FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2002
LESSON ONEHOW TO SPIN TAX CUTS: We got an e-mailBroder deserves bettercritiquing our remarks on the great Pundit Dean (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/14/02). We think the writer asks some good questions. Here is the heart of his criticism:
E-MAIL: Reading the full text of Broders article gave me a quite different impression of his tone than your column, which brought me right out of my seat with disbelief. Surely I thought, THE HOWLER wont resort to the same spin tactics it denounces to smear a journalist it doesnt like. Broder appears to me to simply describe a shift in the Democratic Party, and I can find nothing in the article to suggest that he is unhappy about this. The only inconsistency with his prior work is that he does not applaud the Democratic shift, as you would think one who was advocating it for so long would make a point of doing.
The writer makes some good points in his mail, but we think hes dead wrong in his view.
Is Broder simply describing a shift in the Democratic Party? Is he impartial about the shift? Sorry, we dont think that gets it. We think Broder does something quite different herehe finds a way to recite the standard spin-points about Pelosis election. Sadly, this is what pundits race to do when power shifts inside the capital.
Largely, Broder recites the Standard RNC Account of Pelosis impending election. Heres how the Approved Story goes: The Dems are electing a San Francisco liberal. With her kooky views, she will take the party way to the left. The party will be out of step with mainstream America. Theres one obvious problem with this Official Account, which has been recited all through our conservative media. Like everyone else who is typing this tale, Broder has no earthly idea how Pelosi will actually perform as House leader. But if hed simply typed this Standard Approved Tale, at THE HOWLER, we would have moved on.
But the mighty Pundit Dean went farther. In a move that made no apparent sense, he drug in six Dem White House hopefuls; in each case, he noted, in some detail, that the candidate doesnt support the Bush tax cuts. Since his piece concerns the way Dems are supposedly tipping to the left, one can only assume that these candidates views are supposed to be part of this trend. After noting that each of the hopefuls opposes the cuts, he says, For all these reasons, odds are the Democratic nominee will be someone Nancy Pelosi will love. Pelosi, of course, is that San Francisco liberal who is dragging the Dems to the left.
Of course, these six Dems views on the Bush cuts have nothing to do with any such drift. How could they? In the case of Gore, to cite one example, his view was announced back in 1999! And what makes Broders work so astounding? Just eight days before he wrote this piece, he was actively scolding national Dems because they wouldnt challenge the cuts. But now King Bush rules all he surveys, and Broder rushes to bring him tribute. Needless to say, he swallows the view he advanced all fallthe view that these Dems are right on the merits. Weird, isnt it? Last week, their views on the tax cut made them right. This week, their views make them lefties.
In sports, its known as a make-up call. Broder to White House: I hammered your tax cuts all through the fall. But now youve won a big election. So Ill hammer six Dems who oppose them.
Broders remarks on the tax cuts make almost no sense. To the extent that they do, hes flip-flopping madly. The Dean has brought His King six heads. Voices tell us it just cant be true. But such courtiers do rule in Washington.
LESSON TWOHOW TO SPIN NEEDLES: Spin? Its all about mouthing key, preferred phrases. On Wednesdays program, Sean Hannity had a phrase he liked. He knew he should just keep repeating it:
HANNITY: The Democratic Party is now on the verge of electing, as their leader, the San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi. I dont think they could make a bigger mistake, not that theyre going to take little old Sean Hannitys advice. Do you agree with that?
Sean kept saying San Francisco liberal. He used it throughout the show. (Also, of course, the phrase needle exchange. The idea, of course, is to link Pelosi to IV druggies as well as to gays.) Later in the evenings program, Alan Colmes called his colleague on the carpet. They want to demonize Nancy Pelosi using the code phrase San Francisco liberal, he said. Robert Reich had a reassuring reply. Well, thats what theyre trying to do, he said. They are trying to do that, but were not going to let them.
Reich had better get busy. After all, it wasnt just Hannity who was using that code phraseBroder just happened to type it up too. Indeed, Pelosi was the near-perfect embodiment of a San Francisco liberal, he said in his shape-shifting piece.
San Francisco liberal is an unlovely phrase. It has a long and slimy past. But Broder knew he should type it up fast. For another phrase, see Lesson Four.
LESSON THREEHOW TO SPIN BOOING: In Sundays Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Eric Black penned a lengthy review of Paul Wellstones death. Some conservatives have noted Blacks work, happily taking the latest chance to yell naughty names at Fritz Mondale (a loser, Andrew Sullivan said). In some ways, were surprised that cons would point to this piece, in part because of the following passage. Black describes the memorial event:
BLACK: Williams Arena is jammed with the famous, the unknown, the rich, the poor, the powerful and the humble. Former President Bill Clinton walks in to thunderous applause; he beams and waves to the crowd of more than 20,000, including those in the arena and those watching on video screens in an overflow area next door and standing outside.
Black becomes the latest scribe to report a smattering of boos. But as weve noted: With lightning speed, conservative spinners embellished wildly, deceiving the public about this matter. Peggy Noonan went on TV and said that all 20,000 were booing (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/11/02). Tucker Carlson went on TV and said that Republican speakers had been shouted down (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/31/02). A spin campaign was off and runningdriven by dissembling conservatives. Soon, timid, trembling Washington pundits were saying the service made Dems look negative. Not a word about the dissembling, misstatements and simple lying which drove this dumb spin campaign on.
Lillehaug hears a smattering of boos as Republican senators file in, which he considers rude, but no one is thinking that this will turn into an event remembered for its partisan tone. The early memorial speeches are beautiful and touching. The emotional high note is Wellstone aide Connie Lewis eulogy to Sheila Wellstone, which has the room blubbering.
Did Rick Kahn show poor judgment in his speech? He did, as we said at the time. But major conservatives showed poor moralsand PunditLand knew not to notice. Indeed, the spinning of the service is all too familiar; such spin campaigns ruled Campaign 2K. Your mainstream pundits are now quite accustomed to mouthing the spin-points these campaigns produce. Carlson, Noonan, Chris Caldwell, Limbaugh? They, of course, can do what they please. Conservative power now rules in DC, and timid, quaking good guy pundits know not to mention their conduct.
By the way, have you ever seen tape of the horrible booing? No you havent, and almost surely, that means one thing; the booing at this event was so slight that playing tape would have ruined the spin-point. Result? TV producers across the land knew not to show you what happened.
LESSON FOURHOW TO SPIN CLINTON: How deeply dysfunctional are your insider pundits? While Broder rolled his eyes at Dems who held a position he long had espoused, Margaret Carlson also ran to align with newly ascendant Bush Power. According to Carlson, last Tuesdays election dr[ove] a stake through the Clinton era
This is Bush Country now. In a column, Carlson battered Bill, her contribution to the new mood in Washington.
For sheer stupidity and fatuous fawning, this column really does take the prize. Regarding Clintons role as a campaigner, Carlson says, During the primaries, association with Clinton proved toxic. Two loony examples, of several offered: Where Clinton did go, candidates like Marylands Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Massachusetts Shannon OBrien lost. These losses now are Clintons doing? But no problem: Knowing how foolish her basic claim is, Carlson provided a helpful distraction. Clinton wasnt, of course, the primary reason the Democrats lost, she quickly said, but theres no reason to think he would accept responsibility if he were. Oh. Readers, when CW shifts in the nations capital, there is simply no comment so completely inane that courtiers wont run to type it. (By the way: Is Clinton any part of the reason these two hopefuls lost? We dont have the slightest idea. Neither, of course, does Carlson.)
But how well does Margaret type up preferred tales? Her take on the Wellstone event:
CARLSON: Clinton compounded his problems at the infamous memorial service for Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone. There he was, his face blown up on the Jumbotron, cheering and swaying as if he were at Woodstock IV, showing no disapproval then or later over the booing of Republican Senator Trent Lott, who had come to pay his respects. If Jesse Ventura, the ex-wrestler, can credibly take offense and, with impunity, order flags flying at half-mast to be raised early, you know it was unsavory. Heres how Congressman Tom Davis, chairman of the Republican Congressional Committee, summed it up: Nothing gets Republican voters more hyped up than seeing President Clinton on the tube
it got our base ginned up.
How does she know the event was unsavory? Because Jesse Ventura didnt like it! And, of course, its Clintons fault that his face was blown up on the Jumbo. (So, of course, was Senator Lotts. The senator also was smiling.) Meanwhile, Carlson quotes Chairman Davis explaining his partys reaction to seeing Vile Bill on the screen. Bill gets his voters ginned up, Tom explains. Does this suggest that reaction to the service may have been partly hype? Not to Carlson. She gins them up more.
Readers, fawning courtiers will let you know whose spin-points are ruling your capital. Broder knew to type San Francisco liberal. See if you can spot the phrase which Carlson knew she ought to type:
CARLSON: A parallel shift in the culture suggests that Clinton-era values are no longer Americas. Though a baby boomer, Bush rejects the instant-gratification ethic embraced by Clinton, the nations first baby boomer President
Surely, readers, you rolled your eyes at the ludicrous CEO comment. Kenny Boys night in the Lincoln is gone. (Of course, earlier courtiers knew to pretend that the visit occurred under Clinton!) But what spin-point simply leaps from that passage? Of course! Carlson knew to type Barbra Streisand! In the past month, conservative spinners have mentioned Streisand as frequently and as dumbly as possible. Carlson, knowing what spin is preferred, also ran quickly to type it. (On Crossfire, Tucker Carlson has mentioned Streisand on October 17, October 19, October 21, October 30, October 31, November 6, November 7, November 11, and November 12. Reason for this dim-witted conduct? It gins up Republican voters.)
Clinton revered CEOs; they now appear regularly in televised perp walks. Clinton loved Hollywood; celebrities like Barbra Streisand had his ear and an invitation to the Lincoln Bedroom. Bush doesnt have movie stars over; hes in bed with Laura by 9:30. Hillary Rodham Clinton is the one politician to survive the association with Bill, although at a high personal price. If she decides to run for President, she may want to change her name yet again and become a Rodham once and for all.
Our pundit corps courtier culture astounds. So too, their astounding stupidity. And make no mistakeAmerican democracy ceases to function when its discourse is run by this vacuous tribe. Its hard to grasp how deeply dysfunctional our insider pundit corps actually is. But as they pander, flip-flop and fawn, they deeply insult the American interest. Heres the good news, boys and girls: Theyre paid astonishing sums for their work, and their money is spending quite nicely.
EXTRA CREDIT: Hannity has used the phrase needle exchange on November 11, November 12, November 13 and November 14. A slimy man, he wants you to associate Pelosi with AIDS and with drugs. Dont expect Margaret Carlson to notice.