: We’ll say it again: For most people, it’s very hard to grasp the depth of the press corps’ mental dysfunction. In our culture, TV pundits and New York Times columnists are high-profile authority figures. Denial centers in the brain reject the truth about this group.

That said, they love to put their mental dysfunction on visible public display. For example, Sally Quinn’s current post about Hillary Clinton is almost dumb-founding in its inanity. A person would surely think that what follows was offered as some sort of parody. No. It’s comes to us straight from the soul of the Post—indeed, from the paper’s “On Faith” section:

QUINN (6/10/08): Now would be the perfect time for her to find herself, to decide what she really wants. Give up the roar of the crowds, the banners and the balloons, the marching bands, the begging for autographs. Give up the naked ambition, the lust for power. Is it possible that she wants those things because she thinks she should?

The only way for her to gather this kind of insight would be for her to go away for awhile. Be alone. Be silent. Be with yourself. There is a wonderful retreat called Bhavana Society in West Virginia that would be the perfect place. Its founder, Bhante Gunaratana, talks in his book “Mindfulness” about the power of concentration or tranquility when one’s mind is brought to rest and “a deep calm pervades the body”. “The meditator focuses his or her mind on a certain item, such as a prayer, a chant, a candle flame, or a religious image, and excludes all other thoughts and perceptions from his or her consciousness.” Self awareness is the goal. Hillary talks quite openly about her faith and how it comforts her. This would be a perfect time for her to explore her faith, to delve more deeply into it.

Self awareness is the goal! Having stated this lofty ambition, Quinn gives Clinton the advice her cohort has always given: Please “go away for awhile” [sic]!

We’ll only suggest that you read the whole post. Once again, we’ll state the obvious: If you didn’t know this post was real, you’d assume that it had to be parody—perhaps the script for Candy 2.

But then, the mental styles of the insider press corps are constantly put on unsettling display. Quinn has been at the soul of this clan for a very long time now. By was of contrast, Matt Yglesias is very young; he’s still on his way to their tables. But here he is, reacting to Todd Purdum’s piece in Vanity Fair. This isn’t parody either:

YGLESIAS (6/2/08): It's hard for me to tell how much of the sleazy behavior that Purdum hints at here is actually true. Based on the record, it wouldn't at all be unlike Clinton for some of it to be true.

Some of it could be true, the lad judged. Though it was hard for him to “tell how much” of what Purdum “hints at” is “actually true.” (Translation: None of it may be true. More on Purdum’s work next week.)

How much more do you need from Yglesias? A question sometimes comes to mind when we sift the work of lads like this: How do they get this way so early in life? Likely answer: They’ve worked very hard at the task. But there again, you see the mental styles of your “press elite” on display.

And yes, there’s always more. You already live on The Planet of Chimps, and chimps have always loved to put their skills on vivid display. During Campaign 2000, Michael Crowley was flummoxed by 2 plus 5 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/9/00); at the start of Campaign 04, he ran to be the first to complain that John Kerry liked wind-surfing—and even played show tunes on his guitar! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/10/02.) Sorry—no one ever gets that stupid without putting in a good deal of hard work. And sure enough! Yesterday, the baby-faced boy who put Bush where he is showcased his mental stylings again. His headline: “The Clintons’ Enemies List.” These were his thoughtful ruminations:

CROWLEY (6/11/08): The Clintons aren't exactly refuting charges of Nixonian tactics here [linked to Leibovich piece].

The threats of retribution against traitors is also the kind of thing you say when you've won and are amassing power. It's a bit odd to bluster this way when your influence is at a nadir.

The Clintons “weren't exactly refuting charges of Nixonian tactics there?” The Clintons weren’t quoted in the piece. In fact, here’s what Leibovich said about Hillary Clinton, based on things he says he was told by unnamed campaign officials: “Mrs. Clinton has a short list of people who disappointed her.” Wow! Her evil ways just never stop! But in the mind of a butt-kissing climber like Crowley, that sentence let him put “Enemies List” into a headline—a headline which said that Hillary Clinton had such a list—and it let him tut-tut-tut about what she “wasn’t exactly doing.” But then, many boot-licking boys like Crowley run to show that they will accept whatever narrative their clan may lay out for them. (Why on earth did Candidate Gore cite seven years as a journalist?) Yesterday, the term “Enemies List” had reached the top headline at The Huffington Post by noon. By the way: If you want to peruse the work of people who really can’t read a newspaper story, just scan the inaccurate, cosmically gullible statements by so many of Crowley’s commenters. Remember when we liberals used to claim that we were smarter than those dumb-*ss conservatives?

For our money, though, we may have been most struck by Nancy Giles, on last night’s Verdict with Dan Abrams. In fairness, Giles is barely a part of the pundit corps—and she clearly seemed to be sincere when she made the statement which follows. But should people of this type be on network TV? If your “press corps” weren’t so baldly dysfunctional, would this sort of thing seem acceptable? The exchange began with Abrams posing a hypothetical: Should Obama make Clinton his VP if it seems that she is needed to win the November election?

ABRAMS (6/11/08): Well, let me ask you this. Nancy, if the numbers show—if it’s close by the time he has to make the decision, and the numbers show in the polls that Hillary could make the difference, would that make the difference to you?

GILES: No.

ABRAMS: You’d still say it’s worth losing over?

GILES: No, it’s not worth losing over because I don’t think he’ll lose...I think it would be a real liability. But his whole campaign is new—change, not old politics. And Hillary—look, if he gets Hillary as his VP, he’s got to hire somebody to be the official presidential taster because you don’t know what`s going to be in your food. You don’t know what could happen. I literally feel that way.

Of course, many pundits have joked the Standard Joke about Obama needing a food-taster. But Giles showed no sign of joking when she recited the tired old script. She said she “literally” felt that way, and she clearly seemed to mean it. We were thus returned to the remarkable days when pundits sat on network TV and talked about Hillary Clinton, murderer. Giles is banal, and doesn’t really belong there. But sometimes, banality leads to evil. (Check the fruits of their clowning from eight years back.) Last night, nobody noticed.

By the way, since these people were so deeply concerned just a few weeks ago: Does anyone worry that comments like Giles’ might lead some nut to go after a certain ex-candidate? (In 1999, Chris Matthews’ disgraceful conduct led to the arrest of a man who was trying to kill a journalist.) Do you even have to ask? We would be willing to bet the store: That thought hasn’t entered their “minds.”

Some of these low-lifes are simply dissemblers. Others, like Giles, may not be real sharp. But again: It’s very hard to comprehend the depth of this cohort’s mental dysfunction. Denial centers in the brain scream out: It simply can’t be true, they insist. But sorry: You already live on the Planet of Chimps. They go to great lengths to prove this point. If the future is like the past, they’ll “prove it all night” tonight too.