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Daily Howler: Life's a joke to pseudo-cons--and to such liberals as Collins
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THE SOUL OF THE NEW YORK TIMES LIBERAL! Life’s a joke to pseudo-cons—and to such liberals as Collins: // link // print // previous // next //

TUCKER AND BILL FINALLY HEAR: We were surprised because Bill was surprised! Last night, our favorite, liberal pundit Bill Press, chatted on the cable show, Tucker. At one point, both the gentlemen expressed their surprise at that new poll in the Washington Post—the poll in which Clinton leads Rudy by eight:
CARLSON (10/4/07): Yes, what do you make, finally, of the brand new poll out again, a Washington Post poll indicating in a theoretical head-to-head match-up—and let’s just off the bat discount these polls as not predictive, maybe not even terribly significant, but I still think interesting—[that Clinton is] beating by close to 10 points Rudy Giuliani in the general election? I’m amazed by that.

PRESS: I am, too, at this point. I’m further amazed that in that same poll, all four of the top Republican candidates come out with pretty serious ratings. You know, 44 percent said they wouldn’t vote for Rudy Giuliani. No way, no how.
In context, it was clear that the boys were discussing the part of the new Post poll which shows Clinton leading Rudy, 51-43. Tucker was “amazed by that.” Amazingly, Bill said he was too.

Tucker rarely knows sh*t from his shoeshine. But why on earth would a guy like Bill Press be amazed by this latest result? Last week, the most recent Fox News poll showed Clinton leading Rudy by seven—by ten, with Bloomberg included. (Just click here.) Two weeks earlier, the most recent NBC News poll showed the same thing: Clinton was leading Giuliani by seven, 49-42 (same link). Carlson works for NBC News. But he was still amazed this week when the Post’s new poll said the same thing.

In short, Clinton’s lead over Giuliani has been approaching double digits all through the past month. Beyond that, she has led Giuliani in almost all polls throughout the vast bulk of the year. But do you recall how the Head Raccoon has played it? Twice, Tim Russert has discussed Clinton/Giuliani poll numbers—and each time, he cherry-picked polls in egregious ways, giving the impression that the pair were involved in a heated, back-and-forth race (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/30/07). We’ve rarely seen anyone cherry-pick polls in the blatant way Russert did. And he did it two separate times, seeming to show us what he’s become in the course of knocking down all those cans.

Clinton has led Giuliani all year, even as all the major Raccoons have pimped her lack of “electability.” Indeed, that new Post poll was the third in a month where her lead approached double digits. But Carlson was just “amazed” by her lead—and Bill Press said that he was stunned too! As we’ve told you, fat-faced, garbage-fed raccoons control the things we all get told. This week, the Post finally put the news on page one—and Tucker and Bill finally heard.

THE SOUL OF THE NEW YORK TIMES LIBERAL: Today, Gene Robinson calls them “lies.” He refers to the baldly inaccurate statements Bush made in vetoing S-CHIP this week. They were “flat-out lies,” Gene Robinson says. And it’s hard to assume that he’s wrong.

Did George Bush lie in his S-CHIP veto? The New York Times simply says, in today’s editorial, that Bush “stretche[d] the truth considerably.” As the editors strained to avoid the L-word, we recalled that moment from October 2000: Paul Krugman wanted to use the world “lie” in discussing the baldly inaccurate things Candidate Bush was repeatedly saying about his own tax cut proposals. But Howell Raines, obeying traditional strictures, wouldn’t let his columnist do it. You may recall how things turned out: Bush kept misstating these facts to the end—and most big journos chose not to notice. Perhaps for that reason, Bush ended up in the White House, where we still find him today.

This morning, Krugman is walking a different beat. He’s discussing some recent joking—including some joking by Bush himself—about the demise of that children’s health program. As he did so, we recalled that moment from September 1999: Candidate Bush clowned, made faces, gamboled and played during a sober memorial service for victims of a mass shooting—and the New York Times chose not to report it. This morning, Krugman explains what it means when modern conservatives joke and clown that way:
KRUGMAN (10/5/07): What’s happening, presumably, is that modern movement conservatism attracts a certain personality type. modern movement conservatism attracts a certain personality type. If you identify with the downtrodden, even a little, you don’t belong. If you think ridicule is an appropriate response to other peoples’ woes, you fit right in.
In the fall of 1999, Bush joked and clowned—while others mourned those murder victims. But it didn’t go into the New York Times. Three years later, it went into Frank Bruni’s book.

Does the modern conservative movement attracts a certain personality type? There may be truth to what Krugman says, although we’d avoid casting too wide a net. After all, Krugman’s summary made us think of his own colleague, “liberal” columnist Gail Collins. Like the people Krugman criticizes, Collins likes to gambol and play when she discusses important events. She too seems to think that it’s all a big joke. When she does so, she makes us ponder the soul of the New York Times liberal. (Krugman excluded, of course.)

“Conservatives Are Such Jokers,” Krugman’s headline declares. But then, so are many of the broken-souled losers who get palmed off as Times liberals. Consider two parts of Collins’ most recent column, in which she’s mainly making fun of non-White House hopeful Newt Gingrich.

To Collins, everything typically seems like a joke. The major players on the world stage are largely there for the funnin’. In this typical passage, she recalls a favorite moment from the Campaign 2000 primaries:
COLLINS (10/4/07): We certainly do not want to disrespect the hopeless candidates who have been responsible for so many good times over the long, long presidential campaigns of yore. Keyes perked up the 2000 proceedings considerably when he threw himself into a mosh pit and bodysurfed to the tunes of Rage Against the Machine. It's possible that the day Gary Bauer fell off the stage during a pancake-flipping contest in New Hampshire was the highlight of the primaries. Given the extremely large crowd of hopeless candidates this time around, I think we have every reason to believe that sooner or later somebody will fall off something again.
Ha ha ha—“so many good times!” The highlight of the 2000 primaries may have been the glorious day when Gary Bauer fell off that stage! For ourselves, we thought back on that primary season as we waited for all the laughter to stop. For ourselves, we thought Collins’ mirthful memory might be a trifle selective.

What would we call the highlight of those primaries? Why pick one, when there are so many:

April 1999: How about the day when The Nation’s Lou Dubose published this detailed review of Bush’s gubernatorial record—including his effort to scale back S-CHIP right at its inception? Collins and her circle of New York Times liberals ignored this review for the next two years. Bush and Gore are two peas in a pod, Frank Rich robotically said.

June 1999: How about the day when truth-challenged RNC chairman Jim Nicholson staged his tour of that fancy hotel? Many of Collins’ compliant colleagues ended up reporting a famous fake fact: Al Gore was raised at the Ritz! The claim was blatantly false, of course—but it was just soooo funny! They had typed up Nicholson’s bullsh*t again. Is there a way to get dumber than this and still draw breath on this earth?

October 1999: How about the magical night when three hundred journalists “hissed,” “jeered” and “howled” at Gore throughout the first Gore-Bradley debate? By the way, Collins was present at Dartmouth that night—although she absent-mindedly forgot to discuss her colleagues’ astonishing conduct. To Collins and the rest of this laughing lynch mob, that first debate was apparently just one of “so many good times” that year. Afterwards, Collins recited the ludicrous script her cohort invented about Gore’s performance. And she kept her big trap shut about her cohort’s astounding misconduct. (In her column that weekend, Collins ridiculed Gore for asking a perfectly decent question about a woman’s sick, five-year-old child.)

December 1999: How about the magical moment when Katherine Seelye “accidentally” “misquoted” Gore about Love Canal—and Collins’ great paper refused, for ten days, to issue a perfunctory correction? As the Times refused to correct its “error,” the message circled the globe once again: Gore is a big liar, just like Bill Clinton! But darlings! One month later, Bauer fell off a stage! To Gail Collins, that was the highlight.

In short, there were many highlights of that primary race; and the race was part of a longer campaign which, we now know, changed world history. But Gail Collins possesses the soul of the modern New York Times liberal. Like Krugman’s modern conservative, she seems to think that life is there for the jokes, the laughs and the snorting. She remembers Bauer’s slip from that stage—not her own cohort’s misconduct.

But then, we’ve long discussed an embarrassing fact: The soul of the modern press corps liberal tends to fit the unflattering portrait Krugman paints of the modern conservative. As Margaret Carlson told Imus that day, it’s all about “fun,” “entertainment” and “sport!” And it’s often all about bald-faced lying when their own cohort’s behavior is involved. Consider a second part of Collins’ column—a segment in which, by normal standards, you’d have to assume that the lady is lying. Can Collins possibly believe the odd claim which we have highlighted here?

COLLINS: The political parties find themselves on two different tracks this year. Democratic voters are resentful because Hillary Clinton seems to be wrapping things up so fast. (It's only October! The negative ads haven't even come out yet!) Meanwhile, the Republicans have more than their share of candidates, but on many days not a single one of them seems like somebody you could reasonably nominate. The Democrats used to give their unsatisfactory lineups names like The Seven Dwarfs. What would you call this crowd of Republicans? The Legion of Doom?
The Democrats gave their candidates names like “The Seven Dwarfs,” Collins says.

In this passage, Collins recalls the 1988 campaign, when that unflattering appellation got attached to the seven Dem hopefuls. (Included: Dukakis, Jackson, Gore, Gephardt.) But how weird! Did Democrats give their lineup this name? That’s what Collins is willing to say, presumably lying in our faces as she types the claim. In fact, it was the mainstream press corps which made that name stick—and, to state what is merely obvious, they got it from Republican operatives. Thus began a familiar pattern, which extended through the trashing of Gore and right up to our present struggles.

Democrats named their own lineup the Seven Dwarfs! Just for fun, we checked to see how the phrase “Seven Dwarfs” entered the New York Times coverage that year. As usual, it started with Republican operatives—and just like that, it jumped to page one, handled there by Maureen Dowd.

First usage? On June 1, 1987, reporter E. J. Dionne quoted an Iowa state Republican official, Mr. Roberts. (Through an apparent editing error, no first name was supplied.) ''The Republicans are more optimistic at the moment because of the seven dwarfs,'' this Republican official had said. For the record, the GOP field included such giants as Paul Laxalt, Pete DuPont and Pat Robertson. Congressman Jack Kemp would become the group’s resident genius—despite having left his previous job after too many blows to the head.

Second usage? On June 15, 1987, reporter Steve Roberts quoted an unnamed Reagan official. ''You don't think that we will sit idly by while the seven dwarfs start beating up on us in Iowa,'' this Republican official had said.

Predictably, use of the pleasing name spread. On July 4, 1987, Tom Wicker wrote a mocking column simply headlined, “The Seven Dwarfs.” And inevitably, the Queen Bee was flown in for comment. Out on page one, reporter Maureen Dowd simpered at length about the campaign’s new “imagery.” But at least she stated an obvious fact—Democrats hated this name. Here’s how her front-pager started:
DOWD (8/27/87): The vote for President, the experts say, is the most personal one cast. So it is only natural that Americans want to fall in love a little bit with the leader they send to the White House.

This summer, judging by the amount of time spent chasing moonbeams and rumors and would-be and should-be and might-be candidates, the Democrats are longing for the perfect prom date.

''The Democratic candidates are the good steady fellas your mother told you to look for, the good providers you'll learn to love,'' Ann F. Lewis, a Democratic strategist, said wistfully. ''But nobody here leads with emotion.''

Or, to put it less delicately, as a Republican consultant, Roger Ailes, did: ''If these guys were all on 'The Dating Game,' nobody would get picked. You don't get the feeling anybody's hanging loose and having fun. Even Jesse Jackson has stopped rhyming things.''
This may explain why the focus of the campaign so far, not only among those actively involved in the race but also among interested politicians and other observers, has stayed to a remarkable degree on noncandidates such as Sam Nunn and Bill Bradley and Mario Cuomo. They sit on the side of the stage like Hamlets bathed in flattering baby spots and brooding about whether their ambitions are ripe. Or, in the case of Gary Hart, sarcastically dubbed ''the Dark Prince'' by Pat Schroeder's staffers, rotten.

In this year of unrequited yearning, elusive princes are more intriguing than earnest suitors.

The candidates' problems are underscored by the belittling nickname that lingers on, even though they hate it: the Seven Dwarfs.

As the race is increasingly described in the imagery of romance, it is clear that the dwarfs may have been cute, but they never got to go out with Snow White.
The Democrats hate that belittling name, Dowd said—and then, she had some fun with Snow White. Twenty years later, up pops Collins, willing to say that the Democrats themselves were the ones who invented that nickname.

You might think this is a minor point—but Collins misstates as other folk breathe when the work of her own cohort is involved. By now, she has forgotten what happened in 1987, when Republicans pushed a belittling name and “the race [was] increasingly described in th[at] imagery.” More significantly, she has forgotten what happened in 1999, when her own jeering colleagues were channeling Nicholson; she prefers to remember the great good time when Bauer fell off a high platform. (So many good times!) But then, this “Seven Dwarfs” incident came near the start of a two-decade run which extends right into our world today. It’s a process in which Republican officials invent mocking language and fake, bogus claims—and New York Times liberals recite them.

Bush and Gore are just alike! For reasons only they can explain, they sold you that bullsh*t for two solid years. Luckily, Bauer provided relief. So many good times! Such great memories!