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Daily Howler: Are liberals replacing the mainstream press as the planet's top Heathers?
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THE DOCTOR WAS IN! Are liberals replacing the mainstream press as the planet’s top Heathers? // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2009

Can’t explain shit/can’t focus: Should we blame the lead paint in their childhood homes? Could it be chemicals in the air? Whatever the explanation might be, it’s astounding to watch the New York Times attempt to deal with health care.

Consider Robert Pear’s hapless report in this morning’s paper.

Good God! After all these days, Pear actually arranges to quote some language from the Stupak amendment! But he might as well be writing in Urdu, so inept is the long-term Timesman when it comes to explaining such matters. Pear attempts to explain the difference between the House and Senate bills when it comes to funding abortion. We’d say he wrote the passage in crayon. But this would tend to overstate the skill he brought to this task.

Meanwhile, we had to laugh when Pear marveled at the difference in the cost of the House and Senate bills. This is the start of his report:

PEAR (11/20/09): The Senate version of sweeping health legislation would cover five million fewer people than a companion bill passed by the House, but it would cost less, in part because Senate Democratic leaders felt they had to win support from fiscally conservative members of their party.

[...]

The Senate version of sweeping health legislation would cover five million fewer people than a companion bill passed by the House, but it would cost less, in part because Senate Democratic leaders felt they had to win support from fiscally conservative members of their party.

The Senate bill would spend $821 billion over 10 years on Medicaid and subsidies. The House bill would spend 25 percent more: $1.03 trillion over 10 years.

Wow! The House bill would spend substantially more over the first ten years! Only much later does Pear drop the information which shows how misleading that account is:

PEAR: A major difference between the bills is the effective date for important provisions, like the requirement for people to obtain insurance and the obligation of employers to help pay for it.

Many provisions of the House bill would take effect in 2013. But to help hold down the cost of the bill, Mr. Reid decided to delay the effective date for many provisions by one year, to 2014.

Groan. To judge from that passage, the House bill will be in effect for seven of the next ten years. The Senate bill will be in effect for only six of those years. That said, should we really be surprised when the House bill costs more? (When it costs 25 percent more, for 16 percent more years of coverage?) More to the point, is there any serious difference in level of spending once the Senate bill goes into action? It’s silly to report that difference in spending over ten years without making any attempt to deal with such an obvious question. But today’s report is an advance on yesterday’s highly annoying effort, when Pear didn’t mention the delayed starting-date for the Senate bill at all. (The Washington Post did do so.) In fairness, Pear kept readers up-to-date on the Senate bill’s number of pages.

Pear’s reporting has been hapless all year. Simply put, he can’t explain shit. Then again, there’s Lady Collins, whose problem is different. She can’t focus.

One bit of good news did emerge from yesterday’s column. Collins had breast cancer in 2000—and she survived. Beyond that, her column—which pretends to discuss the new mammogram guidelines—is her usually steaming sack of lightly comical blather. As she does with every topic, Collins finds ways to make breast cancer amusing—fun:

Her headline is this: “The Breast Brouhaha.” Her sub-headline really delivers the fun: “Should we whammo the mammo?”

We’ve told you before, though you didn’t believe us: If World War III broke out tomorrow, Lady Collins would pen a column, helping us enjoy the wry humor in New York City’s total destruction. The Lady is simply unable to focus, like all such elites through the years.

Nor is she able to fashion a point about this, or any, topic. Go ahead! See if you can find any point in what she writes on this life-and-death subject. Before very long, this wriest of royals is offering this mirthful crap:

COLLINS (11/19/09): I had breast cancer back in 2000, and I am trying to come up with a way that I can use that experience to shed some light on these new findings. I have never believed that everything happens for a reason. But I do feel very strongly that everything happens so that it can be turned into a column.

Whatever the moral would be, I don’t think it helps Representative Camp’s argument. I had mammograms every year like clockwork, and I had just gotten a clean bill of health from my latest one when I found a lump on my left breast while watching a rerun of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” multitasker that I am.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! In case you hadn’t already noticed, Collins reveals her core philosophy here: Every event exists for one purpose—so it can help her knock off a column! And in this column, as in so many others, there is no “moral”—no point—at all. Collins writes about one medical event—her own. Obviously, no “moral” can be drawn from that single example—although she did eke out a column!

In fairness, at least she didn’t wryly mention Seamus, Mitt Romney’s dead dog!

You’d almost think that someone like Collins would want to help people understand those new mammogram guidelines better. You’d think she might want to help people assess “Representative Camp’s argument,” which is about as funny as a rubber crutch—which may be more of the medical disinformation Nicholas Kristof railed about, right across from Collins’ column (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/19/09).

You might think Collins would want to help readers assess such life-and-death matters. But that would be in a different world from the world of Gotham’s royals. In the world of the New York Times, top reporters can’t explain shit—and many top pundits can’t focus. Alas! Your nation is sinking beneath the waves, powered down by these upper-class morés.

Special report: We, Heathers!

PART ONE—THE DOCTOR WAS IN: We use the term “Heathers” for a reason. Ten years ago, Time magazine’s Eric Pooley used the gender-tinged term to describe his own mainstream press corps.

Pooley described 300 reporters in a press room, watching a major political event on large-screen TVs. Pooley’s report was quite instructive. During the hour-long event, those reporters repeatedly “erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers,” he said. We’ll briefly revisit that gruesome event at the end of this new series.

Pooley was right, of course. All through the last decade, the mainstream press corps—boys and girls—behaved much like a gang of Heathers, with their jeering directed at the Clintons and Gore.

Today, though, the world’s top Heathers sometimes seem to be liberals. Today, could the Heathers be us?

Before we look at the Daily Beast piece which occasioned this rumination, let’s consider a report by Max Blumenthal, a report we read at Salon.

Blumenthal was assessing Sarah Palin’s book tour, saying that Palin’s continuing prominence could be “a cancer on the Republican Party.” That could be an accurate judgment, of course—here at THE HOWLER, we simply don’t know. But at one point, Blumenthal described Palin’s 2008 campaigning:

BLUMENTHAL (11/16/09): After the market collapsed in the fall of 2008 and the McCain campaign ran off the rails, Palin untethered herself—as her book title has it, she went "rogue”—ignoring McCain's rules on attacking Obama. Instead, she lashed out at candidate Obama in her own distinctive way. "This is a man who launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist," she insisted. "This is not a man who sees America the way you and I see America." With these two lines, apparently uttered without the permission of McCain or his top aides, Palin opened up a deep schism within the campaign, while unleashing a flood of emotions from the depths of the Party faithful.

"Kill him!" a man shouted at a campaign rally in Clearwater, Florida, when Palin linked Obama to terrorism, according to Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank.

The next time she mentioned Obama, another man cried out, "Terrorist!" "Treason!"

"Go back to Kenya!" a woman typically screamed during a Palin rally in Des Moines, Iowa.

In our view, Palin’s comments about Ayers were deeply foolish and deeply unfortunate. (We have no idea why Blumenthal thinks that these repeated remarks were made without Saint McCain’s permission.) But today’s liberal rarely contents himself with the tedious practice of arguing against a candidate’s conduct. The modern liberal likes to slime the candidate’s supporters as well.

Hence the passage about the “flood of emotions” Palin supposedly unleashed with her baldly unfortunate comments—the comments the great Saint McCain would never have tolerated. Hence the trio of claims about cries from Palin’s supporters. When pseudo-liberals hand you such treats, they are trying to please your soul. In our view, they’re also creating the kind of politics which tends to doom progressive interests.

Question: What would it mean if someone at a Palin rally was dumb enough to yell out, “Kill him?” Logically, it wouldn’t really mean much—if it actually happened, that is.

Alas. Blumenthal didn’t tell you something about Milbank’s account of that Clearwater rally. The Secret Service investigated Milbank’s account—and concluded that Milbank’s account had been wrong. (We know. Milbank wrong! What a shock!) On October 16, 2008, Salon’s Alex Koppelman reported this fact—just click here. But thirteen months later, Salon returned to the more pleasing practice of feeding its viewers sweet gruel.

Did someone yell “Kill him” at that Clearwater rally? For ourselves, we have no idea—but the Secret Service said no. This week, Salonistas got to enjoy Milbank’s claim—and weren’t offered that later assessment.

Blumenthal gave two other examples of the “flood of emotions” we libs love to hate. But note the kind of pleasing gruel on which we libs are now fed. In his second example, Blumenthal gives no clue as to where or when this man’s cry occurred. (“Terrorist! Traitor!”) In his third example, he says the cry “Go back to Kenya” was screamed (was “typically screamed”) at a Des Moines rally. No date—or link—was offered.

Did actual people actually scream these actual quoted remarks? It’s certainly possible, although we have no real idea what such cries would actually mean—except as part of a leering novel, the kind of gruel on which we liberals are now constantly fed. That said, we’ve been unable to find any evidence that these particular cries did occur. Using Nexis and Google, we find no report that anyone cried “Go back to Kenya” at Palin’s October 25 Des Moines rally, the only rally she seems to have held in that city. The AP did report this: “Cries of ‘he's a socialist’ rang out from the Sioux City crowd Saturday morning and again later in Des Moines.” But we find no report of that “Go back to Kenya” cry, whether on Nexis or Google. Indeed, the Nexis archives report no hits for “Palin AND back to Kenya” at all. Nor can we find any sign that any man ever cried out "Terrorist!" "Treason!" when Palin spoke, although it’s certainly possible that someone did. At various times, people did yell each of those individual words—but such cries were reported when Saint McCain spoke as well.

Did someone yell, “Kill him?” The Secret Service said this report was wrong. Did someone yell, “Go back to Kenya?” We can find no report of same. By the way: The conduct of Palin—and McCain—was reprehensible in these matters. But you know how we liberals can be! Rather than go to all the trouble of developing winning arguments about the Big Pols, we love to start sliming the Great Unwashed, hoping to let the cry of one represent the evil of all. After that, we wonder why the Great Unwashed won’t support our progressive agenda.

(And of course, we love to vouch for the good faith of the saints—McCain and Wallace and Schmidt and Wilkerson, This seems to be some type of flu spreading out from the Maddow program. What in the world makes us do this?)

We e-mailed Blumenthal asking his sources on cries 2 and 3, but we haven’t received a reply. This leads us to ask a question—a question we asked when we read this piece at The Daily Beast. (Synopsis: “Does Sarah Palin suffer from narcissistic personality disorder? Michelle Goldberg puts America’s hottest author on the couch.”)

Do we liberals deal in facts—and logic? Do we deal in winning argument? Or are we a gang of Heathers now? In the last decade, the mainstream press corps behaved like Heathers, jeering our leaders, inventing facts—even offering psychiatric assessments of What Makes Someone Like Gore Lie So Much, Even When He Doesn’t Have To. (George Bush rode this shit to the White House.) This week, it was Goldberg playing the fool, using the very language of that past jeering decade. Sure enough! The Doctor Was IN again this week. But this week, The Doctor Was IN over at Tina Brown’s site.

Goldberg seems to have bungled her facts as she postured and played the shrink. But her formats come straight from the Clinton-Gore years. Say good-bye to the mainstream press! Are we the Heathers now?