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WE ARE THE CHILDREN! Even Dowd didn’t take the bait. Last night, Our Own Scholar did: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, JULY 8, 2009

The unfortunate logic of sixty votes: In this slightly maddening post, Steve Benen discusses Obama’s approach to the sixty-vote Dem Senate.

Benen adopts a framework Ed Schultz seems to thunder about every night. It drives us crazy when Schultz does it. Benen drove us to action.

Democrats have sixty votes, Benen writes. Why don’t we act more aggressively?

BENEN (7/7/09): It reminded me of a conversation I had the other day with a friend of mine about an alternate universe. Imagine, my friend said, there was a Republican president, working with large, obstructionist-proof Republican majorities in the House and Senate. The Republican president's approval rating was about 60 percent, and he'd just won a popular electoral mandate on a key issue, which Republicans have prioritized literally for generations.

What are the chances, my friend asked, that Republicans would accept the importance of "bipartisanship" in shaping the policy? What are the odds that GOP leaders would make a series of concessions to Democrats, and tolerate Republican centrists who were toying with the idea of siding with the minority party?

If Republicans had sixty votes in the Senate, “what are the odds that GOP leaders would make a series of concessions to Democrats?” Answer: The odds would be slim. But the reason for that difference in approach is fairly obvious.

Duh. As everyone knows except liberal leaders, the logic of the Senate currently tilts toward conservatives—toward the GOP. It does so because small rural states get two senators—the same number the giant states get. Sparsely-populated Wyoming gets two. So does over-flowing California.

And uh-oh! At present, small rural states tend to be conservative. This means that the Senate system strongly favors conservatives—and thus the GOP. Under current arrangements, a Republican president with sixty senators would almost inevitably be more powerful than Obama currently is.

Until we watched Schultz tear his hair every night, we thought everyone knew this.

Duh. To reach the magic number of sixty, Democrats have to elect a bunch of senators f rom red states. On balance, these red-state Democrats are substantially better than the Republicans whom they defeated. But they tend to be more conservative, more corporate-friendly, than their blue-state Democrat counterparts.

The current 60-Democrat Senate includes a long list of red-state Dems. Ben Nelson (Nebraska) is one example. Max Baucus (Montana) is another—and let’s not forget Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas). Have you possibly heard such names bollixing up the drive for a public option?

George Bush never had sixty senators. Amazingly, Obama does. But if Bush had ever gotten to sixty, it would have been a stronger, purer ideological bloc than the group Obama is working with. Obama’s sixty includes a whole batch of red state Senate Dems. But then, there is virtually no way for Democrats to elect sixty senators without including a bunch of red-staters. Had the GOP elected sixty under Bush, there would have been fewer blue-staters. This is unfortunate, but it’s just bone-simple Senate logic.

How unfair is Senate math and logic? Consider some recent elections:

In Campaign 2000, Gore defeated Bush in the popular vote, although the margin was slight. But Gore won only 21 states in the process; Bush won 29. In other words: In an evenly-split electorate, Senate math tended to split 58-42, GOP.

In Campaign 2008, Obama beat McCain by more than seven points. Even then, he won only 28 states. In other words: Even with the country tilting strongly Dem, Senate math tended to split only 56-44, Dem. Let this serve as a reminder: It’s very hard for Dems to get 60 without electing red-staters.

How unfair is Senate math? Consider what happened in the 2004 Senate elections:

Roughly one-third of the Senate was up for election, as is always the case. And yay! Democratic candidates won a healthy majority of the popular vote in those races. In those Senate races, 44.7 million people voted for the Democratic candidates; only 39.9 million voted for the Republicans. The Democratic candidates thereby out-polled the Republican candidates by 5.5 percent. (Wikipedia data. Click here.)

In those Senate races, Democratic candidates won a substantial majority of the popular vote. And guess what? Democrats lost a net of four Senate seats in the process! (Republicans went from 51 seats to 55.) How could that possibly happen? Simplifying a bit, Democrats piled up those votes in big huge populous states. (Examples: California, New York, Illinois.) Republicans won victories in little small states. (Examples: Idaho, Utah, Alaska.) Senate logic is very cruel—and at present, it favors the other party.

Night after night, we’ve watched Schultz rant: You know what George Bush would have done if he’d gotten 60 votes!

Life is unfair, we think at such times. When will Schultz explain why?

Benen on Brzezinski: We strongly recommend this post by Benen, and the July 6 post which preceded it (click here). Mika Brzezinksi has been defiantly unintelligent on Morning Joe since the program began. Luckily, she has a chic bob—it’s why she’s on—because her work is an unending marvel.

WE ARE THE CHILDREN: In a ceremony broadcast from Los Angeles, we were asked to remember the days when we were told that we were the world. For ourselves, we recalled the video which showed various people, of various “races,” all blending into each other.

We like to pretend that we’re driven by love. But last night, on our TV machine thingy, Our Own Rhodes Scholar, dressed in her waders, was asking the question which follows. She asked her question of Mark McKinnon, one of the biggest hustlers in American politics. McKinnon is Maddow’s latest peculiar choice as a regular guest.

In fairness, we’d assume that Maddow wasn’t lying when she made the inaccurate highlighted statement. We’ll assume she simply got tooken:

MADDOW (7/7/09): You know, I know that you wrote on The Daily Beast about the way that you were described in Todd Purdum’s piece in Vanity Fair last week. And you were very specific to the extent to which you worked with her in preparing for the debate with Joe Biden. Purdum said that some people who worked with Palin literally consulted the definition of narcissistic personality disorder in order to try to understand her. And I don’t want you to try to vouch for anything that anybody else has said.

MCKINNON: OK.

MADDOW: But from the time that you worked with her, do you think that it’s possible that she’s a little off? That she’s—I mean, she’s strange and unpredictable, but do you think that she’s literally a little wrong?

Just gaze on Our Rhodes Scholar now!

Sorry, losers! You really have to be a simpleton—and an ass—to keep pimping that DSM diagnosis at all, as Our Own Rhodes Scholar did in this question to her new regular friend. In fairness, Maddow is quite inexperienced in politics—and it persistently shows. After all, even Maureen Dowd didn’t pretend that Purdum was citing “some people who worked with Palin” when he played the pure/perfect fool and peddled that tired old “diagnosis”—the one that’s more often applied to Obama. (To read Dowd’s column, click this.) Purdum, a “very dishonest guy” (Bill Clinton), may have been trying to give that impression—but Dowd, who’s apparently smarter than Maddow, didn’t go for the feint. Below, we show you what Purdum, a “scumbag” (Bill Clinton), actually wrote in his piece. Just for the record: This two-paragraph passage has the look of a “Ceci Maneuver:”

PURDUM (8/09): Not quite a year after Bitney’s departure, Mike Tibbles abruptly resigned as chief of staff, for reasons that neither he nor Palin has ever explained. Jim Lottsfeldt, a friend of Tibbles’s, says that the chief of staff was worn down “by the steady drumbeat of her not consulting with him.” She replaced Tibbles with Mike Nizich, a part-time taxidermist, who over 30 years had served seven governors of both parties, most of that time as director of the state Division of Administration—a man who made the trains run on time in the governor’s office but had nothing to do with policy issues. Palin’s effectiveness was never again the same. The brutal reality is that many people who have worked closely with Palin have found themselves disillusioned.

More than once in my travels in Alaska, people brought up, without prompting, the question of Palin’s extravagant self-regard. Several told me, independently of one another, that they had consulted the definition of “narcissistic personality disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—“a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy”—and thought it fit her perfectly. When Trig was born, Palin wrote an e-mail letter to friends and relatives, describing the belated news of her pregnancy and detailing Trig’s condition; she wrote the e-mail not in her own name but in God’s, and signed it “Trig’s Creator, Your Heavenly Father.”

You’ll note that Purdum doesn’t say that his [two] psychiatric sleuths were “people who worked with Palin.” He may have been trying to give that impression, given the highlighted statement’s propinquity to what he says at the end of that previous paragraph. But trust us: If [two] people who actually worked with Palin had told Todd Purdum they thought she was nuts, Purdum would have said so, quite clearly, in unmistakable language. If [two] people who actually worked with Palin had been looking her up in the DSM, that would have formed Purdum’s headline. Dowd apparently understood that—and didn’t buy his insinuation (intended or otherwise). Maddow, who may be less savvy than Dowd, may not have understood this.

Maddow, who may be dumber than Dowd, played the fool in repeating this DSM nonsense at all. But she also embellished what Purdum said—then sat on TV, in her waders, asking her latest slippery friend if he thought Palin was perhaps “a little off,” or “literally a little wrong.”

Dear Rachel tried to be kind in her choice of words—as she stood there in her waders, saying, Oh please please please please! Look at me!

But then, what a gang of hacks and pimps now run the emerging “progressive” firmament! Yesterday, we swayed together in L.A., saying our ethos is built around notions of love and understanding. But peddlers like Maddow have worked hard this week to showcase the tribal stupidity—the reflexive tribal hatred—which seem to lie at the sorry heart of the emerging pseudo-progressive world. After chatting with her slippery new friend—and no, McKinnonn didn’t think that Palin is “a little off,” “literally a little wrong”—Maddow clowned her way through a hapless discussion with Ana Marie Cox, who is now tasked with being polite while Maddow asks strings of unintelligent questions about domestic politics. (Last night, Cox had to tell her thick-headed host several times: John Ensign was never a contender!) In particular, Maddow clowned about Palin’s claim that she was quitting her job due to a barrage of ethics complaints. In her actual complaint, of course, Palin claims these are nuisance complaints. But so what? Treating her viewers like low-IQ fools, Maddow pretended that she didn’t know that. McKinnon played along.

A real news program might have tried to evaluate that claim by Palin. But Rachel Maddow, Our Own Rhodes Scholar, simply pretended she didn’t know what Palin has been claiming.

Maddow is a grasping person. Then too, there’s Our Own Economics Professor. In L.A., it was all about seeing ourselves in the other, into whom we might seamlessly blend. By way of contrast, for Our Own Professor, it was about taking tribal pride in this perfected ignorance:

OUR OWN PROFESSOR (7/7/09): Why Sarah?

The whole Sarah Palin "phenomenon" has been pretty weird. I've tried to figure out why she's so loved in wingnut world, where even they have to occasionally pick up on the fact that she's pretty absurd. And I guess I come back to what I usually do: they love her because they thinks she pisses off liberals.

We're not angry, we're laughing.

Our Own Professor has been trying to figure why Palin is loved “in wingnut world.” Other professors might grasp something obvious; if you start out defining a group of people as “wing nuts,” you’re not likely to figure out how they see the world. In our view, Palin was the worst candidate ever—will almost certainly be the same if she runs for the White House. But anyone with two IQ points to rub together could come up with some obvious reasons why conservatives like her. Two quickies: They feel she lived her values when she gave birth last year. They admire the way she took out King Frank Murkowski in 2006, when he was her state’s reigning Republican governor.

Duh. How hard are such things to fathom? We liberals would love to see a Democratic pol living out our own liberal values; perhaps because we see it so rarely, Our Own Professor couldn’t conjure it as a possible reason. And liberals did love it, for obvious reasons, when a “regular person” went after King Joseph Lieberman, almost turning him out of office; Our Own Professor can’t seem to recall, even as he strains for reasons why wing nuts might love Sarah. But then, even as we swayed in L.A., Our Own Professor was preaching that ancient tribal hatred—the prehistoric tribal hatred in which one clan can’t even imagine how those in the other clan might feel. The tribal hatred in which weak, small minds boast of their weakness and smallness.

In Los Angeles, images of different people blended into each other. In Philadelphia, Our Own Professor boasted that he can’t perform such a move of the mind—that he is prehistoric, unwell. (In fairness, he probably knows that the other clan’s limbic brains don’t work right.)

You saw endless crap in the ether this week, endless crap which was being served by us pseudo-progressives. (Palin could be the GOP nominee yet, by the time we get through with this garbage!) We’re dumb as rocks—and proud of the fact that we can’t imagine. Indeed, we’ve reached the point where Our Own Rhodes Scholar is dumber than Maureen Dowd!

We are the world? We are the children? In the sense defined by Lord of the Flies, we have that second part right!

Speaking of who isn’t right: After Maddow trashed the world in April, we read through quite few of the profiles which have been written about her. We had quite a few reactions to what we read, but for the most part, we didn’t present them. It’s very unwise for rubes like us to wade into those DSM waters—especially if we’re such perfect marks that we get taken in by a hack like Todd Purdum.

In our view, Maddow seems to be quite a package, based upon the things we read. (In her defense, she’s quite young.) For connoisseurs, we especially recommend her final explanation for why she broke down and bought that TV set, thus depriving herself of the Great Distinction which seemed to lead every profile. (For some wonderful comedy, just click here. In our reading of the profiles, Maddow always finds a way to save the claim that she’s just a bit better than others.) But here’s the bottom line: Our Own Rhodes Scholar is so inexperienced, she may not realize that Purdum’s a hack! Even Dowd didn’t buy his feint about who said that Palin is nuts. Omigod! Even Dowd saw through his construction!

How low a point has our movement reached? Unless she was simply lying last night, Our Own Rhodes Scholar didn’t.

The soul of a scumbag like Purdum: Purdum is truly one of the worst, as Bill Clinton explained. (He even looks like Milbank!) How slick and slippery are people like this? Consider the highlighted sentence in this passage about Palin’s gubernatorial campaign:

PURDUM (8/99): Palin’s 2006 campaign for governor relied at first almost wholly on a ragtag band of true believers. “She had this little grassroots group that was going around the state on a wing and a prayer, talking up her platitudes,” says John Bitney, an old friend of Palin’s from junior-high band in Wasilla, where he played the trombone and she played the flute. Bitney at the time was a lobbyist and veteran legislative aide in Juneau, and he began passing political intelligence and advice to Palin. When Palin routed Murkowski in the Republican primary, she still had no real professional campaign staff. Bitney signed on, forming a triumvirate with Curtis Smith, a veteran Anchorage media consultant, and Kris Perry, another old friend of Palin’s from Wasilla, who functioned as her personal assistant and also held the title of campaign manager. Palin began preparing for a general-election campaign against Tony Knowles, the former two-term Democratic governor, and Andrew Halcro, a former Republican legislator who was running as an independent.

She apparently didn’t like preparing for debates back then either. “In the campaign for governor, they’re prepping her for debate,” Curtis Smith’s former business partner, Jim Lottsfeldt, told me recently in Anchorage, “and Curtis says, ‘The debate prep’s going horribly. Every time we try to help her with an answer, she just gets mad.’” (Smith himself says, “Unfortunately, I don’t recall having that exact conversation with Mr. Lottsfeldt, nor do I recall my experience, including debate prep, with Governor Palin in the light he portrayed.”)

“She apparently didn’t like preparing for debates back then either,” Purdum happily snarks. Unfortunately, he has already reported, one page earlier, that Palin did prepare hard in 2008 for her VP debate, miraculously avoiding disaster. (We were quite disappointed.) Purdum describes a three-day prep session in Arizona: “Palin worked hard, and the results were adequate.” McKinnon, who helped her during that prep, said similar things last night.

“Palin worked hard,” Purdum says on page 2 (on-line). By page 3, he’s implying the opposite. But creeps like Purdum exist to snark—and to invent better worlds for VF’s blue-state subscribers.