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Daily Howler: The Dean pretended he hadn't heard when Cole predicted a rout
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BRODER ANNOUNCES! The Dean pretended he hadn’t heard when Cole predicted a rout: // link // print // previous // next //

SLOWLY WE LEARN: We experienced a twin dose of deja vu reading the Times this morning.

First, we freaked when we read this important column by much-maligned liberal Bob Herbert. After speaking with an expert, Herbert advances two key points. First, schools and school systems will often “game the system”—he doesn’t say “cheat”—when confronted with high-stakes tests. Second, states seem to have improved their proficiency rates in recent years by “dumbing down” the state-devised tests required under No Child Left Behind. Yep! If states make their tests easier year to year, their passing rates will therefore go up. By the way, three cheers for Herbert’s expert—Harvard’s Daniel Koretz.

Where did the deja vu come in? We started writing about (obvious) cheating on standardized tests in the Baltimore Sun— in the early 1980s! We’ve written about this obvious problem since the early years of this site. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/24/99, for example.) Regarding point two, we’ve frequently suggested, in recent years, that various states seemed to be dumbing down their tests, thereby driving up passing rates. But for decades, the nation’s truth-averse press elites have avoided these topics like the plague. Most likely, we’ll talk more about Herbert’s column within the next week. But the important topics Herbert discussed should have been reported as news, long ago, on page one of the great/mighty Times.

Herbert’s column is very important. But right next to Herbert, we found this important piece by Jonathan Chait—and we experienced our Deja Vu 2.

Chait discusses an important, and utterly ludicrous, matter: The endless claim, by crackpot “conservative” elites, that lower tax rates produce higher revenues. Let’s state the obvious: As a general matter, no one could actually believe such nonsense, and no big Republican pol ever has. (For example, Candidate Dole explicitly renounced this claim when he announced his 1996 tax cut proposal.) But in the era of Rush and Sean, this ludicrous claim has been a staple of crackpot, kooky-conservative radio—and our weak and sniveling Potemkin “liberals” haven’t come forward to tell the world how absurd the claim really is. Result? This year, even King Straight-Talk advanced this con! Here—let Brother Chait tell you:
CHAIT (10/9/07): Last year, Senator John McCain earned widespread ridicule for publicly embracing Jerry Falwell, whom he had once described as ''evil.'' But an equally breathtaking turnabout occurred earlier in the year, when Mr. McCain embraced the Bush tax cuts he had once denounced as an unaffordable giveaway to the rich. In an interview with National Review, Mr. McCain justified his reversal by saying, ''Tax cuts, starting with Kennedy, as we all know, increase revenues.'' It was the political equivalent of Galileo conceding that the Sun does indeed revolve around the Earth.
Obviously, John McCain does not believe that “tax cuts, starting with Kennedy” have actually increased federal revenues. Simply put, the deeply authentic straight-talking straight-shooter was lying through his teeth when he said this. (Presumably, feeling comfortable in his own skin as he did.) But your “press corps” sat silent when McCain made this statement—just as it has done for decades, as this utterly ludicrous claim has been fed to conservative radio fans. (To people who don’t understand— and haven’t been told—that they’re being conned.) But the E. J. Dionnes would jump off a bridge before they’d dream of defending our discourse against such pseudo-conservative power. Result? Our discourse has been an endless joke, and countless citizens have been conned in the process—making it harder for major Dems to advance sensible tax proposals. Today, Chait offers a stinging, important column. But this topic should have been on the front page of the New York Times, reported as news, years ago.

Where did our second bit of deja vu come in? We have noted, for year after year, the sheer absurdity of this claim. But you might as well hand books of Shakespeare to apes as offer such constructs to liberal elites. In his new and important book, The Big Con, Chait discusses this laughable matter in detail. But where on earth have our heroes been—in the decades during which this prime bull-roar has been allowed to poison our discourse?

By the way, Chait’s new book bears this subtitle: “The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics.” Unfortunately, in chapters 5 and 6 of his 8-chapter book, Chait doesn’t tell a true story. In those chapters, he seems to be pretending to explain the role the press corps has played in this decades-long hijacking. Indeed, we’ve never seen anyone work so hard to obscure a topic as Chait seems to do in these two chapters. We’ve told you for years that these high-flying lads will always cover for their cohort. In the next few weeks, we expect to explore these chapters in numbing detail.

At any rate, Herbert and Chait post important columns today. Three cheers for them, and for their experts. But then, you understood their points long ago—if you’ve been faithfully reading THE HOWLER. Slowly—very slowly—we learn, out here in our “liberal” redoubts.

Special report: The Post comes out!

PART 2—BRODER ANNOUNCES: Has any newspaper ever published a more absurd, more ludicrous edition? On Sunday, it was like the Washington Post came out, made its formal debut—announced itself as a kooky-con paper. And it wasn’t just the pair of pieces which consumed the front page of that sad “Outlook” section (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/8/07). Consider what happened when the Post’s readers hit the op-ed page—and found David Broder.

This was the week, you may recall, when even a pair of Washington pundits learned an amazing new fact: Clinton is currently pulling away from Giuliani in the national polls (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/5/07). On Thursday, this same Washington Post had published its new polling numbers—and Clinton was leading Giuliani by eight (51-43). But then, the most recent Fox News poll had her leading Rudy by seven. And a few weeks ago, NBC News put her ahead by seven as well.

To state the obvious, such numbers can change; Clinton could certainly lose in the general next year. But these were very good numbers for Dems:

Until you read the Post’s David Broder!

Yes, every word in Broder’s laughable column can be defended as technically accurate. He devoted his column to congressman Tom Cole—and Cole is heading the Republican 2008 campaign effort in the House, not on the White House level. Quoting no one but the sanguine Cole, Broder examined the outlook for next year’s House races. In the following passage, Broder suggests that these races may not be half-bad for the GOP—and he unintentionally makes one of the funniest comments of this, or any, year:
BRODER (10/7/07): [T]he crucial question at the moment, politically, is Bush’s veto of the SCHIP bill...

Cole claims that Republicans will be protected by asserting that they favor the concept and are prepared to support a less expensive compromise. "All of us are for the program," he said, "but we can't support a bad bill."

I think that is a tough sell politically. But I'm more persuaded by his argument that Republicans have little to fear from a Hillary Clinton candidacy. "That is no landslide election," he said. "The Republican nominee, whoever he is, wins at least 43, 44, 45 percent against her, and that gives us a base for congressional races.

"She is not going to carry Georgia or Kansas or Texas, and we have good candidates running against shaky Democrats in every one of those states. There are Democrats sitting in 61 districts that Bush carried; 47 that he carried twice. We are on the offensive in those districts," he said.
Surely, that highlighted statement must be one of the strangest passages in recent political journalism. At the Post, we’ve all “come out” this week, the great Dean seemed to be saying.

What cheerful news had Cole given Broder? Just this: According to Cole, his party was going to win at least 43 percent of the White House vote next year! Brother Cole’s endless good cheer to the side, that actually would be a major landslide in the world of modern red-and-blue politics; there hasn’t been a presidential blow-out like that since 1984. But Cole—and Broder!—tossed this amazing prediction aside without the slightest sign of discomfort. After all, There is no sign that she’ll carry Georgia! On balance, he was “persuaded” by Cole, the cheerful Dean laughably said.

Yes, you can defend Broder’s column as technically sensible; Cole was talking about House elections, and Candidate Clinton’s assumed landslide margin may not savage Republicans there. But Broder showed an astounding ability to look right past a stunning admission in this utterly laughable column. Omigod! A major Republican had conceded a landslide to Clinton next year. And Broder, failing to bat an eye, pretended he hadn’t quite heard!

You might think this was the kookiest yet. If so, you hadn’t read Balz.

Dan Balz was typing in the Sunday news pages—and the party line in those pages was clear. For example, across the entire top of page A6, this giant Post headline appeared:
In Early States, No Clear Leaders
In Early States, No Clear Leaders? In fact, that headline was perfectly accurate—unless you counted the “early state” where it plainly wasn’t. Clinton, of course, is far ahead in Democratic polls in the “early state” still known as New Hampshire. But a Post headline writer was pretending this day. The headline ran across a full page.

What explained that puzzling headline? And what was Balz typing on page A7? On Sunday, the hapless Post almost seemed to “come out,” announcing itself as a kooky-con paper. Everywhere you looked, the announcement seemed clear. Tomorrow, the wonderfully nutty piece that Balz, coming out, put in print.

TOMORROW: Balz—and Cillizza.

GEORGE WILL MISSES THE MEMO: What will happen in House races next year? We don’t have the slightest idea. But down below Broder, George Will didn’t seem to have gotten the memo. Or to have drunk the Post’s Kool-Aid:
WILL (10/7/07): If the election were today, Democrats probably would gain at least a dozen House seats. Then in 2010 there will be the census, followed by redistricting. So if the weakness of the national Republican brand seeps down the ballot to state legislative candidates, the Republicans' trek back to majority status will be steep.
Republicans will lose House seats, Will surmised. But Broder was “coming out” this day. He was persuaded that Cole might be right—that the GOP might do dad-gum well in the House. But readers, talking about burying the lead! When Cole said Clinton would win in a walk, the Dean knew what he had to do. He pretended that he hadn’t heard.