In the absence of a functioning press corps: Yesterday, Steve Benen asked a very good question. Readers, here it is:
BENEN (10/29/08): Has there ever been a more inane presidential campaign? (Steves emphasis)
It isnt clear what the answer is; Bush ran an inane campaign in 1988, and the mainstream press corps did the same in 1999 and 2000. Beyond that, we dont agree with the thrust of Steves post, in which he sincerely wonder[s] about McCain's grip on reality sometimes. In fact, McCains grip on reality is quite strong in the matter about which Steve posts; McCain is playing the potent liberal media card in the whining to which Steve refers. This card works extremely well for Republicansin large part, because career liberal and Democratic elites have long agreed to enable it. (More on that problem below.)
McCains argument is deeply inane. But his grip on reality is much stronger than Steves when it comes to this obvious point.
That said, Steves question conveys an indisputable fact; as we near Election Day, our campaign has become profoundly inane. Blinding stupidity drives our discoursea point well examine in more detail tomorrow. In our current discourse, a 35 percent tax rate represents country first; a 39 percent tax rate constitutes socialism. But while that balls-out stupidity starts with McCain, it doesnt prosper in a vacuum. It prospers in a society which, to be honest, has no functioning press corps.
To appreciate your lack of a functioning press corps, just consider a groaning passage in todays Milbank sketch.
How inept is your upper-end press corps? After all weve been through in the past two years, Milbankand/or his editorremains content with presentations like the one which follows. This appears in a sketch of Michelle Obama in the campaigns final days:
MILBANK (10/30/08): During the primaries, Michelle Obama helped rally black voters, but she emerged as a target of conservatives for what they saw as her racial politics: her college thesis about "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community"; her fist-bump on the stage with her husband; unfounded rumors on the Internet about her use of the word "whitey"; and her ill-chosen comment that "for the first time in my adult life, I'm really proud of my country." Over the summer, the number of people with negative views of her climbed considerably.
Todays Post offers a pair of reports about white voters who are driven by negative feelings about race. But so what? In the same paper, Milbank uncorks a remarkably poorly-worded clause about (were sorry, but this is what he wrote) Michelle Obamas use of the word whitey. A reader who takes Milbanks words at face value may well think that he has just read that Obama has been using that termthat some sorts of unfounded rumors have been circulating about her use of that particular insult. Its astounding that the Post would print such an inept, misleading formulation. But then again, this is Milbank. Need we say anything more?
[No. There is no evidence that Michelle Obama ever used that inflammatory term. But trust us: Many readers will scan Milbanks piece and think they read something different. And by the way, just so people like Milbank will know: Given the fact that no one has used it, the inflammatory racial term should not have appeared here at all! But so what? After all the race- and Muslim-baiting of the past two years, a dope like Milbank still doesnt get that. You simply dont have a functioning press corps at all when its upper end is so dumb.]
[For the record: Milbank is the Skull-and-Bones-certified fool who devoted an entire column, just last year, to the complaint that Al Gore uses too many big words in his speeches. This screaming nonsense routinely occurs at the upper end of your press corps.]
Do you have a press corps at all? Consider a second, more important piece in this mornings Post.
This report was written by Michael Shear; it concerns McCains excited complaints about the conduct of Barack Obama and the Los Angeles Times. Once again, McCain is playing that potent old liberal media cardthe potent old card which liberal scribes still dont seem to understand. And Shear rolls over and dies in his piece. When work this inept is being done by the Post, you dont have an actual press corps.
As you may know, McCain is demanding release of a tapea videotape of a 2003 banquet which Obama attended. The featured guest was Rashid Khalidi, an American-born American citizen who is now a professor at Columbia. (In Shears slightly confusing words, Khalidi is a leading Palestinian American scholar.) You can read Shears piece for the basic infoabout the banquet, and about McCains complaints. Along the way, you will notice these facts about McCains latest war-cries:
McCain has ties to Khalidi too. In Shears words, a nonprofit group that McCain chaired once helped fund a polling organization founded by Khalidi. The group awarded a grant of $448,873 in 1998 to the Center for Palestine Research and Studies, which was co-founded by Khalidi. In short, although McCain is now comparing Khalidi to a neo-Nazi, he too had generous, friendly ties to the scholar in the past.
McCain wont stop misstating about William Ayers: As Shear notes, McCain has been claiming that William Ayers was present at the 2003 banquet. As the source for this claim, the McCain campaign cites a New York Sun reporta report which makes no such claim.
McCain and Palin seem to be making an unfounded statement about Khalidi: According to Shear, McCain and Palin called Khalidi a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization. But Khalidi has denied being a spokesman for the PLO, Shear writes. Shear offers no further evidence about McCain/Palins claim.
McCain and Palin cant stop dissembling: McCain is complaining that the Los Angeles Times wont release the tape of the banquetalthough the Times says (Shears words) that the tape was provided by a source on the condition that the paper not air it. Despite this, Palin has (Shears words) openly mocked the Los Angeles Times for what she said was pandering to Obama. According to Shear, the audience cheered her on yesterday as she made the following statement: "It must be nice for a candidate to have major news organizations looking out for their best interests like that." Palin said this, despite the fact that it was the Times which reported the banquet in question.
McCain is trashing Obamas ties to a neo-Nazi. In fact, the neo-Nazi is a respected scholar whom a McCain-led group once supported.
McCain is claiming that Ayers was at the banquetciting evidence which doesnt exist.
McCain and Palin are calling Khalidi is a spokesman for the PLO, although Shear seems to find no evidence for that claim.
McCain and Palin are trashing the Los Angeles Times for its liberal biasalthough it was the Times which brought this (underwhelming) story to light.
In short, McCain seems to be lying and dissembling again, with Palin riding shotgun. A reader can discern these things from reading Shearif hes determined and so inclined. But what is most striking in Shears report? Just this: At no point does Shear make any effort to challenge McCain of his campaign about these puzzling, shaky claims. Shear e-mails Khalidi, asking for comment. Shear asks Obamas campaign to comment on all the things McCain has said. But at no point does Shear ask McCain to explain his puzzling statements:
Why did McCain make that unfounded statement about Ayers? Trembling, Shear didnt ask.
Why did McCain call Khalidi a PLO spokesman? Once again, Shear didnt ask.
Why is McCain calling Khalidi a neo-Nazi, given the fact that McCains group supported Khalidis work? Shear forgets to ask.
How does Palin justify attacking the Times, which reported this story? Doesnt ask.
In short, everyones integrity is directly challengedexcept the integrity of McCain and Palin. McCain and Palin are making puzzling, apparently inaccurate claims. But this fact is maaively side-stepped in this sad report.
Make no mistake: Shear understands the point of McCains nasty complaints about Obamas neo-Nazi. Indeed, thats what makes Shears performance so rank. Early on, Shear explains what McCain is plainly trying to do here:
SHEAR: By raising questions about the banquet, McCain's advisers are hoping to hit a trifecta: linking Obama to a person who might worry Jewish voters in Florida and elsewhere about his commitment to Israel, reintroducing Ayers into the discussion with only a week left, and once again challenging Obama's honesty when it comes to his personal associations.
Duh! McCain is once again challenging Obama's honesty. But guess what? When McCain makes baldly inaccurate statements, he himself receives no challenge! Khalidi is challenged; Obama is challenged; McCain and Palin are free to spoutand to dissemble, perhaps to lie. In this way, your countrys liars prosper. In this way, we fumble forward, without an actual press.
Steve Benen is certainly right on one point: This campaign is now blindingly stupid. But a campaign cant get this stupid in a country with a functioning press corps. Shear rolls over and dies today in the face of McCains wild statements.
Right and wrong again: In this post, Benen reviews the basics of McCains complaint against the Los Angeles Times. He does a good job with the basic case. But once again, he starts out saying this:
BENEN (10/29/08): I'm trying to imagine how the McCain/Palin campaign could become more ridiculous. Nothing is coming to mind.
Again, Steve fails to note a basic distinction. McCains claims are ridiculousbut his strategy clearly isnt. Thanks to roll-overs by people like Shear, his strategy is far from ridiculous. Our side has been hammered this way for decades. But on the most basic level possible, our leaders still dont understand.
I'm afraid the Republican ticket is starting to crack and say crazy things, Steve says. Given the potency of this old card, its crazy that our side would say that. McCains remarks arent crazy at allgiven the way Shear reacts.
Tomorrow: Blindingly stupid.
MOTHER JONES, PHONE MOTHER JUDD: As you know, were big fans of Kevin Drums workbut we think hes defiantly, ginormously clueless on this particular topic. We agree with Kevin on one point: Were like a broken record here. But then too, Kevin says this:
DRUM (10/27/08): First things first: Yes, Gore was indeed treated badly. He never said he invented the internet, he never said he discovered Love Canal, he wore pretty much the same clothes he'd always worn, he didn't hire Naomi Wolf to teach him how to be an alpha male, and he wasn't a serial liar. Etc. Bob is right about all that stuff.
In candor, those are remarkable statements, if you understand the two-year war in which those claims were endlessly madeby the mainstream press corps principal organs, not by Rush or Sean. At any rate, having made that remarkable statement, Kevin then describes the part he still doesnt quite get:
DRUM: But here's what I don't get: why does Bob think that liberals are giving away a "giant political advantage" by not harping on this constantly? Frankly, I'd be delighted to harp away if I actually thought this was one of the top 100 issues that might help the future of liberalism, but it's not, is it? Media criticism in general helps our side, but what exactly would it gain us to relate everything back to Al Gore's decade-old mistreatment with the Ahab-like intensity that Bob does? Wouldn't it just cause everyone to tune us out as cranks and fogeys? Anyone care to weigh in on this, on either side?
We wouldnt suggest that liberals should harp on this constantly. But good God! Our side would have to go a long way before everyone tune[d] us out as cranks and fogeys about this topic! Since almost no one on our side ever mentions this matter at all, wed have to work extremely hard to create such a situation! Earth to Kevin: Most voters have never heard a word about the remarkable situation you have described. Yet Kevin fears were on the verge of public saturation!
Good God. What kind of acid trip is this mild-mannered analyst on?
Why did we mention this (again) on Monday? Because of what was actually happening out in the actual world! Swing voters were now being told that no one had ever been slimed quite like Palin; it was maddening to watch Mondays Morning Joe and see a pair of timorous hacks bowing low before this nonsense. (Mika Brzezinski and Jay Carney. And if we may paraphrase their remarks: Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo!) These weak-willed fops were reciting this nonsense, taking turns assailing themselves for all the vast unfairness to Palin. And as youve seen, the McCain campaign has been playing related cards all week (see Los Angeles Times, above). They do this for an obvious reason. They do this because media bias is one of their most potent cards!
And no, there really arent 100 issues that would better serve the future of liberalism. Its absolutely, completely absurd that Kevin would say such a thing.
Repeating: Most voters have never heard a word about the situation Kevin described. For that reason, theyre strongly inclined to believe the GOPs relentless complaints about bias. They hear endless claims about bias toward Palin; they never hear a single word about what was done to the Clintons and Gore. Surely, Kevin knows why that is. Once again, lets make sure that we all understand:
In the early 1990s, conservative power was sweeping through Washington. In large part, this took the form of endless, nasty attacks against both Clintons. They were both liars; they were both sex fiends; why, they hung decorative condoms on the White House Christmas tree. Beyond that, of course, they were murderers. By 1999, large blocks of cable news time were being devoted to this insanity. And go ahead, Kevinwhen you come down, you can check it out! When Hardball and Hannity pimped those vile murders, not a single career liberal player offered one word of protest.
By 1999, there was simply nothing you couldnt sayas long as you said it about the Clintons. And then, about Candidate Gore.
The mainstream press corps accepted all this; indeed, they were the principal malefactors. So, of course, did your liberal leadersweak, unprincipled, hackworthy men who run with the Sally Quinn crowd.
And they refused all enlightenment. In 1996, Gene Lyons published Fools for Scandal (How the Media Invented Whitewater), the most important political book of the decade. But go aheadtry to find a single reference to Lyons book in your liberal journals. And go aheadsee what those same fiery journals did when Gene and Joe Conason published The Hunting of the President in early 2000. Of course, you probably know what they didthey all agreed to keep their traps shut. By that time, these broken-souled losers had completely rolled over for those joint RNC/MSM narratives. They had adopted their masters commands. To this day, they have never looked backor wanted you to do so. Candidate Gore had every advantage, Josh told you in 2002.
Beyond that, see what they did when the MSM turned its sights on Candidate Gore. In March 1999, it seamlessly happenedthe venom aimed at President Clinton was instantly, seamlessly transferred to Gore. And what did your liberal leaders do? Some ran and hidand some played along! Indeed, the Bradley campaign was built around dishonest panders to the insider press corps about their hatred of Clinton and Gore. And the left of your party played this sick game. By December 1999, the Bradley campaign was even pretending that Gore had been responsible for the gruesome Willie Horton debacle. Disgracefully, Bradley himself began to say this the next montheven though hed said the opposite, in some detail, in his own 1996 book. But so what? One pundit challenged this balls-out lying. Sadly, it was Morton Kondracke. Every good liberal shut up.
Thats right! The weak-willed men at your liberal journals went along with this deeply unprincipled trashing. You can still find their names on those mastheads. And oh yes! You can find the U.S. Army deeply entrenched in Iraq.
Sorry, kids! The American public will never think were cranks and fogeys because we harp on this so much! Lets be frank: The public will never hear this at all, because our leaders will never tell them about the disgraceful things they did in thrall to MSM power and influence. They wont mention Ceci or Kit; indeed, when Ceci and Kit got briefly criticized in the summer of 2000, Jane Mayer heroically jumped in the stew, saying it was all due to sexism! (Happy with how that bullsh*t worked out?) For these reasons, media bias remains a powerful toola powerful tool for the GOP. Theyre playing this card very hard this weekbecause its one of their strongest.
Last week, Naomi Judd began telling voters that no one has ever been trashed like Palin. Quite naturally, voters tend to believe such claims, because theyve never heard anything different. In our view, Mother Jones should call Mother Judd and tell her the things he wrote in that post. Well offer this one small guess to Kevin: Youll likely find Judd a damn sight more honest than the players who work in your yard.
Liberal bias is a powerful card, a card theyve spent fifty years perfecting. They play this card because it works; it keeps working because our side has refused to debunk it. As weve long said, we refuse to tell the public the truth about the press corps recent conduct. One side keeps saying things which are bogus. And one side wont say what is true.
Conservative power blew into townand the millionaire press corps bowed down before it. To this day, the career liberal world wont tell the public the facts about what happened next. Mother Judd has never heard a word about the matters Kevin described. And, with Mother Jones fretting so hard, its quite clear that she never will.
Paging Brother Corn: Here at THE HOWLER, the analysts luv David Cornand hes Mother Jones Washington honcho. But go aheadreread the remarkable things Kevin wrote about Campaign 2000. Has Brother Corn ever written one word about what Kevin described in that post? About those facts, which changed the worlds history? Simple question: Why in the world havent liberal journals ever told voters the truth?
Go aheadread what Kevin wrote again. Why on earth is this never discussed? Even as journalists boo-hoo-hoo about the vile treatment of Palin? Even as voters continue hearing about the vile liberal press.
Brother Scarborough, stating the obvious: In late 2002, Joe Scarborough stated the blindingly obvious. If that had been done to a GOP candidate, wed still be hearing about it:
SCARBOROUGH (11/18/02): I think, in the 2000 election, I think [the media] were fairly brutal to Al Gore If they had done that to a Republican candidate, Id be going on your show saying, you know, that they were being biased.
Truer words were never spoken. (That statement was offered on Hardball.) Indeed, could anything be more obvious? If this had been done to a GOP hopeful, youd still be hearing about it daily. There would be epic poems about itpoems to rival The Iliad.
One side plays this game to win. On the other side, Kevin is palling around with careerists. By the way: Why do we repeat this stuff so much? Simple! We cant get anyone else to!