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BUNKER’S REVENGE! Welch built a team of Archie Bunkers. One of them went off last night: // link // print // previous // next //

THE USES OF TRIVIA: They simply refuse to stop. Yesterday, NPR bungled again, falsely reporting that Hillary Clinton failed to leave a tip at an Iowa restaurant. (The spot was described as a “greasy spoon” by the Post’s very grand Lady Kornblut.) In fact, Clinton’s group had left a $100 tip with the manager (on a $157 tab). Mysteriously, the tip failed to find its way to the waitress. This led to the bungled report.

There’s a major lesson lurking here, longing to be learned. This isn’t just another case of NPR getting its facts wrong. This is another example of the mainstream press corps’ undying devotion to trivia. In this case, NPR did what the mainstream press corps did all through Campaign 2000: It used bungled facts about consummate trivia to draw an assessment of somebody’s character. To adapt what Katherine “Kit” Seelye has told us: It’s easier to conjure this sort of piffle than it is to examine real issues.

Sadly, the facts are clear: Your “press corps” is full of trivial people, and trivial people love trivia. They don’t give a sh*t about how health care works. Readers, they already have it! Instead, they like to tell stories about people’s character. There’s an older word for this trait. They’re gossips.

We’ll give credit to the Times’ Jim Rutenberg for the way he ends today’s report about NPR’s blunder. Rutenberg notes what the waitress said when he called to ask for a comment:
RUTENBERG (11/9/07): Ms. Esterday said she did not understand what all the commotion was about.

“You people are really nuts,” she told a reporter during a phone interview. “There’s kids dying in the war, the price of oil right now—there’s better things in this world to be thinking about than who served Hillary Clinton at Maid-Rite and who got a tip and who didn’t get a tip.”
“You people are nuts,” the waitress said. Real things are going on in the world.

Final note: Some of you are telling yourselves, “But if the facts here had been right, this would have said something about Clinton’s character.” Trust us: When you let a millionaire press corps draw lessons from trivia, the high-minded lessons they happen to draw will not favor those on your side.

LOST BOYS OF THE LIBERAL PRESS CORPS: We’ll admit it! We’re the ones who e-mailed those articles to Digby, the ones she discussed in Wednesday’s post. Since some of her commenters didn’t seem to “get” why the reports were worth discussing, we thought we’d suggest a few points.

One of the reports in question appears on-line at The New Republic. Headline: “Jenna vs. Chelsea/Who's the least virtuous first daughter?” The other report appears on-line at Newsweek. Headline: “Who’s the next Jenna Bush?” In the latter, a half-witted fellow named Andrew Romano sniffs his way through the underwear drawers of nine female relatives of politicians (including one who is 6 years old). He is trying to judge who wins the right to serve as the slut of his latest thigh-rubbing confection.


Brainless: Do you have any idea how dumb you have to be, as a male, to write panty-sniffing garbage like this in the year 2007? How mindless a magazine has to be to put this rot-gut in print? According to Newsweek, Romano “graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University in 2004 with an A.B. in English and a certificate in American Studies.” Simply put, that’s a tragic admission.

Endless: Alas! Though culture is always part of the mix, the sense of male privilege driving these pieces (“droit de sophomore”) seems to be bred quite deep in the bone. Omigod! Absent appropriate guidance, each generation of young, callow males turns out just as dumb as the last one. Almost surely, many progressives thought this type of churlishness had been snuffed out by the early 70s, at least among “liberal” men. But these attitudes return with each generation. We gentlemen are just more resentful—therefore, dumber—each and every time.

Consequences: Do you trust a magazine which would print such a piece to cover the White House campaign of the first viable female candidate? In the past few weeks, Clinton has been trashed by Chris Matthews in astonishing ways; his lunatic conduct continued last night. (Tucker Carlson is little better—although he’s less influential.) Few “liberals” have found the heart to complain—or even to notice what’s happening. But then, our liberal leaders have long ignored Matthews’ woman-trashing, going all the way back to the late 1990s (more on these topics next week). This is A-OK with our tribe. Absent the unusual person like Digby, our tribe doesn’t even notice.

Speaking more specifically, the ugly sexual trashing handed to Naomi Wolf during Campaign 2000 did tremendous damage to Candidate Gore. Needless to say, the high-minded boys at your “liberal journals” didn’t say a word about it; it was left to several major conservatives (William Kristol, William Safire) to speak up on her behalf. You have already paid a gigantic price for the empty hearts of these weak, empty boys. The sexual trashing dished to Wolf was astounding. It did tremendous damage to Gore—and it passed without liberal comment.

A final note about consequences. When you see a collection of liberal scribes who think it’s OK to trash young women this way (down to age 6), do you think they will ever defend you against the wider values of their plutocrat bosses? Over the course of the past fifteen years, your interests have been shipped down the river at “liberal” journals as the plutocrat press corps’ major fixers have trashed a succession of Major Dems, including (for two years) Candidate Gore. Do you think a bunch of boys who sniff their way through underwear drawers will ever stand up to the Russerts and the Matthewses? To the powerful interests which hired them—which stand behind them? Their empty hearts and outstretched hands are perfectly clear as they publish this swill. They’re letting you know who and what they are—a lesson we liberals have had a hard time absorbing in the past dozen years.

Go ahead—sniff your way through that pair of reports. Good grief—you’re gazing on the souls of the lads who are supposed to be defending your interests! Then, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/3/03, which conveys a small sense of the sexual trashing handed to Wolf in November 1999. After scanning this pair of new reports, perhaps we all understand why “liberal” journals said nothing about this in real time—and perhaps we finally see how Bush ended up in the White House.

IT GETS WORSE: How callow is the TNR gang? On Wednesday, Sacha Zimmerman reviewed Brian Williams’ outing on last week’s Saturday Night Live. Here’s how she started. Prepare to cringe throughout:
ZIMMERMAN (11/7/07): Anyone who has seen NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams on the late-night talk shows knows that he is a pretty frickin' funny guy in addition to being the comforting daddy who reads us the news every night. That's why it was such a treat to hear that the NBC stalwart would be hosting "Saturday Night Live" last weekend. Throw Williams, the secretly hilarious heavyweight newsman, into Studio 8H, and it would seem an ideal moment for "SNL" to remind the country why the legendary program's voice—particularly its political voice—is so vital. What other TV show can lure a mercilessly ridiculed sitting president (George W. Bush) or attorney general (Janet Reno) to do a walk-on. Thirty-plus years as one of the only outlets on television that is so fully emblematic of democracy is central to the "SNL" mystique. So it was less than gratifying to see producer Lorne Michaels totally mishandle the opportunity.
There are no words to describe the inanity of that—especially at a “liberal” publication. We’ve seen Brian Williams on the late-night talk shows—and we know he’s the guy who spent two weeks in the fall of 1999 complaining, crying and belly-aching about Gore’s troubling polo shirts, having spent his summer pandering to Bush, in ways which were comically awful. We also know he’s the guy who staged that horrendous first Democratic debate this year; and we know he’s the guy who joined Tim Russert in last week’s unprecedented gang-bang of Clinton. (No, this doesn’t always happen. Nothing like it ever happened before.) Sorry, but when Howard Kurtz reports that Williams is Bush’s favorite anchor, we’re not especially surprised. At TNR, though, he’s “the comforting daddy who reads us the news.” Or, to paraphrase Zimmerman’s analysis: Kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss.

Special report: Welch’s at war!

EPILOGUE—BUNKER’S REVENGE: Simply put, he’s out of his mind. Chris Matthews’ performance on Hardball last night was deeply disordered—just this side of sane. But this has gone on for a very long time, and—as we’ll discuss next week—liberal leaders have refused to address it.

It’s funny—coincidental—when those same leaders turn up as guests on Hardball.

It may just be another coincidence, but NBC seems to be dragging its feet getting its transcript on-line today. (We’d be slow to make last night’s lunacy available to the public too.) Meanwhile, we have other work to move on to. So looking ahead to our work next week, we’ll leave you with these observations:

Somehow, Media Matters can see it: Somehow, the people at Media Matters can see how bizarre this man’s conduct is. Last night, Matthews continued—indeed, expanded—his crackpot trashing of Hillary Clinton because she claps her hands too much. (Elsewhere, this is called “insanity;” in the U.S., it’s now known as “journalism.”) On Wednesday, Media Matters discussed this behavior—and included tape of Matthews’ past rants on the subject. To see that report and watch that tape, just click here.

A guess: Media Matters may follow-up later today, given Matthews’ conduct last night. You might want to check it out.

Last night’s performance: In last night’s deranged performance, Matthews did the following:

He told Mike Huckabee that everyone at Hardball really, really likes him. A lot. Chris was pandering. Very hard.

He played the complete, utter, total fool in reviewing a poll of married men. These married men had been polled about Clinton; a panel of pundits played dumb along with him. But then, that’s standard on Hardball. (Hint: On balance, men vote Republican; women vote Democrat. Matthews, of course, understands this.)

He made a pregnant remark about being a part of the “GE team.” More on that next week.

He stressed the fact that he doesn’t get personal in his criticisms of Bush.

He then got grossly personal in his criticisms of Clinton, extending his ongoing, crackpot discussion about the way she claps her hands. In this instance, he was dealing with a non-American, female panelist—the intelligent and dignified Chrystia Freeland, U.S. managing editor for The Financial Times. Freeland pushed back against Matthews’ ranting, politely suggesting that he might want to stay away from Clinton’s “secondary characteristics.” But uh-oh! As became quite clear in 1999, Matthews doesn’t like it much when women push back against his rants. This played out again last night. But then, this has gone on for the past dozen years—with no complaints from your “liberal” leaders.

A short explanation of Matthews’ conduct:

During the 1980s and 1990s, Jack Welch assembled a team of Archie Bunkers to head GE’s news division. Sorry—he hired a team of “Reagan Democrats,” handing the reins of NBC News to three East Coast Irish Catholic soul-mates: Russert (Meet the Press), Williams (put in line for Nightly News), and Matthews (king of NBC cable). Russert and Williams are very bad—but Matthews is a true Archie Bunker. His gender disturbance has been on display for years. But in a press culture driven by his pal Maureen Dowd, liberal leaders have agreed not to notice.

We speak as an East Coast Irish Catholc ourselves—raised by East Coast Irish Catholic mother, grand-mother, aunts. That said, let’s state the obvious: The lunacy that Matthews and Dowd display is the down-side of mid-century East Coast Irish Catholic culture. (When we moved to California in 1960, the Catholic culture was quite different there.) In the case of Matthews, his nasty, throwback gender disturbance has been on display a long while.

Who knows? Perhaps we’ve all forgotten his ugly clowning during the month-long trashing of Wolf. The type of nonsense which follows (with compliant jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius) went on night after night; your liberal leaders just love it. For the record, three-button suits were completely conventional in November 1999. Beyond that, Matthews and Dimitrius are discussing the fact that Gore wore an olive suit, not a blue suit, to his first debate with Bradley. And yes—that is what these fools are discussing:
MATTHEWS (11/12/99): You know, there's been a lot of talk about the new costuming of Al Gore. You know, he used to wear blue suits like I do—or gray suits. Now he's wearing these new olive suits. He's taking up something rather unconventional, the three-button male suit jacket. I always—my joke is, “I'm Albert, I'll—I'll be your waiter tonight.” I mean, I don't know anybody who buttons all three buttons, even if they have them. What could that possibly be saying to women voters, three buttons?

DIMITRIUS: Well, I—I think that—

MATTHEWS: Is there some hidden Freudian deal here or what? I don't know, I mean, Navy guys used to have buttons on their pants. I don't know what it means. Go ahead.

DIMITRIUS: No, I—I—I think actually that Al's probably read the—our second book that's about to come out that talks about the different colors, that, particularly males can wear in their suits. We talk about how olive green, dark green is—is much more approachable, whereas, your dark blue and your black—

MATTHEWS: Right. Is that why Peter Pan wore green?

DIMITRIUS: Could be. Could be.

MATTHEWS: How does my mind work that way?

DIMITRIUS: But you know, the, the three-button image is something that—you know, if I were working with Al—


DIMITRIUS: I'd say, “You know, that's got to go because that is something that—that we know doesn't work very well.”

MATTHEWS: What's that?

DIMITRIUS: Just the—the three-button down, you know, the—the wider—the wider coat that's not as—as form-fitting. You know, I think he's attempting to look perhaps less intimidating to women than he did in the darker suits.


DIMITRIUS: Certainly, that's the way it's come across.


MATTHEWS: What do you think? Does it work for you? Which Al do you like? The old Al, the new Al, the private Al, the public Al? What do you want—what do you like here?

DIMITRIUS: Well, I tell you, look-wise, the new Al—the new Al, I think is going to make a lot of points with women. In that one interview that they had—

MATTHEWS: Right. We're looking at him now with the golf shirt here. Yeah.

DIMITRIUS: Right. With Bryant Gumbel, I thought was fascinating because he did look like he was right out of central casting—


DIMITRIUS: —like he had just come off of a movie set. He's got a very—

MATTHEWS: He looks like he just got a new movie out. In fact, now all he needs is that designer stubble, you know, like George Stephanopoulos puts on every Sunday, you know, about two days' growth of beard. Maybe with George, it's a half a day's growth, but it's two days with most people. What—what do you make of that. Is this part of the Hollywood scene to look more Michael Douglas?

DIMITRIUS: I—oh, I think so. If you look, too, it looks as though he's lost a little bit of weight.

MATTHEWS: Yeah, that's—

DIMITRIUS: He's got a much more chiseled face.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know what? I don't need any advice to do that. But thank you for joining us. Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, I want to thank you.
For the record, Matthews wasn’t kidding when he suggested that he “always” tells his waiter joke. Her told the hilarious joke on Hardball on November 2, 4, 10, 12 and 24, as the mocking of Gore rumbled on. He’s now doing the very same thing, aiming this time at Clinton.

At any rate, that sort of thing went on night after night as Gore was trashed along with Wolf. Sometimes, the gender-trashing was more overt as Matthews tried to help viewers see that Gore didn’t know which gender he was (more next week). By the way: In case you don’t translate from this culture real well, when Matthews compared Gore to Peter Pan, he was calling Gore a fairy. When he mentioned the Navy men, he was trying to link Gore to sexual chasing. That’s “how his mind works that way.”

As anyone would, we hope Dimitrius burns in hell, tortured by the souls of Iraq. But this has gone on for the past dozen years, and liberal leaders keep saying they love it. The blood of Iraq is on their hands too. We do think they know what they’re doing. We ourselves have been much too polite as we’ve watched them play this game all these years.