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MARRIED TO THE MOB! Was Thompson mobbed when he went to the fair? Inquiring minds ought to ponder: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, AUGUST 20, 2007

STARTS TOMORROW—INVENTION ARRIVES: Eight years ago, they invented a demon. At long last, their invention has arrived.

INCURIOUS GEORGE: On Sunday, the analysts howled at the way David Gregory rolled over and died for Karl Rove. They threw up their hands when they read Patrick Healy’s latest front-page Times groaner. But we were especially struck by a decision made during the Democratic debate. Omigod! A real discussion had broken out about the way to exit Iraq! It was by far the most intelligent discussion we’ve seen in any debate this year; the hopefuls were even beginning to question each other about their respective views. But our press corps flees intelligent discourse as bats avoid exposure to light. Abruptly, George Stephanopoulos brought the discussion to a halt so he could ask this question:
STEPHANOPOULOS (8/19/07): Let me move on now. We've got a question—we got an e-mail question from Seth Ford of South Jordan, Utah. And he said, “My question is to understand each candidate's view of a personal God. Do they believe that through the power of prayer disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the Minnesota bridge collapse could have been prevented or lessened? I'd like each of you to answer it.”

Let me start with you, Senator Clinton.
And so, instead of explaining how she’d act in Iraq, Clinton had to explain if we could have prayed and made that bridge hold up.

But then, we noticed it all over cable this weekend—the reflexive dumbness of our discourse. MSNBC abandons hard news every chance it gets; it played its treasured sexual predator reruns all through the weekend. The History Channel dumped history long ago; they kept playing their “Ice Truckers” stuff. PBS was asking for money from viewers, so they kept airing their doo-wop concerts. Let’s be honest—even ESPN has dumbed down its content. Half the time now, they just show us people playing poker.

To Brother Ford, we’d only say this: We’ve heard that God will not be mocked. Stephanopoulos, dumbing our public life down, is begging for future disasters.

WHERE DO OUR EXPERTS COME FROM: Over the weekend, a chain of web-cats discussed the way folks get anointed as “foreign policy experts.” (For Kevin Drum’s post, with links, just click here.) But the problem of the pseudo-expert extends to other parts of American life—to public education, for example. On Saturday, this Post news report about DC test scores was striking for its incoherence. A famous “expert” was repeatedly cited—but few of his statements seemed to make sense. Was this the fault of the “expert,” or of the reporter? It’s often a bit hard to tell.

Alas! In various parts of American life, elites select our “experts” for us, then keep ramming them down our throats. We thought of this last Friday night, when Charlie Rose devoted the hour to the death of his friend, Brooke Astor. For the bulk of the program, Rose chatted amiably with another friend, David Rockefeller, about the many evenings they had enjoyed at Astor’s dinner parties. This remarkably odd conversation brought two thoughts to mind.

First, we thought about the way Michelle Rhee became DC’s superintendent of schools. Rhee came recommended by Manhattan’s top swells—by Gotham superintendent of schools Joel Klein, who sits at the right hand of billionaire Michael Bloomberg—and the DC city council cut and ran when her paper-thin story began showing holes (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/11/07). But then, people supported by top elites have a way of surviving such embarrassments. Similarly, Sir Michael Barber’s high-toned educational blather had been accepted, quite uncritically, by the New York Times last Friday morning (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/17/07). Does Sir Michael know what he’s talking about? Frankly, the Times didn’t seem to care. Sir Michael advises Bloomberg’s man, after all. And especially when it comes to public ed, the Times has long curtsied to Bloomberg.

In this way, we get handed our experts; they get selected by our elites. In the world of public education, these experts rarely show expertise; in fact, they rarely show the slightest sign of knowing what they’re talking about. A very similar process obtains as we’re handed our foreign policy “experts.” Nothing they say, no matter how bogus, ever gets them removed from the list. They’re on the list because they support the views of our high elites.

Meanwhile, we recalled a second matter as Rose discussed his evenings with Astor. We thought about the disgraceful program he aired in 2003, when Hillary Clinton’s autobiography, Living History, was published. For his panel that evening, Rose welcomed two other climbers, Chris Matthews and Margaret Carlson; the trio insulted and laughed at Clinton throughout the entire segment (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/23/03). We remembered the way this mess began as we watched Rose reminiscing last Friday:
ROSE (6/9/03): Chris, tell me what you think of the book.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think the book is evidence of why the police always want to interview the suspects as quickly as possible. You don’t want to leave them a lot of time to rehearse their answers…
Rose chuckled as his guest compared Hillary Clinton to a police suspect. But let’s face it. When you book climbers like Matthews and Carlson, you pretty much get what you pay for:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): …and in this case, you’re dealing with the Menendez Brothers of American politics, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and although each is in separate cells, politically speaking, they do communicate, obviously.
Amazing, isn’t it? But Rose laughed hard as his loathsome guest compared the Clintons to famous murderers. Inevitably, this is what a society gets when its “journalists”—public servants like Rose—spend their evenings hard at work, courting the darlings and the swells. Last Friday, it was simply delicious when Rockefeller and Rose discussed their dear friend, Astor.

Let’s be clear: Brooke Astor seems to have been a gifted and unusual person. Rockefeller seems like a decent guy too. But gifted people die every day; Charlie Rose devotes the hour when the gifted person in question had money. And uh-oh! When our “journalists” fawn to our moneyed elites, they aren’t inclined to question the “experts” these moneyed elites present at high court. The Rhees get welcomed into the fold, no matter how perfectly bogus their stories may be. Ditto the O’Hanlons and the Pollacks, so wonderfully bright on Iraq.

This is how we get the O’Hanlons and Pollacks—and this is how we get the Rhees. And it’s how we’ve gotten the reflexive mocking of Democrats (often by Democrats) which may elect Giuliani next year. At present, we liberals are mad about Iraq—and so we complain about O’Hanlon and Pollack. But we tend not to care about poor black kids. For the most part, so too with Clinton.

Visit our incomparable archives: While Rose bowed low at Astor’s court, Carlson was chasing Katherine Graham around. This is the way our discourse gets shaped. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/18/03.

MARRIED TO THE MOB—A SEQUEL: Was Fred Thompson mobbed when he went to the fair? Inquiring minds ought to wonder.

Last Friday, the smarthandsomehonest Hardball idol visited the Iowa state fair in Des Moines. Here’s how Anne Kornblut began her news report in the Post, a paper which has sometimes gone out of its way to say how brightsexycharismatic Fred is:
KORNBLUT (8/18/07): Mobbed by voters at the Iowa State Fair, some of them carrying homemade signs encouraging him to run, Fred D. Thompson on Friday showed off the advantages he would enjoy as a celebrity latecomer to the 2008 Republican presidential campaign.

"A lot of people say it's late and all that, but I look at my history books and see where people announced in September, October, November," said the former Tennessee senator, who did not seem concerned that making his candidacy official sometime after Labor Day, as he is expected to do, might be late in the game.
It sounded like the magic was working! Thompson was “mobbed by voters,” Kornblut wrote—and some were carrying homemade signs encouraging the crediblesumbitch to run. Thompson “showed off the advantages he would enjoy as a celebrity” if he entered the race, Kornblut said. Later, she returned to her theme. “At the fair, [Thompson] was the fourth star-powered candidate to appear in three days,” she wrote, “and he drew at least as large a gathering as Giuliani had two days earlier.”

It sounded like the magic was working. But was Thompson mobbed when he went to the fair? Kornblut is becoming one of our least reliable campaign “reporters;” for that reason, we couldn’t help wondering about her upbeat opening paragraph. Meanwhile, the photos which appeared in the Post and the Times didn’t seem to show the bighandsomelug being mobbed. In both papers, photos showed Thompson walking through the fairgrounds. But no voters appeared in the photos at all—just a few cameramen and photographers. Nor did Susan Sauly say much, in her Times report, to suggest that Ole Fred had been mobbed.

Did Thompson get mobbed when he went to the fair? We’ll admit it—we were curious. Because we’ve been struck by Kornblut’s work of late, we decided to check a local source—a place where reporters might not imagine themselves to be novelists. In the Des Moines Register, reporter Thomas Beaumont observed Thompson’s visit—and he even used numbers in his report. Does the following sound like a “mob?” This is what Beaumont reported:
BEAUMONT (8/18/07): Thompson did not venture beyond Des Moines during his caucus-state debut...

Most of his time was spent in the center of a media swarm at the fair. The likely candidate was a guest on WHO radio and later addressed more than 100 supporters and curious fairgoers—plus about 50 reporters—at The Des Moines Register's Soapbox.

[...]

Thompson was recognized by dozens of fairgoers as he strolled the grounds with Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has not endorsed any candidate for the 2008 caucuses.
According to Beaumont, Thompson “was recognized by dozens of fairgoers!” When he spoke, he “addressed more than 100 supporters and curious fairgoers—plus about 50 reporters.” None of that makes it sound like the bigfamoushunk was ever surrounded by much of a mob. But Thompson did get “swarmed” at the fair—by the media, Beaumont reported!

Who knows? Maybe that’s what Kornblut meant when she said he showed off his “advantages!”

Was Thompson “mobbed” when he went to the fair? Was he “showing off the advantages he would enjoy as a celebrity?” In fact, the Des Moines Register estimated the size of the crowds when three hopefuls spoke at the state fair’s “Soapbox” this week. Here’s what the paper reported:
Clinton: “About 500 supporters, onlookers, activists and reporters listened or asked questions during the 16-minute talk.”
Giuliani: “About 300 supporters and passers-by listened as Giuliani spoke for about 20 minutes.”
Thompson: “More than 100 people met Thompson at the event.”
Thompson’s advantage as a celebrity? He may draw crowds one-third the size of his main GOP rival!

Why did Kornblut begin her report with that upbeat, Fred-pimping piffle? We don’t have the slightest idea—but her editors ought to suggest that she stop. Last Thursday, her report on Giuliani and Clinton was awful (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/17/07). Her paean to Thompson’s bigassadvantage only continued to make us wonder what’s going on at the Post.