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KRUGMAN NAMES NAMES/QUOTES QUOTES! Our guess: The new Miss Cal isn’t pretty enough to make Keith Olbermann mad: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JUNE 12, 2009

Krugman names names/quotes quotes: Gene Robinson and Paul Krugman wrote the same column today. Except they actually didn’t.

In our view, Robinson wrote the appropriate column for him—a fairly Standard Tribal Tract. Our tribe’s the good tribe—and their tribe isn’t, the broad-brushed gentleman says:

ROBINSON (6/12/09): In April, a prescient Department of Homeland Security memo predicted that the election of the first African American president and the advent of economic hard times could worsen the threat from “right-wing extremist groups.” In particular, the memo warned of an increase in anti-Semitic activity by extremists who buy into the whole Jewish-banker-secret-cabal paranoid fantasy—and would blame "the Jews" for engineering the global financial crisis, just as they blame "the Jews" for everything.

For days, some conservative commentators tried mightily to paint the memo as an underhanded attempt by the Obama administration to smear its honorable critics by equating "right-wing" with "terrorism." It made no difference to these loudmouths that the number of hate groups around the country has increased by more than 50 percent since 2000, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. It didn't matter that the memo was backed up by solid intelligence and analysis. For these infotainers, the point isn't to illuminate a subject with light but to blast it with heat.

There’s a great deal to discuss in all this, as Krugman’s piece makes much more clear. But here’s a question: Is “anti-Semitic activity” somehow “right-wing?” Obviously not, though you might get that impression from Robinson’s broadly-brushed work. (Reverend Wright piped up this week, presumably not from “the right.”) And how about this: If “the number of hate groups” has increased, are those groups necessarily “conservative?” In various ways, that ain’t obvious either. Except in the vague and broad-bushed logic of this particular column.

It’s interesting to see Robinson complain about “infotainers,” because he’s becoming a bit of a tainer himself. Many nights, he pockets his three hundred bucks from MSNBC, having inspired us rubes a bit more. On the programs where he stars, we rubes always belong to the good and true tribe. And then too, there’s always The Other.

Krugman discusses the same topic today (just click here). But where he goes, rubber meets road. He largely skips blanket statements about “conservatives” and the “right-wing” (though he uses the latter term more directly than we would). Instead, he names the names of actual people and quotes the actual things they have said. No one can do justice to these critical topics in just 700 words, of course. But Krugman quotes actual statements by O’Reilly, Beck and Limbaugh—and by the Washington Times. For our money, he’s a bit too fair to O’Reilly today (more below)—and a bit too hard on Mitch McConnell. But he largely moves past sweeping tribal portrayals. He lays the groundwork for a long-delayed discussion of the specific irresponsible, crackpot claims which have infested our discourse.

Crackpot claims have infested our culture for the past two decades. Citizens deserve to be told that this is happening—deserve to be put on alert. Citizens need to hear these actual statements quoted; they need to read the actual names of the actual people who have made the claims. No one can do this in 700 words—but Krugman makes the start.

In our view, Robinson gets us pretty much nowhere today. Naming names and quoting their quotes, Krugman gives readers a start.

Infotainment kills: For our money, Krugman is a bit too kind to Bill O’Reilly today. This is what he wrote:

KRUGMAN (6/12/09): Now, for the most part, the likes of Fox News and the R.N.C. haven’t directly incited violence, despite Bill O’Reilly’s declarations that “some” called Dr. Tiller “Tiller the Baby Killer,” that he had “blood on his hands,” and that he was a “guy operating a death mill.” But they have gone out of their way to provide a platform for conspiracy theories and apocalyptic rhetoric, just as they did the last time a Democrat held the White House.

We know of no evidence that O’Reilly (or anyone else) “directly incited” recent violence. On the other hand, O’Reilly sometimes called Dr. Tiller “the baby killer” in his own voice—not that such legalistic distinctions make much actual difference. O’Reilly is sometimes over-accused by liberals—by liberals who rarely show much sign of having actually watched his show. In this case, we’d say that Krugman has under-charged.

But then, so did Keith Olbermann, on the infotainment show which frequently stars Gene Robinson. What’s the downside to infotainment? Consider Olbermann and Dr. Tiller.

As noted, we think O’Reilly is sometimes over-charged by excitable liberals. But anyone who watches his show (we watch intermittently) would have known that he’d gone over the line in his ongoing treatment of Tiller. Calling someone a “baby killer” is dangerous work, whether you do so in your own voice or in somebody else’s. O’Reilly played this card, and others like it, too many times in the past several years.

KeithO runs an infotainment show on which he pillories BillO almost nightly. In all honesty, he sometimes stretches and strains a bit to generate the type of outrage with which he favors us rubes. But guess what? In all those years of banging BillO, KeithO never mentioned his trashing of Tiller (Nexis archives). KeithO was full of outrage—after the murder. Before that, nary a word.

Why wasn’t Tiller mentioned on Countdown, despite O’Reilly’s risky behavior? Despite the program’s obsessive focus on BillO? We don’t know—but we’re willing to guess. Mentioning Tiller would have been slightly hard—it would have taken a bit of effort. KeithO would have been forced to explain who Tiller was. He would have had to take some time explain the relevant issues.

This would have been very informative, of course. In the past two weeks, Rachel Maddow has done superlative, deeply informative work about the issues surrounding the abortion services Tiller provided. But KeithO runs an entertainment program. Information is rarely allowed to intrude. It’s all about pleasing us rubes.

Our guess: Olbermann’s staff knew there were simpler, sometimes-inaccurate ways to bang away at BillO. Despite Olbermann’s constant, rube-running focus on BillO, Tiller was never mentioned.

But then, how dumb a program is Olbermann’s Countdown? Consider one short, semi-remarkable segment on last evening’s show.

The segment involved Newt Gingrich, a major political figure. The segment was quite informative—remarkably so, we’d assess. But KeithO doesn’t run on information—and so, like many such segments on this dumb program, the segment got rather short shrift. It was crammed into the “Best Persons” feature, following short chunks about (1) a Simpsons episode come to life and (2) a stupid Connecticut criminal. Beyond that, Olbermann’s copy was plainly bungled. We’ll try to help straighten that out. (To watch the segment, click here.)

Newt Gingrich had made two very dumb statements. This is what Olbermann read:

OLBERMANN (6/11/09): Number one, best conservative-bashing by Newt Gingrich. After a report that President Obama quietly ordered FBI agents to read Miranda rights to high-value detainees captured or held at US detention facilities in Afghanistan, Gingrich promptly called this unimaginable. "It’s worse than anything Jimmy Carter ever did. It’s worse than anything President Bill Clinton ever did."

Three hours earlier, Fox News had reported that this policy of reading some detainees Miranda rights had begun in July 2008, under President Bush. So, first Newt Gingrich called Ronald Reagan [sic] and said he was guilty of intellectual nonsense. Now, he says something he did was worse than anything—something Bush did was worse than anything Jimmy Carter ever did. It’s worse than anything Bill Clinton ever did.

Gee, Newt, Reagan and Bush in one week! I wouldn’t even go there!

[Music cut: “You’re unbelievable!”]

Good times! Olbermann threw his sheaf of papers at the screen. No loss, since the text on the papers was bungled. That said:

If Olbermann’s facts are accurate here (there’s rarely good reason to make such assumptions), this is a striking story—a story which would make a strong supplement to today’s Krugman column. Yes, Olbermann bungled the copy about Gingrich and Reagan; we won’t waste our time explaining what he was trying to say, but it involved a thundering, foolish bungle by Gingrich earlier in the week. But if Olbermann’s current facts are accurate, Gingrich has twice made comically ludicrous, thundering bungles in just this week alone. And yet, every mainstream scribe—You know? The people who get booked on Countdown?—feels obliged to tell us, incessantly, how very smart Newt Gingrich is.

Plainly, it’s a Standard Script, endlessly recited by some of the people who guest-star on Olbermann’s program. (Earlier Standard Scripts of this type: John McCain’s a straight-shooting straight-talker! Al Gore has a problem with the truth!) That said, the fact that Gingrich made two ridiculous statements this week—well, on a real “progressive” news program, that could form the basis for a very interesting, and important, news segment. Why do mainstream scribes keep insisting Newt’s so smart, when he makes so many ridiculous statements? Isn’t it time that progressives began to offer the public such essential frameworks? Isn’t it time that Olbermann asked Howard Fineman and Jonathan Alter why they keep saying this thing?

(Does our own Richard Wolffe even say it? Please don’t make us check.)

Of course, that won’t happen on Olbermann’s show, a program which is defiantly stupid. This program isn’t about information and strong frameworks; Olbermann’s show is about silly blather wrapped up with a nice music cut and a snowstorm of papers. For similar reasons, you never heard about O’Reilly’s trashing of Dr. Tiller, despite the program’s focus on BillO. KeithO was filled with fury at his foil—but only after the murder.

Gingrich rated a very short segment—a very short segment with bungled copy. What was on Dumb Leader’s mind? Drink in a great man’s deathless focus:

Dumbest millionaire in the class: Is there a way to get dumber than KO? The naughty lad had big things on his mind as he skipped past Gingrich last night. As usual, his mind kept wandering to the Big Fun yet to come on the program. Right from the start, he promised us rubes. We’d get the sort of Big Treat we enjoy—if we’d just stay to the end:

OLBERMANN (6/11/09): And Carrie Prejean, unemployed, says the Miss California people tried to force her to pose for Playboy. We will revisit this whole topic with Michael Musto.

OLBERMANN: In one night, Sarah and Todd Palin go from victims deserving an apology to sleaze-bag politicians using their own daughters to stir up phony umbrage. And speaking of phony and umbrage, Carrie Prejean unemployed and now for her round two with Michael Musto. These stories ahead...

OLBERMANN: More super-geniuses in California. Carrie Prejean says she was fired because of what she said about gay marriage, also because the pageant people demanded that she pose in Playboy. Michael Musto’s second shot at her, and he’s promised to behave—sort of.

OLBERMANN: Carrie Prejean. Carrie Prejean fired for breach of contract; Carrie Prejean has a different story. Michael Musto’s here. Need I say more? That’s next. But first, time for Countdown’s number-two story, tonight’s worst persons in the world.

OLBERMANN: You can call it the “Postjean” era. As we told you yesterday, Carrie Prejean, the runner-up for Miss USA, and proponent of opposite marriage, became opposite employed when her Miss California title was revoked. Our number-one story, the bickering from both sides continues. A new California queen is kind of making sense. Michael Musto is here. He’s agreed to be monitored with this bell for bad taste. Comparatively.

Let’s be honest. If Countdown was four hours long, KO could quit his viagra.

That’s right. The little guy was hard-on-hard for Carrie Prejean again last night. He kept telling us rubes that Michael Musto would take his “second shot” at her! You can’t spell “smut” without “Musto,” of course. The idiot had trashed Prejean every way but blue in his first insult-laden session. Now, KO was telling us to please stick around. We’d get some similar action.

But then, a man like KO will almost always have more than one thing on his mind. He was also focused, for the second straight night, on that other dispute:

OLBERMANN (6/11/09): They refuse to take “I’m sorry” for an answer: The Palins gave up the high ground in the Letterman dispute and go from victims to sleazy political opportunists.

OLBERMANN: An apology is not enough for Sarah Palin, not when she can score political points by exploiting her own daughters.

OLBERMANN: In one night, Sarah and Todd Palin go from victims deserving an apology to sleazebag politicians using their own daughters to stir up phony umbrage.

OLBERMANN: An eight-minute atonement, an admission of poor taste, but if you thought last night’s apology from David Letterman to the Palin family would be the end of it, you don’t know the Palin family. Our third story on the Countdown, Sarah and Todd Palin refuse to take yes for an answer, and refuse to accept the empathy of people of all political stripes, so they can, instead, martyr themselves and their daughters on a fake cross of pedophilia.

KO had a lot on his mind as the evening unfolded.

By the way, if it’s on-his-knees sex you most enjoy, you have to watch KO do Letterman. One thing’s for certain: The mumble-mouthed star had his “transcript” straight when it came to this crucial topic! According to KO, Letterman apologized, atoned, said he was sorry—had done so Wednesday, for eight heartfelt minutes! Sorry! So you’ll see how Olbermann’s limbic brain works, this is how Letterman actually “apologized” and “atoned” for the joke which said Palin looks slutty:

LETTERMAN (6/10/09): Now, here's the other joke they're upset about. “Number two: Bought make-up at Bloomingdale's to update her slutty flight attendant look.” The only thing I can say about this is that I kind of like that joke. [Laughter]

To KO, that sounded like an apology. Maybe he couldn’t hear Dave’s words over his own noisy efforts.

Olbermann has played these games for years. Truly, we hadn’t known there were still “liberal” men who had such demons in their heads about girls. But KO is one such fellow—and Letterman is another. Maybe they should drive too fast up to Greenwich and rent themselves a room at the club. They could spend the rest of their lives with the Buckleys. Which is what such big losers deserve.

Sorry, rubes! You didn’t hear about Tiller from KO, despite his flame wars with BillO. Nor did you get a serious treatment of Gingrich’s comments last night. KO’s program is about infotainment. And to KO, infotainment has always involved a big dose of disparaging girls. This may be a way of stalking the demo. But it seems dear to Olbermann’s “heart.”

No, there wasn’t any reason to waste time on Miss California last night. But this is where KO’s mind always roams.

Always! On Wednesday, he had tried to assess those Letterman jokes. And ohourgod! Our analysts covered their ears and their eyes as our old pal Craig Crawford rode herd.

As we were saying: Honest to God, we just had to laugh when Olbermann set some aside time to talk about Letterman’s jokes.

That same day, we had posted a fairly obvious comment, one we’ll amplify now. Most American liberals have very refined senses of “racial politics” (that’s good). Most people understand: There are painful, ugly ancestral insults which simply can’t be tolerated.

That’s good! But when it comes to “sexual politics,” many folk lack the first earthly clue. (Truly, it’s quite remarkable.) Olbermann and Letterman keep raising their hands to let Teacher know that they qualify.

Olbermann has been comically awful in this realm for years. No one loves insulting and ridiculing women—preferably, young women—quite the way this multimillionaire does. For our money, he maintained the cluelessness Wednesday night, even as he tried to showcase his lofty, high-minded good judgment.

This was Night 1 of his Letterman pondering. Our old pal Craig Crawford, a superlative person, was called in to ride herd.

Really, you just have to laugh when a fellow like KO tries to discuss such matters. Consider what happened when the lofty penseur assessed Dave’s “slutty” joke.

Asked about the quip on a radio show, Palin, maintaining good humor, had pretended to scold: “Pretty pathetic, David Letterman!” Might we say what is blindingly obvious? For once in her year-long national life, Palin had something right! But how does Ole Massah respond to such matters? Olbermann played tape of her comment, then (Howard) sternly opined:

OLBERMANN (6/10/09): That is pretty much a tin-ear response from the governor. But frankly, was the word “slutty” really needed, let alone appropriate?

Too perfect! According to Ole Massah, it’s a “tin-ear response” when Palin speaks up, even in a good-natured tone. But it’s A-OK when Ole Massah himself instantly states the same judgment! But then, boys like Olbermann have behaved this way all through the annals of time. In their heads, the little ladies simply mustn’t complain. We Big Men will do all the talking.

How empty is this show’s “sexual politics?” Soon, Crawford was teaching the ABCs of gender insult to his slow-as-molasses host. Poor KO! Puzzling hard about which words are fair, he asked the world’s dumbest question:

OLBERMANN: The joke about the governor, which [Letterman] did not address apparently—we only had these excerpts from his taping tonight: Is it in fact appropriate to use that one word, “slutty,” in any joke about a woman politician, or should that be out of bounds?

CRAWFORD: I think it’s probably out of bounds. The global language monitor today—we learned the English language now has one million words. So there were maybe some others to choose, or maybe leave it out all together. Of course, it’s also an insult to flight attendants.

OLBERMANN: Yes.

Poor Craig had to tell our slowest boy that no, you can’t call women “slutty.” (Correcting Craig, who was probably trying to be polite: Since the whole point of the “joke” was to call Palin slutty, there really was no “other word” Letterman could have chosen.)

All this said, do you see what we meant in Wednesday’s post about the lack of any sexual politics? By now, everyone knows that people simply can’t toss racial insults around. Everyone knows what those words would be; for obvious reasons, liberals are quick to reject them. But Olbermann, dumb as a very cold rock, still doesn’t know about gender-based insults. Is “slutty” a word we can use? He wondered, on Wednesday night’s program.

Final point: On Wednesday, KO went on, at length, rebutting those who claimed that Dave told a joke about Palin’s 14-year-old daughter. But if language still has any meaning, Dave did tell a joke about her. Duh. Palin had attended a Yankees game with her 14-year-old daughter. In his joke, Dave imagined Palin’s daughter getting “knocked up” at that game. Maybe Dave and his sleepy staff didn’t know which daughter attended the game. (Bill Scheft better not be tangled in this!) But that’s the girl who was at the park. In the most obvious literal sense, that is who Dave jested about.

In the course of his eight-minute “atonement,” Letterman couldn’t quite cop to that fact. With the slimy morals which drive his own program, Olbermann swallowed this for him that night. By the way: Each of the boys went out of his way to use the term “knocked up” again in talking about the older daughter. Each apologized for using the term, which he knew was just wrong wrong wrong wrong.

Naughty, naughty lads are like that. They just can’t seem to help it.

Back to this morning’s columns: Crackpot claims have driven our discourse for many years now. We need to name the people who make them. We need to name the major journalists who enable these dopes.

In a serious world, Olbermann would ask Howard Fineman why he keeps saying that Gingrich is smart. But GE and Newsweek are business partners. Olbermann is paid $5 million per year. He’s paid not to ask. And he won’t.

Last night, Robinson appeared on Countdown, to talk about the killing at the Holocaust Museum. In the course of a long, largely unintelligent, two-guest segment, Robinson offered the leading grace note:

ROBINSON (6/11/09): But von Brunn was and—look, you know, nobody would claim that he was a mainstream Republican who would show up at the, you know, at the convention or something like that and or, you know, work precincts for a candidate. But, the idea that somehow his ideology, his ideas, his warped sense of the world has, in any remote way, related to anything you’ve ever heard from the left is just incredible. It’s just an incredibly, and not just lame, but almost insane thing to say.

OLBERMANN: Yes. No, I went for the— You say “almost.” I say, that was an insane thing to say.

Keith is so daring, so bold! But who is von Brunn? Who was driving his world? Who else is tied up in the groups he inhabited? These may be very significant questions (or not). But in interviews with Robinson and Mark Potok, Olbermann mainly staged a child’s discussion: Was von Brunn a man of the right? Or was he a man of the left?

Children live their lives that way. Limbaugh does it—and so does KO. But then, the two men are a good deal alike. Each man is defiantly dumb. And each loves beating on girls.

Carrie Prejean has lost her crown? What could possibly make someone think that was a major news story last night? It takes a very dumb man to think that—or a man who loves banging on girls.

By the way: The new Miss California refuses to say that she supports same-sex marriage. But here’s our guess, and it’s an expert assessment: The new Miss California isn’t pretty enough to make Keith Olbermann mad.