Its time for a whole lot of people to go: In Thursdays New York Times, Jennifer Medina reported on New York States math and reading scores for 2010. How far did passing rates fall this year? Gaze on the state of the wreckage:
MEDINA (7/29/10): The falloff in passing rates occurred statewide. This year, 61 percent of state students were deemed passing, or at grade level, in math, compared with 86 percent last year. Students also performed dismally on the English tests, with 53 percent passing, down from 77 percent.
Say what? Last year, 86 percent of New York states students were at grade level in math. This year, only 61 percent were at grade level? Its equally bad in reading (English).
How is that even possible?
Medina explains in her reportand no, students arent really doing worse in math this year. That said, our judgment would have to be this: In a rational world, it would be time for a whole lot of people to go, Medina perhaps among them.
Well postpone this topic until Monday, so vast was last nights debacle on Hardball (see below). But go aheadyou can read Medinas report yourself.
Is it time for Medina (and her editor) to go? And why would we even suggest that?
CAPTURING A WEEK THAT WAS (permalink): Pretty much everyone agrees that Shirley Sherrod is a good, decent person. For ourselves, well throw in a very strong admirable. We strongly suggest that you review the part of her speech we posted on Tuesday, the part which deals with her family history from the 1960s. Just take in her mothers life story! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/27/10.)
Pretty much everyone agrees about Sherrod. For that reason, well start by saying we thought she was pretty much wrong in what she said, in the highlighted statements below, about Andrew Breitbart. Sherrod spoke with Anderson Cooper, three days after Breitbarts edited video clip led to Sherrods dismissal:
COOPER (7/22/10): I want to ask you about the man who first posted this edited clip of you, Andrew Breitbart. He said todayand I'm quoting himhe said, quote: If anybody reads the sainted, martyred Sherrods entire speech, this person has not gotten past black vs. white. Do you think you have gotten past black vs. white?
SHERROD: I know I have gotten past black vs. white. He's probably the person who has never gotten past it and never attempted to get past it. So, he can't seebecause he has never tried and because he hasn't, he can't see what I have done to get past it. And he's not interested in what I have done to get past it. I don't think he's interested in seeing anyone get past it, because I think he would like to get us stuck back in the times of slavery. That's where I think he would like to see all black people end up again. And that's why I think he's so vicious.
COOPER: You thinkyou think he's racist?
SHERROD: Yes, I do. And I think that's why he's so vicious against a black president, you know. He wouldnt go after me. I don't think it was even the NAACP he was totally after. I think he was after a black president.
Is Breitbart racist? We have no idea, nor can we imagine how Sherrod could know. At which point, of course, some white pseudo-liberals, gripping their catechisms, will rise indignantly from their chairs, trembling with indignation and insisting: But black people can just tell!
This brand of hapless white pseudo-liberalism has never helped anyone much.
Is Breitbart racist? We have no idea. He strikes us as one of the nations biggest fools, a point he reinforced in the pitiful comment about Sherrod which Cooper quotes above. But has Breitbart been peddling all this crap because he was after a black president? Lets ask that question a different way:
Would Breitbart be peddling any less crap if Hillary Clinton were in the White House? We know of no reason to think so. And we think its unwise to throw R-bombs around, unless youre spectacularly sure in your judgment, and you have spectacular evidence. We think such conduct is unwise on the merits. And we think it tends to be bad politicstends to hurt progressive intereststhough theres no real way to be sure.
Is it wise to throw R-bombs around? We liberals certainly love to do it! In the past week, Howard Dean has helped us learn how to call the roll. Newt Gingrich isnt a racist, he saidand Chris Wallace certainly isnt a racist. But Fox News did something that is absolutely racist in its handling of the Sherrod matter, he saidand one day later, he told us that Fox News is racist in what they do. Dean never explained who Fox News is (Did he mean Hannity? Why wont he say?) and he didnt answer a fairly obvious question: Since Gingrich pushes all the same pseudo-racial crap Fox News hotly pursues on the air, why is Fox racist in what they do, but Newt himself isnt a racist?
We dont know how Dean forms his racism judgments. Neither does anyone else.
As a general matter, we dont think its smart to call the roll of the nations raciststo throw all those R-bombs around. On Fox News Sunday, Dean even seemed to say that Fox News has been deliberately appealing to the Republican Partys racist fringe. In some way, thats almost certainly true, just as its almost certainly true (in some way) that MSNBC appeals to a crackpot fringe on the left. But is it good politics to parade about, making such sweeping R-statements?
Dean said he goes on shows like Fox News Sunday because he want to reach the Fox audience. Tell the truth: Can you think of a dumber way to perform this task than by suggesting, in mid-stride, that the audience youre trying to reach may be just a big gang of racists? Or is that even what he meant? And how can anyone know?
Is Breitbart racist? We have no idea, though Dean could probably tell us. We do regard Breitbart as one of our biggest foolsbut then, Dean himself has floundered all week, which brings us to last nights debacle on Hardball , a debacle which has been disappeared from the programs video archives. As of 12 noon, you could watch the segment in question on YouTube. Just click here, though it may be gone by now.
For a quick overview of this latest debacle, well link you to this post by Digbya post which includes a chunk of the segments discussion. Warning, though! In the segment Digby posts, you get the impression that host Chris Matthews was grossly misinformed about the Breitbart video clip, and that he alone was at fault in the buffoonish discussion which unfolded. But in last nights through-the-looking-glass chat, that wasnt exactly the case. In the following segment, Matthews was actually right in his highlighted claimthough Joan Walsh, and the perpetually uninformed Dean, didnt seem to understand what he was talking about.
Repeat: Matthews was actually right in the highlighted claims, although confusion was all around. Walsh and Dean were actually wrong. Go aheadgaze on pure chaos:
WALSH (7/29/10): Its a 43-minute tape, Chris. It walks through her whole racial history. He [Breitbart] clipped about two minutes where she seems to be saying, I didnt do the best for this white farmer because he was white. And thats where it ends. And then later, Chris, she goes on to tell this amazing story
MATTHEWS: Oh, I thought that, in the tape that he did put out, that it did include that part in it. What he did to mis-characterize it was to suggest it was in current time, in her role as a federal official.
WALSH: No. No. He did two things
MATTHEWS: .was with the cooperative.
DEAN: He did that, too.
WALSH: He did that, too. There were two lies. But he absolutely clipped, or someone clipped, the tape before she could say the powerful message of redemption that Democrats, at least, believe in.
MATTHEWS: I am right! Youre wrong!
MATTHEWS: Do we have the tape here? We could show this. Because I believe
WALSH: he did two things.
DEAN: Yes, show the tape that was on Fox.
MATTHEWS: his mis-characterization is the problem, where he saidno, where he said that this was something because he said this is what goes on in this administration and then suggested heavily that this was her point of view as a government official, an appointee of this administration.
DEAN: He did that, but he also clipped the tape, so
MATTHEWS: No, it includes in the tape that she understood, that she changed.
WALSH: No, it doesnt. Chris, really, youve got to trust me and the governor on this. [Chuckles.] He really didnt, because she goes on at the end to say, Ive learned that its about poor people. It`s not about black versus white always
MATTHEWS: I think thats in the tape!
WALSH: Its in
MATTHEWS: Thats in the tape!
WALSH: Its not in the tape that Breitbart put out. Its not.
MATTHEWS: Yes, it is! Yes, it is!
DEAN: No. Its not. We promise.
WALSH: We promise.
But it is in the tape that Breitbart put out, though Walsh and Dean kept insisting it isntpromising Matthews, even! Its a minor part of Breitbarts video clip, but in the tape that Breitbart posted, Sherrod is shown saying that she came to realize its more about poor versus rich, less about black versus white. On Day One, alert bloggers cited this part of the clip. It was one of the elements in Breitbarts tape which warned them against accepting the first, unflattering interpretation of Sherrods overall statement.
(Sherrod, on the Breitbart tape: Thats when it was revealed to me that it`s about poor versus those who have. Its not so much about whiteit is about white and black, but its not You know, it opened my eyes... Breitbart even mentions this passage in his account of Sherrods speech. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help, he wrote in his basic synopsis.).
This is what Matthews was talking about. It actually was in the original tape posted by Breitbart. It doesnt mitigate Breitbarts larger offense. But Dean and Walsh just kept insisting that no such thing was in the tape, helping create the massive confusion which made a joke of this segment. Dean and Walsh both promised Matthews that it just wasnt therebut it was. (We never thought wed see a dispute where Matthews was right on some fact.)
To be honest, this is a minor matter, but Dean and Walsh were basically wrong on this fact. More significantly, they showed no sign of understanding what Matthews was talking aboutand they pretty much should have. No, it isnt the end of the world, and Walsh was basically well-informed about the overall Breitbart matter. But this ludicrous segmentwhich has been disappeared from the Hardball sitecaptures the intellectual breakdown which dogs American political culture, and that of the liberal world.
Can we talk? In her original post, Digby saw this chaos as being exclusively Matthews fault. In an update, she included this: In fairness, Howard Dean sputtered foolishly and said that wasn't the clip he'd seen. Ayeyayay. This really is the stupid season. For the record, Dean was actually right in that statement, which he made near the end of this segment: When Fox began airing the Breitbart tape, they shortened it further, eliminating the part of the tape to which Matthews referred. Eventually, Dean acknowledged that he had never seen the tape originally posted by Breitbart; he had only seen the tape as it aired on Fox. This helps explain why he had no f*cking idea what Matthews was talking about, although he appeared on three major TV programs this week to discuss this important matter.
Do our leaders ever prepare?
In a second update, Digby notes that Matthews called Walsh back to the studio to re-do this story on his second broadcast, with Mark Vogel of Politico instead of Dean. Just so we will all be clear: Matthews second broadcast, at 7 PM Eastern, is normally a straight rerun. Last evening, he stayed and completely redid his first segment (live), because the first segment at 5 PM had been such a debaclea debacle in which it became fairly clear that none of the three parties present were fully well-informed. (The rest of the 5 PM program was simply re-aired at 7 PM, as is the normal procedure.)
In fairness, last evenings debacle was a long, rambling version of Whos on first? None of the three participants seemed to know what the others were talking about; this produced a long, confusing, utterly bungled pundit discussion. Its also true that Walsh was right in most of the things she said about the Sherrod matter; she was plainly the clearest and best-informed of these three major players. But in the long segment weve posted above, Walsh and Dean both promise Matthews that something wasnt in the Breitbart tapewhen it actually was in the tape.
They didnt know what Matthews was talking aboutand they really should have.
In some ways, last nights version of Whos on first was just a huge misunderstanding. But it ended a ludicrous week that wasa week in which the shortcomings of the liberal world were put on display again and again, alongside those of the mainstream press corps. In our view, Dean embarrassed himself all week, going on three different TV shows to discuss an important storya story he simply doesnt seem to understand all that well. That said, in last nights endless confusion, we encountered the fruits of the endless, ass-kissing relations between Matthews and the career liberal world.
Lets be frank: Walsh has kissed this gentlemans keister down through all these long years. Presumably, this has produced a business arrangement which is good for Salonbut it has also enabled the serial nonsense which characterizes this horrible program. Reviewing the transcript of last nights program (through Nexis) and watching the tape (on YouTube), it isnt entirely clear how confused Matthews actually was about the Breitbart tapealthough he didnt seem to understand what Walsh and Dean were saying, just as they didnt understand him. But two nights ago, Matthews completely bungled the basic facts of the New Black Panther case (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/28/10). This is something he constantly does, in a wide array of cases.
Its almost impossible to be as poorly informed as Matthews typically is. But in part, this garbage has continued down through the years because major career liberalspeople like Walshhavent complained about this programs gruesome intellectual standards.
You have never read a serious profile of Matthews at Salonand you never will. (Or at the Nation, or in the New Republic. Or at the Washington Monthly. Or in the American Progress.)
Walsh has kissed Hardball keister for years, as career liberals constantly do, advancing their personal interests. But what can explain Digbys recent praise for Matthews new progressive brilliance? Because Digbys archives dont seem to be working, we cant find this (fairly recent) post, but were fairly certain we didnt imagine it. Our analysts screamed and cried and complained when even Digby began to praise the values of the re-purposed Matthewswho does tend to recite his corporate channels new liberal line at this time.
Digbys commenters complained about Matthews last nightbut quite a few complained about Walsh and Dean as well. Later in the tape, Dean and Matthews argue back and forth about what was on the Breitbart tape; it becomes abundantly clear that Dean should never should have gone on TV to discuss this topic at all. Your liberal leaders can be quite cavalier about preparation for such discussions. But so what! They can always fall back on those pleasing R-bombs! In our opinion, Dean (who we like) made a fool of himself on Fox News Sunday. But he tossed his R-bombs around, and so he was praised by Ed Schultz.
In this way, the liberal world gets dumber and dumber. We forget how to argue and win.
This has been a gruesome week. Its essence was captured by last evenings segment. This debacle was basically Whos on first. Three different players couldnt decipher what the others were talking about. But all three should have been able to do so, had they been fully prepared.
Hardball played Whos on first last nightand captured the state of our ludicrous culture. A long, bizarre pundit debacle unfolded. But then again, what else is new?