On the local scene, we may take the analysts to Camden Yards to watch Thursdays expected razzing of Raffy. For the record, we still havent seen a single scribe note the obvious problem with the Palmeiro story—the fact that youd never take a heavy-duty roid in a year when you knew youd be tested. Whats the missing piece of the puzzle? Sports scribes seem determined not to ask. But then, the human ability to look past the obvious has driven a wide range of public discussions in the years since we started THE HOWLER. Despite iconic claims about man, the rational animal, dumbness is part of our human inheritance. In truth, man is only occasionally rational. For example, only when we struggle hard do we overcome inbred tribal thinking—tribal impulses bred in the bone, selected for over millions of years. (Our tribe is right! And their tribe must die!) Yes, as humans, were instinctively dumb. But at least we come by it all naturally.
One last thought: As we recover from Mondays gross stupidity, we continue to ponder the impulse behind that clip from Jack Shafers column. Now we have two Bloggers Pangloss, marveling at The Best Press Corps Ever. Was the press even worse back in 1811? We dont have the slightest idea. But given the corps endless breakdowns in the past dozen years, we cant imagine why a person (especially a Democrat) would be inclined to lead with Panglossian frameworks. From 1994 through 1996, for example, we marveled at the press corps inability to straighten out RNC Medicare bullroar; indeed, that was one of the main events that led us to start the HOWLER. (For three reports on the topic, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/20/99.) And yes, we still marvel at the reflexive clowning of press corps all-stars, and at pundits weak analytical skills. Were puzzled when others survey this mess and see the glass two or three percent full. Were puzzled when someone feels moved to say, Yes, but it was worse way back when!
DON IMUS, ZEUS MESSENGER: Uh-oh! Wildfire Rumour, Zeus messenger, blazed among us Tuesday morning—but this time, she had taken the shape of Don Imus! The day before, James Carville had told the I-man that—though he had no idea if it was true—there are a lot of people who speculate, constantly, that Judith Miller committed a crime with regard to the Plame leak matter (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/9/05). Carville never said what that crime might be, and of course it was only a theory—just speculation. But there were all kinds of rumors out there, he said, and he had even heard (second-hand) that Miller had been screamin out in the newsroom about this. And when Imus heard these cheap, flyweight rumors, the cheap, flyweight rumors began to play in his head. For weeks, the host had obsessively said that he couldnt grasp why Miller was in jail, since she hadnt written about Plame. Now, one inane thought gave way to another. Or was that Imus yesterday morning? Jonathan Alter appeared as a guest—and perhaps it was actually wildfire Rumour, in Imus form, posing this weak-minded question:
IMUS (8/9/05): You know, I had a kind of an interesting conversation yesterday with James Carville. Carville told me, talking about Judith Miller, that Carville had heard—this is not what Carville thinks, apparently, but just that he had heard this—this is a woman who is in jail because she wouldnt reveal her—apparently she has some information about how Valerie Plame was outed, even though Miss Miller, who works for the New York Times, never wrote about it, but anyway—Carville says that he heard that she has a Fifth Amendment problem along with maybe a First Amendment problem in that apparently what Carville had heard was that she had been, she may have been responsible in some areas for outing her. Have you heard anything like that?Perfect, isnt it? This isnt what Carville thinks, but just that he had heard this! Selflessly, Carville had said what he doesnt think—that Miller may have committed a crime. Result? One day later, Imus—or Rumour herself—was passing on what his guest hadnt thought! But, of course, that has always been the way wildfire Rumour blazes her way through the ranks.
Have you heard anything like that? he asked. Of course, everyone on earth (except Don Imus) had heard these rumors, rumors spread by some tangy alleged e-mails. In recent weeks, Arianna has been lending her form to Rumour too, whipping up exciting crime dramas based on what unnamed alleged e-mailers tell her. (Some of them alleged to be from Millers home town!) So yes, of course, Alter had heard this. But in a startling recent development, the mainstream press has been looking smart when compared with the self-freeperizing lib web. So yes, of course, he had heard these reports. But no, he wasnt buying:
ALTER (continuing directly): Well, there are a lot of rumors and—people are dealing with very little real information because unlike Kenneth Starrs office, Patrick Fitzgeralds office doesnt leak in violation of the law, which it is if you leak matters before the grand jury. So were in this kind of silly summer season of speculation. You have people who are saying, you know, Judith Miller is the source. They dont have any evidence for that.Remember when liberals used to complain about silly seasons of speculation? At any rate, a few minutes later, Imus, confused, asked Alter again. Had he heard the same things that Carville heard—the things Carville didnt think?
IMUS: Im confused now. You didnt answer my question about whether you had heard the same things about Judith Miller or not.After all, Carville didnt think it; he had just heard it! Ignoring the foolishness all around, Alter continued his thought:
ALTER: Yeah, Ive heard all that kind of stuff. But just in rumor form.
IMUS: Sure! Well, thats what Carville had heard!
ALTER (continuing directly): You know, Im reluctant to go down that road because I think its pretty unfair to Judy, whos sitting in jail after all. You know, for people just to be speculating who dont know anything. None of us do.None of us know anything! But then, thats exactly what Carville had said (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/9/05)—before he began to say interesting things, the things he didnt think.
How does Zeus messenger work? An hour later, Mary Matalin appeared, and Imus asked her about the rumors, as a million people listened. (MSNBC had cut away for the shuttle landing, so we have no tape.) And two hours later, he recited his drama for Howard Kurtz:
IMUS: Carville said she may have a Fifth Amendment problem as well. In other words, some of the information she may have, that shes been unwilling heretofore to share, is that she was part of spreading the information that Idiot [sic] Wilsons wife was an undercover CIA agent.Zero facts? What about the alleged e-mails, some from alleged people alleged to be from Millers home town! Its no wonder some liberals get upset at this—when Zeus messenger isnt allowed to blaze her way all through the ranks. But what a surprising transformation—when the liberal web is sold to rumor, and the mainstream press corps displays the old values! In movie lingo, Who are these guys? They refused to trash Hillary one recent Sunday (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/4/05)—and they refused to trash Miller now.
KURTZ: This is the latest buzz on-line and I think its unfair because the people who are spreading it have zero facts to support it.
MORT GETS REFLEXIVE: Speaking of that reflexive clowning, we marveled at the all-stars on Special Report last night. First, Ceci Connolly (!) put down Bushs economic performance. Quickly, Fred swung into action:
BARNES (8/9/05): I can answer that question about why people who are less educated haven't made as much as some of the rich people have. It's because they're less educated! That is the reason! It's going to continue to mean that they're going to make less. Really, it's true.Heres Cecis point, to which Fred had responded: Another point is one that Treasury Secretary Snow made yesterday, probably going a little off message, when he acknowledged that much of this economic growth is not extending to less-educated members of our society. And yes—on TV, Fred seemed every bit as thoughtful and caring as those stark, printed words make him sound.
But it was Mort at whom we marveled. Try to believe that he said it:
KONDRACKE: I think, also, that, frankly, that the press has not been very good about reporting progress. The first front-page stories that I've seen on the growth of the economy were last week, when there were 200,000 jobs created in the month of July. And none of those stories tracks how many jobs have been created during the Bush presidency.Readers, wed hate to see what Mort would say if he werent being frank! Did Clinton really say, in a speech, that there is net job loss under Bush? We dont know; we cant find it in her recent DLC speech (or anywhere else in a quick Nexis search). But good grief! Mort is peeved because the press corps wont give credit for those 1.3 million net jobs. But over five-plus years, thats an awful number. By normal reckoning, that doesnt come close to keeping up with the growth in job-age population.
They give him credit, as he's claiming credit, for four million jobs created since the bottom of the recession. But in fact, the Democrats get away with—I read a speech by Hillary Clinton in which she that still, there is net job loss under George Bush. That's not true. It's 1.3 million jobs have been created since Bush became president. And he had a recession in there. But it is net job creation which you never see in the paper.
We sat and marveled at what Mort had said. But then, one of our analysts brought us up short! Just think what he would have said at earlier points in our history, the sage youngster so wisely said.