Too funny! Its fun to speculate! This has always been Lady Dowds function. She helps us see how we humans will reasonif we have the misfortune to live behind some palaces walls.
This morning, Dowd begins with three paragraphs on a key theme: Swifty Lazar was too short. Soon, though, shes providing her latest example of method. The analysts chortled and howled:
DOWD (8/5/09): Its fun to speculate whether Bill and Kim discussed the exchange of insults with Hillary. (North Korea issued a jibe back that Hillary was a funny lady and that sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping.)
You can picture a charming Bill putting matters in perspective: Pay no mind to that, Kimmie. Shes an amazin woman, but she just goes off sometimes. You should hear what she calls me when she gets riled up. An unruly teenager and then some.
Its fun to speculate, her ladyship saysjust before telling us what you can picture. Earlier, she jump-started a bit of musing with one of our most useful words:
DOWD: Maybe it was some clever North Korean revenge plot, giving the limelight to Daddy to punish Mommy.
Or then again, maybe it wasnt! But as Dowd turns the Clintons into Mommy and Daddy again, we get to see the truth anew: Our lady is just flat-out nuts.
Its fun to speculate, Dowd announces, purring her latest from inside Versailles. But then, Professor Bobo recently asked us to imagine what happened in the Gates/Crowley incidentand then, he imagined it only one way. Throughout history, wealth and celebrity have tended to rot the brains of those condemned to attain them. If Harvard professors can reason this way, why not our high lady Dowd?
People! Its fun to speculate! All the analysts chortled and howled.
Pepperidge Farm cant recall: Weve been trying to get to the birther story, but we thought the Gates/Crowley discussion was too instructive to drop. Yesterday, Gene Robinson teed up an easy entree to this other important topic.
As Robinson started, he had to be honest. The columnist said he cant remember anything as crazy as this:
ROBINSON (8/4/09): If there's been a more clinically insane political phenomenon in my lifetime than the "birthers," I've missed it. Is this what our national discourse has come to? Sheer paranoid fantasy?
I'm talking about the people who have convinced themselves that Barack Obama was not really born in the United States, and thus is ineligible to be president. Even some commentators who usually are among Obama's most rabid critics have acknowledged that this idea is simply nuts. Yet it persists, out there on the farthest fringes of the right-wing blogosphere. Oh, and also on CNN, which is usually a little closer to reality.
As he continues, Robinson correctly notes that there is not a scintilla of truth in this whole crazy affair. He correctly scores cosmic loser Lou Dobbs for encouraging this destructive nonsense. As he ends, he wonders if it might be something about Obama that has produced all this lunacy. In recent weeks, all good liberals have stood in line to ask questions like this:
ROBINSON: Is this an orchestrated campaign to somehow delegitimize Obama's presidency? Is the fact that he is the first African American president a factor? Is it that some people can't or won't accept that he won the election and serves as commander in chief?
Maybe, maybe not. Trying to analyze the "birther" phenomenon would mean taking it seriously, and taking it seriously would be like arguing about the color of unicorns. About all that can be said is that a bunch of lost, confused and frightened people have decided to seek refuge in conspiratorial make-believe. I hope they're harmless. And I hope they seek help.
For ourselves, we think this matter should be taken seriously. (And no, the confused people who believe this stuff wont be seeking help.) In fact, weve argued that lineoften gnashing our teethfor perhaps the past seventeen years. We choose that number for a reason. Unlike Robinson, who cant recall, we can remember other incidents which were just as crazy as this. Duh! As everyone but high-ranking journalists knows, such crazy incidents drove our discourse the last time a Dem reached the White House.
Is this attack on Obama simply nuts? Actually, yesit is, quite sadly. But the last time a Democrat went to the White House, the following beliefs were widely assertedand those beliefs were clinically crazy too. But uh-oh! People like Robinson ran off and hid while this lunacy unspooled. Today, they cannot recall:
Those beliefs were also clinically insane; they were widely trumpeted and believed all through the 1990s. Indeed, one of the nations most famous Christian leaders actively pimped the lurid film which detailed the many murders. He remained a cable favoriteand a Meet the Press guest. (See below.) As late as August 1999, two major cable news programs turned Gennifer Flowers loose for long segments, so she could detail all the killings. (She got the full hour on Hannity & Colmes, just thirty minutes on Hardball.) A major best-selling book drove the claim about that Christmas tree.
Why cant Robinson remember these things? Because he hid in the woods while they transpired, like the rest of his craven class? That was the way the Village handled these prior lunaciesand Robinson tends to do what the Village does. Its how the columnist rolls.
Starting in early 1999, of course, the craziness long aimed at Clinton was seamlessly transferred to Gore. Some of this garbage still came from the right. (Remember Al Gore slumlord, a minor talk-radio/Washington Times hit from August 2000?) But most of it came directly from Robinsons cohort, without a peep of dissent from the fellow who doesnt recall:
Those weird claims about Gore (and many others) were different from the birther nonsense. They also differed from the crazy claims about Bill Clintons murders. But in part, those claims were different for an awkward reasonbecause they were largely invented and promulgated by people just like Robinson. Examples: That last quote is from Dan Balz, in the Washington Post. (In December 1999. The whole gang was saying or implying it then.) The late Michael Kelly drove the claim about the farm chores through his Washington Post Farmer Al column (March 1999)even though he plainly knew the claim was just a big fraud. Naomi Wolf told Al Gore to wear earth tones? It began with a front-page speculation published by Ceci Connolly in November 1999. A few weeks later, Connolly accidentally misquoted Gore about Love Canal, touching off a month-long frenzy which locked the campaigns controlling theme into place: Al Gore is a big liar!
Happy with how it turned out? (In March 1999, Lou Dobbs was the first broadcaster to borrow the RNC language about delusional Gore, the father of the Internet.)
Robinson ran the Style section during this period. But no one was published in his pages challenging any of thisexcept perhaps poor Robin Givhan, who actually asked, in November 1999, why Gore was being singled out for such endless ridicule. (Heres the best link we can find.) Presumably, many of the taunting bullies she had in mind worked at her own Post.
The lunacy of this current affair calls for serious review. But no such discussion can be serious as long as its supervised by interested parties like Robinson and Chris Matthews. They and their colleagues played leading roles the last time around, with the crazy claims about President Clintonand now, they say they cant recall anything like this before! Never, never, in all their days! They seem to be faking. Again.
Bill Clinton murdered a long string of rivals! Jerry Falwell sold the tapebut today, Pepperidge Farm cant recall. Theyve played it this way for the past twenty years. Its how this Village rolls.
Tomorrow: Somebody needs to tell Allan Sloan: Please step way from that metaphor!
Climbers and birthers: It was the same damn thing under the last Democratic president, as everyone but the press corps recalls. Indeed, some of Robinsons phrases seem to have been airlifted right out of that era. Liberals said the same thing then: Some people can't or won't accept the fact that [Clinton] won the election.
This lunacy eats at the heart of our politics. It is a very serious problem. Despite what Robinson advises, it should be examined very seriously. (Richard Hofstadter took a stab at it, forty-five years ago.) But we cant discuss it seriously if we pretend it hasnt happened before.
Career liberals will play along with the amnesia. In this way, average people are stuck between two groupsthe climbers and the birthers.
No, were not making this up: The last time we had a Dem in the White House, Falwell pimped that lunatic tape about our presidents string of murders. But so what? This is NBCs official headline/synopsis of the pre-Christmas Meet the Press in 1997 (from Nexis transcript):
NBC TRANSCRIPT (12/21/97): DR. LAURA SCHLESSINGER, REVEREND JERRY FALWELL, MARIO CUOMO AND REPRESENTATIVE JESSE JACKSON JR. DISCUSS MORAL ISSUES FACING THE UNITED STATES
If you played a part in creating that era, you too might not want to recall. The era was thoroughly mad.
This program seems to have been a forerunner to Tim Russerts post-9/11 moral issue/patriotism Christmas programs. At least in this earlier case, he had included two Democrats. In 2001 and 2002, his pre-Christmas programs featured himself and three guestsLaura Bush, Rudy Giuliani, and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Two Republicansand two of us East Coast Irish Catholics! At the NBC Jack Welch Built, that was true moral balance.
In 2003, Russert junked the pre-Christmas format. (Your DAILY HOWLER kept getting results!) That year, he explored patriotism in his post-Christmas show, on December 28. By this time, his staff had managed to locate a Democrat qualified to speak on such subjects. Synopsis from the NBC transcript: Laura Bush and Caroline Kennedy discuss teaching, volunteerism, patriotism and life in the political spotlight.
In this country, the Clinton/Gore years were clinically insane. Few career players recall.