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Daily Howler: Why was Clark a story at all? Sadly, we're forced to explain
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DUMBERER AND EVEN MORE DUMB! Why was Clark a story at all? Sadly, we’re forced to explain: // link // print // previous // next //

CLARK HOYT KEEPS GETTING RESULTS: A certain gentleman’s forceful punishment just keeps getting results. On Sunday, June 22, New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt gave Maureen Dowd a good solid spanking, right smack-dab on her Irish keister! And sure enough! In this morning’s Times, Hoyt’s old-fashioned discipline just keeps working. The new Dowd’s heart is bleeding again about he whom she once scorned:

DOWD (7/2/08): [Obama] looks wary at such spontaneous sessions. He’s still getting used to being covered protectively like a president, with journalists filing probing pool reports about how he “reportedly showered and changed” after his morning workout in Chicago.

He gives the impression of someone who would like to kid around with reporters for a minute, but knows he’s going to be peppered with on-the-record minutiae designed to feed the insatiable maw of blogs and Internet news.

“So, what’s going on, guys?” he asked on the tarmac at dusk. “What’s going on on Friday night? You’ll be back in time to have some fun.”

And what about you? a reporter asked the candidate. “I can’t have fun anymore,” Obama said, in a comment meant to be wry but sounding wistful. “It’s not allowed.”

The new Dowd sides with wistful Obama against the insatiable maw of her tribe. And Oh. Our. God. She’s been so changed by Hoyt’s forceful ways that she even says this:

DOWD: He’s an American who has climbed to the most rarefied stratosphere of American life, only to find that he has to make a major speech arguing that he loves his country. (A new CNN poll shows that a quarter of registered voters say Obama lacks patriotism.)

He’s a man happily married to a strong professional woman who has to defend his wife, as he says, for being “feisty.”

Poor Obama! He’s been forced to defend the strong professional woman to whom he is happily married! But wait a minute! Last year, who started the stupid, ugly meowing about the hideous she-b*tch Obama? Descendant to all those gruesome Dem wives? Oh, that’s right—Maureen Dowd did! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/21/07.) But that was before the gender-nut pundit found what she wanted—a man with a firm hand. Or as Grover Norquist once said, in a different context: "Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant. But when they've been 'fixed,' then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful.”

Well rendered! Indeed, how contented and cheerful is the new “fixed” Dowd? This morning, she even plays “good government gal,” high-mindedly arguing, as she ends, that it’s time for the candidates to “figure out how to feed the world, find enough fuel for everyone and oh, yeah, catch that bin Laden fiend who’s running around free.” Whatever became of the old Dowd, we wondered, the one who rolled her eyes at Joe Klein? Gay Jervey reported Klein’s recollection in Brill’s Content, nine years ago:

JERVEY (6/99): "Maureen is very talented," observes Joe Klein of The New Yorker. "But she is ground zero of what the press has come to be about in the nineties...I remember having a discussion with her in which I said, 'Maureen, why don't you go out and report about something significant, go out and see poor people, do something real?’ And she said, 'You mean I should write about welfare reform?’”

The old Maureen Dowd was ground zero of what the press has come to be about,” Klein quite accurately said. She didn’t give a flying fig about things that were “significant.” That Dowd would have rolled her eyes at today’s mellow “good government” column. Who knows? Maybe Clark Hoyt just got Maureen Dowd on some of those famous old “dolls.”

“Are men necessary,” Dowd once asked in a book. Today, a former pepper-pot seems to answer that question. Once again, she writes like a Stepfordized scribe. Clark Hoyt just keeps getting results!

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Why not review each part of this story? It’s a tale of transformation:

Clark Hoyt spoke frankly in the Times. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/23/08.

Three days later, Clark Hoyt got results. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/25/08.

Who the %&#@ is Clark Hoyt, Gail Collins asked. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/30/08.

Today, transformation continues.

DUMBERER AND EVEN MORE DUMB: Hard to believe, but it actually happened: On Monday evening, a major cable news program devoted an hour to a serious topic! Here was Larry King’s first question, thrown to Chevron’s CEO:

KING (6/30/08): What's going on? Oil and gas prices all-time highs, your company making billions in profits? Explain.

Say what? And Larry spent the whole hour on this issue, with guests like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Montana Dem governor Brian Schweitzer.

Such a program, of course, is the total outlier. Over on Hardball, pundits killed time in the official manner:

MATTHEWS (6/30/08): Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews—welcome to Hardball! Tonight, name that veep!

Matthews devoted more than half the program to worthless guesswork about VP picks. In late May, Gwen Ifill had explained this seasonal blather on that gruesome Meet the Press program—the one where Russert fixed his six-member panel to make sure no one mentioned the truth (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/2/08). Here was Ifill, looking ahead to weeks of worthless chatter:

RUSSERT (5/25/08): McCain is in Arizona. Here's some tape—a meeting with Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts; Bob Jindal, the governor of Louisiana; Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, all—there he is, coming down the stairs in the gray hair...But now we're in full throttle of the VP selection, Gwen.

IFILL: You know, it's such Kabuki theater. I mean, we know—and we do this every four years, where we have—you know, by the end, it's kind of the ritual. We start to think, "Okay, now, what's next? Oh, the vice presidential nomination!" And almost—who knows how much it matters at the end? But we can't help it. It's how we spend our summers every four years.

RUTH MARCUS: What else would we do?

IFILL: What else would we do?

We can’t help it—what else would we do? The pundits all chuckled and shook their heads at their quadrennial waste of your time.

Your pundit corps typically does what’s dumb, but this year they’ve been even dumberer. This year’s speciality turns out to be the coverage of serial, feigned outrage. They could discuss Iraq, or oil, or Iran; they could even discuss your health care. But it’s just as Dowd told Klein long ago: You mean we should talk about something significant? Inside Versailles, the nobles don’t go there. They search for ways to waste your time. And this year, they’re into feigned outrage.

The latest feigned outrage involves Wesley Clark; we’ve wasted our time on the topic all week. Unfortunately, our own side has helped create the culture the press corps plays out as it thrashes this pointless matter. This morning, the Washington Post wants the nonsense to stop. But to their credit, they mention a wide range of bull-roar:

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (7/2/08): Enough already! The country's at war, the economy is struggling, oil prices are surging. The Republican and Democratic presidential candidates have dramatically different approaches to all this and more. And we've just concluded Day Three of the latest surrogate pseudo-drama: "Gen. Wesley K. Clark: Stupid Comment or Deliberate Slight?"

Casting guilt by surrogate association is a bipartisan affliction, so ours is a nonpartisan lament: Cut it out! The Clark blooper is no more revealing than was the Charles R. Black Jr. pseudo-outrage or the James A. Johnson ersatz scandal.

Johnson was the Obama aide who had to quite as VP-vetter due to a pseudo-scandal.

We don’t agree with every word the Post says about these events. But the Post says this about the Clark flap: “[W]e find it hard to understand why this was even a one-day story.” Well, let us explain it to the Post, then. This has become a three-day story because the pundit corps enjoys wasting time. And because dumberer elements supporting both candidates have fanned the flames of these inane pseudo-scandals.

That’s right, kids! Our side has been playing it very dumb too! What follows comes from Keith Olbermann, in Monday evening’s “Special embarrassment.” In this passage, an overpaid sports guy lectures Obama (and his advisers) about the best way to run a campaign. Fight your way through that first graf and check out the passage we’ve highlighted:

OLBERMANN (6/30/08): Your problem is what happens even if this plays out according to plan next week: One, you vote for the anti-immunity amendment. Two, the anti-immunity amendment fails. Three, you vote for the FISA legislation. And four, the FISA legislation passes. And five, senator: the Republicans still run against you with the “elections-for-dummies” message: “Obama voted uh-uh thing terror-stop.”

Because inside that obscenity that was Charlie Black‘s comment about how a terrorist attack in this country would be good for his boy McCain’s chances for election, inside the inhuman calculation that Benazir Bhutto did not die in vain, she helped McCain in the New Hampshire primary, inside all that, there is a sad and cynical reality; the Republicans can scare some of the people all of the time, and they can scare all of the people some of the time. This is all they are right now.

Keith-O, helping fire the rubes, called Black’s statement an “obscenity”—“inhuman.” To the Post: Why is Clark a three-day story? In part, because of that.

Was Charlie Black’s statement an “obscenity?” Actually no—it just wasn’t. In fact, his statement was never worth talking about—and the question he was answering was never worth asking. But then, Clark’s statement wasn’t much worth discussing either—not in a world where major journalists could be discussing oil or Iraq. (Or Iran. Or your health bills.) But as long as our side’s tribunes of outrage insist that every stray comment be parsed, it’s very hard to tell our pundits that they shouldn’t waste time on Clark too. And no: This pundit corps doesn’t know how to quote “in context.” How dumb are the cable press corps’ seven-figure stars? Here’s how CNN’s Campbell Brown began her program Monday night. She channels Scout Finch as she starts:

BROWN (6/30/08): Hey, everybody!

Tonight, we begin with John McCain's military service under attack. Should the record of a celebrated POW be fair game during this campaign? As always, we give you the facts—no bias, no bull—on the strong push-back over what some see as the Obama campaign's attempt to swift-boat John McCain, and this coming on the day Obama delivers a major speech on patriotism in the carefully staged location of Independence, Missouri.

Plus, after all the hand-wringing, Bill Clinton did finally pick up this phone to take a call from Barack Obama.

After pledging to give us “the facts”—“no bias, no bull”—Brown instantly described the Clark incident as “what some see as the Obama campaign's attempt to swift-boat John McCain.” And trust us—these people really are that dumb. Some will assume that’s just naked bias. We’ll suggest you should be much less sure.

Is Campbell Brown trying to help McCain? We don’t know, but her cohort really is that unsophisticated; they actually are that inept when it comes to their craft’s simplest skills. And so, when we insist that these millionaire time-wasters spend time chasing the latest faux outrage, we must understand that the culture we’re pimping will also come back and bite us.

By the way: Your world is now chock-a-block full of hacks; as Rush and Sean once filled pseudo-con heads, these hacks volunteer to fill yours. It’s true: If pundits wanted to quote Clark’s answer to Schieffer, they should have mentioned the fact that, seconds before, Clark had said this about McCain: “He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the armed forces as a prisoner of war.” And they should have quoted Schieffer’s question, showing that Clark’s much-maligned answer borrowed its language from Scheiffer’s query. But many hacks are spinning you blue about Clark’s foolish statements. Here was KO, last night:

OLBERMANN (7/1/08): After hitting General Clark for insulting McCain’s military service, when he didn’t insult McCain`s military service, now the Republicans are getting really paranoid.


It hasn’t happened, but that has not stopped the McCain campaign from saying it has. First, it was their bizarre claim that Wes Clark had attacked McCain`s military record.

“Insult” and “attack” are terms of art. But Clark did criticize McCain’s military record, going a million miles out of his way to do so in these unwise comments:

CLARK (6/29/08): I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the armed forces as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee and he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, “I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it publicly?” He hasn't made those calls, Bob.

Of course, no one—except Clark—has “made those calls,” and no one was talking about such things until Clark made these amazingly unwise remarks. And we’re sorry, but his answer to Scheiffer’s specific question was unwise—and clearly, it was a bit snide. Your side’s hacks will insist that nothing occurred there—while Black’s statement was an obscenity, of course. But that’s because our side has major hacks now, as the other side always had Sean and Rush.

We like Clark a lot, but his statement was dumb—though no, it wasn’t worth talking about. But you really can’t scream and yell about Black, then complain when they talk about Clark. We’ve long told you: On balance, a culture of dumbness will favor the other side. But now, we have dumb-lovers too. Sean and Rush will yell about Clark—but we enjoy yelling now in turn.

A BIG PIECE OF MEAT: On our side, no one does it quite like Ed Schultz. Here he was, with Brown:

BROWN (6/30/08): Well, Ed, isn't it fair to say, of all things you're going to attack on, why go after something where he so clearly certainly has more experience than Obama and certainly more military experience, of all things?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think the statement tonight by General Clark clarifies, once again, we're talking about military executive experience. He hasn't had to make the tough decisions.

BROWN: But Obama doesn't have that experience either.

SCHULTZ: Well, that's not dissing his military experience in any way, shape or form.

“Dissing” is a slippery term of art too. But when you go out of your way to say that someone “hasn’t had to make the tough decisions” (in the way I, Wes Clark, have done), is it true that you aren’t “dissing his military experience in any way, shape or form?” Hacks of the left will insist on such claims. And then, about Black, they will howl.

Good grief. We never thought we’d see McCain turned into a sympathetic figure. This week, though, our giants have done it—and they’ve gone on TV and ranted and howled when Obama won’t pour it on more!