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WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 2009

JOSH MARSHALL CAN’T COUNT TO SEVEN: How degraded has our pseudo-progressive movement become by this time? So degraded that we’ve reached the state where we can’t quite count to seven.

Fallen? Inane? Sad/sick/soul-drained? What would be the word for the crap which appeared on Josh Marshall’s site yesterday, shortly after noon Eastern? Rachel Slajda was the progressive “reporter” who got a bit lost on her way to seven. And don’t worry—this doesn’t end here:

Sanford Admits More Trysts With Lover
By Rachel Slajda - June 30, 2009, 12:14 PM

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who originally admitted to meeting his Argentine mistress four times in the past year, told the AP that the number is more like seven.

Apparently there were five meetings in the last year, including “two multi-night stays” in New York. That's the first time he's admitted to trysts on U.S. soil.

There were also two more meetings before the. The two first met in 2001.

The AP interview was, unsurprisingly, "lengthy" and "emotional.”

That’s what Slajda wrote in her short news report, exactly as she wrote it. Amazingly, her confused work was still sitting on Josh’s site at 9 o’clock this morning. (Her report was still being linked from the top of TPM’s front page.) A “late update” had been added. But the confusion over those very large numbers remained unaddressed.

Slajda had the right heroes and villains—but her numbers were slightly confused. In her first paragraph, she said Sanford had met with his “mistress” in the past year more than the four times he’d originally claimed. According to Slajda, he had now told the AP “that the number is more like seven.”

In the next paragraph, we were told (correctly this time) that the actual number is five. And no: As compared to four, five is not “more like seven.”

So it goes when simpering children are handed the keys to the web site. And here’s how it goes when the staff of a Big Dumb Oaf cuts-and-pastes from such a site, as the staff in question pretty much does every night:

OLBERMANN (6/30/09): No politician has told so many salacious half-truths about his own love life since Sanford`s last news conference last week. In a new and remarkable interview, the governor, having originally admitted to only four meetings with his mistress over the past year, now putting that number at seven—seven that he is admitting to.

The wild bull of the pampas now time-lining his extracurricular calendar with his Argentine friend like this: Five meetings with Maria Belen Chapur in the last year, including two, quote, “multi-night stays in New York.” It sounds like something he won on a game show. Also, two more meetings before then.

Eight hours after Slajda misfired, our own Big Dumb Oaf went on the air and recited her work almost word for word—only choosing to drop her qualification about the number being more like seven. To wit: In the first paragraph cited above, Our Own Big Oaf reports that Sanford has admitted to seven “meetings with his mistress over the past year.” Immediately thereafter, Our Own Big Oaf reports that there have been “five meetings...in the last year.”

His big dumb staff didn’t notice the contradiction. Neither did he—if he bothers reviewing his staff-written scripts before he parades on the air.

How dumb has your pseudo-progressive world become? That’s how dumb, right there. And here’s the question to which this leads:

Do you wonder why so brilliant a world has produced no frameworks on health care?

Ten years ago, Josh Marshall was writing exceptionally smart, nuanced work for The American Prospect. You’re right—he took a large pass on the war being waged against Candidate Gore, in his own work and in the work he assigned as editor. But let’s be fair—Josh was young, and he had a future career to consider. As he told the New York Times in this profile, he was still imagining a possible career as a mainstream political journalist. And young liberals don’t get those careers—if they’re truthful about the work of the mainstream press corps.

Was that ever part of Josh’s thinking? We have no idea.

Today, Josh runs a site to which young people can turn for photographs of the apartment in which the “luv gov” (or the “randy right-winger”—two examples of TPM’s recent language) shacked up with his mistress. They can go there for photo lay-outs inside the home of John Ensign’s girl friend.

It can feel very good to rub your thighs when you look at pictures like that! Although it’s the hypocrisy involved in all this which makes us progressives so mad.

In short, Josh has turned into a first-class, low-IQ clown. (A first-class clown who makes decent money. In that same profile, he told the Times, ''I probably make in the neighborhood of what successful political journalists make.” That would be pretty good scratch.) Meanwhile, how sharp is the audience he has assembled with his pictorials on the lov guv? As of this morning, there were 51 comments to Slajda’s report. None of them inquired about its groaning contradiction. But then, Olbermann’s staff didn’t notice the contradiction—the contradiction Keith read on the air.

In our entire life, we don’t think we’ve ever seen anyone dumb himself down to quite the extent that Josh has. And no: You will never get winning frameworks on major issues from a movement which has gone into the low-IQ pool the way his site has done in recent years. A progressive world this lazy and dumb will not produce winning frameworks on health care—not in the face of the endless image-shaping which comes from deeply serious, well-financed forces on the pseudo-right.

Go ahead. Reread what Olbermann told you last night. We’ve got your health care frameworks right there! And make no mistake: That’s what your progressive world has become. As we’ve said, we’re all Kenneth Starr now—except Starr was perhaps a bit brighter.

In fairness, one distinction: Starr was troubled by the lying. It’s the hypocrisy which make us so mad.

How dumb has your movement become: Sadly, this is the AP report to which Slajda linked. Sadly, Josh’s agent thought this report said the number was “more like seven.” Eight hours later, Our Own Big Oaf said the same damn thing. Almost one day later, her bungled report was still being linked, uncorrected, from the top of TPM.

DUMBEST PERSONS IN THE WORLD: As we’ve told you, it’s Hard Pundit Law, enforceable by the Council of Experts. All press corps members must recite the cohort’s Approved Standard Scripts. For that reason, the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus knew she had to type what follows, high up in today’s silly column about (groan) Mark Sanford’s wife:

MARCUS (7/1/09): But Jenny Sanford presents a new and improved version of the betrayed political spouse—neither enabler nor victim.

We're all too familiar with the usual drill, in all its excruciating permutations. In one, the wronged wife stands, looking stricken, by the side of the cheating pol as cameras whir. See Silda Wall and Eliot Spitzer, Suzanne and Larry Craig.

As we told you last week: Pundits are required to recite this Standard Complaint concerning the way wronged wives will sometimes stand, looking stricken, by the side of the cheating pol. Maureen Dowd also ticks off this basic requirement, high up in her own nitwit column:

DOWD (7/1/09): Stay focused, ladies. Here is The Practical Guide to Help Spurned Political Wives Survive Old Problems in the Era of New Technology.

1. Skip the press conference, especially when your husband is copping to call girls, gay pickups in airport bathrooms or “tragic” and “forbidden” telenovela-style love stories. Stoicism at the skunk’s side is overrated and, as Larry Craig’s wife learned, sunglasses don’t help.

Mullahs always understand this. Until every mullah has issued a statement, the statement has not been made.

Beyond that, the ladies disagree today in their dueling, waste-of-time columns. Marcus simply adores Jenny Sanford, a “new model for the wronged political spouse.” Dowd lumps Jenny in with the rest, calling her various names as she goes. Jenny Sanford turns out to be undignified, passive-aggressive and weepy. She sounds like a “stereotypical harridan,” Dowd insightfully says.

Of course, no crisis goes to waste inside the high walls of Versailles. Dowd uses today’s column to wack around Hillary Clinton, and Larry Craig’s unnamed wife—and even Elizabeth Edwards! In the case of Edwards, this must have felt especially good. During the last campaign, Elizabeth Edwards couldn’t be criticized because she seemed to be dying from cancer. Dowd was so frustrated by this restriction that she ended up venting her spleen at one point at the Edwards’ daughter, Cate, 25. (The youngster’s web site displeased Dowd.) Today, she finally gets to address the real problem. At last! Elizabeth Edwards comes to grief in guide-points 7-10.

Is anyone dumber than the fools who live inside the walls of Versailles? In a related question: Do you wonder why these people do such a weak job with actual issues? That said, one part of Marcus’ column is worth special notice today. You’ve sometimes thought we were off base when we noted the way the Council of Experts tend to look down their long Yankee noses at those dumb white southerners. Today, though, Marcus confesses:

MARCUS: I have to confess to, and apologize for, having preconceived notions about Jenny Sanford that turned out to have nothing to do with who she actually is. I heard “wife of conservative Christian governor,” saw the picture of her with those four well-groomed boys and figured her for someone who wouldn't have the spine to stick up for herself.

Marcus is smart enough to omit one part of her confession. She omits the word “southern” from what she’d heard about Jenny Sanford. By now, she knows that Sanford grew up in Chicago—that she was even “an investment banker.” All is therefore well with the world! And yes, this is how this works.

Gene Lyons has often written about the condescension brought to Arkansas in 1992 by the big-city Yankee reporters who invented the Whitewater pseudo-scandal, endlessly getting conned by local players in the process. As we’ve noted in the past, the fact that Clinton and Gore were both southerners did shape some of the press corps’ reactions. Remember: The mullahs who live inside Versailles’ walls are almost breath-takingly dumb.

Your nation is thus in a world of hurt. Will be, until they’re evicted.

FINALLY: We thought we’d never see the day! Finally, in today’s New York Times, we’re allowed to start learning the truth about Canadian health care. Credit given—and crow consumed! That done, let’s state the obvious:

It’s very important that voters know the facts about the way that system works. After all, here are two nations’ per capita health care costs from the year 2003:

United States $5711
Canada $2998

Good lord! Per person, we spent twice as much! If Canada’s health care is halfway decent, they’re doing something we should copy! Finally, the New York Times is starting to fill us in on how their system works!

We get the low-down from David Rakoff,, identified as “the author, most recently, of Don’t Get Too Comfortable.” His piece is part of a sprawling, op-ed page homage to today, which is Canada Day.

In fairness, Rakoff keeps it short and sweet. No sense overloading the system:

RAKOFF (7/1/09): There is no contest about what I miss most about Canada. It is universal medical coverage. Just thinking about it, and its absence here [in the United States], can send me into complete despair. But Canada Day is no time for tears, so instead I offer my First Runner-Up of Things Canadian Most Beloved: After Coffee Peppermints from Second Cup, a national chain of coffee shops not unlike Starbucks. I have no idea if the coffee is any good. I’ve bought only the mints, which come in cunning tin disks that open and close with a satisfying snap.

These mints are, in a word, sublime; they are stronger, mintier and more refreshing than anything else on the market. Some of my (American) friends have to spit them out. Even their dimensions are more pleasing than other peppermints. Thicker than average, with mildly pillowed surfaces on top and bottom, they possess a muscularity bordering on belligerence, befitting their palate-cleansing brawn. And so tiny! More pharmaceutical than confection, they feel (almost) medicinal. —DAVID RAKOFF

That should do it, the editors said. With that, we were returned to a slightly more normal pursuit: Dowd’s listing of ten key guide-lines for political wives who are wronged.

By the way: All those wronged political spouses have access to excellent health care. And oh yes: In the past fifteen years, your progressive world has produced absolutely no frameworks with which we can successfully pursue progressive health care reform. Big newspapers failed to report on all those successful single-payer systems. And as they kept their big traps shut, your “liberal journals” all sat and stared.

Young progressive writers and editors pretty much chose to sit this one out. Why do you suppose that is? We could suggest some ideas.

Related question: On May 6, Naomi Klein appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show, exactly as we’d demanded (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/7/09). Near the end of her monologue (Maddow clammed), she said that “the greatest heist in monetary history” is currently going down.

It has now been almost two months. It’s weird, though! Have you seen Rachel invite her back to explain what she meant in more detail?

Just a question for non-millionaire stooges: Why do you think we haven’t seen Klein get invited back on that program? Small suggestion: We’re getting fed a whole lot of “mistress” talk as that alleged heist rolls on.

They who inform/entertain you: Last night, Alison Stewart filled in for Maddow, offering the latest in mistress chatter. Since 2006, Stewart has been married to Bill Wolff, head of this channel’s prime time news programs. Such as they are, of course. Wolff had zero background in news when he landed the job.

Wolff’s mother was an associate general counsel for Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis. But then, Stewart’s father was senior vice president for corporate affairs at Squibb Corporation, the pharmaceutical company in Princeton. We’re just saying. Click here. (Wolff’s father is a cardiologist.)

Stewart has a winning smile and good hair. On the other hand, she’s been in news for twenty years. Can you name anything you know because of that fact? You know us! We’re just asking.