Who cares about black kids: The series will end after Labor Day, with a set of important questions. Tomorrow, we will concentrate on Dr. Kings Stride Toward Freedom. See below.
The fallen state of our culture: In just a few weeks, Lawrence ODonnell will debut as host of his own MSNBC program. In the promotional ads, the network is saying that the new show will clarify the political spin.
Maybe it all depends on what the meaning of clarify is.
On Monday night, ODonnell guest-hosted on Countdown, giving regular host Keith Olbermann a richly-deserved evening off. But wouldnt you know it? In the programs first two segments, ODonnell recited several of the spins about Social Security which have made a dismal joke of our discourse for the past thirty years.
ODonnell kept reciting basic spins from the right. He kept reciting the bogus points the right-wing spin tanks invented.
First, ODonnell spoke with Ashley Carson, the very bright (younger) woman who serves as the head of the Older Womens League. Carson had received a ludicrous e-mail about Social Security from Alan Simpson, Republican co-chairman of President Obamas debt reduction commission. ODonnell wasted little time misstating the status of the program. Within a few minutes, he recited his first bit of tragically bogus spin:
CARSON (8/30/10): I really think the issue of Social Security should be taken, you know, outside of the executive order for the commission There are really no experts on Social Security`s adequacy and solvency on the fiscal commission, and I really think it could be better.
The long-term problemswhich, there arent any problems in Social Security for 30 yearscould be better fixed by a group of experts. And I hope it would be bipartisan.
ODONNELL: AshleyAshley, there are problems in Social Security for you. It is solvent until 2037. But workers your age who are contributing to Social Security every day, we can currently tell you that when your time comes to collect, the money will not be there, according to all the projections that we have today. Thats one of the reason the commission is looking at it.
Jesus God almightywhat a pompous, spin-pimping ass! Luckily, Carson isnt a career pundit; this gives her a freedom she quickly employed. Darlings! It simply isnt done! In her next statement, Carson flatly contradictedcorrectedher blundering host:
CARSON: I dont think theres a crisis in Social Security. When you say it will run out in 30 years, thats actually not factually correct.
Ouch! Not being a sniveling career pundit, Carson was free to contradict her hapless hostwho quickly recited a string of real facts about Social Security, showing he knew them all along. Except he did overstate again, again in the right-wing direction:
ODONNELL (continuing directly): It will never run outit will never run out of money. It will always collect money. But it will only be able to pay you 75 percent of the benefits that they project for you to receive.
CARSON: Right. And thats
ODONNELL: It will always be able to pay 75, 60 cents on a dollar because its going to always be collecting something.
ODONNELL: Its never going to go empty. Is that going to be OK with people your age to collect 65 percent of what theyre projecting?
In fact, the projections do not go down to 65 or 60 percent, at any point in the future. Once again, ODonnell was clarifying the spin by reciting itby reciting the right-wing spin.
Sadly, this big hack was done with his blundering. Ezra Klein came on as ODonnells next guest. Soon, The Great Clarifier could be heard saying this:
ODONNELL: But, you know, when they talk about retirement age, FDR picked 65 as the compromise number. When he picked that number, the life expectancy for male workers in the United States was 58. So, you know, this program was never intended to be paying people for decades and decades. It does that now, does it pretty effectively, but to do it long term, someone is going to have to do something serious about adjusting it.
Klein, who is a career pundit, was less direct than Carson in his correction of ODonnell. But even he futzed around a bit in the face of ODonnells third blunder.
ODonnells performance was simply astounding, considering that he is about to seize a chair at our fiery liberal channel. (At least he didnt find the time to sing the old Tim Russert standard, about the way 30 workers for each recipient have now turned into just three.) In fairness, since ODonnell spends most of his time kissing keister in Hollywood, producing silly TV dramas which pretend to be about politics, he may not even know whats wrong with that familiar longevity spin. This point has been explained a great deal in the past month. (Paul Krugman has done so in some detail. For one example, click here.) But someone as feckless as ODonnell simply may not understand.
In our view, ODonnell has been a disgrace for years, dating back to his active role in the wars against Clinton and Gore. He was still going out of his way to call Gore a liar, on TV, in October 2000! ODonnells political background was with Pat Moynihan, who spent the last years of his career talking all kinds of crap about Social Security. (Ho too worked hard to undermine Gore, on this very topic.)
Wont it be great to see this big hack clarifying spin on TV?
DR. KINGS WORDS AND BELIEFS (permalink): Last night, Ed Schultz was at it again, extending the gruesome slough of despond into which this loud man has descended.
On Tuesday, Glenn Beck had dared to play tape of Schultz, letting Fox viewers hear the things this loud man has been saying on his TV and radio programs. Beck aired videotape in which Schultz insulted the people who attended last Saturdays Beck event, though he only played one part of Schultzs weirdly racial diatribe. (In the excerpt Beck played, Schultz said this: His crowd was filled with thousands of old, white, angry McCain-Palin leftovers from the election who just can't seem to stomach the fact that we have a black man in the White House. They're old, they're white, they're angry.)
As Beck played tape, it continued from there. After playing clips of interviews with three (very calm) people who had attended his event, Beck played a remarkable bit of tape from Schultzs radio program. On the tape, Schultz was literally yelling as he offered the following thoughts:
BECK (8/31/10): OK. So there they are. They're old, they're white, and they're angry. Back to Ed Schultz, what he said, I believe, on Friday on his radio program.
SCHULTZ (audiotape): In my bones, in my very soul, in my heart I want to kick Fox's (bleep). I want to drive them into the ground. I want to spike the ball. I want to kick them in the teeth on the way back to the huddle. Then I want to turn around and lift my leg on them because that's all they're worth.
BECK: It's kind of sad, isn't it? You tell me, America, which one is the angry one?
Luckily, Beck reverted to type on yesterdays program. He drew upon ludicrous chains of evidence to demonstrate President Obamas deep regard for Hugo Chavez. He remonstrated against the current state of American college education. (Our children are being submerged in the filth of communism, submerged in the filth of lies I have news for you. There are a lot of universities that are just as dangerous with indoctrination of our children as these terror groups are in Iran or in North Korea.) He played upon use of a single word to tie Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Kim Jong-Il and Chairman Mao. (Well, how very Kim Jong-Il of you! Or dare I say itMao is the in one now, isn't he?) He railed against 80-year-old Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers, managing to slime this earlier Chavez in the process.
All this material was meant to demonstrate an overriding theme: Watch the next three segments on this program tonight and you will see someone is intentionally trying to cause an economic earthquake.
Luckily for liberals, the old Beck was back. Because on Monday and Tuesday, the new Beck was murdering progressive interests, playing tape of various liberal shouters, contrasting their ugly, unqualified claims with videotape of the calm, pink-skinned people who gathered on the mall.
Last night, Schultz reacted. We dont believe in public psychiatry herebut we have almost begun to wonder if Schultz has suffered some sort of undiagnosed brain event:
SCHULTZ (9/1/120): Good evening, Americans, and welcome to the Ed Show tonight from New York. These stories on the table and hitting my hot buttons at this hour:
The Beckster is attacking me? Buddy, youre barking up the wrong tree, because Im going to expose you for the fraudulent phony that you have been along. My commentary on that in just a moment.
But this, of course, is the story that has me fired up tonight. Glenn Beck, the man who is bringing the country back to God, took his eye kind of off the Lord long enough to come attack me. The Beckster didnt like my observation that a lot of the folks, thousands of the people at his rally, were old, white, angry, Palin-McCain leftovers. He also took issue with the fact that Im on a mission to level the playing field on radio and TV for years in this country.
Conservative talk and Fox News, well, theyve been doing a pretty good job of spreading lies and righty propaganda in ways that I think has been very damaging to the country. You know, like those WMDs in Iraq. But if you have fire in your belly, and youre a liberal, oh, gosh, you must be really angry.
Look, Im an ex-jock. Im an ex-football player. You know what jockstraps do. We get in the locker room, we get fired up, we talk to our team and get after it. I told my radio audience that I want to kick Foxs rear end when it comes to ratings. Well, who doesnt?
Beck played a clip of my radio show to illustrate how angry liberals can be. I wasnt angry, I was passionate.
Becks rally, Im telling you, folks, was no big shakes. It is not going to have any impact on the midterms. Its whats in our hearts and what we want to do to save this country is what its all about. Thousands of his followerslet me say it again so they dont have to edit the tape: They were old, white, angry Americans who cant stand the fact that theres a black guy in the White House.
I wasnt angry, this big phony said. To prove his point, he didnt play the ridiculous tape Beck had put to good use.
In fairness: By last night, the great man Schultz had softened his words. On Monday, he offered few qualifiers as he discussed the angry white people at Becks eventthe angry white race-haters. (More Schultz from Monday night: These rallies are not being held by progressives. Theyre just a bunch of McCain supporters with Palin out in front of them. Thats it. Theyre old, theyre white, theyre angry. They cant believe Obama won.)
Last night, Schultz made his qualifiers more clear. Everyone at Becks event wasnt an angry old white racist, Schultz magnanimously said. It was just a lot of the folks who fit that angry white race-hating bill.
Its stunning to see the slough of moral despond into which Schultz has fallen. Its especially stunning to see him behave this way, even as he loudly complains that Beck dishonored Dr. Kings legacy with last weekends event. Last Thursday, Schultz triedand failedto push the hot buttons of Dr. Kings son about the great insult coming from Beck (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/27/10). But then, many liberals have railed about Becks great insult to Dr. Kings legacy, even as they rail and declaim in a way Dr. King would never have doneas they behave in the very ways Dr. King passionately rejected throughout his astounding career.
Make no mistakeDr. Kings refusal to behave this way lay at the heart of his public/political ministry. It wasnt a quirk of his personality; his refusal to name-call and declaim lay at the very heart of his giant moral vision. It has been odd to see a succession of pseudo-liberals claiming to speak for Dr. King in the last week, even as they behave in ways which reverse the most central things he believed in.
Lets be clear: No one is required to believe the things Dr. King spoke about, wrote about, believed. No one is required to think that Dr. Kings methods and beliefs would provide the best way to address any particular political situation, including the situation facing this country today. But a string of very loud pseudo-liberals railed on Dr. Kings behalf last week, even as they behaved in ways which fly in the face of his central legacy.
Last night, Schultz merely extended the carnage with his loud, ugly remarks.
Which liberals have been complaining of insult to Dr. Kings legacy, even as they behave in ways which are very hard to relate to that legacy? We think of the utterly ludicrous Schultz, and we think of the massively saner Steve Benen. We think of Bob Herbert and Charles Blow, who wrote matching columns in last Saturdays New York Times. Blow, who is a younger man, wrote of his youthful reverence for Dr. King, who had already been murdered. As he closed his own column on the same page, Herbert defined the state of play in U.S. as Becks event approached:
HERRBERT (8/28/10): There is a great deal of hatred and bigotry in this country, but it does not define the country. The daily experience of most Americans is not a bitter experience and for all of our problems we are in a much better place on these matters than we were a half century ago.
But I worry about the potential for violence that grows out of unrestrained, hostile bombast. Weve seen it so often. A little more than two weeks after the 1963 March on Washington, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan and four young black girls were killed. And three months after the march, Jack Kennedy was assassinated.
My sincere advice to Beck, Palin and their followers is chill, baby, chill.
Beck does engage in unrestrained, hostile bombastunrestrained, hostile bombast that is profoundly unintelligent. But Herbert himself had engaged in a bit of bombast in this columna column in which he complained, without qualification, about the vicious effort by the Tea Party to portray Mr. Obama as somehow alien, a strange figure who is separate and apart fromoutside ofordinary American life. Vicious is a very strong term, of course. Does that term define everyone in the Tea Party movement?
Vicious is a very strong termespecially when applied indiscriminately. Did Dr. King ever advance such claims? As he finished his own (somewhat bombastic) column, Blow made a good suggestion:
BLOW (8/28/10): Ive come to the conclusion that anger is the wrong reaction to Becks rally in Washington. Anger provides too low a return on investment. It consumes a tremendous amount of energy, but yields little progress. Instead, we should each take this opportunity to listen to the I Have a Dream speech once more, paying particular attention to how the echoes of yesterdays struggles reverberate in our present struggles, and to recommit ourselves to the nobility of righteous pursuits.
We should use Glenns nightmare to reconnect with Martins dream.
Thats an excellent idea. Tomorrow, well go it one better.
At the start of his column, Blow describes his youthful admiration for Dr. King. I idolized him the way most children idolized athletes and pop stars, Blow wrote. I had the poster and the T-shirt, I knew the speeches and the places hed marched.
Blow always seems like a good, decent person when we see him on TV. Wed be amazed if he were anything else; so too with Bob Herbert. But reading Blows column, we found ourselves wondering:
Blow had the poster and the t-shirt. Has he read the books?
Blow suggested that we listen to Dr. Kings speechbut Dr. King was much more than his most famous address. Tomorrow, well walk through parts of Stride Toward Freedom, his brilliant memoir of the Montgomery bus boycott.
Ed Schultz behaved very badly last night. How did Dr. King behave, think, reason, believe?
Stride Toward Freedom is a stunning book; we strongly recommend it for your weekend reading, if you can still find it in an American bookstore. (We found it beneath our lawn mower, in our bedroom. Dont ask.) If a dull page exists in this book, we havent been able to find it. For us, the fascination begins in its opening paragraph. It is January 1954, the month in which Dr. King turned 25. (25!) Dr. King is driving to Montgomery to interview for his first job as a pastor. As he drives, he is pleased to find his favorite music being played on the car radio.
And yes, we offer that as a teaser.
We strongly recommend this book, a stunning, early look at a moral, intellectual, historical giant. Its stunning to read it as we listen to people like Schultzas we listens to this loud fallen soul speaking for Dr. Kings legacy.
One last point as we prep for tomorrow:
When you read the real thoughts of the real Dr. King, you are reading about a moral approach which produced the greatest progressive advance of the past century. Youd almost think pseudo-liberals would want to think about that important fact: Brilliantly, Dr. King won.
Youd think that fact might be worth consideringbut people love to hate. Look for the places where Dr. King explains why the Schultz-types in Montgomerys black community were brought in line with the approach which later actually worked. To which well append this key qualifier: Dr. King describes no one remotely as fallen as Schultz in that Montgomery communitythe community which embraced Jesus and Gandhi and produced an earth-shattering advance.
Tomorrow: Dr. King was still just 29