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MOTHER JONES, PHONE MOTHER JUDD! Voters have never heard the truth. Here’s why they never will: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2008

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? (Steve’s emphasis)

It isn’t 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 don’t agree with the thrust of Steve’s post, in which he “sincerely wonder[s] about McCain's grip on reality sometimes.” In fact, McCain’s 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 Republicans—in large part, because career liberal and Democratic elites have long agreed to enable it. (More on that problem below.)

McCain’s argument is deeply inane. But his “grip on reality” is much stronger than Steve’s when it comes to this obvious point.

That said, Steve’s question conveys an indisputable fact; as we near Election Day, our campaign has become profoundly inane. Blinding stupidity drives our discourse—a point we’ll 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 doesn’t 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 today’s Milbank “sketch.

How inept is your upper-end press corps? After all we’ve been through in the past two years, Milbank—and/or his editor—remains content with presentations like the one which follows. This appears in a “sketch” of Michelle Obama in the campaign’s 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.

Today’s 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 (we’re sorry, but this is what he wrote) Michelle Obama’s “use of the word ‘whitey.’ ” A reader who takes Milbank’s words at face value may well think that he has just read that Obama has been using that term—that some sorts of “unfounded rumors” have been circulating about her use of that particular insult. It’s 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 Milbank’s 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 doesn’t “get” that. You simply don’t 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 morning’s Post.

This report was written by Michael Shear; it concerns McCain’s excited complaints about the conduct of Barack Obama and the Los Angeles Times. Once again, McCain is playing that potent old “liberal media” card—the potent old card which liberal scribes still don’t seem to understand. And Shear rolls over and dies in his piece. When work this inept is being done by the Post, you don’t have an actual “press corps.”

As you may know, McCain is demanding release of a tape—a 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 Shear’s slightly confusing words, Khalidi is “a leading Palestinian American scholar.”) You can read Shear’s piece for the basic info—about the banquet, and about McCain’s complaints. Along the way, you will notice these facts about McCain’s latest war-cries:

McCain has ties to Khalidi too. In Shear’s 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 won’t 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 report—a 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/Palin’s claim.

McCain and Palin can’t stop dissembling: McCain is complaining that the Los Angeles Times won’t release the tape of the banquet—although the Times says (Shear’s words) that the tape was “provided by a source on the condition that the paper not air it.” Despite this, Palin has (Shear’s 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.

Let’s review:

McCain is trashing Obama’s 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 banquet—citing “evidence” which doesn’t 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 bias—although 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 Shear—if he’s determined and so inclined. But what is most striking in Shear’s 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 Obama’s 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 didn’t ask.

Why did McCain call Khalidi a PLO spokesman? Once again, Shear didn’t ask.

Why is McCain calling Khalidi a “neo-Nazi,” given the fact that McCain’s group supported Khalidi’s work? Shear forgets to ask.

How does Palin justify attacking the Times, which reported this story? Doesn’t ask.

In short, everyone’s integrity is directly challenged—except 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 McCain’s nasty complaints about Obama’s “neo-Nazi.” Indeed, that’s what makes Shear’s 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 spout—and to dissemble, perhaps to lie. In this way, your country’s 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 can’t get this stupid in a country with a functioning press corps. Shear rolls over and dies today in the face of McCain’s wild statements.

Right and wrong again: In this post, Benen reviews the basics of McCain’s 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. McCain’s claims are ridiculous—but his strategy clearly isn’t. 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 don’t understand.

“I'm afraid the Republican ticket is starting to crack and say crazy things,” Steve says. Given the potency of this old card, it’s crazy that our side would say that. McCain’s remarks aren’t crazy at all—given the way Shear reacts.

Tomorrow: Blindingly stupid.

MOTHER JONES, PHONE MOTHER JUDD: As you know, we’re big fans of Kevin Drum’s work—but we think he’s defiantly, ginormously clueless on this particular topic. We agree with Kevin on one point: We’re 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 made—by 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 doesn’t 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 wouldn’t 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, we’d 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 we’re 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 Monday’s 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 you’ve 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 aren’t “100 issues” that would better serve “the future of liberalism.” It’s 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, they’re strongly inclined to believe the GOP’s 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, let’s 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, Kevin—when 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 couldn’t say—as 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 leaders”—weak, 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 ahead—try to find a single reference to Lyons’ book in your “liberal journals.” And go ahead—see 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 did—they 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 back—or 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 happened—the venom aimed at President Clinton was instantly, seamlessly transferred to Gore. And what did your liberal leaders do? Some ran and hid—and 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 month—even though he’d 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.

That’s 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 we’re “cranks and fogeys” because “we harp on this so much!” Let’s 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 won’t 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 tool—a powerful tool for the GOP. They’re playing this card very hard this week—because it’s 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 they’ve never heard anything different. In our view, Mother Jones should call Mother Judd and tell her the things he wrote in that post. We’ll offer this one small guess to Kevin: You’ll likely find Judd a damn sight more honest than the players who work in your yard.

“Liberal bias” is a powerful card, a card they’ve spent fifty years perfecting. They play this card because it works; it keeps working because our side has refused to debunk it. As we’ve 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 won’t say what is true.

Conservative power blew into town—and the millionaire “press corps” bowed down before it. To this day, the career liberal world won’t 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, it’s quite clear that she never will.

Paging Brother Corn: Here at THE HOWLER, the analysts luv David Corn—and he’s Mother Jones’ Washington honcho. But go ahead—reread 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 world’s history? Simple question: Why in the world haven’t liberal journals ever told voters the truth?

Go ahead—read 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, we’d 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, I’d 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, you’d still be hearing about it daily. There would be epic poems about it—poems 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 can’t get anyone else to!