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YOUR ASSIGNMENT, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT! Gingrich played the fool about race. But so did some liberal leaders: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, JULY 28, 2010

What does Matthews do with his time: The analysts groaned last night as they watched our liberal leaders, the ones who get paid seven figures.

Their groaning started during The Ed Show. Unfortunately, the Bush tax cuts were hitting Ed’s hot buttons last night—had him fired up. And when our millionaires get fired up, they sometimes churn nonsense like this:

SCHULTZ (7/27/10): Joining me now is Curtis Dubay, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. Mr. Dubay, good to have you with us tonight.

Do the extension of these tax cuts, the position of the Heritage Foundation, do the extension of these tax cuts create jobs?

DUBAY: Yes, absolutely. Well, I shouldn’t say they create any more jobs. These are policies that have been in place for a decade now—

SCHULTZ: Well, wait a minute! What is it? Either they create jobs or they don’t! You just contradicted yourself. If we extend the Bush tax cuts here, will it create jobs?

DUBAY: It will prevent jobs from being destroyed. If—

SCHULTZ: But it won’t create jobs, right? I'm talking about job creation.

DUBAY: We’re not changing the tax code. This is the tax policy that’s been in place for a decade now. We’re not cutting taxes. We`re keeping in place the policies that have been there for a decade. If we increase taxes, we will destroy jobs.

SCHULTZ: No, no, no! We’re not increasing taxes! We would be following the law that the Republicans passed! Did they not pass it?

If the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire, the marginal tax rate will go from its current 35 percent to 39.6 percent. But from this point on, Schultz kept loudly insisting that this wouldn’t be a “tax increase,” because “the Republicans passed it” (the initial law, which expires this year). Such silly semantics dominated as Schultz kept talking over his guest, making us liberals dumber.

Before he was done, Schultz would present a thoroughly bungled statistic about the cost of extending the tax cuts. And in the passage we’ve posted above, you can see him arguing with Dubay about the distinction between creating jobs versus saving jobs—a perfectly valid distinction, a distinction Democrats have been asserting over the past two years.

When we go from 35 percent to 40 percent, that isn’t a tax increase! If you can’t see the absurdity of that sort of bluster, you’re a perfect tribal liberal—the kind this channel adores.

Sadly, things only got worse on Hardball, as Chris Matthews and two guests tried to discuss the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case.

All three men thought the case was minor, with which we would heartily agree. One guest thought it should be investigated by the Congress, as the GOP has advised; the other guest wouldn’t bother. But as the discussion unfolded, the facts of this case were just as garbled as when the case gets discussed on Fox. Matthews quoted conservative Abigail Thernstrom, of the civil rights commission, explaining how hard it is to prosecute a case of this type—but he didn’t seem to know that the decision not to prosecute was made under President Bush. Nor could a viewer have learned from this program that one of the two New Panthers present at the polling place was pursued in court under Obama, in a civil action. Here are two pathetic attempts by Matthews to outline the facts of the case. He’s paid $5 million per year—and he has no fracking idea what he’s talking about:

MATTHEWS (7/27/10): For weeks, Fox News and its friends have been whipping up white hysteria over allegations that members of the New Black Panther Party, two of them, intimidated voters in Philadelphia two years ago. The Justice Department found insufficient evidence to investigate the case, and now all seven Senate Republicans on the U.S. Judiciary Committee of the Senate want the Justice Department to investigate itself. Is this yet another example of a rightist strategy to stir up racial resentment among whites by portraying whites as victims of black rule in the country?

[...]

MATTHEWS: OK. Before—in other words, we’re talking about a classic civil rights case, where the, where the civil rights of the voters in this case were violated, allegedly, by a group—by the fact the government did not investigate. In other words, the Justice Department itself, you say, has to be investigated. That`s what you’re saying right now, Michael [Smerconish], the Justice Department of Eric Holder has to be investigated.

Truly, that’s pathetic. In fact, the Justice Department did investigate the case, under President Bush—and decided not to bring criminal charges. (Instead, they filed a civil complaint.) Under Obama, the Justice Department dropped the civil complaint against one of the men at the polling place, but continued the case against the other, winning an injunction. Matthews seemed to have no idea of these facts—of any basic facts of this case. He knew his channel’s party line, and that was the extent of his knowledge.

By the way, those seven Senate Republicans want this matter investigated by the Senate. As you can see in that first statement, Chris bungled that basic fact too.

If you watched this segment last night, you got the same murky factual outline you typically get on Fox. If anything, Matthews’ repeated statement that the DOJ didn’t investigate is even dumber, and more incriminating, than the brew that gets served on Fox. Matthews didn’t show the slightest sign of knowing any facts in this case. He presented the same bungled portrait you hear on Fox. He just spun from the other side.

Matthews has been pond scum for decades. Question: What does this scummy man do all day long? How does he manage to stay so uninformed, on so many high-profile topics? The big slime ball “earns” $5 million per year. Question: As he makes the liberal world dumber, what does he do with his time?

YOUR ASSIGNMENT, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT (permalink): Last Monday’s trashing of Shirley Sherrod was really something to see. The incident opened many windows on our long-broken discourse.

We speak about Monday, July 19, the day Shirley Sherrod got slimed, like so many before her. The day’s events were set in motion by the serially gruesome Andrew Breitbart, who posted his latest misleading video clip at 11:18 in the morning.

Given events of the past year, it’s hard to believe that anyone still takes a clip from Breitbart at anything like face value. Beyond that, this clip included some narrative elements which should have warned a smart viewer to exercise caution before he or she jumped to conclusions. But Breitbart’s post included an account of what Sherrod supposedly said “in her meandering speech.” And according to Breitbart’s account of that speech, “this federally appointed executive bureaucrat lays out, in stark detail, that her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions.”

Wow! It sounded very bad. But that how this big baboon plays it.

In fact, nothing dimly resembling that state of affairs is “laid out” in Sherrod’s full speech. In this case, Breitbart’s clip and synopsis weren’t just misleading; they turned the world upside down. But from the description Breitbart posted, there was no way to know that he had only seen a few short minutes of a fairly long speech. (This is the claim he’s currently making, though we know of no reason why we should believe him.) Result: Before the day was done, three major American organizations had come down on Sherrod, quite hard:

The Obama Admin: Sometime Monday afternoon, the Department of Agriculture hounded Sherrod off the road during a long car ride through Georgia. They insisted she pull her car off the road and resign, right there, on the spot.

The Fox News Channel: Starting at 8:50 PM, the Fox News Channel began airing parts of Breitbart’s video clip, while accusing Sherrod of racist conduct. Such judgments were voiced on three consecutive programs (O’Reilly, Hannity, On the Record). FoxNews.com had posted an article about the matter earlier in the day.

The NAACP: At 9:10 PM, Benjamin Jealous, head of the NAACP, authored a Twitter post about Sherrod: "Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race. We are appalled by her actions.”

As noted, it’s hard to believe that anyone with an ounce of sense still credits a video clip from Breitbart. But the American discourse has been an embarrassing, low-IQ gong-show for at least the past two decades—and the gong shows haven’t all come from “the right.” By 9:15 last Monday night, three major American organizations had accepted Breitbart’s account of the speech. One of the three had made Sherrod resign. The other two, in public ways, had accused her of racist conduct.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, and if you’re a good pseudo-liberal:

Blame Fox News for this whole affair, while underplaying the awkward fact that the Obama Administration and the NAACP reached the same damn-fool conclusion. Insist that this proves that Fox is racist, while failing to mention the gross bad judgment shown by the other two groups.

Warning! This assignment is especially tricky because of something that happened on Fox. On that first night’s Hannity program, Newt Gingrich, introduced as a guest, was asked to comment on Breitbart’s tape. He voiced a trademark Gingrichian claim—but praised the wisdom of Vilsack:

GINGRICH (7/19/10): Let me say, first of all, Secretary Vilsack did exactly the right thing. I mean, I often disagree with this administration, but firing her after that kind of a viciously racist attitude was exactly the right thing to do. And the fact that we have to be genuinely color-blind, you know, you can't be a black racist any more than you can be a white racist.

And I just think it would be good for those of us who are often critical of the administration to recognize that here's a case where Secretary Vilsack did exactly the right thing, moved very promptly and fired somebody who frankly shouldn't be serving the American people, because they clearly had a set of attitudes inappropriate for a federal official.

Gingrich’s head was way up his keister again; he had been tooken by Breitbart’s latest. And please note: In a trademark Gingrichian touch, Sherrod’s attitude couldn’t simply be racist; it had to be viciously so. But however one might want to criticize Newt, the former speaker’s comments create a problem for us pseudo-liberals. Uh-oh! Once Secretary Vilsack had fired Sherrod, it’s hard to blame the other party for drawing the obvious conclusion. Gingrich reminded the world of this problem when he appeared on this weekend’s Fox News Sunday, fending off a string of good questions from his host, Chris Wallace:

WALLACE (7/25/10): Speaker, was that irresponsible, calling her “viciously racist,” based on an Internet clip that had been taken out of context?

GINGRICH: Well, remember, I was operating in the context of the Secretary of Agriculture having summarily fired her. And therefore, there was no reason to disbelieve the clip. And what you see was one more example of continuing incompetence. Apparently, she didn't even get the courtesy of a chance to talk to the Secretary of Agriculture, who I suspect fired her under pressure from the White House. And she says she was told that they were firing her under pressure from the White House. So my comments were in the context of a clip which had been validated by the Secretary of Agriculture who had fired her.

Clearly, when you look at the complete clip and when you look at the background information and when you listen to the white farmer say she'd actually been very helpful, I think it's a fair case to be made that this administration acted with destructive irresponsibility in the way that they fired her.

In a trademark Gingrichian touch, the administration couldn’t simply be irresponsible; it had to be destructively so. And some other things never seem to change. Having jumped to a bogus conclusion about Sherrod, Newt now let us know what he “suspects” about the reason why Vilsack acted.

Gingrich was short with apologies, like CNN’s Roland Martin before him. But he made a fairly decent point about last Monday’s events. By the time Gingrich spoke on the night of the crime, Vilsack had already fired Sherrod—and he’d offered an unflattering statement about her. “There is zero tolerance for discrimination in USDA and I strongly condemn any acts of discrimination against any person,” Vilsack had unwisely said.

Hannity quoted Vilsack’s statement as he brought Gingrich on.

Gingrich has authored loud, unintelligent bombast about racism before. On Fox News Sunday, Wallace went on to pepper him with questions about the way he called Sonia Sotomayor a racist last year, before he later apologized. (Transcript below.) Beyond that, Fox News has often engaged in stupid work about race; the channel promoted the hapless, insignificant New Black Panther Party all through the past decade, in a transparent attempt to gimmick up racial discomfort. Its more recent work about the New Black Panthers was less baldly absurd, but it was riddled with misinformation and spin, in the worst “journalistic” tradition.

Plainly, these facts were part of the story as the Sherrod affair unfolded. The past behavior of Fox News is clearly one part of the mix. But then again, Gingrich had a valid point about the timing of Monday’s events. Vilsack fired Shirley Sherrod before Gingrich ever opened his mouth—and Vilsack accused her of discrimination. And sure enough! The NAACP jumped in with its own denunciation of Sherrod just about five minutes after Gingrich spoke.

Andrew Breitbart started this mess, but many others performed rather badly. As such, this incident gives us a chance to review the broken, gong-show nature of our political discourse, with the conduct of Fox being one part of the mix. But sure enough! Several major liberal leaders have clowned, dissembled and embarrassed themselves in the days since that Monday night.

One part of the gong-show is us.

Which liberal leaders have bungled here, adding to the chaos? In our view, Howard Dean made a minor fool of himself on last that s same Fox News Sunday program, although the liberal web cheered him on. Dean then topped himself the next evening, appearing on The Ed Show. Meanwhile, the host of that show has never met a racial claim he wasn’t willing to make. And Salon’s Joan Walsh made some odd statements on Sunday’s Reliable Sources, then hurried off to post a report which seemed to deny that she’d done so.

(Walsh appeared on with Matt Lewis, a ridiculous pseudo-conservative hack who refused to answer a string of questions about Breitbart’s obvious culpability. Incredibly, Walsh managed to make Lewis look right by the end of the segment.)

One last question: Have you ever seen a full account of the NAACP’s resolution about racism and the Tea Party? (Almost surely, the answer is no.) If you think the NAACP behaved foolishly last week, you ought to consider what this deeply important group did one week before that.

It’s always easy to spot the bad conduct and bungled reasoning coming from those on the other side. Her at THE HOWLER, our analysts have groaned, writhed, wrung hands and howled as our own “intellectual leaders” have fumbled about in the past several week, disrespecting the history of race—and making Matt Lewis look wise.

Tomorrow: That resolution

The loudest dog in the show: As Wallace continued to question Gingrich, he turned to the speaker’s past complaints about Sotomayor’s alleged racism. Below, you see where the dog-and-pony show went as Newt declaimed about that:

GINGRICH (continuing from above): Clearly, when you look at the complete clip and when you look at the background information and when you listen to the white farmer say she'd actually been very helpful, I think it's a fair case to be made that this administration acted with destructive irresponsibility in the way that they fired her.

WALLACE: But in fairness, this is not the first time you've done it. Last year, when the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court came up and those comments about “the wise Latina woman”—comments were released, you tweeted this: "White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw." You later apologized, but again, why so quick—

GINGRICH: Well, what I said later—

WALLACE: Let me just finish. Why so quick to call people racists?

GINGRICH: What I said about Sotomayor I think still stands, which was the statements she made were clearly racist. Now, I don't know—have any idea in her heart whether she's a racist.

But you go back and look at her exact quotes, and they were quotes which, if you put in white male instead of Latina, you would absolutely say that was a statement of a racist. When you look at what happened the other night, I was reacting directly to somebody who had been fired by the White House and the secretary of Agriculture based on the clip which had been shown.

And my point was one I think that you'd agree with, which is there's no room in America for a black racist, a Latino racist or a white racist or an Asian racist or a Native American racist. Now, we're either color-blind or we're not color-blind.

WALLACE: Let me bring in Governor Dean...

Newt’s comments were really quite stupid—but Wallace’s question was really quite good. “Why so quick to call people racists?” It’s a question which often flits through our mind as we watch our liberal “intellectual leaders” at work—or, perhaps, at play.

Sadly, as Wallace turned to Dean, other foolish comments emerged. It’s easy to spot the other side’s groaners—but in the next few days, we’ll ask you a question:

We like Dean, but can you spot his errors? Can you spot his lack of preparation—his apparent bad faith?