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DON IMUS, ZEUS’ MESSENGER! Rumour continued to move through the ranks, this time in Imus’ form: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 10, 2005

THE BLOGGERS PANGLOSS: We hope the Red Sox had sufficient time to plan a “photo night” for tonight at the Fens; it would be good solid fun to see flash bulbs a-poppin’ as Kenny Rogers threw his first several pitches. In effect, did Rogers flunk his steroid test when he attacked those photographers back in June? For ourselves, we’d blame our inappropriate Monday column on steroid use if we thought the cop-out would work. But no way! With our slender physique and lean muscle mass, no one would ever buy that excuse. We’ll just have to keep looking elsewhere.

On the local scene, we may take the analysts to Camden Yards to watch Thursday’s expected razzing of Raffy. For the record, we still haven’t seen a single scribe note the obvious problem with the Palmeiro story—the fact that you’d never take a heavy-duty roid in a year when you knew you’d be tested. What’s 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, we’re instinctively dumb. But at least we come by it all naturally.

One last thought: As we recover from Monday’s gross stupidity, we continue to ponder the impulse behind that clip from Jack Shafer’s column. Now we have two Bloggers Pangloss, marveling at The Best Press Corps Ever. Was the press even worse back in 1811? We don’t have the slightest idea. But given the corps’ endless breakdowns in the past dozen years, we can’t 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. We’re puzzled when others survey this mess and see the glass two or three percent full. We’re 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 couldn’t grasp why Miller was in jail, since she hadn’t 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 wouldn’t 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, isn’t it? “This isn’t what Carville thinks, but just that he had heard this!” Selflessly, Carville had said what he doesn’t think—that Miller may have committed a crime. Result? One day later, Imus—or Rumour herself—was passing on what his guest hadn’t 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 Miller’s 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 wasn’t buying:

ALTER (continuing directly): Well, there are a lot of rumors and—people are dealing with very little real information because unlike Kenneth Starr’s office, Patrick Fitzgerald’s office doesn’t leak in violation of the law, which it is if you leak matters before the grand jury. So we’re in this kind of silly summer season of speculation. You have people who are saying, you know, Judith Miller is the source. They don’t 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 didn’t think?
IMUS: I’m confused now. You didn’t answer my question about whether you had heard the same things about Judith Miller or not.

ALTER: Yeah, I’ve heard all that kind of stuff. But just in rumor form.

IMUS: Sure! Well, that’s what Carville had heard!

After all, Carville didn’t think it; he had just heard it! Ignoring the foolishness all around, Alter continued his thought:
ALTER (continuing directly): You know, I’m reluctant to go down that road because I think it’s pretty unfair to Judy, who’s sitting in jail after all. You know, for people just to be speculating who don’t know anything. None of us do.
None of us know anything! But then, that’s exactly what Carville had said (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/9/05)—before he began to say interesting things, the things he didn’t 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 she’s been unwilling heretofore to share, is that she was part of spreading the information that Idiot [sic] Wilson’s wife was an undercover CIA agent.

KURTZ: This is the latest buzz on-line and I think it’s unfair because the people who are spreading it have zero facts to support it.

Zero facts? What about the alleged e-mails, some from alleged people alleged to be from Miller’s home town! It’s no wonder some liberals get upset at this—when Zeus’ messenger isn’t 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.

MORT GETS REFLEXIVE: Speaking of that reflexive clowning, we marveled at the “all-stars” on Special Report last night. First, Ceci Connolly (!) put down Bush’s 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.
Here’s Ceci’s 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.

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.

Readers, we’d hate to see what Mort would say if he weren’t being frank! Did Clinton really say, in a speech, that there is “net job loss” under Bush? We don’t know; we can’t 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 won’t give credit for those 1.3 million net jobs. But over five-plus years, that’s an awful number. By normal reckoning, that doesn’t come close to keeping up with the growth in job-age population.

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.