GREATEST NARRATIVE EVER! Liberal leaders like Wolfe and Shakir may help Saint McCain reach the White House: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2008
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: One week from today, on a Friday night, Obama and McCain stage their first debate.
Which leads to a simple question: Why? Why in the world is this first debate being held on a Friday night?
What do Americans do on Friday nights? From our incomparable years in show biz, we can report with some accuracy:
On Friday nights, younger people go out and get drunk. Older people tend to fall asleepsometimes right in their seats, out in public. And, of course, in large parts of the country, people attend high school football games. They wont skip those games next Friday night to watch the titans tangle.
Were puzzled by this scheduling choiceand weve seen no journalist explain it. Audience size for presidential debates has fallen dramatically over the years. Its hard to believe that this scheduling choice wont affect the size of next weeks audience.
How much has debate-watching dropped? In The Making of the President, 1960, Teddy White reported the size of those first debate crowds. [W]hen all was over, the audience exceeded the wildest fancies and claims of the television networks, he wrote. Each individual broadcast averaged an audience set at a low of 65,000,000 and a high of 70,000,000. Please note: When those crowds were assembled, the nations population stood at 179 million. Forty years later, when Bush battled Gore, U.S. population topped 281 million. But only 46 million watched the first Bush-Gore debate, with slightly fewer than 40 million tuning in for Debates 2 and 3. By contrast, 105 million people voted. More than half hadnt watched the debates.
Why did voters skip the debates? In part, because they had cable. In 1960, nothing else was on TV; if you didnt watch Kennedy tangle with Nixon, you had to sit there and talk to your spouse. Handed a choice so stark, so extreme, most adults knew how to respond.
But uh-oh! Thanks in part to the power of cable, many voters impressions of the Bush-Gore debates derived from what they heard from the press. This was very bad news for Goreand extremely bad news for the nation.
The Post attempted to build some context around some of Obamas recent claims. Were going to vote for Obama, of coursebut the gentleman does tend to cherry-pick quotes. The Post began by chiding him for the unfortunate practice:
Oof! But we had to chuckle at the Posts effort, because wed just finished reading Robinsons piece, right on the facing page. Needless to say, Robinson offered the same trimmed-down quote from McCain, just as Obama had cadged it:
From Obamas lips to your earsvia Robinson. But then, the same thing happened when we read a second bit of amplification:
Wed say it was a bit churlish to mention Leachnot so much with Summers/Rubin/Clinton. (By the way, the law Clinton signed had passed the Senate by a huge margin, 90-8.) But if you want churlish, Robinson was once again reciting Obamas line:
A better columnist might have used this valuable space to develop a more serious case against McCainagainst the man who backed landmark legislation which 89 other senators backed. But Robinson wasted chunks of space with silly blather about inventing the Blackberry, and about Carly Fiorinas latest pointless pronoucement. In other words, Robinson was performing like a hackas hes done since the hoary old days when he was hacking away against Gore.
You see, Robinson has always tended to kiss the keister of Village consensus. When they hated Gore, he channeled that loathing, in his role as Style section editor. Today, Sally Quinn is in love with Obamaand he channels that ardor too. Theres less consensus at this time than there was in 1999, of course. But Robinson has always hacked against both the Clintons and Gore, just as the Village decreed it.
In the long run, this sort of thing isnt good for progressives, however much we choose to pretend. This press corps will be an upper-class institution for many decades to come. On balance, theyre against McCain and the culture of war during this very brief moment in time. But on balance, they wont support progressive interests in the future, once the time of crisis has passed. (In the Village, Democrats now exist to clean up Republican messes.) Its sad to see the career liberal world embracing the work of pundits like these. Not long ago, they worked to convince you McCain was a saintand that Gore was the worlds biggest liar. In short, people like Robinson invented the world from which we now try to emerge.
Once again, Robinsons lips are tightly loc ked around the keister of Village consensus. Years ago, his writers struggled to leave Gore for deadGore, the vanilla pudding of the species (Kevin Merida) who giggled like a girl (Ceci Connolly). Today, he hands us sweet nothings about Carlys blackberries. Wed do better seeking voices which are smarter, toughermore honest.
READ EACH THRILLING INSTALLMENT: If John McCain reaches the White House, it will be by dint of his partys narratives. Read each thrilling installment:
Today, in a thrilling Part 3 or 4, we discuss the Greatest Narrative Ever:
PART 4GREATEST NARRATIVE EVER: A string of pundits continue to jump off the good ship Saint John McCain. But lets recall what these people did during Campaign 2000:
It has begun to seem less likely that McCain will end up in the White House. But plainly, these pundits kept Gore from reaching that place by dint of their astounding misconductand McCain may get there still. If he does, he will have done so by dint of the narratives they helped inventespecially the silly tale in which McCain was the worlds greatest man.
They invented a saintand a demon. But even today, liberal intellectuals and liberal writers cant quite bring themselves to admit it. Yesterday, Alan Wolfe discussed the movement away from McCain in this report at Salon. But good God! The fiery liberal began his report with a truly ridiculous statement:
Good Godthats simply stunning. The media were prone to emphasize Al Gore's exaggerations? There are no words for how clueless that is. Galveston recently had some rain would be a rough analogy.
Except Galveston actually did have some rain. Did Gore really voice exaggerations?
More than nine years later, Wolfes statement is simply astounding. But it seems to represent the best the career liberal world can manage. This explains the persistence of one more Republican narrativethe greatest one Saint McCain owns. We refer to the narrative Saint McCain used in the wake of his nomination of Palin. When Palin was criticized in various ways, McCain knew how to explain it:
There they go again, he said. There the mainstream press corps goes, displaying its liberal bias!
The press corps is driven by liberal bias! Its the most potent propaganda tool in our politicsthe greatest of all current narratives. It persists today in its potent form because liberal writerspeople like Wolferefuse to be truthful with voters. Truly, we live inside a madhouse when that tale can survive the past sixteen years. In the past sixteen years, after all, weve seen the following happen. Well focus on the treatment of personalities, not on the treatment of issues:
But more than anything else in this time, we saw them struggle and strainand lie and deceivepretending that Gore was the worlds biggest liar. But so what? After sixteen years of this gruesome misconduct, the potent old narrative persists. The press corps is driven by liberal bias! The press corps just loves all those Dems!
If John McCain gets elected this fall, it will be in large part by dint of that narrative. And who has allowed that tale to persist? People like Alan Wolfetelling the world, in sonorous tones: Last week, it rained some in Galveston.
How hapless have liberals been when it comes to confronting this powerful narrative? For an answer, just watch a segment from C-Spans Washington Journal involving Marvin Kalb and Faiz Shakir. (To watch this segment, just click here. Then click once again.)
Shakir is editor-in-chief of ThinkProgress, web site of the Center for American Progress. Kalb is a ponderous, tired old hacka lion of the insider Washington class. (The class to which Shakir will belong.) The two fellows appeared on September 6, just as the storm was brewing about the press corps mistreatment of poor abused Sarah Palin.
Opposing the pair was Cliff Kincaid, crackpot voice of the far-right Accuracy in Media. Predictably, Kincaid kicked the keisters of Shakir and Kalb all over C-Spans lot.
You can perhaps guess how this session proceeded. Kincaid began by complaining about the way the liberal media adopted the Daily Kos claim about Palins last pregnancy. With that imagined outrage as his frame, he kept repeating familiar old tales about the press corps liberal bias. But in the course of the 35 minutes, it never occurred to Shakir or Kalb to make the worlds most obvious points. Viewers never heard a word about the press corps assaults on the Clintons and Gore. Incredibly, Shakir and Kalb never even mentioned the press corps long love affair with McCain! If you didnt think you knew better, youd assume this was some form of pro wrestling, with Shakir and Kalb agreeing to be pinned. (Our own assessment: Kalb was astoundingly awful this day, Shakir was merely hapless.)
In fact, this is the typical, long-term conduct of hapless liberal elites.
Perhaps you know why they play it this way; here at THE HOWLER, we have no idea. But truly, Wolfes statement says all you need to know about why McCain may yet reach the White House. If McCain does reach the White House next year, it will be by dint of his partys narrativespotent narratives he and his party have worked long and hard to create. Because theyve worked so hard to establish these tales, voters have endlessly heard them:
Theres a lot to commend that final narrative; the other three are hopeless bunk. But Faiz Shakir, for whatever reason, didnt tell that to C-Spans viewers. And Alan Wolfe did the same darn thing with that ludicrous opening statement.
It rained some in Galveston, Alan Wolfe said. When will people like Wolfe tell the truth about the mainstream press corps?
Earth to Wolfe: As we noted the other day, Campaign 2000 took its most fateful turn on December 1, 1999. On that day, Ceci Connolly and Katherine Kit Seelye accidentally misquoted Candidate Gore in the Post and the Times (about his hearings on Love Canal.) Their error revived a dying narrative: Al Gore is a delusional liar. From that point on, this narrative simply never quit. It drove vast amounts of the campaign coverage. It sent George Bush to the White House.
Earth to Wolfe: When a journalist misquotes a politicians accurate statement, she isnt emphasizing an exaggeration, or showing that she is prone to do same. More correctly, shes making sh*t up. Connolly and Seelye did that for two years. But your class still refuses to say this.
For the record, Wolfe is on the faculty at Boston College, where he serves as director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life. Dont you think that life must be good inside that pleasant office?
How this class looks out for its own: By the summer of 2000, Connolly and Seelye had misbehaved so dramatically that people had noticed across the pond. The pair were hostile to the campaign, the Financial Times wrote, doing little to hide their contempt for the candidate. But over on this side of the pond, you werent allowed to notice such things. (Published writers like Wolfe never did.)
Result? In Brills Content, Seth Mnookin discussed the criticisms that had been aimed at Seelye and Connollyand Jane Mayer said that these complaints had been caused by sexism! If Bob Woodward and Jeff Gerth wore high heels, they'd be called bitches, too," she said (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/1/00). And noyou cant get dumber than that. Thats as dumb as human life ever gets.
No, you cant get dumber than that; nor can you be a better team player. But within this world, the children know they mustnt tattle. Al Gore said he invented the Internet? Its a weird urban legend, they say.
Men like Wolfe remain polite too. This explains why McCain may still win. He may win by dint of his powerful narrativesnarratives these men wont explore.