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THE DUMBNESS OF THE WHALE! Palin maneuvered Richard Cohen into using today’s sexist language: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JULY 7, 2009

The two Krugmans: Two Paul Krugmans had a hand in yesterday’s column by Krugman.

The first Paul Krugman described a remarkable state of affairs—a state of affairs Paul Krugman detailed in a series of columns in 2006. (In accord with Hard Pundit Law, those columns were roundly ignored.) This is what the first Paul Krugman wrote in yesterday’s column:

KRUGMAN (7/6/09): Let me start by pointing out something serious health economists have known all along: on general principles, universal health insurance should be eminently affordable.

After all, every other advanced country offers universal coverage, while spending much less on health care than we do. For example, the French health care system covers everyone, offers excellent care and costs barely more than half as much per person as our system.

Wow! Let’s improve this Krugman’s logic a bit:

We spend twice as much on health care as France? “On general principles,” this doesn’t mean that universal insurance “should be eminently affordable.” On general principles, this would seem to mean we could have universal insurance while getting a boatload of money back! But within a few paragraphs, the second Paul Krugman slides into the chair. This Krugman explains how much extra we’ll have to pay to get universal insurance:

KRUGMAN: The budget office says that all this would cost $597 billion over the next decade. But that doesn’t include the cost of insuring the poor and near-poor, whom HELP suggests covering via an expansion of Medicaid (which is outside the committee’s jurisdiction). Add in the cost of this expansion, and we’re probably looking at between $1 trillion and $1.3 trillion.

There are a number of ways to look at this number, but maybe the best is to point out that it’s less than 4 percent of the $33 trillion the U.S. government predicts we’ll spend on health care over the next decade. And that in turn means that much of the expense can be offset with straightforward cost-saving measures, like ending Medicare overpayments to private health insurers and reining in spending on medical procedures with no demonstrated health benefits.

When the second Paul Krugman slides into the chair, he says universal coverage is going to cost us extra—as much as $1.3 trillion in the next decade, minus some amount of cost-saving.

In those two chunks of that one column, you see the cosmic irrationality of our ongoing health care discussion:

First Krugman: We’re paying twice as much as we should!
Second Krugman: We’ll have to pay a lot more!

The oddness is only accentuated in today’s Times editorial:

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (7/7/09): Any talk of new taxes provokes criticism and doubt that the nation can afford to reform the health care system in the midst of a deep recession. But the president is right, as he told a town hall meeting in Virginia recently, that “the costs of inaction, of not doing anything, are even greater.”

Too funny! We’re already paying twice as much as we should. But the editors wonder whether we can afford to “reform” such a health care system!

We don’t blame Krugman for today’s column. On the third hand, our public discussion of this matter has long been baldly insane.

THE DUMBNESS OF THE WHALE/Washington Post edition: We hadn’t read The Huffington Post in some time. Yesterday, when we went there, we remembered why.

Until recent decades, the public discourse was maintained by a carefully picked “elite”—the Edward R. Murrow crowd. Regular rubes weren’t allowed to take part in these august discussions.

At yesterday’s Huffington Post, we began to remember why.

No, it really doesn’t make sense to report on “rumors”—or to cry, weep, sob and complain when the subject of your “rumors” tells you that you’ll have to stop. (For the most part, even the mainstream press corps doesn’t report on “rumors”—for example, by telling us how many weeks the “rumors” have been in circulation.) And Paul Begala’s post was simply the work of a new, degraded man—a person who has begun to talk way down to the crowd. (In the past, that wasn’t his way.) Meanwhile, did we say, just yesterday, that elite criticism of Palin has often been designed to tag her as “trailer trash?” Those kinds of elites are at HuffPo too, we saw when we read this sad, inane post. Headline: “Reading the Pictures: Palin Proud To Be Trash.”

Let’s face it—we’re all Sean Hannity now! At yesterday’s HuffPo, we saw one of the largest collections of fruits and nuts we’ve ever seen all in one can.

But let’s postpone our review of that mess till tomorrow. For today, let’s look at a bit of work from Murrow’s elite successors. Let’s start with Gene Robinson, insisting today that up has been thoroughly down.

Why did Palin decide to resign? Like Robinson, we don’t know. Unlike Robinson, we won’t pretend that every part of last Friday’s speech was “literally nonsensical”—though some parts plainly were. This morning, the Post begins to catch up on its reporting, discussing the string of ethics complaints with which Palin has been deluged (click here). Is the nuisance of that deluge part of the reason Palin is leaving office? We have no way of knowing. But her statement on that subject wasn’t “literally nonsensical,” so Robinson—always a hack among hacks—pretends it was never said.

Meanwhile, Robinson seems sure of one other thing: The criticism of Palin hasn’t been sexist/elitist. Or if it has been, it won’t be discussed by a great man like he. In Robinson’s format, Palin has kept tricking fine men of his class into getting painted as sexist/elitist. Or something like that. This is what he says:

ROBINSON (7/7/09): The thing is, Palin's unsuitability for high public office has been obvious all along. Tina Fey got it right; the rest of us were far too reluctant to state plainly that the emperor, or empress, has no clothes.

There are basically two reasons the political class and the commentariat continue to speak and write about Palin as if she were a substantial figure whose presence on the national stage is anything but a cruel, unfunny joke. The first is fear—not of Palin and her know-nothing legions, but of being painted as elitist and sexist.

From the beginning, Palin has been a master at maneuvering her critics into this trap.

Clever Palin! She kept tricking the Murrow Elite, leading them into that trap! Robinson goes on to cite an example where Palin did cry wolf—where she did complain about elitism without a serious basis. (Palin’s logic is often weak or non-existent.) But he forgets to note the other instances, where the complaint is correct.

Unlike Robinson’s poor misused commentariat, we were never “reluctant” to state the obvious—Palin was a horrible candidate, perhaps the worst candidate ever at the presidential level. But then, we also didn’t have much trouble spotting the actual sexism and elitism exhibited by some of Robinson’s crowd. Consider the utterly hapless Richard Cohen, whose column appears within several inches of Robinson’s piece this morning.

Alas, poor Cohen! As he sketches out the obvious—Palin was a horrible candidate—the gentleman is soon making a profoundly unintelligent statement. Profoundly unintelligent—and baldly “sexist!” Gaze on the sad remains of the Murrow Elite:

COHEN (7/7/09): Recall, after all, that Palin was not McCain's first choice. That was either Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge. Both were rejected by the party establishment because of their appalling moderation on social issues over which the president has little direct authority anyway—abortion, above all—and in Lieberman's case because he had been a Democrat. In desperation, McCain turned to Palin.

Was there a scream of protest? No. Did the Republican Party demand to know of McCain what the hell he had done? Again, no. Was it okay with the GOP if the person a heartbeat away from the presidency was—pardon me, but it's true—a ditz with no national experience whatsoever? You betcha. The party had cracked up, accepting a nullity because she was antiabortion over a seasoned senator and former governor because they were not. Ideology won. The nation lost.

That highlighted statement provides a wonderful teaching moment. It represents a textbook demonstration of what “sexism” actually is. Presumably, this means that Palin has done it again! She has maneuvered poor Cohen in!

Palin was a horrible candidate. In our view, she simply doesn’t seem to operate on what you might call a major-league level. But someone like Cohen can’t voice such a judgment about a woman without quickly turning to familiar sexist language. He asks our forgiveness as he does, thus showing he knows there’s a problem.

“Pardon me,” the elite pundit says, calling Palin “a ditz.” “Pardon me”—but the statement “is true.”

Now that is a teachable moment.

Cohen, of course, has a long history in these unfortunate areas. In 1998, he got in trouble at the Post for allegedly harassing a young female employee (just click here). More consequentially, he wrote an early, deranged column about Naomi Wolf in 1999—about the sheer stupidity of Candidate Gore for having such a woman on his campaign staff. “Who else is on the payroll, Al—Richard Simmons?” the pundit masterfully wrote. In this manner, he showed that he couldn’t write negatively about a woman without instantly mocking gays too.

Cohen made endless errors and misstatements in his mocking column about Wolf. (For starters, the column was built around a “quotation” he’d been fed from one of Wolf’s books—a quotation which didn’t exist!) But in that column, Cohen couldn’t criticize a woman without instantly mocking gays. Ten years later, he can’t criticize a woman without instantly calling her a “ditz.”

And, of course, Cohen’s so dumb that he seems to think that a stereotypical insult of that type can actually be a matter of “fact.” You really have to be dumb—and uncaring—to say something like that.

Duh. Standard stereotypical insults like “ditz” exist for one reason—to reinforce stereotypical pictures of women. (As Cohen might be able to grasp, there are standard insults aimed at Jews which exist for similar reasons.) But this Murrow Man is such a ditz that, even at his advanced age, he still doesn’t seem to know this. And right above him, there sits Robinson, telling us that Palin has been very clever at creating the appearance of incidents like this! Too funny! But then, Robinson has long been a hack among hacks. In Robinson’s world, Palin masterfully maneuvered Cohen into today’s indiscretion.

Palin was a terrible candidate. For a moment, let’s imagine something different:

Presumably, Palin would still be a popular governor if McCain hadn’t picked her. She’d likely have gotten re-elected; imaginably, she might have ended up as a competent national player. That might have happened—but on balance, we doubt it. Based on everything we’ve seen, she just doesn’t have the judgment or smarts to play on the major-league level.

There! Did you notice that a person can express such a judgment about a woman without calling her a dingbat or ditz? Without naming Richard Simmons? Without saying she’s “proud to be trash?” Without writing a column like Begala’s? It can be done—but often isn’t. And in fact, silly boys and girls of the pseudo-elite have been saying such things about Palin from last August forward.

She is a terrible candidate. They are sexist/elitists. Do you see how easy that is?

Robinson isn’t going to tell you, but some of Palin’s speech made sense. He isn’t going to state the obvious, but a fair number of the attacks on Palin have reflected a class condescension. Let’s be candid: A certain kind of pseudo-progressive imagines himself a cut above a red-state rube loser like Palin. Such people have made a low-IQ joke of progressive politics as long as we’ve been alive.

They were everywhere at yesterday’s HuffPo. But in columns by Robinson, they can’t exist. (Ditto for Applebaum; click here.) This left Bill Kristol as the most accurate chronicler of this matter on today’s op-ed page. For the record, Kristol includes Republican Party elites in the highlighted statement:

KRISTOL (7/7/09): Palin will have to endure some fair criticism for abandoning her office before her term ended. But she should also get credit for not using her state office as a means of campaigning for a higher one.

She won't get that credit. For psychological and sociological reasons too deep for me to grasp, a good chunk of elite America hates Sarah Palin and what they've decided she stands for. But if she wears their scorn as a badge of honor, comports herself with good cheer and personal dignity, studies up on national issues and takes the lead in selected debates on behalf of conservative principles against Obama administration policies, she has a shot [at the GOP nomination].

We wouldn’t state it that strongly ourselves. But that’s much more accurate that Robinson’s nonsense, in which he chronicles Palin’s skill at tricking Cohen into calling her a ditz.

Cohen couldn’t write half a column without calling Palin a ditz. He seems to think that an insult like that can be a matter of “fact.” But yesterday, to see a real jar of nuts, you had to journey to HuffPo.

Can Leviathan—the social state—survive? Increasingly, we wonder. When we visited yesterday’s HuffPo, we were strongly impressed by the dumbness of the whale.