The meeting got a little intense: Why did Robert Gibbs make his recent complaints about the professional left? We have no way of knowing, of course. But we do have an idea.
Many complaints from the left about the White House have made perfect sense. But other complaints have been loud and dumb, and perhaps even somewhat self-serving. A Gibbs assistant apparently said that Gibbs was referring to cable TV commentators (Chuck Todds paraphrase); this made Digby think of Dylan Ratigan (click here). For ourselves, we thought of the increasingly blustery Ed Schultz, who has bragged about his recent trip to the White House, where things got a little intense.
It started last Thursday. In standard pseudo-conservative fashion, Schultz started by letting us know that hes just a guy from the Midwestthat hes not a big media type. After that, we got his account of his trip to the White Houseand a lot of insinuations that the White House is a big gang of liars:
SCHULTZ (8/5/10): You know, Im a guy from the Midwest, OK? Im not a big media type. All right?
So I go to the White House yesterday to be briefed on what a great job the government and BP is doing in cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf. It got a little intense, but I think theyre just giving us a line of bull. And so do a lot of the experts. That story coming up.
Coming up, heres a new magic trick. Make the biggest oil disaster in history just go away. I think theres some hocus pocus going on over at the White House. Im going to call their bluff on this one.
The Battleground Story tonight:
Well, the administration says nearly 75 percent of the oil in the gulf is gone. Poof! Its gone! I dont buy it. Now, I was at the White House yesterday for a briefing with Thad Allen, the National Incident commander handling the spill; Carol Browner, the presidents energy adviser; and press secretary Robert Gibbs. All very professional, nice people and they were nice to me, I might say. They told me that only 26 percent of the five million barrels of oil spilled into the gulf are still in the water?
But outside experts say the government numbersHey folks, this is fuzzy math at best and even if the oil has dispersed in the water, its still there. And still toxic. Its just too small to see. The reaction around the world and from the environmental group Greenpeace was scathing. "This overstates what they know. There really isnt very much data to support this. Its somewhere between a wild guess, wishful thinking and spin to make these claims at this point."
Joining me now is David Pettit, hes a senior attorney with the National Resources Defense Council. Mr. Pettit, good to have you with us tonight.
Carol Browner actually said in one of her statements in this briefing yesterday, and Im not trying to be too hard on the White House here. I mean, you know, theyre trying to do their very best to make this thing right down there and the money of course, well talk about in a moment. But she said that she was looking forward to going down there and eating the local seafood. Now, I found that to be a promotional statement like the government says, Its OK. In fact, were going to eat it. Whats the pushback on this? I mean, what can the American people do to question it? The White House is saying 75 percent of its gone. NOAA says 75 percent of its gone. BP says weve kicked ass on this and you know, life is going to be good.
Heres another bone I got to pick with the White House over this spill. At yesterdays meeting, I asked them, Give me a date. You know, for the people down in the gulf who are going to be getting their checks. They didnt have an answer. When the rig blew up, the president promised everyone theyd make everybody whole. BP promised theyre going to make everybody whole. Yet, I just cant get a straight answer. Now, Carol Browner said that she would get back to me with that date and said that they are working on it.
Jeffrey Breit is a lawyer representing more than 600 shrimpers, oystermen and crabbers. Mr. Breit, good to have you with us tonight. And I want you to know that as soon as Carol Browner calls me and gives me that date, Im going to call you because youre representing so many people. It is amazing. You told our people today that they have changed the rules five times. Is that right?
White House officials were saying yesterday to reporters at this briefing that Mr. Feinberg is working through the legal wrangling of all this and now get a date to us. But they could not specifically tell us when the checks are going out. And I said, Well, September 1st to the 15th? Maybe October 1? They couldnt do it! Theyre working on it. Now, ifand I guess I kind of thought, Well, if theyre so sure that 75 percent of the oil has been cleaned up, how can they be so unsure about where the money is and when its coming? Theyre exact on one point and very inaccurate or not ready to commit on another end of it.
SCHULTZ: All right. Lets talk oil. The White House is now on board with a NOAA report saying 75 percent of the oil has been cleaned up. Jack Rice, do you believe that? And I pointed out
RICE: No, I dont.
SCHULTZ: You know, back in June, there were hoards of experts out there were saying that this is absolutely the worst thing, this is going to be going on for decades. Are we getting spun here by the Obama White House?
RICE: Yes. I have a bad feeling we may be. This sounds like something that BP would be spinning out there and that the White House is pushing this, too.
Here at THE HOWLER, we like Schultzs average person approach to politics and policy. But Schultz has been getting louder and louder on his very loud cable program, which opens each night with a loud account about what has Big Eds hot buttons firing. On Friday night, his various buttons were still firing about that trip to the White House, where things had gotten a little intense. His insinuations and charges continued:
SCHULTZ (8/6/10): And in my Playbook tonight, the oil spill spin gamethats whats going on, I think.
Yesterday, I told you about my trip to the White House earlier this week for a briefing with Thad Allen, Obama adviser Carol Browner and also White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. Theyre saying only 26 percent of the oil is still in gulf waters. Today, BPs COO Doug Suttles painted a very rosy picture of his own.
SUTTLES (videotape): Theres essentially no skimmable oil left on the surface, no recoverable oil left on the surface. Things have improved quite dramatically. And thats a combination of work weve done as part of the response and also Mother Natures help, as well.
SCHULTZ: Outside experts are still skeptical about this optimistic attitude and so am I. Joining me now is Louie Miller, the Mississippi director of the Sierra Club. Mr. Miller, good to have you with us tonight. Are we being sold big-time? Do you believe this sales pitch that the government and BP is throwing at us?
Schultz went on to say that the government numbers are fuzzy math at best, using the same evocative term he had used the previous night.
Like Schultz, we simply dont know how good those government numbers are. Neither does the obsequious Rice. But Schultz has been getting louder and louder on his very loud cable show, and he has essentially been calling the White House a big gang of liars in various ways, on a string of issues. When loud cable hosts behave in this fashion, they may be serving the public interest. Or they may be serving themselves.
The loathsome channel on which Schultz appears has broadcast a lot of damaging noise in the course of its gruesome history. The channel has done a great deal of harm to the nation, and to the world. Today, Schultz keeps getting louder and louderand more insultingabout the White Houses honesty, often in areas where he pretty much cant know the truth. Increasingly, he sounds like Sean Hannity in his attacksand his buttons are constantly firing. He never starts his show by explaining what has his intellect engaged.
Who did Robert Gibbs have in mind when he smacked the professional left? We dont know, but things did get a little intense in a recent meeting with a loud professional talker.
Numbers please: In her post, Digby linked to Kevin Drum (click here); each of the bloggers cited some numbers. We think those numbers are quite important. Tomorrow, lets get them right.
Special report: Bombs away!
DIGBY (8/2/10): Howard Kurtz is an utter fool for finding equivalence between Shirley Sherrod, Howard Dean, Joan Walsh and Andrew Breitbart for any number of reasons. I would defend Joan on this, but she's done it perfectly well for herself, and she makes the right point about Dean as well. He is not a journalist. Indeed, among those four named above the only one is Walsh and she is perfectly correct in labeling FOX racist when, among other things, they just spent two weeks ginning up a story about "black panthers" which has no basis and which can only be seen as a tool to sow racist animus.
What makes me want to slam my head into a wall repeatedly is the notion that there is any equivalence between Breitbart and Sherrod. It's so offensive on so many levels that I can only assume that Kurtz believes that Sherrod rightly pointing out that Breitbart is a racist is the same as Breitbart wrongly pointing out that Sherrod is one. I've seen cases of he said/ she said before, but this really takes the cake.
Unless you are a person who believes that racism doesn't existor subscribe to some philosophical view that one can never know if someone else is a racist unless they come right out and admit itthen this is an insulting position for any rational person to take. Sherrod's own words and deeds speak for themselves. And regardless of what's in his heart, Breitbart's do as well. Any fudging of the lines between the two is an act of intellectual obtuseness and/or moral cowardice.
A bit of background: Digby referred to this column by Howard Kurtz, from the August 2 Washington Post. In our view, its a ridiculous stretch to say that Kurtz finds equivalence between Breitbart and Sherrod in the piece. But highly aggressive tribal players will always read the world this wayand they will leap to defend any utterance by players within the tribe, even as they soften and rework the things which were actually said. Is Breitbart a racist? For ourselves, wed have to say we dont know, although we think he has gotten off very light in his disgraceful editing incidents. But just for the record (remember that?), Sherrod went well beyond that claim in her remarks about Breitbart. For ourselves, we dont think the things she said constitute the worlds biggest dealbut we do think her claims would be hard to defend. We see no problem with the (very limited) way Kurtz raised this question in this column, and on Reliable Sources one week earlier. He didnt have to mention Sherrods remarks, but there was nothing wrong when he did.
That said, Digby seemed to ponder the existential meaning of the R-bomb in that final paragraph. Do some people believe that racism doesnt exist? Is that why they never drop R-bombs? Do some people subscribe to some philosophical view in which we can never know if someone else is a racist unless they come right out and admit it? In a world where so many white liberals spend so much time tossing R-bombs around, those struck us as good, helpful questions. Since we ourselves would be reluctant to announce that Person A, B or C is a racist, we thought we might take the occasion to explain why that is.
Digby imagines two possible reasons for this type of reluctance. She doesnt include the principal reasons we ourselves would advance. These reasons also explain why we rarely dropped any S-or-M bombs (Sexist! Misogynist!) during the long, lonely years when we complained about Keith Olbermanns endless journeys to The Planet of the Sluts, even as moral exemplars like Digby and Walsh kept their traps politely shut about this superstars conduct.
(More on this episode Friday.)
Why are we reluctant to drop the R-bomb? Wed list three principal reasons. First, liberals have tossed this bomb around with so little discrimination that its rather hard at this point to say what the term even means. Its hard to make Bernie Goldberg right about somethingbut, by God, we liberals have managed to do it! The analysts groaned as they watched that evenings Factor, because big blowhard Goldberg was basically right in his basic claim:
O'REILLY (8/2/10): In the Weekdays with Bernie segment tonight, two hot topics: Is American Idol in trouble? And is there racism involved in the ethics complaints against Congressman Charles Rangel and Congresswoman Maxine Waters?
Joining us now, Fox News analyst Bernie Goldberg is in North Carolina. And he is the purveyor of bernardgoldberg.com. OK. You've been thinking about this racism angle. I think it's pretty clear that Congresswoman Waters is going to make this a racial forum. What say you?
GOLDBERG: Sure she is. Well, I think the blind guy down the street that sells pencils in his tin cup could have seen this one coming. Racism is just what people throw out these days. George Bush was a racist because of Katrina. A liberal magazine, a prominent liberal magazine online said, if Obama doesn't win the election in 2008, it was because of white racism. If you are against Obamacare, you are a racist. If you are against affirmative action, you are a racist. If you have anything to do with Fox News, you are a racist. Look, the Congressional Black Caucus and white liberals, not all white liberals but too many white liberals, have trivialized the word. They have rendered it virtually meaningless. That's a very bad thing.
Mr. O advanced the most mismatched pair of topics in cable news history. In the process, he asked one of the biggest dopes in modern press criticism to discuss race and racism. (For our first critique of Goldbergs first book, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/10/02. Many others followed.) But so many white liberals have made such a joke of discussions of race that even Goldberg was right this day! (Though we wouldnt be inclined to include the CBC in that assessment.) The charge of racism has been rendered virtually meaningless, he said. Too many white liberals have trivialized the word. Wed have to say thats largely correct. This would be the first major reason why we ourselves would be reluctant to announce that Person Y is a racist.
What exactly is a racist these days? The term once had some fairly fixed meanings, and the term was used with some care. Dr. King rarely dropped R-bombs on his adversariesand he had stone-cold race-haters chasing him around, including some who murdered children and used dogs to chase kids through the streets. This helps explain why he was the last centurys greatest achiever. (By the way: Do you notice how we used our words to describe the fallen souls who chased Dr. King aroundto explain what they did?) Today, the bomb is tossed with joyous abandon, part of a tribal gong-show. Back in January 2008, Richard Cohen even got batted around as a racist for calling Obama a fog of a man. (Fog is dark, as you may recall. Yes, this foolishness really occurred; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/8/08.) When silly children drop bombs with such abandon, does anyone have the slightest idea what the term even means at this time? Second question: Would anyone with an ounce of sense want to sound like such children?
Is Andrew Breitbart a racist? It isnt that we cant enter his mind to see what we might find in that place. The problem predates that, in a way Digby didnt consider: At this point, we arent even sure what the question means. We arent real sure what were being asked. We cant define our search.
In part, we are reluctant to call Person A, B or C racist because the term has been stripped of its meaninggenerally, by roving gangs of lazy white liberals in love with their own moral greatness. This, of course, creates other problems. This accusation is the most serious charge in American culture. In part for that reason, this accusation tends to be a discussion-stopper. Unless its used with great care, its the bomb which drives rival tribes, and their near associates, to other sides of a great divide.
When Digby challenged Rush Limbaugh this week, she didnt drop an R-bomb. Instead, she used her words to describe, quite accurately, something Limbaugh actually does in his pseudo-discussions of race (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/10/10). In this way, a liberal can create a discussion which might attract decent people from outside the tribe. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality, Dr. King once said. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
But then, Dr. King always affirmed the potential of human goodness, of inner lightan affirmation we modern white liberals joyously toss away. We love it when our adversaries fail. We glory in their fallen state, whether its real or imagined.
Why do we avoid the R-bomb? Why did we avoid the S-bomb, even as high-minded liberals let KO have his way on The Planet of the Sluts? Were not sure what the charge even means at this pointand we dont want to sound like the silly children who throw that bomb all over the land, thus toying with the history of race. We dont like to use the bombs which end debate, and the attempt to grope toward the light.
That said, we liberals do love dropping our bombsincluding our X-bombs and our N-bombs! Tomorrow, lets examine the way a silly child promoted The Planet of Fear.