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KINDERGARTEN COPS! Rudy’s sins were MIA. A stupid discussion was not: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2007

KUCINICH AND RUSSERT: We were happy to see Dennis Kucinich profiled today in the Washington Post. (We may well vote for him.) In one part of Libby Copeland’s piece, Kucinich discusses the way Tim Russert tried to embarrass him at the October 30 debate—the same debate where Russert and his perfectly-coiffed trophy-wife went after Vile Clinton for two solid hours. (Eight years earlier, these empty suits savaged Gore. We Dems just sat there and took it.) From then till now, we’ve wanted to mention Russert’s small, cheap act. Kucinich is surely mistaken, though, when he ponders this greatest man’s motives:

COPELAND (12/5/07): A feisty and combative populist, Kucinich is comfortable as an underdog, which may explain why he sees that flap about his UFO sighting in David-and-Goliath terms. He's still thinking of things he should've said in response to Tim Russert, the moderator who asked him about it during an October debate. He's convinced Russert was trying to "smear" him out of pressure from his corporate bosses at NBC and NBC's owner, GE, who fear his antiwar stance. (He believes this also explains why Russert hasn't invited him on "Meet the Press" in years.)

We think highly of Kucinich—but his take on motive is surely wrong. Yes, Russert went a million miles out of his way to make Kucinich look bad that night—wasting the nation’s time to do so. But surely, this was done out of Russert’s smallness. Surely, GE has no fears.

You see, Kucinich made a mistake that night. He actually dared to criticize Russert in the first half of that debate. “With all due respect to our friends from the media here, the media itself has to be careful how you frame these questions,” he said, almost frothing. “We don't want to be put in a position where we are taking this country to the threshold of war. The media did play a role in taking us into war in Iraq, and I'm urging the members of the media to urge restraint upon you and our president, whose rhetoric is out of control.”

In this town, you don’t do that. Tim Russert, you see, is the greatest of men. God created him—and Jack Welch hired him. If you do that, you know what will follow.

RUDY RESTORED: Which major-party, White House front-runner escaped being battered on MSNBC last night?

That’s right—Rudy Giuliani escaped being battered. Behind that, there lies a long tale.

Let’s review: Last Saturday, Steve Benen produced a list of the horrible stories which emerged about Giuliani last week (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/3/07). And he said, we thought inaccurately, that Rudy had experienced the “worst week in recent memory.”

But in our politics, a scandal hasn’t occurred if big pundits refuse to discuss it. And on the first two nights of this week, the tools who churn script on MSNBC have completely avoided the list of horribles which Steve so capably compiled.

Last night, Giuliani wasn’t mentioned on Tucker—and he was mentioned just once, in passing, on Hardball. But then, on Monday night, it was much the same thing. The Giuliani scandals were never mentioned on Tucker, and they received just one fleeting mention on Hardball. That came from a grizzled old Clinton-basher, Linda Douglass, as Matthews’ panel discussed a poll in which Rudy’s numbers declined.

Here’s what Douglass said about Rudy. In the past two nights, this constitutes the total fall-out on Tucker and Hardball from last week’s “Worst. Week. Ever:”

DOUGLASS (12/4/07): Republican voters have been expressing a great lack of enthusiasm throughout this campaign for their field of candidates. They keep going from one to the other, saying, “Can I like this guy or not?” Now, Giuliani has had some negative publicity in the last several days. That appears to have taken place since this poll has happened. So this is probably just reflecting the kind of tightening that’s going to happen when you find somebody that you might be able to settle on, especially if you’re a social conservative. And they’re so important in the primary.

That was it! In the past two nights, that constitutes the full discussion of Giuliani’s horrible week. If you watched the full four hours of these two programs, you were allowed to hear, just this one time, that Giuliani “has had some negative publicity in the last several days.” But darlings, you were never told what that publicity was.

But so it goes when The Network Jack Built discusses your major candidates. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, of course, Russert did little better.

Did Giuliani have the worst week ever? Not on MSNBC he didn’t! But one front-runner was getting battered all over that net in the past two days. And perhaps you can guess who that front-runner that was. Her name? Of course! Vile Clinton.

KINDERGARTEN COPS: On last night’s Hardball, they trashed Clinton hard—and they churned pure propaganda. But then, in what follows, you see the kind of stupid discussion that started on yesterday’s Morning Joe, then continued all day on MSNBC, right through Tucker and Hardball. As in 1999, so today: Chris Matthews is working extra hard to select your party’s nominee for you. And he has a stable of stooges who are willing to churn his scripts for him.

With apologies for the length of the excerpt, here’s the start of a stupid discussion:

MATTHEWS (12/4/07): Julie Mason, do you have any kids in kindergarten right now?

MASON: No, absolutely not, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, if you did—does anybody have any kids? Do you have any, Matt, in kindergarten?

CONTINETTI: Nope, no kids.

MATTHEWS: Well, I’ve had them in kindergarten. I wish I had warned them not to be anywhere near a tape recorder because today in American politics what you say in kindergarten doesn’t stay in kindergarten. Apparently, Hillary Clinton’s people have put out the word that when he was a kindergarten student in Indonesia, Barack Obama talked about some day being president. What do you think? Do you think that’s below the belt politically for her to go after him on that, Julie Mason?

MASON: Yes, absolutely. Is nothing off limits? I think, you know, for my purposes, anything I said or did before I turned 35, I think, is totally off limits.

MATTHEWS: Well, in my religion they talk about the use of reason. Until you’ve actually been five or six years old, you’re not really accountable morally. But apparently you’re accountable politically for anything you say ever.

CONTINETTI: Hillary Clinton decides to attack Barack Obama. What does she attack him on? On being a calculating ambitious politician! Pot, meet kettle! This is a lame attack from Senator Clinton.

For the record, the Clinton campaign was very dumb to release that kindergarten critique, even if it was meant as a semi-joke, as it quite possibly was. They should have known that conversations like this one would very quickly ensue. That conversation is deeply inane, and deeply disingenuous—but variants of that conversation were found all over MSBNC yesterday. It started at 6:05 on Morning Joe. And it ran into the night.

What was wrong with that conversation? Let’s start with Continetti’s statement.

Yes, the Clinton campaign should have known that the pundit corps would say these things. But no, the Clinton campaign didn’t attack Obama for “being a calculating, ambitious politician.” Rightly or wrongly, accurately or otherwise, they attacked Obama for being dishonest—for saying that Clinton always wanted to be president, while he, a much more worthwhile fellow, had not pursued such a plan. In response to that presentation, the Clinton campaign posted this compilation—and it included the kindergarten critique, among other material which was actually relevant. Predictably, the pundit corps skipped over the relevant info—and misstated what the whole critique was about. They went straight to the kindergarten stuff—and began playing the fool.

On the other hand, you really have to salute this group’s disingenuous ways. Matthews and Mason were in high dudgeon, appalled at the thought that someone would criticize a candidate’s conduct in kindergarten. But all during Campaign 2000, one of the candidates was trashed quite hard for his alleged life-long quest for the White House—and yes, the press corps’ gang of shrinks did go back to his kindergarten years, saying he’d been the same annoying fellow then that we still was as an adult. (They quoted his baby-sitter. This was done in the Post.) Meanwhile, the Bradley campaign had started out with a shot against Gore’s deeply troubling past—against the fact that Gore, as a child, had actually lived in vile, horrid, bad Washington! (Bradley, a much more worthy fellow, had lived in a small Missouri town.) Bradley had raised his own daughter in Washington, of course, but nothing any candidate said would strike the press corps as fake or phony—as long as it was aimed at Vile Gore. Today, pundits pretend to be shocked, just shocked, to see a candidate’s childhood sifted. They themselves engaged in such stupid conduct, quite seriously, eight years ago.

The Clinton campaign was very dumb to post that kindergarten material, even if it may have been meant as a semi-joke. But then, they were probably dumb to respond to Obama’s statement at all, given the soul of this press corps. (Mark Penn explained it on Morning Joe—and this has been the rule for years: When you criticize Clinton, you “sharpen the differences.” When Clinton criticizes you, it’s “attack attack attack.” This same rule obtained for Gore. It has been the rule for years.) But Democrats should perhaps be peeved with the high-minded man who started this whole brainless business (much as Bradley, eight years ago, started the damaging “farm chores” flap). What’s wrong with what Obama did? From a Democratic standpoint, two things:

First, he recycled a poorly-sourced claim from hit-man Jeff Gerth, using it to attack a fellow Dem’s character. Gerth’s claim doesn’t seem to be true. So what? Obama ran with it anyway.

Second, he extended a standard anti-Dem attack: [Insert name of Democrat] has always wanted to be president! Are we Democrats really so dumb that we don’t understand a simple fact—the fact that this has become a standard attack aimed at Democrats only? In the Pundit Wars of the past fifteen years, the Democrat is always dishonest—and he or she has always been seeking the White House since birth! (It was true of Bill Clinton. It was true of Gore. It was true of Kerry.) This slander played well for Obama for one reason only: Because a regressive gang of Democrat-killers have pimped it around for many years.

But then, Obama has churned endless RNC script against Clinton—just as Bradley did against Gore. (High-minded Bradley churned Willie Horton, Obama the Lincoln Bedroom.) Meanwhile, Matthews is choosing your nominee for you—and he has a gang of tools who are willing to read back his scripts. Last night, Mason, Capehart and Continetti played the fool, begging to be invited back again. But then, it started on Morning Joe, and continued long into the night.

The Clinton campaign was very foolish to post that kindergarten critique. Who wouldn’t know how this would be played by the tools who swore, for two solid years, that Gore was a vicious attack dog? These scripts were written long ago—and these consummate stooges know how to apply them. From a Democratic perspective, it’s a shame to see a high-minded man so endlessly eager to mine them.

EMPOWERED BY TEA: Last night, The Hill’s A. B. Stoddard was especially offensive, indignantly sounding off on Tucker. Like MSNBC’s other savants, she seemed to have no earthly idea what the Clinton campaign had been saying in their ill-advised post on Obama—and she sounded off, at considerable length, about the temerity of those who would dare to criticize the press corps’ fairness and wisdom. (Bill Clinton, inviting this nonsense again, had made unwise remarks in New Hampshire. Here at THE HOWLER, we like Bill Clinton—but he can’t stop putting his foot in his mouth. Oh, wait! We almost forgot the script! Candidate Gore was such a big fool when he didn’t send Clinton out more!)

But Stoddard seems to come by it honestly. You see, she’s the daughter of a philosopher—a “lifestyle philosopher”—and let’s just say that complex thought may not run deep in this family. (Her father was the long-time head of ABC Entertainment.) Indeed, Stoddard is one of the upper-class darlings who increasingly people America’s “press corps.” If you want to understand where your punditry comes from, read the hilarious review, reprinted below, of one of Stoddard mere’s many books (Alexandra Stoddard's Tea Celebrations: The Way to Serenity). If you watched this philosopher’s daughter last night, you may have learned a valuable fact: Apples may fall near the tree.

No, we don’t normally visit the books of the mother on the daughter. But you simply can’t run a middle-class democracy with a fatuous upper-class “press corps.” This Kirkus review is very funny. The musings of the philosopher’s daughter with the simpering Carlson are not:

From Kirkus Reviews
Stoddard (Creating a Beautiful Home, not reviewed) makes some amazing claims about the healing powers of tea in this overwrought little book that focuses less on cooking than on personal memoir, entertaining hints, and egregiously inane aphorisms. Those who plod through the insipid writing will learn that “each of us, whether broken or whole, is empowered by tea”; that Stoddard's husband thinks she must have been an apprentice tea-master in a former life; and that the sound track from the film Mission serves as the perfect accompaniment to ironing napkins. She spends an inordinate amount of time explaining how to make the tea experience special with everything from mismatched cups and saucers (buying a complete tea set is “less exciting” than collecting porcelain piece by piece) to flower arrangements (go asymmetrical, be sparing, let a leaf or blossom overlap the vase, “play”) to using decorative swizzle sticks to spice up an ordinary glass of hot or cold tea (she seems especially attached to the set she bought at Pier I: “Sometimes I put the blue ball at the bottom of the glass, and other times I put it at the top for color and delight”). The prize for making it to the end is a chapter of recipes, both sweet and savory, to serve with tea—from lemon bread to watercress-and-egg sandwiches. Most are well explained, one-bowl operations, and the scones are fabulous. But with only 19 recipes, no serious cook will look at this twice. Tea may soothe, but Stoddard will drive you crazy with her self-conscious, precious drivel.

There you have it. Increasingly, that’s the world from which your inane political narratives spring. Dearest darlings, the philosopher’s daughter was hapless last night. Even worse, she was chatting with Carlson.

Oh yes: Rudy’s “worst week” wasn’t mentioned at all. Their scripts just weren’t constructed for that. There is no format for Rudy.

SOME OF YOU WILL THINK: Some of you will think we’re being unfair to A. B. Stoddard. Fair enough. But when she goes on TV and spouts as she does, it affects the shape of world history.

We let these imbeciles play these games eight years ago. Are you happy with how that turned out?

Meanwhile, from which deep wells does modern punditry spring? For a bit of pundit pillow talk, you’ll surely: Just click here.

We’re sorry. But this is a problem.