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Daily Howler: Robinson can't recall anything quite this nuts. Like everyone else, we can
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PEPPERIDGE FARM CAN’T RECALL! Robinson can’t recall anything quite this nuts. Like everyone else, we can: // link // print // previous // next //

Too funny! “It’s fun to speculate!” This has always been Lady Dowd’s function. She helps us see how we humans will reason—if we have the misfortune to live behind some palace’s walls.

This morning, Dowd begins with three paragraphs on a key theme: Swifty Lazar was too short. Soon, though, she’s providing her latest example of method. The analysts chortled and howled:

DOWD (8/5/09): It’s 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. She’s 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.”

“It’s fun to speculate,” her ladyship says—just 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 wasn’t! 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 incident—and 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! It’s fun to speculate! All the analysts chortled and howled.

Pepperidge Farm can’t recall: We’ve 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 can’t 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 won’t be “seeking help.”) In fact, we’ve argued that line—often gnashing our teeth—for perhaps the past seventeen years. We choose that number for a reason. Unlike Robinson, who can’t 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, yes—it is, quite sadly. But the last time a Democrat went to the White House, the following beliefs were widely asserted—and those beliefs were clinically crazy too. But uh-oh! People like Robinson ran off and hid while this lunacy unspooled. Today, they cannot recall:

  • As governor, Bill Clinton murdered many rivals. Hillary Clinton was involved.
  • As first lady, Hillary Clinton was involved in Vince Foster’s death.
  • As governor, Bill Clinton trafficked drugs through Mena, Arkansas.
  • Bill Clinton was himself a major coke user. It’s why his nose is so red.
  • As a graduate student, Bill Clinton visited Moscow because he was a Soviet agent (or something).
  • The Clintons decorated the White House Christmas tree with condoms and drug paraphernalia.

Those beliefs were also clinically insane; they were widely trumpeted and believed all through the 1990s. Indeed, one of the nation’s most famous “Christian leaders” actively pimped the lurid film which detailed the many murders. He remained a cable favorite—and 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 can’t 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 lunacies—and Robinson tends to do what the Village does. It’s 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 Robinson’s cohort, without a peep of dissent from the fellow who doesn’t recall:

  • Al Gore said he inspired Love Story.
  • Al Gore said he invented the Internet.
  • Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal.
  • Naomi Wolf told Al Gore to wear earth tones. (“Al Gore hired a woman to teach him how to be a man.”)
  • Al Gore said he grew up on a farm, when “in reality” he grew up in DC.
  • “It was Gore, after all, who in 1988 introduced Willie Horton into the presidential campaign.”

Those weird claims about Gore (and many others) were different from the birther nonsense. They also differed from the crazy claims about Bill Clinton’s murders. But in part, those claims were different for an awkward reason—because 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 campaign’s 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 this—except perhaps poor Robin Givhan, who actually asked, in November 1999, why Gore was being “singled out” for such endless ridicule. (Here’s 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 it’s 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 Clinton—and now, they say they can’t 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 tape—but today, Pepperidge Farm can’t recall. They’ve played it this way for the past twenty years. It’s 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 Robinson’s 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 can’t discuss it seriously if we pretend it hasn’t happened before.

Career liberals will play along with the amnesia. In this way, average people are stuck between two groups—the climbers and the birthers.

No, we’re not making this up: The last time we had a Dem in the White House, Falwell pimped that lunatic tape about our president’s string of murders. But so what? This is NBC’s official headline/synopsis of the pre-Christmas Meet the Press in 1997 (from Nexis transcript):


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 Russert’s 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 guests—Laura Bush, Rudy Giuliani, and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Two Republicans—and 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.