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Daily Howler: Your nation may truly be dying of dumb. We'd blame it on Palin--and KO
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DROWNING IN DUMB! Your nation may truly be dying of dumb. We’d blame it on Palin—and KO: // link // print // previous // next //

Ruminations on Stupak: For our money, the most interesting cable segment last night was the Hardball segment with Rep. Bart Stupak, he of the Stupak-Pitts amendment. How might the current battle over Stupak-Pitts be resolved without killing health reform? As usual, host Chris Matthews wasn’t able to craft a fully coherent discussion. But in these remarks, Stupak defined his own view of where this matter leads:

MATTHEWS (11/17/09): Is there anyone on the Budget Committee or the Health—the Finance Committee staff or Ways or Means staff that’s trying to figure out some new way to compromise here? That would achieve the goal of health care reform and maintain the status quo [regarding abortion issues]? Is anybody working on that now? Or is it just a battle between your side and the other side?

STUPAK: No, no. a couple of senators and I, we talked today, and trying to see if there’s some common language. Here’s my amendment—they had my amendment. Well, what is wrong with it? Where do you think the—for the pro-choice people, they say it’s over-broad. Where is it? It`s the Hyde language, it’s not over-broad.

Everyone agrees, but do we have to put a line in there that says, “Look, you can still have public—you can private funding for abortion?” I mean, my amendment says that. But if you want a clarification, we`re willing to put that in there. We are not restricting insurance policies or individuals from using their own money to get abortion service.

MATTHEWS: Would you be open to an amendment to the bill that comes out of conference that says, even though no federal spending will go for abortion to support, to subsidize a policy which covers abortion, that insurance companies that now provide that kind of coverage to private customers must continue to offer it? Would you be open to that language?

STUPAK: As long as they pay for that policy 100 percent out of their pocket, I have no problem with that language.

MATTHEWS: So you wouldn’t mind mandating that so they couldn’t stop offering that coverage?

STUPAK: The law is very clear right now. Insurance companies can offer that benefit all they want. They can offer the abortion coverage all they want. Just don`t ask us to pay for it. Just don’t ask the federal government to pay for it. The majority of Americans agree with us. Don’t use our federal tax dollars. But insurance companies can provide it. There’s no—we’re not restricting them from providing abortion coverage. Just don’t use our money to pay for it.

It has been difficult to follow this issue, in part because our biggest news orgs have made so little attempt to explain it. (The New York Times has completely taken a pass.) Meanwhile, our liberal cable “news” programs have tended to go straight to pro-choice positioning, by-passing any serious attempt to explain the (complex) facts.

There has been one other problem. Pro-choice groups have been driving their position with what may be the silliest talking-point we’ve ever seen in politics. There it was again last Friday in a letter to the New York Times, which otherwise has made so little attempt to discuss this matter at all:

LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (11/13/09): What irony: even as the House voted to expand access to health insurance, it undermined the health of millions of women. The Stupak-Pitts amendment effectively denies many women access to abortion—a safe, legal medical procedure that one in three women will need in her lifetime.

As for claims that women could buy an abortion rider, no woman anticipates an unplanned or unhealthy pregnancy.

In my abortion clinic in Seattle, I saw many women who needed abortions because something was seriously wrong with the fetus, or their health was compromised by pregnancy. Where will these women turn if Congress denies them coverage?

Suzanne T. Poppema
Chairwoman, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health Edmonds, Wash., Nov. 9, 2009

Truly, that highlighted claim may be the most unintelligent talking-point we’ve ever seen in politics. Health insurance is all about “anticipating” events you don’t “plan.” You buy insurance because you know that unplanned events may occur. But so what? This talking-point has been in wide use for the past several months now.

Big news orgs are sitting this topic out; pro-choice groups offer claims like that. In each case, we’d have to say the public interest is being short-changed—insulted.

Dems and Reps agree on one point. Each group says it only wants to maintain the status quo regarding funding. We liberals sometimes like to pretend otherwise, but that status quo has long involved large, sweeping prohibitions on the use of federal money to pay for abortion. If we were king, that wouldn’t be our own policy choice. But that is the status quo—and the vast majority of liberals have always accepted it. Tell us when you ever saw a liberal (or Democratic) group argue that Medicaid should pay for abortion—that the federal employees health insurance plan should include abortion coverage.

In our view, the mainstream press has taken a hike on this topic; liberals have tended to do the same, refusing to acknowledge the extent to which we have always agreed to restrictions on funding. Last night, Stupak said a deal can be reached; so did Sen. Ron Wyden, on Countdown. We can only hope that the pair are right. It seems we rubes will be kept in the dark about the real shape of this issue.

An intriguing point from MacGillis: On Sunday, the Washington Post at least provided a full attempt at reporting this topic. As leading liberals shriek and posture about our commitment to funding and choice, it might be worth pondering this point:

MACGILLIS (11/15/09): What does [Stupak-Pitts] mean for women? For women who do not have health insurance, gaining subsidized coverage will mean they will be much better off overall, while still lacking abortion coverage. But there are many women who now have coverage on the individual market that is overpriced and low-quality but does cover abortion. Their subsidized coverage under the legislation will be superior in general, but they will lose their abortion coverage, unless they buy a rider. Abortion opponents note this outcome is no different than when Democrats now push to expand Medicaid in the 33 states without abortion coverage.

Under the proposed Democratic bills, many more women would get coverage under Medicaid. By long-standing, pre-existing agreement, they would therefore not be covered for abortion. When you see Democratic solons swearing about their commitment to funding, just remember that these same people built this into their plan. We’re not saying they were wrong to do so. But we would suggest that some Dem pols are being a bit disingenuous.

In our view, big mainstream news orgs are ducking this topic—and you’re getting played by some pols.

DROWNING IN DUMB: Maureen Dowd and Sarah Palin have a lot in common. We learn about these similarities in Dowd’s latest novel/column, which she typed for today’s New York Times after reading Palin’s new book.

How are Dowd and Palin alike? “We both read ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,’” Dowd writes. “We both came from families that loved Ronald Reagan.”

Dowd is many years older, of course. But culturally, the pair share a tie.

Dowd is also like Keith Olbermann. The pair enjoy writing novelized versions of events, even where there is no sign that they could possibly know what is true. And they love wasting your time on consummate trivia. Here is Dowd’s novel this morning:

DOWD (11/18/09): I must be somewhat American because I agreed with Palin that she was undercut by Nicolle Wallace, one of the aides sent by John McCain to do the ''My Fair Lady'' makeover.

Wallace had had a contract at CBS News and was determined to get the big interview for Katie Couric, even if it meant leading the lamb to slaughter, telling Palin that ''the Perky One,'' as Palin called Couric, was insecure (presumably because of her low ratings) and that she would do a short-and-sweet chat about balancing motherhood and a career.

But Palin should have been smart enough to know that Couric has had a reputation for decades for being a tough interviewer, and that she wasn't going to whiff on a chance like that.

According to Dowd, Nicolle Wallace “undercut” Palin. Because Wallace once had a contract at CBS, she “was determined to get the big interview for Katie Couric, even if it meant leading the lamb to slaughter.”

Question: Does anyone have the slightest idea why Dowd thinks she knows these things? As written, this is simply a novel, tricked up as pseudo-journalism. Dowd has crawled inside Wallace’s head to offer this version of a trivial event. In truth, this event ain’t worth discussing. But Dowd doesn’t show the slightest sign of knowing what really occurred.

Of course, Dowd is dumb, irresponsible, unbalanced; she should have been canned many years in the past. Unfortunately, an astonishing fact has become clear: Keith Olbermann is even dumber than Dowd—even less emotionally balanced. In the last two nights, he and his running-mate, Rachel Maddow, have fed us the equal-but-opposite novel about this utterly pointless Wallace matter. KO has shrieked and howled at the moon about all manner of Palin trivia, rarely showing the slightest sign of knowing what would count as evidence for his various pleasing claims. On Monday, he seemed to vouch for various McCain aides (including Wallace) who have challenged things Palin has said. Regarding Wallace, he can’t possibly know hat happened either. But he knows which side he’s on.

When it comers to Palin and Wallace, how could Olbermann possibly know whose account is more accurate? In truth, he simply doesn’t. This big unintelligent emotional mess is feeding young liberals his own tortured novels. But by now, Olbermann feeds on the brains of young liberals as Dracula would have fed on their throats.

Your nation is currently downing in dumb. In the past few days, pseudo-liberal and mainstream reaction to Palin’s book shows you the depth of our problem.

Let’s start with the AP’s inept attempt to “fact-check” the book, a groaning effort which was—alas and alack—even presented at Salon.

The AP’s piece was written by Calvin Woodward, whose ineptitude has stunned us here since his days of hunting down Candidate Gore in 1999. That said: Even by Woodward’s woeful professional standards, his attempt to fact-check Palin’s book is a true journalistic mess. Below, we see the very first item in his fact-check—the very first topic he mentions in his synopsis of his report. Can we really not see the problems with the man’s work?

PALIN: Says she made frugality a point when traveling on state business as Alaska governor, asking "only" for reasonably priced rooms and not "often" going for the "high-end, robe-and-slippers" hotels.

THE FACTS: Although travel records indicate she usually opted for less-pricey hotels while governor, Palin and daughter Bristol stayed five days and four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House luxury hotel (robes and slippers come standard) overlooking New York City's Central Park for a five-hour women's leadership conference in October 2007. With air fare, the cost to Alaska was well over $3,000. Event organizers said Palin asked if she could bring her daughter. The governor billed her state more than $20,000 for her children's travel, including to events where they had not been invited, and in some cases later amended expense reports to specify that they had been on official business.

Classic Woodward! All through his groaning fact-check, he paraphrases what Palin has said, before proceeding to his critique. It is thus impossible for his reader to know what Palin has actually said. Beyond that, as in this passage, his recitation of THE FACTS often tends to support the things Palin has allegedly said. In this example, can liberal readers not see that Woodward’s account of THE FACTS agrees with what Palin supposedly said about not “often” going for the “high-end, robe and slippers” hotels? It may be that Palin’s alleged statement about frugality is contradicted by the cost of her children’s travel, though Woodward fails to quote that statement. But some of his FACTS support what Palin is alleged to have said, and some of his FACTS are simply irrelevant. What is the relevance of these FACTS, for instance: “Event organizers said Palin asked if she could bring her daughter.” Palin sometimes took her kids “to events where they had not been invited.”

Woodward offers a dozen fact-checks; almost all are substantially flawed, due to his familiar journalistic ineptitude. But then, there’s a lot of ineptitude in the liberal world too. Consider what happened when Salon attempted to assess Palin’s book for itself.

Alas! After wasting his time with silly clatter about Palin being a “mean girl,” Thomas Rogers finally tried to put some meat on his critique’s bones. But good lord—is this the best we liberals can manage? Discussing Palin’s “bloopers” and “bizarre passages,” Rogers started with this perfect nonsense:

ROGERS (11/17/09): [I]f she does enter political life again, the book has a litany of blurbs and bloopers she'll have to live down. Many media outlets have combed through the book to extract some of its most noteworthy or bizarre passages. Among the best that have popped up:

On the phone call from McCain, when he offered her a place on his ticket: "For some reason, when the call came at the State Fair, it didn't come as a huge shock ... I certainly didn't think, Well, of course this would happen. But neither did I think, What an astonishing idea.”

According to our weak liberal minds, that seems to be the most strikingly “noteworthy or bizarre passage” a Candidate Palin would “have to live down” in the future. But can anyone explain why that is? By the time McCain made that phone call, Palin had been mentioned as a possible VP nominee for months—and she’d been personally interviewed for the post by McCain himself! Why on earth would she be shocked or astonished when McCain finally offered the gig? This passage makes no earthly sense—but it’s good enough to serve as Palin’s leading “blooper” in a piece designed for us weak-minded liberals. You see, we liberals love to hate. Any excuse, no matter how weak, is taken as food for the soul.

(Rogers goes on to vouch the for Woodward’s fact-check. As you can see, he immediately misreports the item about the hotel.)

It has been sad to watch shrieking liberals killing the pig when it comes to Palin’s new book. If you want to know why there’s nothing resembling a progressive politics in your country, just review the empty calories on which we liberals are happy to feed. Of course, no one has played the fool like Olbermann, who even returned to his strings of dick jokes about “tea-baggers” on last evening’s program.

Olbermann is one of the most emotionally unbalanced people we’ve ever seen on TV. (In the last two nights, he has made Sean Hannity seem, by contrast, like the newest Mensa head.) Last night, this most unbalanced of cable “news” clowns returned to a string of his beloved dick jokes—as he kept saying how “clueless” the other side is on such matters! Republicans made me tell these jokes, this least mature of all known humans said:

OLBERMANN (11/17/09): The Republicans have, for many months now, put on a pedestal a hard-right group whose name unintentionally evokes an action that cannot be described on television. In our number-one story in the countdown, the GOP has now, with a little help from us, officially co-opted the word "tea-bagger." It is runner-up for [the Oxford Dictionary’s] word of the year.

It was Republicans who embraced tea bags as their symbol with tax day protests of President Obama’s agenda. And it was Republicans who cluelessly referred to tea-bagging as if it had no prior meaning. It was they who openly used the phrase that begged for double entendres.

The Republican talking heads like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have pushed their own vision of tea-bagging [1] down the throats of the original tea-baggers who were in fact libertarian supporters of Ron Paul. Cincinnati tea-baggers got a [2] Boehner endorsement from the House Minority leader.

And the nation`s tea-bagging, of course, impossible without this man, [3] a “dick army,” at the head of it.

"Tea-bagger" used as a noun was the natural result. It just goes to show you, if you use the word tea-bagger over and over, it swiftly takes on a brand-new meaning, somehow.

There was more, but let’s quit there. For the record, “double entendre” is a French term which means, in this context, “I’m a simmering mess.”

“Down the throats,” “[boner] endorsement” and “dick army” were all lovingly offered to viewers—forced from Olbermann by the Republicans. But then, Olbermann is the most unbalanced gender-nut we’ve ever seen on TV. His open misogyny has been a disgrace for years—though the “liberal” world has politely accepted it. He weeps and moans about mommy’s death, then returns with joy to his favorite jokes and his sneering assaults on young women.

Meanwhile, his own “fact checking” of Palin’s book has been a world-class study in dumb. In these ways, Olbermann eats the brains of the liberal young. And your nation keeps dying of dumb.

Your nation is in a world of hurt; your nation seems to be dying of dumb. Palin has been one part of this problem. As he swallows the brains of the young, Olbermann is a bigger problem by far.

Return of a corporate hack: By the way, Richard Wolffe is back on Countdown, offering inane agreement with Keith on a regular basis. Months ago, Wolffe was thrown off the air due to his status as a corporate lobbyist, as recorded by Glenn Greenwald. (“Having Richard Wolffe host an MSNBC program—or serving as an almost daily ‘political analyst’—is exactly tantamount to MSNBC's just turning over an hour every night to a corporate lobbyist.” For Greenwald’s full critique, click here.) Now, the fatuous fellow is back. But readers! That’s entertainment!

By the way: Dan Bartlett, Wolffe’s owner at Public Strategies, was one of the biggest cogs in Candidate Bush’s message machine. In the fall of 2000, he’s the guy who sold the ludicrous “doggy pill” crap to the Boston Globe. Candidate Gore was thus transformed into a LIAR again; his ten-point lead in the polls disappeared. George Bush ended up in the White House.

Wolffe now makes his cash from Bartlett—and he caddies for KO’s clowning. In the process, the brains of young liberals are getting devoured—and your nation keeps dying of dumb.

Who’s stupak now: Olbermann, last night. What a shock:

OLBERMANN: You mentioned the Stupak Amendment. I couldn’t believe it was possible it was going to pass in the House. Do you think it’s plausible that Republicans and enough Democrats would get a similar thing, a Hatch amendment tacked on to this bill in the Senate?

What a shocker: Olbermann didn’t understand our politics! Perhaps if he’d stop insulting voters, telling dick jokes, and kicking the sh*t out of young blonde women who share Obama’s view on marriage, he might join the land of the living. Our advice: Don’t hold your breath. This man is a lingering mess.