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Daily Howler: Mr. O(lbermann) was playing the fool--until Thomas Ricks slapped him down
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FREAKS LIKE US! Mr. O(lbermann) was playing the fool—until Thomas Ricks slapped him down: // link // print // previous // next //

EASY MARK: Glenn Greenwald has hammered Mark Halperin for his remarkable interview with Hugh Hewitt. (Click here—and click here.) For ourselves, we were struck by one minor part of the three-hour session. Early on, Hewitt asked Halperin who he has voted for in presidential elections—and Halperin said he doesn’t vote. He went on, at some length, about his own high-minded motives:
HALPERIN (10/30/06): I think it’s important to try to restore credibility to the media, what we call the Old Media. And that requires doing what—the metaphor I used to use was we’ve got to be like Catholic priests and give up sex. But that metaphor’s lost some of its currency. We have to step away from politics. We can’t have political views. So I don’t discuss my political views. I don’t discuss—I will say, somewhat controversial in the minds of some, I don’t vote, because I think that just opens up the question of how can I say I’m being objective, and fighting for truth, if I’m making a decision about who to vote for in a presidential race.

HEWITT: So you’ve never voted in a presidential race?

HALPERIN: No. I just don’t think—I think it’s a sacrifice. I urge everybody else to. I think it’s incredibly important. I think it’s a sacrifice that any sane and rational reporter should make.
But Hewitt kept pushing—and Halperin kept explaining the “principled reasons” that keep him from voting. (For the record, some other major journalists observe this same policy.) It’s all about “the objectivity we must get to, if we’re going to restore faith and trust in these news organizations.” But Hewitt kept pushing—and finally, Halperin semi-relented. He could say this much, he allowed:
HEWITT: If you had voted in ’84, would it have been Mondale or Reagan?

HALPERIN: I just don’t take positions on candidates. And I think some people say you can’t—you must have an opinion. I see the strengths and weaknesses in both candidates. I’m willing to say that I think Ronald Reagan was a better president than Mondale probably would have been, based on what we know about him. But I have no view of those candidates, or any other match-up that you may ask me about.
Although he doesn’t take positions, have opinions or have political views, he was willing to say that Reagan was better! No, this doesn’t involve a direct contradiction. But good lord! What an odd three hours!

Next week, more—much more—on the useful parts of Harris and Halperin’s new book, The Way to Win. We think this book, though deeply flawed, is also very important.

FREAKS LIKE US: It’s sad to see us when we act just like them. But our hero, Keith Olbermann, was playing the fool as he introduced Thomas Ricks on Countdown Thursday night. But then, liberal heroes had been playing this card all day long on the liberal web:
OLBERMANN (11/2/06): Good evening from New York. This is Thursday, November 2, five days until the 2006 midterm elections. No matter what the outcome once the ballots have been counted, this much is certain. As long as President Bush has a job, Donald Rumsfeld will have one too.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, the president`s pledge to keep both his defense secretary and his vice president until January 2009, other Republicans echoing his call, and in so doing, insulting U.S. troops in Iraq and the generals by making the mess on the ground there entirely their fault.
Wow! Republicans had been “insulting U.S. troops in making the mess on the ground there entirely their fault?” As it turned out, Olbermann—playing the fool—was referring to a comment by John Boehner. In fact, Boehner’s comment had been semi-dumb—but it had nothing to do with “the troops.” Keith continued:
OLBERMANN: We begin tonight with the details...Congressman John Boehner, the number two Republican in the House, defending not just the defense secretary, but also shifting responsibility for Iraq from Mr. Rumsfeld to the men and women in uniform on the ground there. Quote, "Let`s not blame what`s happening in Iraq on Rumsfeld. The fact is, the generals on the ground are in charge, and he works closely them and the president."
Weird! Boehner did seem to be slamming “the generals”—but he hadn’t said a word about “the troops!” But so what? All day long, the Democratic leadership had been attempting to parry the Kerry flap by pretending that Boehner had criticized “the troops”—just what Kerry was accused of doing. And sadly, handmaidens on the liberal web had pushed this stupid claim all day. Now, Mr. O was faking it too! And you could just tell that Keith was angry! Why, he even affected the outraged tone he’s been perfecting in the past year. With that heartfelt tone in his voice, he cited the “save Rummy by throwing the troops under the bus campaign” which Boehner, a vile man, was now running.

Yes, Keith was playing his viewers for fools, trying to act like a pseudo-con spinner. But uh-oh! As we’ve long mentioned, we liberals aren’t practiced at this game, and we often look like dopes when we play it. In this case, Olbermann didn’t seem to realize that serious guests—people like Ricks—won’t play along with your Grade A bullshit just because you’ve made them your guest. Thomas Ricks is not a hack. And Oh. Our. God. Here’s the first thing an annoyed Ricks said when Keith brought him on:
RICKS: Well, look, clearly some of it is Rumsfeld’s fault. You don’t get a mess as big as Iraq through the faults of a few officials—Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld. What we’ve had in Iraq is a systemic failure. And actually, I think the Democrats can take a page from the Republicans’ book here. The generals are part of the problem in Iraq. A lot of decisions have been made poorly on the ground, and the generals have not really let themselves be criticized. So it’s one thing to criticize generals, it’s another thing to criticize troops. And I think if the Democrats realize there’s a difference between the troops and the generals, they’d be better off.
Ouch! An unvarnished facial! The generals have screwed up, Ricks said—and then he threw that bullshit back in Keith’s face, the bullshit about Boehner criticizing “the troops.” “It’s one thing to criticize generals, it’s another thing to criticize troops,” Ricks said. “I think if the Democrats realize there’s a difference between the troops and the generals, they’d be better off.”

Yow! That stung! But Keith played it dumb. In service to Harry, he soldiered on, trying to stick to those absurd talking points. Indeed, Harry Reid must have pictures of Keith! Try to believe that he said it:
OLBERMANN (continuing directly): Do you think that in—contained in Congressman Boehner’s remarks about the responsibility there is a genuine insult to the generals, not to the troops?

RICKS: Well, he said “the generals,” yes. I think all too often, the generals themselves have blamed the troops for mistakes that actually were made much higher up, and the troops are simply more of the consequences of them. So I think that`s probably a good thing that people are talking about some of the mistakes generals have made.
Poor Keith! Now he was upset to think that Boehner may have insulted the generals! And Oh. Our. God. Still annoyed, Ricks restated his blindingly obvious point—Boehner only mentioned “the generals.” Then he restated his larger point—the general have screwed up.

But nothing was going to stop Mr. O from treating his viewers like rubes, marks, cons, dimwits. Two questions later, he kept pretending that someone was blaming the troops:
OLBERMANN: It`s presumably useless to assign blame in a particular direction—it’s Rumsfeld’s fault, it’s the generals’ fault, it’s the troops’ fault. But would changes make any sense? Could a new secretary of defense, hypothetically, improve the scenario in Iraq? I mean, even during the civil war, President Lincoln fired his first secretary of war, changed the generals in command seemingly every few months. Is it—would it be of any use to change the secretary of defense?
Does he take in Harry Reid’s laundry too? Indeed, once spoilsport Ricks had been safely dispatched, Keith turned one more time to his scripted bullshit. He spoke with our old pal, Craig Crawford:
OLBERMANN: And lastly, whether John Boehner was referring to just the generals, or the generals and the troops, how did he get away with that when John Kerry had the entire world fall down on top of his head?
What could possibly make him think that Boehner had been referring to “the generals and the troops?” Oh that’s right! Harry Reid said that he should pretend! But Crawford, like Ricks, wouldn’t go there:
CRAWFORD (continuing directly): Well, I think it’s about, it’s a matter of, you know, taking the clips out of context or not, and making a campaign message out of it. It has to be driven. Somebody has to drive it. And Democrats don’t tend to do that.

I go back to when Rumsfeld said similar things about, You find—“you fight with the Army you have, not the one you want.” I mean, he was talking about body armor, but you could have clipped that out and said he was slamming the troops. Democrats don`t have the—you know, they don`t go for the, they don’t go for the throat on stuff like that.
Craig was more diplomatic than Ricks. When it comes to taking things out of context, he said, Democrats tend not to do it. But the implication in all that was obvious. You’d have to take things out of context to pretend that Boehner had criticized “the troops.” Unfortunately, Mr. O kept trying to do that all through this first segment.

Crawford was right, of course. In the past fifteen years, it’s pseudo-conservatives who have staged a giant “Freak Show” by playing the American public for fools. But uh-oh! Some pseudo-liberals are drawn to that practice too. They dream of inventing absurd, phony tales and cramming them straight down the rube public’s throat. But uh-oh! Skills are involved this game. Last night, one of our brethren got smacked down a bit when he tried to do it.

He tried to fake it—just like Harry said. Next time, though, he’ll need faker guests. Some “liberals” want to stage “Freak Shows” too. But dang! We still don’t have the skill-set.

PROVING IT ALL DAY LONG: Bright people pimped Harry’s script all day long. It’s embarrassing—but if you want, just click here. Translation: We can pretend that we’re just a bunch of big, stupid dumb-assess too.