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HACKS LIKE US! Liberals once hated those dead intern tales. Now, the tales come from us: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JULY 9, 2010

The New York Times duzn’t argyoo reel gud: We’re often amazed by the ways the New York Times editors argue their positions. Is anyone else this clueless about the way certain claims will sound to the public?

For an example, consider this editorial about Donald Berwick, who has been appointed to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (It’s a very important position.) At issue is the political danger involved in talk about “rationing” health care. The highlighted presentation strikes us as amazingly foolish:

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (7/8/10): His appointment is backed by the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and scores of other health organizations and patient advocacy groups. He has been endorsed by three predecessors who held the same job in Republican administrations.

Even so, some Republican senators have portrayed Dr. Berwick as a proponent of socialized medicine because he has expressed great admiration for Britain’s National Health Service. They also call him an advocate of rationing care and even suggest he favors “death panels,” a politically potent falsehood.

Yet Dr. Berwick spoke an obvious truth when he declared that “the decision in not whether or not we will ration care—the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.” Care is already rationed by insurance company decisions about what services to cover and by high prices that make insurance and medical care unaffordable to millions of Americans.

Typical. The editors complain that some Republican senators call Berwick “an advocate of rationing care.” But in their very next breath, they quote Berwick saying that we will be “rationing care.” They call this “an obvious truth.”

Will we really be “rationing care” under our new health arrangements? It sounds cool when liberals say such things—but only to other liberals. To everyone else, it sounds like something very bad is about to occur—and it sounds like we’ve acknowledged that the other side was right all along, in the long rhetorical wars about our new health arrangements.

As everyone but the editors knows, “rationing” is the atom bomb of current health care rhetoric. Whatever Berwick meant by his statement, he chose an extremely infelicitous way to express his view. That said, we return to our basic question: Will we really be “rationing care” under our new health arrangements? What exactly do the editors mean when they make this statement? This is the atom bomb of the health care debate—but the editors toss this term around as if they’re handing pieces of holiday candy to the lesser staff.

Why do the editors flounder so? We think of the famous New Yorker film critic, Pauline Kael, who was quoted saying this in December 1972:

KAEL (1972): I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don't know. They're outside my ken. But sometimes when I'm in a theater I can feel them.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Unfortunately, 61 percent of the nation had just voted for Nixon. But because she lived in a special world, Kael knew only one such person, though she could feel others in theaters. (Kael was quoted in the New York Times on 12/28/72.)

Do the editors of the Times live in a special world today? We thought their treatment of Arizona’s immigration law was also rather clumsy in this editorial, which also appeared on Thursday. But then, people who live in special worlds often don’t know the way their words will sound to the vast unwashed. They have a tendency to make their case in ways which are misleading and self-defeating.

It’s obvious that we’ll be rationing care? In such ways, liberals lose.

HACKS LIKE US (permalink): Where were you in the Summer of 01—the glorious season before 9/11?

Many liberals were asleep in the woods, not yet roused to awareness by the war in Iraq. Here at THE HOWLER, our conduct that year was much more heroic. We wasted mountains of time that summer researching the press corps’ disgraceful conduct in the Gary Condit/Chandra Levy matter. As you may recall, this was the missing person case which clogged discussions on cable “news” right through September 10.

The conduct of our cable pundits was truly disgraceful that summer. It had only been three years since the thrilling “Year of Lewinsky;” Republican hit-men and cable hacks framed this story accordingly. Republican killers like the late Barbara Olson worked to drive an iconic theme: Democratic politicians are constantly screwing young women. Cable hacks played along with the topic, which presumably kept ratings high.

Most disgracefully, the cable corps invented two pieces of “evidence” designed to make it seem more likely that Condit had murdered Levy. It’s hard to believe that professional “journalists’ would engage in such disgraceful conduct. But then again, what was really new? In the summer of 1999, two major cable “news” programs had thrilled to Gennifer Flowers’ murder claims against both Clintons! By the summer of 2001, the people who play the cable “news” game were steeped in moral and intellectual squalor—a squalor their more respectable colleagues simply refused to denounce.

Now, a mere nine years later, those cable scumbags are us! We refer to the thrill in the pseudo-liberal world about Joe Scarborough’s “dead intern problem.” People who have been playing this sick, empty game should crawled off the stage and confess.

The problem begins with Markos Moulitsas, who has been quite busy this summer, getting conned by his pollster even while he issues slimy insinuations about this “dead intern.” Markos refers to the late Lori Klausutis, a 28-year-old woman who wasn’t an intern at the time she died, in the summer of 2001. In fact, Klausutis was a paid staffer to Joe Scarborough, then a Republican congressman. Klausutis worked as a constituent services coordinator in Scarborough’s Pensacola office.

Simple story: Markos has been referring to Klausutis as a “dead intern” because we liberals are becoming the scumbags we once claimed to despise.

If you don’t know the back-story here, Alex Pareen summarizes in this report at Salon. Pareene’s report has its own problems:

PAREENE (7/7/10): This is what Markos is talking about: Back in the summer of 2001, Scarborough, who was divorced at the time, announced his intention to retire from Congress to spend more time with his children. Shortly after that announcement, an intern named Lori Klausutis was found dead in his Florida office.

At the time, the national press was obsessed with Gary Condit, a Democratic Congressmen who was all-but-accused of killing an intern whom he'd been sleeping with. No such attention fell on Scarborough. (Then 9/11 happened.)

Kos was arguing that Scarborough was the beneficiary of a media double standard whereby scandals ginned up by conservative activists receive attention far beyond what they merit. (Kos was also intentionally needling Scarborough.)

Scarborough responded by saying Kos regularly accuses Scarborough of being a murderer, which Kos disputes.

Pareene refers to Klausutis as an intern, although she wasn’t. He notes that Scarborough “was divorced at the time,” although there was never any indication that Scarborough was involved with Klausutis. He refers to Levy as an intern, although she wasn’t an intern for Condit. He misstates what Scarborough said in response to Markos’ attempt to “needle” him by dragging out the slime.

Can we summarize? Markos showed extremely poor judgment—and extremely poor taste—in his recent posts on this subject. Just so you’ll know, here’s the tweet which started this whole fandango. (For Markos’ full report, just click here.) Markos was responding to Scarborough’s claim that the press corps had failed to pursue contradictions in the Joe Sestak job-offer story:

markos: Like story of a certain dead intern. RT @JoeNBC: Luckily for the White House, the media has been negligent on this story since Day 1.

Friends of Markos were thereby told that there had been some sort of “dead intern.” And it seemed that the media had somehow been negligent with respect to this story. That’s pretty much garbage, pure and simple—though it defines the way the pseudo-lib world is increasingly playing the game.

Has the media somehow “been negligent” when it comes to the death of Klausutis? Markos fails to offer any reason for thinking this is so. He just drags a dead woman back through the mud, behaving like the kind of person we liberals once claimed to despise.

Sorry—there was never any apparent reason to pursue the death of Lori Klausutis as a political scandal. Why was the Condit case a real news story, but not the Scarborough case? Duh. Because Condit was actually having an affair with the missing person! Because Condit was an actual “person of interest” for the DC police, by dint of that affair! By way of contrast, there was never any indication that Scarborough was romantically tied to Klausutis, or that he had played any role in her death at all. (In the long report to which we have linked, Kos calls such notions “tin foil.”) The Condit case involved an actual police investigation—an investigation which centered on Condit. No such circumatance obtained in the case of Klausutis’ death.

The pundit corps behaved disgracefully in the Levy matter, inventing bogus “evidence” which painted Condit as a murderer. But the case of Condit and Levy was an actual news story, involving an actual sexual relationship and an actual police investigation. There is little comparison with the death of Klausitis—except in the minds of pseudo-liberals who are behaving a great deal like the people they once claimed to oppose.

How far has the liberal world fallen? Just consider this remarkable post by a deservedly top liberal blogger, a post which ratchets the foolishness further, along with the moral squalor. This deeply unfortunate post refers to this matter as “Joe Scarborough’s dead intern problem;” it tells liberal readers that Scarborough has “a forgotten scandal in his past.” (Headline” “Resurrection Of A Scandal.”) It suggests that readers should bring themselves up to speed on this scandal, especially if they started reading the web after 2002. “Now we all have no choice but to rehash the whole thing,” liberal readers are told.

If you read the comments, you will see that some liberals are quite eager to be stampeded off this way. Remember when we used to laugh at the other side’s gullible “ditto-heads?”

While we’re at it, can we note how much we’re being dumbed down? In her post, Digby links her liberal readers to this antique report about the death of Klausutis. What is striking about that link? Digby also links to Markos’s long report, in which Markos refers to that very report as a bit of “tin foil.”

Let’s repeat: All the way back in 2005, Markos referred to that overheated report as an example of “tin foil.” But so what? Five years later, our side’s standards have fallen so far that Digby links to that same report and urges us to read it!

But then, isn’t Klausutis just a thing, a thing to be dragged through the mud? After all, Klausutis was a Republican—a member of the other tribe! Had she lived, she’d be a tea-bagger! Why show respect for such offal?

Here at THE HOWLER, we spent the Summer of 2001 dissecting the despicable coverage designed to make Condit a murderer. Easily, this was among the most disgraceful “journalistic” behavior we’ve observed in our years at this site. But we didn’t spend our time that summer playing the fool about Scarborough. As we now know, Gary Condit played no role in the death of Chandra Levy—but then, there has never been any sign that Scarborough played any role in the death of Lori Klausutis. Markos seems like a very nice guy. But he played the role of the viral scum hog when he dredged this story up (again!) and suggested otherwise.

We’ve linked you to three liberal posts which help define our downward spiral.. Might we offer a minor thought about the way politics works?

Increasingly, Corporate Power rules American life—and Power will always seek to divide and conquer. Corporate Power loves this sprawling stupidification—and it loves the moral squalor involved in our conduct this week. When rubes like us swallow this garbage down, we get hardened inside our two warring camps. As we smear and insult one another, we’re kept from seeing that both our tribes are being ripped off by the powerful interests which direct American life.

As we smear and insult one another, Corporate Power spreads its tentacles all through American life. On the upside, we rubes do get to gambol and play. We get to express our tribal loathing—the oldest tool of Power.

Final point: It’s hardly surprising that Kos has been banned from MSNBC for a while. His insinuations were very unwise—and they resemble the type of behavior we once all claimed to despise.

We’re all unwise now and then. Beyond that, we met the late Barbara Olson once—and she was very pleasant! But a question comes to mind as we peruse this week’s gruesome work. Does the soul of Olson live—on the liberal web?