The two faces of the fatuity: Many people will comment on Sarah Palins op-ed piece in this mornings Post. For ourselves, were not sure why the piece was published. The column starts like this:
PALIN (12/9/09): With the publication of damaging e-mails from a climate research center in Britain, the radical environmental movement appears to face a tipping point. The revelation of appalling actions by so-called climate change experts allows the American public to finally understand the concerns so many of us have articulated on this issue.
Palin is discussing a very serious topic, however one might judge the science. That said, does anyone think shes qualified to judge whether those e-mails really are damaging? Whether those actions were really appalling? Proceeding further, does anyone think shes qualified to offer judgments like the one we highlight here:
PALIN: Our representatives in Copenhagen should remember that good environmental policymaking is about weighing real-world costs and benefitsnot pursuing a political agenda. That's not to say I deny the reality of some changes in climatefar from it. I saw the impact of changing weather patterns firsthand while serving as governor of our only Arctic state. I was one of the first governors to deal specifically with the issue and to recommend common-sense policies to respond to the coastal erosion, thawing permafrost and retreating sea ice that affect Alaska's communities and infrastructure.
But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes.
Are we currently undergoing a natural, cyclical environmental trend? More specifically, does anyone think that Palin is qualified to judge such a question? Palin isnt an expert on climate scienceand she isnt currently running for office. For those reasons, we arent quite sure why the Washington Post favored us with this column.
But then again, we arent quite sure what we did to deserve Gene Robinsons Tuesday column. Leave Tiger alone, he cries at the start of his pieceand then, in paragraph two, he tells us that this is impossible, given his own prurient interest in the hot topic. Robinson devotes the rest of his column to a psychiatric study of this particular golfers (apparent) taste in women. Woods has a validation complex, the headline announces. Although he never quite manages to say so, Robinson seems upset because Woods taste seems to run to women who are too busty, too white.
For the past two decades, the Washington Posts taste has run to writers who are too fatuous, too silly, too easily distractedand too inclined to play the shrink. Ten years ago, Robinson helped lead the charge against Gore (the vanilla pudding of the species. who even giggled like a girl).
Ten years later, our reaction goes something like this: Baby, just look at us now!
Special report: Whats the matter with us!
PART 2WHEN LIBERALS SNEER: Why has this country had so much trouble passing some sort of national health care? We cheered when Rep. Anthony Weiner talked about Democratic messaging problems on last Fridays Maddow Show (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/8/09).
Weiners comment produced no further discussion; when pundit panels convene on TV, conversation does tend to move on. But Melissa Harris-Lacewell also made an excellent point about our decades-long failure to produce a national health system. The countries which have passed national health care have typically been more ethnically homogeneous than the United States, she noted. In this country, divisions of race, ethnicity, class and region may have made it harder to promote a basic notion: We all deserve adequate health care.
Alas! In our view, Harris-Lacewells point reflects on the point made by Weiner. Over the past fifty years, part of the liberal worlds messaging problem has involved the tendency among certain liberals to exacerbate distinctions of class and regionelements of fragmentation which make social progress much harder. It was true in the 1960s, and its true again now: A certain type of pseudo-liberal has always loved to mock the (white) rubes who live in red-state America. The pattern is familiar: First, we mock their rube-like ways. Then, we marvel at the fact that these rubes wont accept our own brilliant views! Over the past fifty years, this class condescension has made it harder to build consensus for certain kinds of progressive ideas.
Its part of the liberal worlds messaging problem: A certain kind of pseudo-liberal has always loved to mock the rubes. (Their limbic brains dont work right, we say. Theyre a bunch of redneck racists.) And at present, no one seems to do this more than Rachel Maddow, the host of last Friday nights program. Whats the matter with (voters in) Kansas? In part, the problem may lie with the type of sneering Kansas voters have long heard from us!
In our view, Maddows sneering class condescension has been on full display this past week. Today, lets start with a minor examplean example from last Thursdays program, involving Laura Bush.
In her short report, Maddow extended a recent theme, in which she has mocked George Bushs entrance onto the speaking circuitespecially, his speeches for the Get Motivated speakers group (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/22/09). Should Bush be making speeches like this? That is a matter of judgment; Maddows top hero, the sainted Saint Powell, routinely appears at these same seminars. Indeed, when Maddow mocked Bush last month, she forgot to say that the past six presidents, including Bill Clinton, have all given speeches for this groups sponsors. In our view, this was sadly typical of Maddows style. We got to laugh at how tacky Bush is, without being told about all the others.
Last Thursday, the topic was backand this time, it involved Laura! Maddow teased the upcoming segment:
MADDOW (12/3/09): President and Laura Bush are now out on the speaking circuit making some major dinero these days. Did you hear that Laura Bush just gave a really big paid speech too? I bet you didnt. Its coming up. Stay with us.
Please note: It isnt just President Bush. Maddow loves to criticize conservatives in general for making some major dinero. In our view, she herself crawled on her belly over broken glass to attain her (reported) million-dollar salary; in our view, she spat in the face of liberal values when she did so, back in January 2008. For that reason, the analysts always roll their eyes when Maddow embarks on her hackneyed theme, in which conservative enterprises become suspect if they arent done free of charge. Just last night, Maddow played this pointless old card again, in her interview with Richard Cohen, who claims he offers effective counseling, very effective, for those with unwanted same sex attraction. In passing, Maddow mentioned studies which say that this sort of thing just doesnt happen. But she spent much more time on a pointless aside: Cohen charges money for his work!
Last Thursday, Maddow was rolling her eyes at the major dinero Bush and Bush have scored.
Should former presidentsformer first ladiesgive speeches for cash? Thats a matter of judgment. But note how Maddow hates it when folk get rich quickexcept, presumably, when folk get rich in the way she herself did:
MADDOW: Finally, about a month ago we brought you a glimpse of George W. Bushs post-presidential career as a motivational speaker.
In fact, our own Kent Jones went down Fort Worth, Texas to hear the 43rd president of the U.S. speak at a Get Motivated seminar withthe former president shared the stage with football great Terry Bradshaw, among other highly-paid motivators.
Turns out that was not a one-off. Our nations 43rd president is still in the business of motivating people for an undisclosed, albeit rumored to be quite large, six-figure fee. Yesterday, he was the keynote speaker at yet another Get Motivated seminar, this one in San Antonio, Texas, part of a line-up that included San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker. And this guy, name of James Smith...James Smith gives real estate investment advice, a little bit for free at an event like Get Motivated and then for much, much, much more at his follow-up seminars. They cost thousands of dollars. Sign up now! Get rich quick!
The San Antonio Express-News reports that President Bushs remarks included his now-standard line about the humbling effect of having to pick up dog poo when he walks his dog now. Apparently, at the White House, you know, theres a kind of guy who takes care of that.
Gore, of course, had a standard line about the humbling effect of having to drive his own car after leaving office. On hacktackular programs like Maddows and Olbermanns, hosts earn their own seven-figure salaries by talking down to us liberal rubes in this way. Its a dumb-down technique they may have learned from the Hannitys, who pioneered such approaches
At any rate, we all got to laugh at the idea that Bush was appearing with a bunch of pro athletes. But last Thursday, Laura Bush got drawn in the stew! As it turns out, she too made a speech last weekto a group Maddow seemed to find déclassé. Youll have to watch the tape to see the pain Maddow seemed to feel as she stated, then slowly restated, the name of the group to which Laura Bush spoke. Maddow, who cashed in big-time herself, is appalled when the Bushes do soespecially when forced to name the group before which Laura appeared:
MADDOW (continuing directly): But George W. is not the only member of the Bush family who is making money these days. Now looks like Former First Lady Laura Bush is out on the random trade association chicken-dinner circuit as well. The former first lady spoke this week at a dinner for the foundation of the National Association of trainof Chain Drugstores. (Repeating more slowly and a bit sadly) The National Association of Chain Drugstores.
GEORGE W. BUSH (videotape): I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God.
MADDOW: After the Oval Office, though, retirement is for cashing in, baby! Yes!
Complaints about ex-presidents cashing in have been commonplacenot say hackneyedat least since the days of ex-president Reagan. Partisan hacks have often driven this theme against Clinton and Gore, often in ways which misstate facts.
In the case of Laura Bushs speech, such meager news coverage as it occasioned didnt specifically say if the speech was paid or gratis. According to the NACDS, the dinner at which Laura Bush spoke raised more than $1.8 million for scholarships and charitable activities. Sometimes, public figures address such events for free. Sometimes, they do so for cash.
That said, we were struck last week, as we often are, by Maddows apparent class condescension. Youll have to watch the tape yourself to see if it strikes you the way it struck us. (Click here, fast forward to roughly 4:00.) As we watched Maddow state, then slowly restate, the name of this group, we thought we heard her rolling her eyes at its low-class nature. Darlings! The association of chain drugstores! Imagine! Perhaps it wont look that way to you. It looked that way to us.
But then, we see a lot of this on this program. Its been a long time since we saw a progressive figure who seemed so steeped in class condescension. When upper-end liberals look down their long noses at the lesser people among us, it helps to kill our political messaging. Tomorrow, well watch as Maddow plays it ginormously dumb about her tea-bagger jokes once again. On Friday, condescension on race!
Among certain types of upper-shelf liberals, this has gone on for a very long time. Why are progressive ideas hard to sell? In part, could it be due to us?