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Daily Howler: Ceci has always been the best when it comes to misleading us rubes
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CECI’S NO-NOS, THEN AND NOW! Ceci has always been the best when it comes to misleading us rubes: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24, 2009

Nieman under attack: We’ll wait a day to continue our discussion of Rosen/Greenwald/Froomkin. The Nieman website shut down yesterday, apparently under some sort of viral attack. Some of Dan’s major columns are there, and we’d planned to cite them.

Pining for Miss Lewinsky: Your financial system still lies in ruins. The future of health care is being debated. But America’s dumbest known Pulitzer Prize-winning “journalist” longs for that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

Go ahead—just read today’s column. Maureen Dowd so longs for the good old days—the good old days of Full Tilt Miss Lewinsky—that she devotes the bulk of her column to the naughty sexual antics of a Big Pol who lives far away:

DOWD (6/24/09): His wife, Veronica Lario, a former actress who met him while she was starring topless in “The Magnificent Cuckold” and who is now divorcing him, has operatically upbraided him twice: once two years ago after he had a public flirtation with a TV starlet whom he later appointed as Minister of Equal Opportunities; and again last month when Lario charged her randy hubby with “consorting with minors” after he went to the 18th birthday party of a model and gave her a diamond and gold necklace.

In this case, the randy hubby—the current Big He—is Silvio Berlusconi. Dowd was willing to go to Italy to capture a topic she liked. (The big surprise? She didn’t make her editors fly her over.)

Can we talk? If World War III broke out tomorrow, Dowd would still be casting about for reasons to flog randy sex.

More than half of Dowd’s column today concerns Berlusconi’s antics. You have to read well past the fold to reach her thoroughly vapid thoughts about something transpiring here in this country. Translation: Dowd had nothing to say today. And in her heart, she continues to pine for the days of that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

By the way: None of this happened before Bush came in. And Dowd and her cohort behave in good faith. They just lacked sufficient imagination when confronted with Bush, a real outlier.

Who cares about health care/Rachel Maddow edition: In fairness, Dowd ain’t the only one who doesn’t seem to care a whole lot about health care. Last night, Rachel Maddow rolled out her standard assortment of topics:

Topic one: What is happening in Iran.
Topic two: What is happening in Iran.
Topic three: How weird are Republicans, Mark Sanford edition.
Topic four: Don’t ask, don’t tell.

This was somewhat reminiscent of Monday night’s assortment of topics:

Topic one: What is happening in Iran.
Topic two: What is happening in Iran.
Topic three: What is happening in Iran.
Topic four: How weird are Republicans, Mark Sanford edition.

Iran is a major news story, of course. But it isn’t the only news story—except perhaps at the boutique end of the progressive world. On the Maddow Show, you now get to hear about Iran—and after that, as your reward, you get to hear that Republicans are stupid. In earlier weeks, you got to hear about torture (another real issue). Now as then, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” will also get sprinkled through. (It’s a real issue too.)

Health care? That’s left to Ed Schultz. He blusters away at 6 PM, watched by way few viewers.

To us, this increasingly looks like a case of upper-class pseudo-progressivism. Could the answer to this topic selection possibly lie in the world of Bill Wolff? Wolff is lord of all MSNBC prime-time “news programs.” Last night, he even appeared in a humor slot at the end of Maddow’s program. (To enjoy his stylings, click here.)

Wolff came to the network in 2005. He’d been hired to produce the network’s new Tucker Carlson vehicle (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/19/09). Before that, he had no background in news at all. He had co-written a sports-themed movie for Martin Lawrence (Rebound). And he had produced a series of gong-show, shout-at-each-other programs for the Fox Sports Network. That was it!

But so what? Within a few months, Wolff had been put in charge of MSNBC’s complete prime-time news line-up. But then too, Maddow had little background in news when she was picked to host her program. In our view, it frequently shows.

Increasingly, the Maddow Show strikes us as an example of upper-class boutique pseudo-progressivism. Who cares about health care? Not Maureen Dowd. But then, there isn’t a lot of interest in the dreary topic on GE’s top “news” programs either.

(Before wasting his time on those pointless sports shows, Wolff grew up in a wealthy St. Louis suburb. Mom was an associate general counsel for Anheuser Busch. For the record, Wolff describes himself as a “bleeding-heart liberal.” We assume that Wolff is a very nice guy. But sometimes, that self-description translates as: “boutique.”)

Final note: According to Nexis, Maddow last said the words “health care” on last Thursday’s program. It was part of a fleeting reference to—what else?— the stupidity of a health care plan put forward by stupid Republicans. On Maddow, you get to hear about torture, and about Iran. And then, as a special treat, you get to hear that the other tribe is stupid. Occasionally, you get to hear sexual insults hurled at the working-class Americans who have the most at stake in the (well-ignored) health care debate.

This has always been the way of part of the progressive world. Like Dowd, Maddow seems to care about people elsewhere. People here? Perhaps not quite so much.

The public, God bless them: An uninformed public muddles along inside an uninformed health care debate.

In this morning’s Washington Post, a new poll helps us see how unsteady the public’s perceptions and outlooks may be. As a simple matter of personal pride, Ceci Connolly never describes anything accurately. But in what follows, she came fairly close.

Does the public support inclusion of a “public plan” in a health care package? The public may not be sure:

CONNOLLY (6/24/09): Survey questions that equate the public option approach with the popular, patient-friendly Medicare system tend to get high approval, as do ones that emphasize the prospect of more choices. But when framed with an explicit counterargument, the idea receives a more tepid response. In the new Post-ABC poll, 62 percent support the general concept, but when respondents were told that meant some insurers would go out of business, support dropped sharply, to 37 percent.

Actually, that isn’t quite what “respondents were told.” But as Connolly notes, 62 percent of respondents said they would “support having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans.” (For the record, no comparison to Medicare was included in the question.) But uh-oh! Support dropped to 37 percent when this further question was asked:

What if having the government create a new health insurance plan made many private health insurers go out of business because they could not compete?

As we noted yesterday, we always thought that was the point of including a private plan (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/23/09). But in the Post poll, support dropped to 37 percent when this possibility was specifically mentioned. Before long, Connolly quoted a respondent making a perfectly sensible comment:

CONNOLLY: Majority support for certain new government action, however, does not come with high hopes: Half of all Americans said they think the quality of their health care will stay about the same if the system changes, and 31 percent expect it to deteriorate.

"We're spending a lot and not necessarily getting the bang for our buck," Philip Arms, 58, of Northwest Washington, said in a follow-up interview. Despite his desire for reform, “I'm not necessarily convinced it won't make things worse.”

Well actually, they didn’t say they “expected it to deteriorate.” They said that, in their “best guess,” they think it will “get worse.” As a point of pride, Connolly never makes a perfectly accurate statement.

Could a health reform package possibly make an individual’s health care worse? Of course it could! In a related report, Peter Slevin made our blood run cold:

SLEVIN (6/24/09): Mindful that supporters will not agree on all details, Obama has distilled his position to three principles: reduce cost, ensure quality and provide choice, including a public insurance option. As for the details, Obama's troops are asking supporters to trust the president's judgment.

Or, if we might quote our Frost: “Trust us, the Voices said.” (Just click here.)

Should we clueless ones trust the president’s judgment? We’re not entirely sure why we should. Obama, and especially his congressional chieftains, are part of the most god-awful foolish prolonged public discussion ever staged on the face of the earth. In the Post poll, 84 percent of respondents voiced concern that a health reform package might increase their health-care costs. You’d think that would be hard to do when you consider these comical numbers:

United States: $5711
Finland: $2104

That’s what two countries spent per person on health care, in the year 2003. You might almost think that an overhaul might leave the US spending less. But Obama’s congressional chieftains are part of a system which has relentlessly failed to explore the meaning of those astonishing numbers—of other such numbers from other countries (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/18/09). Our view? When people refuse to discuss and explain such remarkable numbers, there are reasons for their refusal. No one’s so dumb that they can’t see how astounding those numbers are.

Should you trust such people to make things better? We can’t really see why you should.

Think of the oddness of the idea that reform might leave you spending more. If you’re a family of four, think how much more your family spent on health care in 2003, compared to a family in Finland! (No, you can’t just multiply by four. But the number would be very large.) The disparities here are simply stunning. And yet, you live in a world whose press and politicians have made no effort, over many years, to explain that groaning disparity. We’ll only suggest that this wide-spread silence suggests a debate which is “fixed.”

The refusal to discuss those numbers is a stunning part of our culture. For ourselves, we favor whatever Krugman favors. If he supports a health reform package, then by god we’ll do so too! But should people trust Obama—and his chieftains—to lower those astonishing, undiscussed costs?

We can’t imagine why.

Your public conversation has long been fixed. Many forces have agreed to avoid discussing those ludicrous numbers. Big newspapers haven’t gone there. Neither has the more liberal of the two major parties.

Your public discussion has long been fixed. Unless you read Professor Rosen, of course, in which case well-intentioned elite-level professional journalists haven’t had sufficient imagination to deal with such “outlier” numbers. They’d like to discuss those astounding data, right on the New York Times’ front page. Over the years, one thing has stopped them: They can’t figure out how.

Ceci’s no-nos, then and now: By happenstance, we’ve been working on Connolly’s gruesome “reporting” from March through August, 1999. It’s always stunning to see her skill at insinuating things she can’t say.

In June 1999, for example, Gore made his formal announcement—he was running for president. He was asked his view about Bill and Monica, again and again and again. The impeachment trial had ended four months earlier—and Gore had repeatedly criticized Clinton’s conduct, dating back to September 1998. (“Inexcusable/indefensible.”) But the press corps longed to hear nothing else. They wanted to hear it again and again. Our “journalists” pined for continued talk about Bill and that woman.

On 20/20, Diane Sawyer asked Gore—again and again—what he thought about Bill and Monica. Nothing Gore said was quite enough. In a truly foolish performance, Dinsy kept asking him why he wouldn’t say something a little bit stronger.

During this moronic week, Gore said the same things on this subject that he had said for nine solid months. But the children began to pretend that he’d flip-flopped—that he had just said, “for the first time,” that he disapproved of Bill’s conduct.

This was utterly, blatantly bogus—and Ceci was stuck with that knowledge! Again and again, she had reported Gore’s prior criticisms, over the prior nine months. (During that period, Gore had to keep repeating himself because reporters kept asking about it.) But everyone else was misstating this fact, and modern pseudo-journalism is all about running with the Phony Group Story. And so, she came up with some wonderful constructs! On June 16, 17 and 27, she implied that Gore had just criticized Clinton “for the first time.” But with truly remarkable skill, she didn’t quite say it.

Ceci has always been the best when it comes to baldly misleading us rubes. Now, she’s covering health care reform! In fairness, we never saw any sign that her war against Gore was “political.” Mainly, she seemed to be in a ball-fisted fury about those ten blow jobs, like the rest of her crackpot crowd. But no print journalist did more than she to keep Gore out of the White House. Guess who went there instead?

Ceci has always been the best when it comes to baldly misleading us rubes. Unless you’re Professor Rosen, of course, in which case she was an elite-level professional journalist who lacked sufficient imagination to know how to deal with a pair of outliers like Bill Clinton and Al Gore.