WHEN DIGBY MET SALLY! Digby is peeved at Sally Quinn—and were slightly peeved at Digby: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2006
WHY NOT DO BETTER: Uh-oh! The House ethics committee reported on the Mark Foley matter last week—releasing its work on a Friday afternoon, just like all the slicksters do. And darn it! In Saturdays Washington Post, Jonathan Weisman had to say this:
WEISMAN (12/9/06): Democrats receive their share of scrutiny in the report. In August 2005, a former page of Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) sent Alexander aide Danielle Savoy e-mails he had received from Foley asking him for a picture and asking what he wanted for his birthday. Savoy passed them on to a friend, who showed them to her boyfriend, Justin Field, who worked for the House Democratic Caucus.We dont think thats the end of the world. But in real time, we seem to recall outraged claims that of course such Republican charges were wrong. None of us knew what was actually true—but we insisted that our side must be pure. (To recall a Big Dems non-denial denial on a related matter, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/10/06).
We didnt know what Dems might have done—but we insisted that they hadnt done nuthin. But then, it worked much the same way last week. We didnt really know what Bush and Webb said, but we ran with a version of their (pointless) conversation we liked. Then, Michael Kinsley sneered at Bushs daughters—and Eleanor Clift told us what may be the reason Bush 41 cried at that Florida event. She also told us whats fair to say about Bush 43s errors. Fair to say? But are such statements accurate? Clift, of course, doesnt know.
Weve said it before, so well say it again. We dont think it promotes progressive interests when we ape the mental styles of the pseudo-conservative and mainstream press worlds. Theyll always hand you novelized tales—tales which promote their world-view-of-the-moment. In the long run, progressive interests will be better served if we learn to renounce such pleasing tales and stick to the things that we know.
NOT THAT THEY HAD GREAT CREDIBILITY ANYWAY: As Tom Schaller says at Tapped, this is too funny not to share. We strongly suggest that you read Schallers post, then watch the panel discussion at issue, from Bostons Beat the Press TV program. And yes, heres the funniest part—Beat the Press is a PBS show, produced by Bostons WGBH! The perfect nonsense on display here comes from the most high-minded element of our mainstream press corps!
Tom is right when he says this is funny—but its also quite astounding. The pundits on this TV panel dont have a clue what theyre talking about; theyre all completely wrong on their facts. Beyond that, though, note the way they offer sweeping statements about a large group of people (in this case, about the conduct and motives of liberal bloggers). We were taught, in ninth grade, in a journalism class, that smart people avoid the glittering generality. This discussion is being conducted by extremely unsophisticated folk.
All mainstream scribes dont blunder this cosmically. But the politics of the past fifteen years has been endlessly shaped by discussions this bad. As weve said: We cant see how progressive interests are served when we ape such mental styles. When you watch this panel discussion, youre watching a deeply unskilled cohort. In the past fifteen years, the dysfunctional mental styles of this cohort have become a major political—and national security—problem. We need to explain this problem to voters, not extend the problem ourselves.
For the record, Emily Rooney hosted this session. When we were in that ninth-grade class, taught by an inspiring young teacher, we never dreamed that the adult world could be in the hands of such perfect incompetents. By the way: Since being with Greater Boston, Emily has picked up a number of awards, including the prestigious National Press Club's Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism. Our young analysts, who once had stars in their eyes, read that, then averted their eyes. It figures, our young aides glumly said.
WHEN DIGBY MET SALLY: Wed like to agree, semi-agree, and semi-disagree with Digby, who is constantly pretty much right.
First, Digby is right to direct continued attention to this important, November 1998 report by the Washington Posts Sally Quinn. But Digby seems to criticize Quinn for the report—and Atrios seems to take that to be Digbys meaning. We think that focus is seriously wrong. Heres why:
Quinns 3600-word report concerned the feelings of insider Washington about the unfolding Clinton impeachment. The impeachment vote was still weeks away, but Quinn interviewed more than 100 members of Establishment Washington for her report, seeking their views on Clinton-Lewinsky. This produced a hugely important document—a report which recorded the attitudes driving our press and political elites at this critical juncture. Quinn went into great detail about Establishment Washingtons sense of outrage at Clinton. For that reason, her report is one of the most important pieces of journalism from the Clinton-Gore era.
Anyone who wants explain this puzzling era will want to work from Quinns report. For example, why did Establishment Washingtons journalistic elite land on Gore like a ton of bricks when he began his own White House campaign, four months later? Quinns report provides the raw material for anyone who wants to explain that.
Should Quinn be criticized for this report? On balance, we think she should be applauded. Using her access to Establishment Washington, she recorded their blinkered views as few other scribes could have done. On balance, Quinn doesnt state her own views in this piece—but her work in recording the views of others makes this report an invaluable document. We think its one of the most important journalistic works of the decade.
But uh-oh! Digby seems to criticize Quinn for something we think is quite admirable. At several points in her report, Quinn called attention to an important but awkward fact—on balance, the American public didnt share her cohorts sense of high outrage against Clinton. Heres the first such passage. It came early on in her piece:
QUINN (11/2/98): With some exceptions, the Washington Establishment is outraged by the president's behavior in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The polls show that a majority of Americans do not share that outrage. Around the nation, people are disgusted but want to move on; in Washington, despite Clinton's gains with the budget and the Mideast peace talks, people want some formal acknowledgment that the president's behavior has been unacceptable. They want this, they say, not just for the sake of the community, but for the sake of the country and the presidency as well.Quinn didnt have to call attention to this awkward disconnect—a disconnect she said you could see on TV and talk radio. The fact that she did so, several times, vastly strengthened her piece. This week, Digby seems to say that Quinn took sides in describing this disconnect. Digby: You will note that the author says quite explicitly that the nation does not share the superior values of their betters. But Quinn didnt say who was right in this matter. In our view, Quinn takes some of her cohorts claims at face value in ways which detract from her report. But this is a massively important bit of history, and it should be remembered as such.
Meanwhile, we have to complain about Digbys account, in another recent post, of how we got where we are today:
DIGBY (12/7/06): [L]ooking at that amazing picture of the Bush clan in the White house—the former president, the current president, the Governor of one of the largest states—all together in the White House says everything you need to know about what true conservatism is really all about.We agree with the things Digby said. But good gravy! How about what Digby left out! That mini-history serves Washingtons press elite in a way that Quinns report never did. Whats the actual history of the period in question? Lets restore whats lost, missing and strayed:
DIGBY, REVISED AND EXTENDED: We allowed them to impeach the duly elected president who beat the father, for trivial reasons. We allowed their tribunes to invent fake stories about the highly-qualified man should have been his successor. In the aftermath of that propaganda campaign, we allowed the father's appointees to settle a dubious election result in the son's favor. We have watched them as they created a presidency insulated from popular or congressional oversight...The largest problem with Campaign 2000 didnt start that November, in Florida. It started twenty months earlier—and its important that liberal leaders repeat this history whenever possible. In Campaign 08, the Democratic nominee may get swift-boated—or the Republican nominee may ride a love boat. But voters need to be forewarned about the way such mass spinning campaigns have worked. We continue to be amazed at the way we refuse to inform them.
Quinn recorded her cohorts weird views. Four months later, these crackpots started on Gore. Why on earth do we gripe about Quinn while we disappear their misconduct?