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WHO WILL OPPOSE THE WAGE CUT? Lou Dobbs asks a good question on Nagin. Jesse declines to respond: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2005

MILLIONAIRE COLLEGE PRESIDENT VALUES: We’ve long discussed those Millionaire Pundit Values, the values driving your lackluster press corps. But such values drive most of our modern culture. On the front page of today’s Post, Susan Kinzie describes the world of a D.C. college president. We’ll highlight our favorite element:
KINZIE (9/22/05): An independent report on the personal and travel expenses of suspended American University President Benjamin A. Ladner and his wife questions more than a half-million dollars spent over the past three years, including a family engagement party that cost hundreds of dollars per person, "professional development" trips for the couple's personal chef to Paris, London and Rome, and a lunch of more than $5,000 hosted by Nancy Ladner for a garden club...

Board members asked for an audit after receiving an anonymous letter this spring that complained of lavish spending by the Ladners...

Such are the values that now obtain atop our academic prig-pile. But then, such values have come to dominate American culture over the course of the past fifty years, as we described in our incomparable 1994 one-man show, Material World. (Washington’s insightful City Paper: “Bob Somerby turns a stand-up act into stand-up art...Material World is high comic art.”)

These values are found at the top of the press corps—and at the top of many institutions painted as centers of “liberal” values. That’s why the pseudo-liberalism we have described now dominates so much of our politics.

WHO WILL OPPOSE THE WAGE CUT: Josh Marshall has been doing superlative work about “the president’s Gulf Coast Wage Cut”—the Bush Admin’s suspension of the Davis-Bacon act for post-Katrina rebuilding projects. (For an early post on the subject by Josh, just click here.) Predictably, the action has produced little reaction from the mainstream press corps (the New York Times did run a scathing editorial on September 10). Last night, though, Lou Dobbs did a lengthy segment about this matter. After a report by Lisa Sylvester and an interview with Ted Kennedy, Dobbs posed a question to Jesse Jackson. Dobbs made it clear that her disapproved of Bush’s action—and he asked about a pair of Dem pols:

DOBBS (9/21/05): Well, let me ask you, Jesse: The mayor of New Orleans, the governor of Louisiana, why in the world aren't they protesting and representing their constituents in this? Because it is on the face of it—well, the nicest word I can put it is “unreasonable,” to allow open-ended contracts, cost-plus, and put a minimum—effectively, to reduce the minimum that workers will be paid.
Where are Nagin and Blanco? he asked. But Jackson avoided an answer (in fairness, he may not have known):
JACKSON (continuing directly): Well, it is a federal bailout on the states' rights conditions deal. And they're using the excuse of the emergency to suspend prevailing wages which are below union wages, I might add. And to suspend affirmative action, to suspend workers' rights.

I mean, there's no job in cleanup. The small business in Gulfport, or in Biloxi, or Pascagoula, Mobile, you're talking about trucking and hauling and dumping. All these jobs could be handled by disaster relief victims. So why can't the disaster victims have priority on job training and jobs and contracts? There's no victims relief fund. And they want to dumb down wages and make them less able? They're compounding their misery. It's unfair.

DOBBS: Reverend Jesse Jackson, we thank you for being with us.

JACKSON: Thank you.

Low-income workers are getting nailed by Bush—again. Why aren’t Nagin and Blanco speaking up? Jackson didn’t opine.

We were pleased by Dobbs’ outlook—and intrigued by his question. Needless to say, this matter didn’t intrude on Joyce Purnick’s sloppy, fawning profile of Nagin in yesterday’s New York Times—a profile in which she praised his “distinctive shirts,” but failed to ask why he wasn’t supporting his region’s low-income workers (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/21/05). But then, that’s the nature of Manhattan pseudo-liberalism. Are “lowlife rednecks” being treated like dogs? Who on God’s good green earth cares?

Of course, Purnick did mention the fact, in passing, that Nagin was elected mayor with the support of “the entrenched white business community.” But that didn’t seem to put questions into her head, or stop her from her addled gushing. (To Purnick, this was another sign that Nagin is “just plain different.”) Manhattan highbrow pseudo-liberals simply don’t think about matters like that. After all, Millionaire Pundit Values define their horizon. They’re enthralled by entrenched big-shots too.

NAGIN AND KERRY—AND ROVE: Some have asked if Nagin (who supported Bush in Campaign 2000) supported Kerry in Campaign 04. By that time, of course, Nagin was mayor—an official Dem—and yes, he ended up endorsing Kerry, although he didn’t do so until after returning from the Democratic Convention. Here’s the report in the Times-Picayune which announced his ringing endorsement:

RUCKER (8/7/04): While he’s officially still neutral in the race for the 1st District congressional seat being vacated by Republican David Vitter, it’s no secret that New Orleans Democratic Mayor Ray Nagin may be throwing his weight behind Republican Bobby Jindal—again.

After endorsing Jindal in last year’s gubernatorial race, Nagin was expected to attend a fund-raiser in Old Metairie this week as Jindal’s "very special guest,"
posing with Jindal for photographs with donors for $2,000 a pop. But after the Nagin camp waffled over whether or not the appearance constituted a formal endorsement, Nagin did not show up Tuesday night.

While the fund-raiser was in swing, the mayor called Jindal to cancel and instead attended the Night Out Against Crime events in various city neighborhoods, Jindal campaign manager Timmy Teepell said. Teepell said the fund-raiser brought in $50,000...

Nagin spokeswoman Tanzie Jones said the mayor is waiting for qualifying to end this week before making any formal endorsements—except one.

After attending the Democratic National Convention in Boston last week, Nagin has decided to throw his support behind his party’s standard bearer, Sen. John Kerry, in the presidential race.

Gee, thanks! One week earlier, the Times-Picayune’s Stephanie Grace had described some back-channel chatter—chit-chat involving Karl Rove:
GRACE (7/29/04): [Nagin] may be the only local Democrat who’s recently gotten a call from the other side, specifically Bush mastermind Karl Rove, who is well aware of Nagin’s business background and past willingness to cross party lines.

Nagin said he’s heard from Rove a couple of times during the campaign, most recently about two weeks ago. Rove’s stated message, Nagin said, was that Bush understands that Nagin can’t support the president but just wants to keep in touch, and make sure that the mayor is satisfied with the city’s relationship with the Bush administration, particularly when it comes to public housing issues. The implication, Nagin figured, is that the mayor might not want to "get too crazy" in his support of Kerry. It wasn’t a threat, Nagin said, just smart politics—a friendly reminder, albeit one that made him a bit uncomfortable.

As we’ve said, we don’t know enough about New Orleans politics to judge Nagin’s performance in office. Nor can we tell you what he has or hasn’t said about the Wage Cut. But we’ve been amused to see Dems and libs rush to endorse his Katrina performance despite his Bush-endorsing past—and to see the Times fall all over itself with praise of his “celebrity.” But then, that’s pseudo-liberalism at its finest! Last night, Dobbs asked a good question: Will Nagin speak for working people? At the Times, of course, writers tend not to care about that.

By the way, did Nagin end up endorsing Jindal (R) for Congress? Sorry—we couldn’t find the answer in our Nexis search.

HERBERT SEES NO EVIL: This morning, Bob Herbert simply had us roaring as he savaged incompetent Bush. But as we’ve told you again and again, big pundits refuse to tell you the truth about the conduct of their own cohort. Try to believe that he actually typed it, near the end of his piece:

HERBERT (9/22/05): There is a general sense now that things are falling apart. The economy was already faltering before Katrina hit. Gasoline prices are starting to undermine the standard of living of some Americans, and a full-blown home-heating-oil crisis could erupt this winter. The administration's awful response to the agony of the Gulf Coast has left most Americans believing that we are not prepared to cope with a large terrorist attack. And Osama bin Laden is still at large.

This is what happens when voters choose a president because he seems like a nice guy, like someone who'd be fun at a barbecue or a ballgame. You'd never use that criterion when choosing a surgeon, or a pilot to fly your family across the country.

As always, it’s the fault of the voters! But is it true? Did voters choose Bush “because he seems like a nice guy, like someone who'd be fun at a barbecue?” Some voters surely did; after all, Herbert’s cohort pushed this theme during Campaign 2000 until kingdom finally came. (Chris Matthews never stopped talking about it.) But then, many voters “chose a president” in that election because they’d been told, for two solid years, that his opponent was “delusional” and a big crazy liar. Indeed, the press corps’ astonishing War Against Gore was aggressively conducted in Herbert’s own paper—the same paper which invented the Whitewater hoax back in 1992. But Herbert didn’t discuss that war at the time, and he refuses to mention it even today. Herbert’s heart is in the right place—but so is his wallet, right there in his pocket. Today, he takes the easy way out. But then, we’ve seen this again and again from big major pundits over the past dozen years.

WHAT HE SAID AT THE TIME: Remember what we’ve always told you; pundits never tell you the truth about their own precious cohort. Instead, they project its behavior onto others—onto late-night comedians, or onto the voters. And that’s exactly what Herbert did in his final column of Campaign 2K.

How could Bush be so close, Herbert wondered, writing one day before the election. But here is his single reference to the press corps’ two-year war:

HERBERT (11/6/00): With the campaign in its final hours, Democrats are still wondering how a nation at peace and benefiting from the greatest economy in its history could consider deep-sixing a highly qualified vice president in favor of a man who frequently finds himself lost in the thickets of national policy...

Obviously there are many factors, including a weariness with all things Clinton and the media's relentless fascination with the trivial. But I think the main reason the election is close is that George Bush and the Republicans have done a much better job appealing to Republican voters than Al Gore and the Democrats have been able to do with their own unruly Democratic constituencies.

Herbert didn’t even say who the media’s “fascination with the trivial” was harming. But as he continued, he found the real demon. The Democrats had been “ranting” about Gore’s deficiencies, he weirdly said:
HERBERT (continuing directly): Forget all the chatter about education and prescription drugs and the finer points of a patients' bill of rights. For hard-core Republicans the big issues are the big tax cuts and the opportunity to raid Social Security, one of the Democratic Party's proudest achievements. George W. Bush has not wavered on those issues.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have refused to hammer home their best issue—the economy; have downplayed their most progressive themes (the environment, to cite one example); have wallowed in their love-hate relationship with Bill Clinton; have flirted with Ralph Nader; and have taken every opportunity to rant about Al Gore's deficiencies as a candidate.

Amazing, isn’t it? According to Herbert, the Democrats had “taken every opportunity to rant about Gore's deficiencies!” As he continued, Herbert mentioned another problem the Gore camp had faced—but he absent-mindedly forgot to say who had been causing this problem:
HERBERT (continuing directly): The campaign has been anything but coherent. Now, with the election just hours away and Mr. Bush a half-step ahead in most polls, there is dismay among the party faithful.

"I'm getting ulcers," said Lucille Moyers of San Jose, Calif., a Democrat who had considered voting for Mr. Nader. Now, with the possibility of a George W. Bush presidency staring her in the face, she has changed her mind.

"I'm amazed that Bush has gotten this far," said Ms. Moyers, who is 53 years old and has a 15-year-old son. "I am going to vote for Gore because I'm afraid of what will happen to the Supreme Court if Bush becomes president."

Al Gore was portrayed early on as a viciously partisan fighter, but his campaign was not like that at all. It was restrained. There never was a full-scale assault on the other side.

Herbert was right. From December 1999 on, “Gore was portrayed as a viciously partisan fighter.” And Herbert was right about something else: Gore’s campaign “was not like that at all.” But who had portrayed Gore in that dishonest manner? Duh! Herbert’s own colleagues—the mainstream press corps! (Links below.) But Herbert was too big a coward to say so (or to do so earlier, when it might have made a difference). He had his wallet to protect—and today, Bush sits in the White House, being torn up by Bob Herbert.

These people never tell you the truth about the conduct of their own cohort. A dissembler back then, a dissembler today. Say hello to our great liberal conscience.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: We don’t think we’ve ever posted the full story on the Al-Gore-is-nasty-and-negative theme. But that theme was endlessly pimped during Campaign 2000—by the mainstream press corps! In December 1999, a string of pundits falsely claimed that Gore “introduced Willie Horton to the voters,” and they attacked his negativity as they pimped this bogus claim. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/1/02 to see their well-scripted statements. During this same period, the press was savaging Gore for his nasty negativity in daring to criticize Bradley’s health plan. Even though they ended up saying that Gore was right in his claims, they still attacked him for being so negative! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/6/02, to see how absurd this finally became. And then, by the spring of 2000, Gore was savaged when he dared to criticize Bush’s privatization proposal. “Attack attack attack,” they recited. Indeed, we mentioned this inane press corps onslaught this Tuesday. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/20/05, with links to prior reporting.

By the summer of 2000, of course, Gore was on the cover of the Atlantic Monthly—with a fang coming out of his mouth! The synopsis said it all: Gore was “a ruthless combatant who will say whatever it takes to win, and who leaves opponents not just beaten but brutalized.” To review this astonishing profile—by “liberal” pundit James Fallows—see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/11/00. Prepare to be fully amazed.

It’s true! Gore was “portrayed as a viciously partisan fighter.” Indeed, he was portrayed that way all through the race; it was a major theme of Campaign 2000. But that theme was pushed by the mainstream press corps, and Bob Herbert knew the rules—he knew he mustn’t say so. “The Democrats” had been ranting about Gore, he said! Today, George Bush is bungling the world—and Herbert is very upset.

WHY MUST THEY FIGHT: The Post tried to top the City Paper in its praise for Material World. “Think Will Rogers without the corny rope tricks, or Thoreau with a credit card,” the paper said, causing our cheeks to rouge. “Somerby offers a rare treat—jokes based on ideas.”

Of course, that was back when the Washington Post knew what it was talking about!