Companion site:


Google search...


Daily Howler: Why is Rich so hard on Dems? We'd call him an Upscale Provincial
Daily Howler logo
MANHATTAN PROVINCIAL! Why is Rich so hard on Dems? We’d call him an Upscale Provincial: // link // print // previous // next //

SLOWLY WE TURN: Rush Limbaugh’s “phony soldiers” exchange was actually pretty tame stuff—for him. He has said worse, for many years, while Potemkin liberals sat and stared, refusing to notice or comment. But we were thrilled watching Countdown last night—thrilled to see the liberal world starting to teach itself how to respond to fact-challenged blather. As you know, we’re not in love with some of Keith’s work; we simply hate what we take to be his reflexive sexism, for example. (Which young blonde shall the boys mock tonight?) But we thought Mr. O was rocking the hall when he offered this varied lesson in how to read the news:
OLBERMANN (10/2/07): First the background. Comedian Rush Limbaugh has stuck to the standard scripture for fringe extremists—never apologize, attack anyone who criticizes you.

This time, Limbaugh claims that Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, who went to the floor yesterday asking Limbaugh`s boss to repudiate his comments, took those comments out of context. It is the standard claim, debunked easily enough by listening to it. Something Limbaugh has denied his own listeners the ability to do when he later played an edited clip in his defense.

We will play the unedited clip in a moment. When you hear it, keep in mind, Limbaugh later claimed he was referring to one soldier whom he did not mention until two minutes after the clip you will hear has ended.

And the caller he speaks with, specifically says, prior to this clip, that he called as a, quote, "retort to the previous caller," an antiwar Republican military veteran.

Keep in mind, also, that you will hear Limbaugh agree with a definition of real soldier, which confirms the obvious interpretation of the term “phony soldier.”

(Audio tape)

LIMBAUGH: What is the imperative for pulling out? What`s in it for the United States to pull out? They—I don`t think they have an answer for that other than, well, we`ve got to bring the troops home?

MIKE: Yeah, and, you know what?

LIMBAUGH: Keep the troops safe or whatever. It`s not possible intellectually to follow these people.

MIKE: No, it`s not. And what`s really funny is they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and stuff.

LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers?

MIKE: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they`re proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq because they understand their sacrifice. And they`re willing to sacrifice for their country.

LIMBAUGH: They joined to be in Iraq.

(End of audio clip)

OLBERMANN: Real soldiers joined to be in Iraq.
No, nothing much would have turned on that latest crap from Limbaugh. But a whole lot of learning is going on in that transcript as Keith teaches his viewers how to read (and examine) the things that get passed off as news.

We liberals are teaching ourselves very late. In the past fifteen years, many phony stories have been generated—and these phony stories did change history, while the “liberal” world sat and stared into space. A quick partial history: First, Gene Lyons wrote Fools for Scandal—and the liberal world pretty much let it go. (An “edited tape” played a key role there, too, courtesy of ABC News. We didn’t tell folks about it.) Then, Gene and Joe Conason wrote The Hunting of the President—and we largely took a pass on that too. And we ignored a two-year stream of phony stories during Campaign 2000—phony stories which sent Bush to the White House. We’ve been very slow to teach ourselves how to take “the news” apart in the way we must learn to do. Last night, we were thrilled to see this work being done. Rush’s remarks weren’t really that big a deal. But spreading those basic skills is.

One final note: Average people deserve to be told the truth about “the news” they are handed. They need to be told that they’re often handed phony stories—phony stories about massive trivia. They need to be told that the “mainstream press” will routinely agree to recite these phony stories en masse. And they need to be told about our Potemkin press liberals—the Dionnes, the Hunts, the Cohens, the Shieldses; even the weird ones, like the Frank Riches. In particular, they need to be told that these “liberals” are there, in large part, to permit these phony stories to pass. Sometimes, they even invent these stories—phony stories which defeat Dems and liberals. Average people deserve the chance to know that. For the most part, they’ve never been told.

Average people deserve to be told about the way our multimillionaire press corps now works. They deserve to be told about that fraternal order—about the endless scribes who seem to think they’re paid to echo the clowns at the Grand Raccoon Lodge. Our analysts cheered as Brother Olbermann did some excellent teaching last night. We liberals have come to this task very late, and we still have a long way to go.

TOMORROW: Part 5, Russert happens!

MANHATTAN PROVINCIAL: Why does Frank Rich so often behave like some kind of borderline nut? In particular, what’s his obsession with Gore—and the Clintons? We offered our general view last year; regrettably, this involves speculation, mind-reading (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/9/06). But in his latest oddball effort, he misstated elementary facts about Gore and set his sites on vile cackling Clinton. Why does he do this, some readers have asked. Let’s suggest an approach for those who find themselves puzzled by this part of his work.

Why does Rich trash so many Big Dems—often, so dishonestly? For starters, let’s consider his rube-like reactions to that great bugaboo, religion.

Here at THE HOWLER, we aren’t religious ourselves. But most American adults are—and yes, that does include Brother Gore, a fact which seems to stick in Rich’s craw. Gore briefly went to divinity school after returning from Vietnam, for example; so did one of his best-friend college roommates, John Tyson. Two weekends ago, a third Gore roommate, Mike Kapetan, was in DC on a “business” matter. His business? Kapetan’s one of them artist fellers; he carves large wooden sacred sculptures for Greek Orthodox churches.

In short, some of Gore’s friends at that time were religious; others of his friends were not. Most Americans can deal with such differences. But some provincial liberals cannot—and that fact can be death for our party.

Back in the fall of 1999, Rich battered Gore, two separate times, for that “evolution in Kansas” non-story story (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/2/07). At one point, he did so as part of a longer column in which he battered Gore for a long laundry list of alleged missteps involving religion. (How dare he say he’s religious!) Beyond that, let’s note something a bit unpleasant: Rich sometimes seems like the type of Manhattan Provincial who loves to trash the red-state values of southern whites, including southern whites like Gore. (The late Mary McGrory showed similar instincts at the Washington Post.) How big a regional hick is Rich—the blowhard king of High Manhattan? In what follows, we see part of the way Rich trashed An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s “high school” film about climate change, in a ludicrous column last year. Yep! The film which helped changed the world’s discourse on warming wasn’t good enough for Rich (nothing is). Try to believe that he actually typed this utterly silly string of complaints—including the groaning complaint we highlight, the one about Gore’s red-state background:
RICH (5/28/06): Though many of the rave reviews don't mention it, there are also considerable chunks of ''An Inconvenient Truth'' that are more about hawking Mr. Gore's image than his cause. They also bring back unflattering memories of him as a politician. The movie contains no other voices that might upstage him, not even those of scientists supporting his argument. It is instead larded with sycophantic audiences, as meticulously multicultural as any Benetton ad, who dote on every word and laugh at every joke, like the studio audience at ''Live With Regis and Kelly.'' [Note: Good Lord, that’s stupid!]

We are also treated to a heavy-handed, grainy glimpse of Katherine Harris, Michael Moore-style, and are reminded that Mr. Gore is not a rigid blue-state N.R.A. foe (he shows us where he shot his rifle as a farm kid in Tennessee). There's even an ingenious bit of fearmongering to go head to head with the Republicans' exploitation of 9/11: in a worst-case climactic scenario, we're told, the World Trade Center memorial ''would be under water.”
It’s very hard to get dumber than that. Soon, this blithering idiot ran to Don Imus, eager to tell him how fake Gore’s film is. But let’s just consider that one complaint—the one which says that Gore just ain’t a true-blue blue-stater. Rich was “reminded” of this fact as he watched Gore’s “high school” film.

In fact, Gore’s film said nothing—nothing at all—about Gore views on NRA matters. Indeed, as people better-informed than Rich know, Gore may have lost several states in Campaign 2000 because of the NRA’s aggressive opposition to his gun safety stands. But so what? Watching Gore’s brilliant and (hopefully) life-changing film, Rich felt compelled to bitch and moan about a single fleeting moment in which Gore explains that he loved his family’s Tennessee farm as a boy because he had a dog there, and he had a pony there, and he got to shoot his rifle. This lyrical moment must have taken about six seconds out of the film. But right away, this fleeting moment “reminded” Rich of the demons which clutter his blue-state, rube mind, and so he included this fleeting moment in a crackpot list of the film’s other horribles. (An audience dared to laugh at Gore’s jokes! For reasons only he can explain, this bothered the big blowhard too.) But let’s face it—it’s almost impossible to get this dumb unless you’ve spent your life in training. And it’s hard to have so little heart—to feel compelled to bitch and moan because a ten-year-old boy once liked to shoot tin cans with his gun on his family’s farm.

But frankly, Rich is that kind of man. Did your dad give you a pop gun when you were ten? Rich will punish you, fifty years later!

Why has Rich been so destructive in columns like this through the years? (Remember: In 1997, Rich virtually invented the tragic, history-changing notion that Al Gore is a troubling liar. He reinvented facts to do so, as he so typically does.) In part, this seems to be Rich’s nature; when he served as the New York Times theater critic, he was famous for the lusty way he would take down theater productions. Then, the Times turned him loose on our politics—and he began inventing tales about Clinton and Gore, helping destroy the world’s history. Ten years later, the strange man persists in his keening and wailing as he claims that vile, red-state Gore didn’t denounce that Kansas decision—complaining about a matter so trivial that his own newspaper, the New York Times, didn’t bother reporting it. (As always, he tortures and reinvents facts.) But then, people like Rich are provincials, hicks, rubes; they recoil against any red-state suggestion. Gore didn’t scream “Elmer Gantry” that week. Dumb as rocks, committed to foolishness, the Frank Riches wished that he had.

Why does Rich persist in this kind of conduct? If we were going to write a novel, we’d say that people like this can’t connect with the world; they’re only happy when Dems are losing 49-state debacles. Only then do events display the secret fact they secretly know: That their High Manhattan blowhard cohort is The One True Enlightened Tribe, and the rest of the country is a vile, red-state mess. This self-impressed fantasy drives their dreams; it makes them scream at Big Dem pols who don’t get out of bed each morning looking for ways in which they can offend the nation’s religious feeling. Rich’s account of that Kansas matter is factually challenged, of course, like so much of his ongoing work. But Gore, who was on vacation that week, didn’t scream about Elmer Gantry—and Rich could see just what that meant. Tragically, Rich had also seen, in 1997, what Gore’s pointless Love Story comment meant. And, so we all could see what Gore’s comment meant, he made up his standard fake facts about it—and he loosed George Bush on the world.

Today, Rich thrills liberals with complaints about Bush. From 1997 through November 2000, he worked very hard, in his silly, fake work, to put George Bush where he is.

Frank Rich? He’s the guy who gets his shorts in a wad if a man owned a gun on as a ten-year-old child. He’ll trash a history-changing film over such ludicrous matters. (He’ll run to Imus to cry about Gore! Just where are they selling that moonshine?) But then, Rich is a classic Manhattan Rube—a classic provincial, an all-knowing rube. People like Rich know just one thing—only their tribe is good, worthy, moral. He has torn down Dems for ten solid years—thereby changing the face of the world. And here’s the problem facing Dems—this self-impressed rube always will.

By rule, no Dem will be good enough. How do we plan to address this?