WHAT $15 MILLION BUYS! Couric is paid $15 million per yearand its hard to get help at that price: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2008
ANSWER TOMORROW: Weve decided to do a stand-alone piece about the Posts statistical bungle (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/2/08). In the DC area, are low-income students closing the achievement gap? We dont have the slightest ideaand neither does the Post. Can you discern the Posts statistical bungle? Tomorrow, we explain.
THE IFILL COWER: Gwen Ifill asked very few follow-up questions last night. Was that because of the evenings format? Or was it a function of Ifills political problems? Brit Humes first remarks after last nights debate referred to the problem Ifill carried with her into this debate:
Lets translate: If Ifill had challenged Palin last night, conservative elements would have scorched her for displaying her vile liberal bias. And yes, thats clearly what Hume meant. Because lets face it, there was exactly zero chance that weaklings of the pseudo-left were ever goin to jump on Ifill. As we all know, conservatives go after people like Ifill. Liberals ask her for jobs.
Last night, Ifill dragged the appearance of a conflict of interest behind her as she entered the room. This produced a vast distractiona distraction which could only help Palin and McCain. But sure enough! Yesterday, around the liberal web, some young career liberal writers kiss-kiss-kissed to the wonderful Ifill, wiping the tears from their eyes as they pondered her vast, incomparable fairness. At the same time, liberal rube-runners handed readers the dumbest possible message: If conservatives are attacking Ifill, then Ifill must surely be grand. When The Skins attack, The Shirts must defend! Last evening, for example, Josh Marshall, AKA The Oracle at Delphi, grandly deigned to tell the world why Ifill did what she did:
Duh. In part, Palin did better because Gwen Ifill asked no follow-up questions.
Of course, Ifill could have asked some follow-up questions, of Biden and Palin both. We think the debate was weaker because she didnt. Is there any chance she was scared away by the threat of conservative criticism? Good pseudo-liberals all know not to wonder. Inside their low-IQ, rube-running world, if conservatives are yelling at Ifill, then liberals must say that shes right.
Of course, Josh has been like this a very long while, going back to 2002 when he wrote those ridiculous reviews of Campaign 2000reviews which thoroughly disappeared the work of the mainstream press corps. But many career liberals have been this way tooyoung liberal writers whose future careers may lead through our big mainstream news orgs. As a group, they and their forebears ignored the press corps wars against Clinton and Gore; they even kept their traps tightly shut during the two-year journalistic farce which sent George Bush to the White House. And the effects of their silence still drive our politics. Their silence allowed Palin to make these statements last nightstatements which still have enormous traction:
Effortlessly, Palin lumped Biden with Ifill, then boo-hoo-hooed about the way the mainstream media kind of work.
Truly, thats remarkable. After the pounding administered to both Clintons and Gore (and to Kerry and Edwards, to a lesser extent), its amazing that the GOP retains the power to bash the press corps that way. But most voters who heard what Palin said have never heard about the mainstream press corps wars of the past sixteen years. Theyve never heard because good career liberals kept their traps tightly shut.
The pattern continued in the past few days, as career liberal writers and liberal rube-runners praised the great fairness of IfillIfill, whose most important act of the Bush years was the way she rolled over and died for her personal friend, Condi Rice. But voters dont hear about such things because career liberals all know to keep quiet. Theyve ducked such misconduct for many years. They were ducking again this week.
Sorry, but Ifill shouldnt have hosted last night; someone else could have done the debate without the appearance of conflict her book project brought down on her head. Joshs mind-reading to the side, its entirely possible that she avoided follow-up questions to avoid a pounding from the right. Last night, Hume made a sagacious comment; Josh just played the rubes again. This helps explain why media bias remains a powerful GOP tooleven after sixteen years of relentless Big Democrat-bashing.
One party fightsand the other one doesnt. Conservatives continue to kick the sh*t out of mainstream figures like Ifill. On your side, your leaders beg them for jobs. Oh please please please please please notice me, young liberals say, kissing their ears.
Barrett gets it right: At CJR, Liz Cox Barrett gets it right. Remember the key word: appearance. And remember the other key point: Once the appearance of conflict appeared, Ifills role in last nights debate could only work against Democrats.
JONATHANS ALTERED STATE: Joe Biden made a remarkable statement near the end of last nights debate. When on earth have you ever heard anything even remotely like this?
Whatever you may think of that statement, youve rarely heard such statements before. Part of that is the fault of Dem pols. And then, theres Jonathan Alter.
In the current Newsweek, Alter writes again about McCain, his former love interest. In this passage, Alter makes an astonishing statement about Saint McCain and the press corps. As he starts, he is discussing McCains tendency to compare himself to Teddy Roosevelt:
In a rational world, thats astounding. According to Alter, McCain got slobbering press coverage right up to this year, when reporters finally started doing their jobs. (McCain even got a free pass after shamelessly pandering to racists in South Carolina and after getting cozy in the 1980s with a savings-and-loan crook.) McCain became a giant national figure in September 1999. This means that Alters cohort slobbered for at least nine years.
But then, the penumbra of that slobbering coverage are visible in this passage from Alterfor example, when he reflexively describes McCains irresponsible conduct in that incident in Italy as an example of impish fun. (Some habits never quite pass.) And of course, Alter forgets to say that he himself was one of the journalists dishing out that slobber. For example: Using Nexis, we can find no sign that Alter ever told us, in real time, that McCain shamelessly pander[ed] to racists in South Carolina on the Confederate flag in 2000. In real time, he called the flag issue a distraction, and said nothing critical about McCains stance. As this was happening, Ramesh Ponnuru mocked the slobbering coverage in The National Reviewand he singled out Alters conduct in the Palmetto State:
Well guess that Alter forgot to tell Imus about McCains shameless pander to racists. But so it went with the slobbering coverage which Alter wont own up to now.
Why did Bidens speech sound strange? In part, due to pander bears like Alter. In real time, he slobbered over the famous maverick, under headlines like A Very Human Hero and A Soft Spot for a Hard Charger. In the latter piece, Alter explained why the press loves John McCain (headline). He ended with this perfect nonsense:
Weird! In Alters mind, the press corps swoon, which led to the slobber, had somehow become proof that idealism and journalism aren't total strangers. But uh-oh! He warned us that the romance was bound to end badly for both sidesthat McCains lovers would prove to be treacherous. In his new piece, he tells us when this finally happened. It finally happened this year.
The lousiest lover of all has been Alter. Today, he goes on Countdown and swoons about a new love. Once, he slobbered Saint McCains way. Today, all that is gone.
At some point, real pundits would have said some of the things Biden finally said last night. But Alters gang was slobbering hardwhich helps explain why Bidens speech was such a shock to the ear. John McCain has been no maverick on the things that matter to people's lives? Pundits, locked in a slobbering swoon, never quite managed to go there.
WHAT $15 MILLION BUYS: Its hard to find good help these daysespecially if youre looking for someone to ask a few simple questions. Many observers have marveled at Sarah Palins odd answers to Katie Couric this week. But just how bad were Courics questions? Consider her hapless line of inquiry concerning abortion.
As everyone must know by now, when Palin answers questions about abortion, she tends to discuss what shed do in her personal life, rather than what shed mandate as a matter of public policy. She took this familiar approach with Couricand Couric was completely unable to redirect the discussion. Couric asked a series of questions about these issues. And Palin brushed Couric aside as if she werent even there.
This was extremely incompetent questioning. But then, for $15 million per year, its hard to find good help these days.
Lets run through Courics series of questions. The first Q-and-A ran as follows. Youll note that Palin makes little attempt to answer the actual question:
Palin said she would counsel to choose lifebut Couric had asked her why she would mandate such an outcome, even in an extreme type of case. So Couric asked her question againor, more accurately, she gave Palin a second chance to orate. Quite literally, no question is asked here:
Eventually, Palin said she wouldnt put the 15-year-old in jail. But she never said why she would make it illegal for that girl to get an abortion in the first place. That was the question Couric had asked. The question never got answered.
Couric had failed to get a real answer. But so what? She moved ahead to another question, once again destined to fail. This time, her questions concerned the morning-after pill. Please note the self-defeating vagueness of the two questions she asks:
First, Couric asked Palin how she felt about the pill; then, she seemed to ask if Palin believed in the pill. She still hadnt asked the obvious questionif Palin would make the pill illegaland therefore, she hadnt gotten an answer to this, her obvious point of concern. By now, though, even Couric seemed to realize that she wasnt shedding much light on the question. So she asked a third question about the pill. But uh-oh! This question was hopelessly inept too, and Palin again took advantage:
Sigh. It isnt a question of whether Palin condones or condemns the pill, whatever those hopelessly vague terms might mean. Its a question of whether shed make it illegal! But Couric failed to sharpen her question. As a result, she got another worthless statement about how Palin would personally act.
In fairness, if Palin were running for next-door neighbor, these might be excellent questions.
At any rate, Couric simply gave up at this point, moving ahead to global warming. It would be hard to frame a more worthless series of questions than Couric had managed to frame. But then, Couric is paid $15 million a yearand its hard to get help at that price.