Rushing off to the handshake wars: In January, Barack Obama may become president. If he does, he will enter the White House at a difficult time. In the intellectual realm, the national interest would be well served by intelligent progressive and liberal leadershipby the type of work which clarifies difficult issues, making it easier for centrists and conservative-leaners to see the possible virtue in Obamas positions and approaches.
But alas! Increasingly, the liberal web feeds on the childish frameworks which have long driven conservative talk. We saw this again on Tuesday night when Josh Marshall (and others) rushed off to the handshake wars.
These wars broke out as soon as Obama/McCain concluded their second debate. Heres what actually happened:
Out there in the actual world, Candidates Obama and McCain shook hands and patted one other on the back (almost man-hugging) as soon as the debate ended. They then stood side-by-side on the big red rug, Obamas hand lightly on McCains back; as they did so, they blocked Tom Brokaws view of his script as he tried to sign off for the evening. (Brokaw thus told them to scram.) A few moments later, McCain walked over to Obama, tapped him on the back, and presented his wife, Cindy McCain. Cindy McCain and Obama then shook each others hand.
To state the obvious, none of this was worth discussingespecially after a ninety-minute debate about foreign wars and financial disaster. But increasingly, the liberal web feeds on the culture of childish grievance, just as conservative talk has always done. And so, people like Marshall were quickly involved in bugling up the handshake wars. As hacks like Sean Hannity have always done, Josh 1) seized on a matter of total trivia; 2) got his basic facts crashingly wrong; then 3) continued to claim of grievance even after it was clear that he had been crashingly wrong. In Joshs suburb of Hannity World, McCain had still snubbed him [Obama] and then r[u]n off in a huffeven after it was clear that this hadnt, in fact, really happened.
In part, were in the messes were in today because of the intellectual bankruptcy of mainstream journalistic elites (examples below). All through the nineties, they played the fool, serving the capitals growing Republican dominance; at the end of the decade, they invented a pleasing fairy tale about McCain, and vicious demon tales about Gore. Back thenindeed, for several years afterJosh played along with all that crap, as toilet-trained liberals seemed to know they must do. Today, he behaves much like our own Hannity, driving democracy down.
What a cosmic hack.
But then, the liberal web is increasingly the province of childrenchildren who live off imagined grievance, just as pseudo-conservative talkers have so relentlessly done. (Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster! Barack Obama wont wear a flag pin!) To see the current state of Marshalls decline, you can follow Tuesdays nights inanity at his increasingly gruesome web site. For his initial post on the wars, just click here. To see him persist in the claim that Obama got snubbed, just click this. At this latter post, you can see tape of the original handshake between Obama and McCainand of the later shake between Obama and Cindy McCain.
Bill Clinton used to quote a Biblical passage to say (in effect) that a nation which lacks vision is doomed. Also doomed is the nation whose capacity for basic intelligence dies. Doom rolls in when people like Marshall promote the culture of childish pseudo-grievance. Conservative talk has done this for decades. Watching Josh, its hard not to ask: Are we all Sarah Palin now?
WHOS CRYING NOW: Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! The Dean of All Pundits has suddenly noticed the need for intelligent leadership. This is as close as this big dope gets to granting a formal endorsement:
BRODER (10/9/08): It may be that we will not know what policies we're getting until [Obama or McCain] takes office. But I was struck by the survey of economists reported in the current issue of the Economist, the London newsmagazine that covers America so well. It found much greater confidence in the economic views and advisers of Obama than McCain. The 142 respondents included far more Democrats than Republicans. But even among Republicans, the Obama team was rated superiorand among the unaffiliated, the choice was overwhelming.
That is less satisfying a measure than the candidates themselves could provide if they were more candid. But it may be the best we can get.
Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Within a few weeks of financial disaster, Broder is crying because the candidates wont say exactly how theyll respond. But uh-oh! Staring disaster in the face, Broder has started looking for intelligent policy leadership. Our reaction? Maybe he should have thought about that when he was ridiculing Big Dems in the pastGores 2000 convention speech, for example. That speech included so many swell ideas that I almost nodded off, Broder mockingly wrote, two weeks after praising Bushs brilliant convention effort. ([A]n acceptance speech of exceptional eloquence.)
Maybe Broder should have thought about the need for intelligent leadership when he mocked Hillary Clinton for boring him with that endless speech about energy (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/25/06). But this was the culture of the timeand big dopes like Broder enjoyed it.
Good grief. Today, The Dean of All Pundits cries and complains about the two candidates flight from reality. Look whos talking, we incomparably thought, recalling the way this big buffoon engaged in the ritual trashing of very smart Dems over the past many years.
Broder was hardly alone in that conduct. In fact, the press elite got drunk on the joys of Clinton/Gore-trashing, as they responded to the growth of Republican rule in the District. And of course, the sanctification of mediocrities like Bush and McCain was part of their new raucous culture. Was Broder really alone in this conduct? Yesterday, the analysts almost blew lunch right into the bushes, reacting to this sorry display from Jim Fallows. Because these loser-men stick together, Fallows linked to Andrew Sullivan, and to some Latter Day insight from the sage of TPM. Like many others, Fallows starts by adopting the basic idea that the great Saint McCain has now changed:
FALLOWS (10/8/08): Andrew Sullivan and others have already mentioned this clip by TPMtv, but here is why I think it is important: It does a lot to explain why many people who felt they "knew" John McCain in his earlier DC life have been slow to face and accept what he has become.
The video alternates clips of the "good" McCain, talking about respect and commitment to high-road politics, with ads and other evidence of the way he is running his campaign.
For another time, discussion of whether the "good" McCain was ever an authentic product. I'll just say, many people including me found it appealing at the time. What is undeniable is the contrast between the way he then seemed and the way he now acts. This is obviously an anti-McCain clip, but I think it's instructive even for his supporters. And, in real time before tonight's debate, it shows the range of personas he might choose to project.
What a fool. Well now explain why a wimp like Fallows found the good McCain so appealing at the time. He found this silly invention appealing because he, like almost everyone else in his cohort, had bought into Washingtons spreading culture of Clinton/Gore/Democrat-hatred. In the summer of 2000, this led Fallows to publish that slanderous Atlantic cover story about demon Gorethe cover story which set the framework for the way the press corps attacked Gores performance in that crucial first debate with George Bush.
People like Fallows get suedand losewhen they publish crap like that about people who arent public figures. But just as a culture of revel and lunacy was invading the canyons of Wall Street, that very same culture had seized DC. Pundits stood in line to mock Goreand to pretend that McCain was a saint. Each of these tales was just blatantly foolishbut weak-minded fellows agreed not to notice. Today, people like Fallows/Sullivan/Marshall prop up each others past conduct. But no, Jim: The claim that McCain was a secular saint made no sense in real time. Nor did the tale of Demon Gorebut Fallows pimped that tale on Atlantics cover. For the late Michael Kelly, no less.
In large part, were in the messes were in today because of giants like Fallows.
Luckily, a few brave voices spoke out in the past about the Myth of Saint McCainor so theyre now trying to tell us. Yesterday, we cheered when Mark Schmitt stepped forward, at the Prospect, to say that he saw through the scam all along. He cited John Heilemanns new piece at New York. Heilemann notes the way the press has finally turned on McCain:
SCHMITT (10/8/08):[McCains campaign] "expected the McCain brand ... to be everlasting." Since 2001, Heilemann says, "it had proved durable, most of all with the press, which consistently saw McCain's deviations from what were supposed to be his core beliefs as aberrations." Believing that McCain's honorable, straight-talker, partisan-mediator image was unshakable, his campaign thought it could get away with anything.
Now, as one who has seen the McCain "brand" as a bit of a scam for many years, I see this reckoning as long overdue.
Wow! By his own admission, Schmitt had seen the Myth of McCain as a bit of a scam for many years! He linked to an article he had writtenand we eagerly clicked.
Here it is. In Schmitts case, many years seems to mean two; the article appeared in 2006, just as McCain began turning right in search of his partys nomination. And if you can find the part where Schmitt calls McCains brand anything like a scam, well award you a prize for magical vision. Theres nothing wrong with what Schmitt wrote, but it hardly fits the description in yesterdays piece.
In real time, very few people had much to say about the scam being played by the pressthe scam by which a mediocrity like McCain turned into the worlds greatest human. Even fewer discussed the scam being churned about Candidate Gore. Eventually, people like Fallows trashed Gore on the cover of big magazines; simpletons like The Dean of All Pundits bragged about falling asleep as he spoke. Today, The Dean is crying in his warm milk, looking about for intelligent help. When intelligent help stood right before him, he mocked them, like the rest of his crowd.
Fallows says that he will discuss the reasons why McCain seemed grand. But we will tell you why that was: McCain seemed grand to people like Fallows because Republican lunacy had seized DCand people like Fallows went along for the ride. They were too weak, too silly, too dumb or too broke to notice the obvious nonsense around them. People like Fallows found McCain so appealing because theyd signed on for the ride.
Tomorrow, well remind again you of McCains mediocrity, during the time when he seemed so grand. But boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Broder is looking for good ideasswell ideas of the type he once mocked.
Seeming was believing: Fallows, of course, is always the worst. What is undeniable, he uselessly types, is the contrast between the way [McCain] then seemed and the way he now acts. We will only speak for ourselves: Back then, we tried to record the way McCain was, not the way he seemed. In our view, many of the gentlemans actions then are similar to his actions now. But the corps had signed on to Republican dreams; losers like Fallows were happy to type them. Seeming had become believing. Its beneficiary, McCain, may reach the White House yet.