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RICH AND A KING (PART 1)! One was Rich—and one was a King. They churned remarkable columns: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2008

Team of hacks/he’s a Jet all the way: We had to chuckle when Brokaw’s angels began inventing Saint McCain’s legacy. The Parson, Jon Meacham, was first to cleared his throat and opine. Forgive his failure to form complete thoughts. Just note the odd shape of his reasoning:

MEACHAM (11/9/08): We are in the midst of a great national moment about this candidate of hope, this candidate of change. This is a very tough man. He is a very tough politician. The main thing he remembered from growing up in Indonesia was his stepfather teaching him how to box and how to hit back. And so I, I think people who "misunderestimate" him, to use a term from the era now past—

[group laughter]

—that is one legacy we will keep, I hope, and enjoy. You know, and—and people like me, I, I was very skeptical of this. I'm a Southerner. I, I thought it was a very long shot. Until the market collapsed, I thought it was a better than even chance that Senator McCain, who ran, I think, in all a noble campaign and we should, I think, mark that. It could've been a lot worse out there in the past couple of months. He knows how to fight and—see “Rahm Emanuel.”

If it isn’t silly, Meacham won’t say it. No, Obama’s “stepfather teaching him how to box” wasn’t “the main thing he remembered from growing up in Indonesia.” And the Parson was of course required to say that he himself had been very skeptical—as a Southerner, of course—at the idea that a black guy could get elected. But note the logic the Parson employed when evaluating McCain. His campaign “could have been a lot worse,” Meacham said. Therefore, the campaign had been “noble.”

No real human “reasons” that way. That’s the logic of the fabulists employed to shape the conceptual world of your Potemkin “democracy.” They’re introduced as analysts and historians—but, in fact, they’re serial novelists. Once their characters have been defined, nothing—nothing!—will ever change the way they’ve been sketched out.

Mightily pleased by what Meacham had said, Brokaw turned to Doris Kearns Goodwin. The pair extended the tale:

BROKAW (continuing directly): Doris, you wrote Team of Rivals, and he's reading that, we're told. These were the people that Abraham Lincoln ran against and then pulled into his Cabinet to help him govern. One of the most gracious speeches we've heard in the course of the last nine months was given by John McCain the night that he was defeated. Should he find a place, specifically, for John McCain? If not in the Cabinet, necessarily, but reach out to him in Congress? And, and shake up Washington in a way that we have not seen it shaken up in a long, long time?

GOODWIN: I think he's going to try to do something like that, and I think it's in McCain's interest to respond. McCain has a certain number of years left in public life. He's had such a noble career before him. He is a person who brings people together, that's what he was before. And that concession speech, I think, was his beginning road on that journey. It was so classy. You're so exhausted, your eyes are puffy, you've had this terrible rejection, you almost reached this White House. And to give that kind of a graceful speech was an extraordinary moment. And I think that Obama will be able to think beyond the normal. I think that's why he talks about Lincoln all the time. It wasn't just that Lincoln brought his chief Republican rivals in. He brought Democrats, former Whigs, they're fighting all the time, but he was able to bring them together in the most unusual team in history, and I'll bet you Obama will do that. I'd love to see McCain in some big position.

MEACHAM: He—

GOODWIN: Maybe—go ahead. No, I was just going to spout, so go ahead.

“I was just going to spout,” Goodwin said, in a rare moment of candor.

The shape of the ongoing novel was clear. In fact, defeated candidates always give “gracious speeches”—in our view, McCain was a bit more grumpy than most—but this one was used to extend a key portrait. Somewhat comically, Goodwin described what McCain “was before”—“before” he paraded about the country, making absurd claims about Obama the Socialist while his running-mate, Sarah the McCarthyite, talked about the way Obama liked to pal around with terrorists. But in the Parson and the Plagiarist’s novel, this conduct has quickly been wished away. In their novel, McCain is so noble and so gracious—his classy speech was so extraordinary—that Obama would be a fool if he didn’t let McCain run the federal government. Sorry—hold “some big position.”

We’re told that we should be proud of our country. Sorry, we aren’t buying any part of the concept. In fact, you don’t really have a “country” when its discourse—its “collective memory”—is incessantly shaped by the Team of Hacks which ran on the field Sunday morning.

Do you really have a “country?” Or is your “country” a hologram—a dream-scape invented by a pseudo-elite? We’ll discuss the question all week. But in today’s hackneyed piece by the Kaiser, another historian uses the term “collective memory” to describe what we were given last week (for a previous use of the term, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/7/08). Unfortunately, this country has many “collective memories” of the past twenty years—“collective memories” of seminal events which never actually occurred. Your neighbors were handed these “memories” by the hacks Coach Brokaw dragged out on the field.

They introduce themselves as historians; in truth, they write novels—dime novels. In the novel extended above, McCain must, by law, remain noble. As a group, they devoted the best years of their lives to creating this childish portrait—a portrait they invented at the same time they invented Al Gore, the Big Liar. For reasons only they can explain, they insisted on jamming these ludicrous portraits into your country’s “collective memory.” And under the rules of their childish game, Saint McCain must remain a great saint:

When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way in the land of these kaisers and parsons.

No, that isn’t “the main thing Obama remembered from growing up in Indonesia.” But these hacks have stories they’re determined to tell; fact and logic are tossed away in the face of that driving imperative. If a campaign could have been worse, that demonstrates that the campaign was noble! And this is the way group memory is formed on your nation’s most prestigious “news” program!

Given that, how proud are you of your country? Are you sure that your “country” exists?

Shipp’s shapes: Long ago, E.R. Shipp, then Post ombudsman, described the way the Post seemed to be defining the “roles” of various “actors” in an “unfolding political drama”—an unfolding political novel otherwise known as Campaign 2000. Right as rain then—still right today! More than eight years ago, Shipp described the way a Team of Hacks was inventing a saint named McCain:

SHIPP (3/5/00): [R]eaders react—sometimes in a nonpartisan way, more often not—to roles that The Post seems to have assigned to the actors in this unfolding political drama. Gore is the guy in search of an identity; Bradley is the Zen-like intellectual in search of a political strategy; McCain is the war hero who speaks off the cuff and is, thus, a "maverick"; and Bush is a lightweight with a famous name, and has the blessings of the party establishment and lots of money in his war chest. As a result of this approach, some candidates are whipping boys; others seem to get a free pass.

Shipp described the work of the Post’s reporter-dramatists, who had assigned different roles to the actors. In the process, she pre-described yesterday’s Meet the Press.

Special report: Rich and a King!

PART 1—RICHLY EMBELLISHED: What can you say about a country where a guy like Frank Rich helps establish the discourse? Helps create the “collective memories?” In his typical New York Times column, Rich presents some sort of strange novel. But on Sunday, our second double-take occurred during just his third paragraph. We’ll review our first double-take by the end of the week. But Frankly, we thought this was Rich:

RICH (11/9/08): For eight years, we’ve been told by those in power that we are small, bigoted and stupid—easily divided and easily frightened. This was the toxic catechism of Bush-Rove politics. It was the soiled banner picked up by the sad McCain campaign, and it was often abetted by an amen corner in the dominant news media. We heard this slander of America so often that we all started to believe it, liberals most certainly included. If I had a dollar for every Democrat who told me there was no way that Americans would ever turn against the war in Iraq or definitively reject Bush governance or elect a black man named Barack Hussein Obama president, I could almost start to recoup my 401(k). Few wanted to take yes for an answer.

So let’s be blunt. Almost every assumption about America that was taken as a given by our political culture on Tuesday morning was proved wrong by Tuesday night.

Really? “Few” Democrats believed that “Americans would ever...elect a black man named Barack Hussein Obama president?” If that’s true, who were the 18 million people who voted for Obama during the primaries? Who were all the industrious, caring people who worked and organized for him?

As usual, Rich is heightening drama (lying/writing a novel) when he makes this ludicrous statement. We’re told to be proud of our country this week—by Brother Krugman, to a lesser extent by Kathleen Parker. But what does it mean when a country’s elites put phantasmagorists in charge of its discourse?

Rich said he was speaking “bluntly” in this part of his column. “Almost every assumption” of our political culture was proved wrong Tuesday night, he said. But as he proceeded to list those assumptions, the gentleman rarely missed the chance to embellish, misstate, play the fool with his data. That said, the analysts really came out of their chairs when they reached the pronouncement which follows. Rich is blatantly making this up. What does it mean when your country’s elites let you be talked to this way?

RICH: The same commentators who dismissed every conceivable American demographic as racist, lazy or both got Sarah Palin wrong too. When she made her debut in St. Paul, the punditocracy was nearly uniform in declaring her selection a brilliant coup. There hadn’t been so much instant over-the-top praise by the press for a cynical political stunt since President Bush “landed” a jet on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln in that short-lived triumph “Mission Accomplished.”

The rave reviews for Palin were completely disingenuous. Anyone paying attention (with the possible exception of John McCain) could see she was woefully ill-equipped to serve half-a-heartbeat away from the presidency...

The people, however, were reaching a less charitable conclusion and were well ahead of the Beltway curve in fleeing Palin. Only after polls confirmed that she was costing McCain votes did conventional wisdom in Washington finally change, demoting her from Republican savior to scapegoat overnight.

Really? After Palin debuted at the Republican Convention, “the punditocracy was nearly uniform in declaring her selection a brilliant coup?” The “rave reviews” only ceased “after polls confirmed that she was costing McCain votes?” Simply put, these claims are utterly bogus, like so much of the work Rich types. So what does it mean when a guy like this helps define what Americans “know?”

Out here in the actual world, how did “the punditocracy” react to Palin’s debut in St. Paul ? The lady spoke in St. Paul on Wednesday, September 3. Tomorrow, we’ll give you a sample of what was being said that weekend, starting on Friday, September 5. We’ll look in four of our biggest newspapers—including the paper employing Frank Rich. You’ll see why our analysts leaped from their chairs when they scanned the grandee’s strange pronouncement.

A great deal of remarkable work appeared in our newspapers over the weekend. We were struck by Rich—and frankly, we were almost rendered nauseous when we fact-checked the work of a King.