THE FOUR PERCENT COLLUSION: This is off our usual beat, but yesterday mornings Washington Post included a truly remarkable number. It appeared in a graphic we cant find on-line, but here it is: In January 2000, four percent of Iowas voting-age population took part in the two parties caucuses. That was the last campaign in which both major parties held contested presidential races.
Lets repeat: Four percent of voting-age Iowans took part in the 2000 caucuses. Hence the difficulty of polling Iowa—and the sheer inanity of the way we select our White House candidates.
Why do so few Iowans take part in the caucuses? It isnt like voting in a primary; you have to sit around all night having pointless discussions with your Iowa neighbors. So why do some states still do things this way? For the two parties, its a way of keeping control of the process. Normal people wont waste their time this way. Therefore, the two parties regulars, who do show up, maintain their control of the process.
The sheer inanity of this process is almost never discussed in the press. We cant vouch for the perfect accuracy of that number. (By way of contrast, the Post says that 26 percent of the voting-age population took part in the 2000 New Hampshire primary.) But the absurdity of the caucus process has been clear for a very long time.
Your press corp has better things to explore. In 2000, they were busy exploring (and distorting, and flogging) an important question: Which of the candidates hoped to be president since the very day of his birth? This year, theyre expressing their outrage at the idea that anyone would raise such a point.
See Gail Collins, in todays Times, for the latest clowning on this point: Didnt we used to think it was a good thing when kids wanted to grow up to be president?
Actually, no, Gail. You didnt.
THEY COULD TELL US THAT—BUT THEY WONT: We agree—and disagree—with what Atrios seems to say in this post. He starts with a statement about the re-emergence of the Huckabee-Wayne Dumond story:
ATRIOS (12/4/07): One joy of the Huckabee campaign is that it provides an opportunity for the liberal media to finally tell you the story they never bothered to during the 90s—just how batshit insane Clinton haters were.
Thats true, of course. The reappearance of the Wayne Dumond story does give the liberal media the chance to tell you that story. (Presumably, Atrios means this as an ironic reference to the mainstream media.) For the record, heres Atrios capsule version of the lunacy involved in this matter:
ATRIOS: Dumond was let go [was paroled] because right wing lunatics believed that Bill Clinton sent his goons to castrate an "innocent" man because one of his "alleged" victims was a distant relative. That this story was, you know, pretty much insane didn't stop it from getting regular play in the conservative press.
Its true. You had to be pretty much out of your mind to believe what these Clinton-haters believed—and their loony beliefs helped drive Huckabee to support Dumonds plea for parole. When paroled, Dumond raped and murdered two women.
Yes, you had to be crazy to believe it—to believe that Clinton had sent his goons to castrate poor Dumond. Therefore, what Atrios said is perfectly accurate; the re-emergence of this story gives the press a chance to tell you how bat-shit insane the Clinton-haters were in the 1990s. But lets note an obvious point: The press corps isnt going to do that! You simply wont see the mainstream press corps exploring that part of the story. To the extent that the story is dealt with at all, youll see fleeting references to the fact that Dumonds original victim was a distant cousin of Clintons. But thats as far as its going to go. You wont be told about the bat-shit things the lunatics in Arkansas believed about Clinton. And when Huckabee is quoted saying that he believed that Dumond had received a raw deal, you wont see an extended discussion of why he might have thought that.
Why wont the mainstream press corps take the opportunity to finally tell you? Surely, the answer is obvious. They wont take the chance to tell that story because they were up to their ears in the lunacy too—and still are, right up to this day. How complicit are these people in the lunacy Atrios cites? By August 1999, it had gotten this bad: They looked away as two cable news programs dragged out the crackpot Gennifer Flowers to expound, at great length, about the murders the two Clintons had commissioned. (And about what a lesbo the first lady was.) In a pair of tragic but ludicrous sessions, Flowers discussed the murders for a half-hour on Hardball—and then, for the full hour on Hannity & Colmes. And no one in the mainstream press corps bothered to say one word about it. In the Post, Howard Kurtz mentioned the Hardball show—but didnt mention what Flowers had said.
It was official: By the summer of 1999, you could say any goddamn thing you pleased—as long as you said it about the Clintons. Meanwhile, this same mainstream press corps was spending two years inventing wild tales about Candidate Gore, Clintons vile successor. And lets be honest: For many members of the mainstream press, the lunacy continues today, in their war against Candidate Clinton. Or did we think, when we watched that October 30 debate, that Russert and Williams were merely doing what moderators do to every front-runner? Yes, we know—thats what the boys said. Did we think they were telling the truth?
These people themselves were deeply involved in the bat-shit lunacies of the 1990s. They have no plan—no plan at all—to open that can of worms now. And through all these travails, of course, we liberals have politely kept our mouths shut. (We keep finding new excuses.) The press is free to express its lunacy because we give the OK.
Once again, lets make sure we understand recent history:
In the early 1990s, for reasons yet unexplained, the mainstream press corps developed a crackpot animus against a vile fellow named Clinton. They hounded him to the ends of the earth, then invented wild tales about his chosen successor; they repeated these tales for two solid years, thus sending the worlds biggest fool to the White House. And now, theyre chasing Clintons wife all around. And, for reasons yet unexplained, the liberal world has tolerated every part of this endless misconduct.
So no—the mainstream press corps wont discuss the lunacy of the 1990s. (Any more than they ever planned to discuss Rudys Worst Week Ever.) That lunacy belonged to them too. Their narratives are working well now because weve all heard them so long.
A DIFFERENCE: They didnt get Gore in the 2000 primaries. This time, they may well succeed.