KINSLEY FLIPS! Its hard to find sufficient contempt for a flip-flopper like Michael Kinsley: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2008
WERE ALL SEAN HANNITY NOW: Josh Marshalls descent into Hannity Land has been a dizzying ride. But even by Joshs declining standards, this gruesome post by Kate Klonick represents a new low in rube-running. (David Kurtz linked to the piece, on page one.) Do you enjoy being treated like fools? If so, youll love Klonicks opening:
Since Palin bought this item herself (see paragraph 2), its hard to see how it relates to the paring of those state assets. But then, our dwindling intelligence gets insulted again as Klonick ends her groaner:
Readers, journalists can be paid as much as $10 million. Why does Marshall pay Kate Klonick such a ridiculous salary?
Truly, were all Sean Hannity now. Sorry, nowere Hannitys viewers. Do you like it when your leaders treat you like the worlds biggest rubes? By the way: As a matter of simple politics, its amazingly stupid to write this about Palin even as you attack Palins misstatements.
CHARLIE AND GEORGE, UNSKILLED LABOR: George Stephanopoulos rolled over and died, feet extending into the air. His demise began when Carly Fiorina made this baldly inaccurate statement on Sundays This Week:
The highlighted statement is baldly inaccurate; by any reasonable standard, Fiorinas claim (about the facts) was blatantly false. Stephanopoulos knew this, of course. And so, he pretended to act:
Sad. From that exchange, would a previously uninformed viewer know if Palin rejected the money? Fiorinas initial claim was absurd. But when Stephanopoulos challenged her statement, he let her blather on in reply. At this point, he moved to another topic. He let her misstatement stand.
But so it goes as slick music menslick players like Palinsell fake hero tales to the public.
Stephanopoulos rolled over and died when Fiorina pimped her fake tale. With this, we return to Charlie Gibson, trying to clarify this matter in his interview with Palin herself.
What is Gibsons annual salary? After a cursory search, we have no idea. According to Howard Kurtz, Gibson was being paid $3 million ten years ago, long before the major promotion which made him ABCs evening anchor. (Gibson replaced the late Peter Jennings, whose estimated swag was $10 million, in 2002.) In 2002, Kurtz reported that Stephanopoulos was being paid more than $1 million per year.
For swag like that, youd almost think you could hire a person with real skill. But Gibson was no match for Palin when it came to the Bridge to Nowhere tale. Do you mind if we tell you a dirty secret? Charlie Gibson is highly unskilled. His salary is highbut his skill set is low. This became clear when he chatted with Palin that bridgewhen he held his discussion from nowhere.
(To read the full transcript of this exchange, you know what to do: Just click here.)
Sadly, Charlie started out well, doing what colleagues often dont; he semi-quoted the actual hero tale Palin has been pimping to the public. The analysts cheered when they saw poor Charlie get off to this promising start:
Sadly, that isnt Palins actual quote. (Can these people do anything right?) But so what? Cheers rang out in our vast halls, just because Charlie tried and came close! But predictably, things went downhill from there. Charlie ran straight to a worthless constructionand Palin began to blowing smoke:
Sad. The fact that Palin supported that bridge before she opposed it doesnt mean that her claim is inaccurate; it could mean that she told the Congress to take their bridge and shove it once she heroically came to her senses. And Palin used the t-shirt distraction to offer a largely irrelevant point about the communitys views. (Why did Charlie mention the t-shirt? He wanted to use a visual!)
Charlie should have avoided that pointless constructionand his questions should have been simple. He should have stuck with Palins precise hero tale. He should have started with this:
The whole point of Palins claim is this: I heroically stood up to Congress. Charlie should have made her explain when she did that. His follow-up, after her blather, should have been this:
This would have forced the dissembling pol to define her heroic conduct. Instead, Charlie wandered all about, with Palin creating endless confusion. This murky, confusing discussion ensued, thanks to Gibsons lack of skill. Well highlight Charlies best attempt at a point:
At this point, Charlie gave up. Given his inordinate lack of skill, well have to say we dont blame him.
Palins explanation is jumbled, and it seems self-contradictory at major points. At its best, it seems to be this: Sure, I accepted the federal moneybut I didnt spend it on Congress flunky old project. I could have spent it on that bridgebut I spent it on more worthwhile projects. In the meantime, weve found a better link between that community and its airport. At the same time, though, she seems to imply that she would have built the bridge if the federal government hadnt said, No, the rest of the nation doesnt want to fund that project. But the whole discussion was massively jumbled, due to Gibsons lack of skill. Wed have to guess that very few viewers came away with a clear understanding.
Palin seemed to be contradicting herself in that long-winded declamation. She still claimed that she said Thanks, but no thanks, even as she plainly said that the federal government said no to her! But a slippery pol can escape with jumbled talesif her host cant keep her on task. Gibson let Palin escape Friday night. Stephanopoulos extended the favor to Carly two days later.
Bottom line: In September 2007, Palins press release said she was killing this project because the Congress wouldnt give her more money. Her whole hero tale falls apart on that fact. But so what? In the course of this rambling exchange, Charlie failed to cite it.
But then, skilled labor is hard to find these days. Millions of dollars wont do it.
What Robinson heard: In todays Post, Gene Robinson writes that Palin fessed up to telling a lie in this session with Gibson. He marvels at the way she went right back to telling that liethe lie to which shed confessed. But in fact, Palin wasnt confessing to a lie when she spoke with Gibson that night; she was defending her original story. We think her defense was impossibly weak, but thats because we know the fuller story. In fact, many viewers will come away with different ideas of what was said. Thats because the interview was conducted by a man with a very large salaryand little discernible skill.
READ EACH THRILLING INSTALLMENT: John McCain is on his way to the White House by dint of his partys narratives. Read each thrilling installment:
Today, in Part 2A, we look on at Slick Kinsley flips:
PART 2AKINSLEY FLIPS: If John McCain reaches the White House, he will have done so, in large part, because of his powerful narratives. One such narrative belongs to him alone. We reviewed that narrative yesterday:
For the past dozen years, childish journalistsmen like Joe Kleinhave hammered this narrative into place, even praising the great Saint McCain for his lies. Within the world of halfwits like Klein, everything has proved McCains moral greatness over the past dozen years. If McCain ends up in the White House next year, the narrative men like Klein helped build will have carried the candidate there. Recent protestations to the side, childish chipmunks like Klein have put McCain in position to win.
But then, this narrative about McCains moral greatness is a sub-set of a larger narrative. Today, its easy for voters to trust McCains statements because the saintly man is a Republicanand under the laws of the past sixteen years, its Democrats who tell all the lies, who have all those problems with the truth. The press has relentlessly pimped this theme about the eras important figures. In the Clinton/Gore/Clinton era, a great moral contrast has ruled the work of your press corps:
Bushs reputation finally slidonce he had destroyed the known world. But in the past sixteen years, a succession of major Democrats have been said to have problems with the truthand a succession of major Republicans have been known for their plain-spoken candor. John McCain is the worlds most honest man is one part of this larger narrative.
Dems are dishonest; Republicans arent. McCain and Palin are riding this narrative as they try to reach the White House. And who has allowed this theme to thrive over the course of the past sixteen years? Lets consider Michael Kinsley, who posted a deeply troubled column for the Washington Post last week. Why Do Lies Prevail? the great pundits headline asked.
Poor Kinsley! In his short, six-paragraph piece, he ran through his cohorts current theories about McCains deeply troubling lying. (Suddenly, the Kinsleys and Kleins can spot this problem, having been blind to it in the past.) But uh-oh! In the following passage, Kinsley asks and answers a basic question: Why do obvious liars prevail? Truth to tell, our analysts gagged when they read Kinsleys answer:
No one cares enough about lying, Kinsley says. Pretty soon, the victim of lies starts getting blamed! And omigod! In that same paragraph, Kinsley identifies Kerry and Gore as two past victims of this syndrome. Gore and Kerry were victims of lies, Kinsley writes. They were victims of the medias indifference to the problem of lying.
Its hard to find sufficient contempt for a man like Kinsley.
With this heartfelt formulation, Kinsley arrives rather late at the scene. Its too bad he didnt say such things back when it might have actually mattered, back when Kerry and Gore were becoming the victims of lies. How did Kinsley in real timewhen protestations might have mattered? Like so many of his colleagues, Kinsley made it perfectly clear: He didnt seem to care very much about all that anti-Democrat lying. Gore and Kerrty could be victims all day for all that Kinsley cared.
Today, Kinsley is typing conventional wisdom about Saint McCains bad lying. But what did he write during Campaign 2000, when, according to his own formulation, Candidate Gore was a victim of lies? In the fall of 2000, Kinsley was writing a weekly column for the Posta column which appeared each Tuesday. From September 5 through November 7, he thus wrote ten columns.
Today, Kinsley tells us that, during that period, Candidate Gore was a victim of lies. But he wrote nothing about thisnothing at allwhen this victimization was happening. Apparently, Kinsley didnt care enough about lying when this lying was going on. In part thanks to Kinsley, many voters believed the claims that were endlessly made against Gore. To this day, this shapes the way they look at Palin, McCain and Obama.
Lets travel back: As of Labor Day 2000, Gore had been widely trashed as a liar for eighteen consecutive months. (Al Gore said he invented the Internet was invented in March 1999.) Here at THE HOWLER, we had started debunking these claims the week they started. But Kinsley never touched this problem in the ten columns he wrote in the fall of 2000. He did discuss lying on September 26, in a column headlined, Frankly My Dear. But ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! The gentlemans tongue was firmly in cheek, right where men of his high station enjoyed positioning their tongues as the latest vile Dem got trashed. This is how Kinsley started:
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Kinsleys column, an ironic laugh riot, dealt with the way politicians say frankly when theyre about to say something dishonest. This was a bit of good solid fiun. But it ignored what was happening at the time.
The week before, Gore had been hit with the latest twin claims about his alleged vile lyingwith the ludicrous claims that he had lied about 1) those doggy pills and 2) that union lullaby. These two charges were utterly bogus; Gores comment about the lullaby was an obvious joke. But the charges had revived the punishing claim that Candidate Gore was the worlds biggest liar. Here at THE HOWLER (and at Speakout.com), we were struggling to debunk these claimsthe kinds of claims which made Gore a victim and sent George Bush to the White House But Kinsley, who calls Gore a victim today, was yukking it up in real time.
As such, its hard to find sufficient contempt for a man like Michael Kinsley. As he displayed his skill at the dance, another Big Dem was branded a liarmade a victim, he tells us. Today.
Unfortunately, Kinsley turned to the subject of lying one more time before the election. That was in his October 10 column, headlined, Lies the press likes. By now, Gore was being universally trashed for a new set of alleged lies, lies he had supposedly told at his first debate with Bush. (In one of these deeply troubling lies, Gore was reading from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune about a shortage of desks at Sarasota High School.) But even now, in the nineteenth month of this war, Kinsley wrote another meta-columna column in which he casually referred, again and again, to Candidate Gores many lies. Cokie Roberts couldnt have rattled her cohorts talking-points better:
Those explanations were all perfect bunk; today, Kinsley correctly says that Gore was himself a victim of lies. But in real time, he said no such thing, casually referring, again and again, to Gores lies and fabrications. When this column appeared, Kinsleys colleagues were trashing Gore as a liar all over again, and Bush had gone back ahead in the polls; they had now been saying, for nineteen months, that Al Gore said he invented the Internet. But Kinsley couldnt bring himself to utter a peep of actual protest. That in mind, its hard to find sufficient contempt for the garbage he posted last week.
With Kerry, things were no better. Today, Kinsley says that Kerry was a victim of lies, like Candidate Gore before him. Presumably, he refers to the Swift boat campaign. But in the summer and fall of 2004, he devoted exactly one column to the topicand he wrote it as an ironic laugh riot. The column appeared in the Washington Post and in the Los Angeles Times, for which Kinsley was now editorial page editor. Well show you its headline and its opening as it appeared in the Times. Ha ha ha ha ha! Kinsley was playing the fool once again, as Kerry slid back in the polls. Yes, that was the real headline:
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh boythat was good! Today, Kinsley calls Kerry a victim of lies. But this clownish column represents Kinsleys only attempt to address the claims of the Swift boat campaign. Today, he says what you want to hear, the things his colleagues are widely recitingand he even calls Kerry a victim. But in real time, he hid in the weeds, just as hed done four years earlier.
When McCain and Palin parade about, presenting themselves as straight-talking straight-shooters, they do so in the context of sixteen years of similar conduct from cheap sluts like Michael Kinsley. (Who good career liberal still cheer.) For sixteen years, major Dems have been presented as liars, embellishers, dishonest flip-floppers; routinely, weve been told that a string of Big Dems have a problem with the truth. (Why, Hillary Clinton even lied about the Cubs and the Yankees!) During that same period, John McCain was being portrayed as the worlds most honest humaneven when he was lying his ass off during Campaign 2000. (About Bushs budget proposal, for instance. Link below.) But it wasnt just the saintly McCain who was construed as an honest man. During this era, every Major Republican has been blunt, plain-spoken, straigh-talking. All Big Dems have been liars.
Disgraceful people like Kinsley and Klein gamboled and played all through this era. Kinsley ignored two years of lies about Gore, then repeated the rite with Kerry. Today, he pretends to be upset at the lies McCain is tellingand hes suddenly shedding real tears about past victimizations. In short, its hard to find sufficient contempt for a person of Kinsleys low character. His grisly silence in the past sixteen years explains why a saint may yet win.
Visit our incomparable archives: John McCain dissembled endlessly during Campaign 2000. Beyond that, he had race men running his South Carolina campaign, a point the press largely agreed to ignore. (McCains men were to the right of the National Review but to the left of the Klan, the New Republic managed to say.) In April, he said he had lied about the confederate flagand the press corp praised him for his honesty. This clowning behavior established the narrative McCain may yet ride to the White House.
McCain was not especially honest during Campaign 2000. We routinely discussed this in real time; for one example, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/23/00. Sorry. This involves McCains slippery claims about Bushs budget proposal. For some weird reason, journalists could never quite decipher Bushs complaints about McCains statements. McCains presentations were very slickand the press corps let it go on.
In these ways, they made him a saint. Today, they call him a liar.
TOMORROWPART 3: McCain employs the most potent narrative of the past fifty years