BROOKS (12/17/06): Get off of it! I mean, we've got a hero in our newspaper, John Burns. Another hero, Dexter Filkins—there's a whole series of heroes over there. They're not biased about this. They want the best for the Iraqi people, they want democracy. Listen to what they're reporting—they're reporting chaos. You have—I don't know what it is, 1.6 million people leaving Iraq. You've got 9000 Iraqis every week who are moving to their Shia homeland, or to their Sunni homeland. This is a country—it's not civil war, it's just disintegration. So the idea that this is some media concoction, you—I said that a year ago, two years ago. But at some point, face reality!At some point, face reality, Brooks suggested, creating a wonderful bit of found humor. But Friedmans moment was vastly stupider—a deeply stupid, obnoxious moment that helped capture the strangeness of our time.
FRIEDMAN: I want to pick up on David's point, because I think Obama is such a powerful candidate for—for a couple of reasons. David and I were talking about them earlier. One is that I believe Democrats voted in the last two elections like this, Tim: (holds nose—makes squeaky voice—pretends to pull lever) Al Gore. (Holds nose—makes squeaky voice—pretends to pull lever) John Kerry. They voted with their nose plugged, basically. Democrats are starved, just as David said, to vote for someone they're excited about.Really, its astounding to watch these inane, bloated fellows, among the most foolish our race has produced. By now, even Friedman has probably heard that Gore was right about the war in Iraq. Before that, he was right about global warming—for decades—and he was right about the first Gulf War too. Meanwhile, as has long been clear on the web, many Democrats would be excited about voting for Gore, because of his many correct judgments. But even now, in the face of his own endless errors, Friedman feels free to come on TV and mock a man who was right on Iraq. But so it goes in our bizarre pundit culture, where those who were wrong mock those who were right. (For Cynthia Tuckers version of this strange dance, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/7/06).
STENGEL (12/17/06): No, just that—we're living in a new global democratic age where everybody can contribute. And we have to make the best out of it.Everyone can contribute now, Stengel said. And we have to make the best out of it! Surely, he didnt quite mean it that way. But our analysts shared a good, solid laugh. You see, that was clearly the way it had sounded.
DUKE (12/17/06): It was political Kabuki—Bill Clinton, held in check—on a night that some observers saw as the start of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.Lets be candid. This isnt just a novel, its a Harlequin romance—a silly pot-boiler in which, either way, our heros impact must be profound. Bill may mightily help—or he may deeply hurt. But his impact? It will surely be profound!
Bill is poised to mightily help or deeply hurt his wife's White House prospects. Either way, his impact will be profound as he undertakes the unprecedented role of ex-president turned male campaign spouse to the first woman ever to have a serious shot at the presidency.
DUKE: She will face haters. She'll face sexists. There'll be folks who think she's power-mad, including some still queasy about what she knew and when she knew it when it came to Bill's marital indiscretions.Look at the polls, Duke urges, saying that opinions on [Hillary Clinton] are strong and run the gamut. But then, she cites results from a type of say-the-first-word-that-comes-to-mind survey that is almost impossible to assess systematically. Thirteen percent said they disliked her? What conclusion do we draw from that—that she wont get 88 percent of the vote? In fact, no one with an ounce of sense would build conclusions from data like these. But so what! This is a novel—a real bodice-ripper! Indeed, Duke rides her data to a preferred destination; she rides her data to cocktail parties, where unnamed people have been asking questions—about sex. Here is the rest of the passage weve quoted. Gaze on the weak, empty soul of this klan:
Look at the polls; opinions on her are strong and run the gamut. Gallup last month asked 1,003 respondents to state what comes to mind about Hillary. Thirteen percent said they disliked her. Ten percent said she's qualified to be president. Nine percent said she's riding Bill's shirttails. Eight percent called her strong. Six percent called her intelligent, and another six percent called her dishonest and said they didn't trust her.
With numbers like that, plenty of Democrats are asking: Can she win?
DUKE: With numbers like that, plenty of Democrats are asking: Can she win? So the last thing she needs is people asking, as they have in the media and at cocktail parties: Can Bill control himself during her presidential campaign?Can Bill Clinton control himself? People have been asking that question, Duke says. Theyve been asking it at cocktail parties.
DUKE: If she runs, will voters focus too much on him? Will they remember too much of the national trauma known as "that woman" (Monica Lewinsky)—and the presidential prevaricating, hair-splitting (what is"is," anyway?) and impeachment that followed? Can voters look at Bill without thinking of sex?Can voters look at Bill without thinking of sex? Perhaps not, after reading the Posts bodice-rippers. On a few occasions, Duke even acknowledges the fact that [t]he media-industrial complex will again feed like hungry hounds if Hillary Clinton seeks the White House. But over and over, she must pretend that its really the people who drive her cohorts obsessions. Here are various passages from her report, along with the way they would have been written if Duke had been slightly more honest:
LYNNE DUKE: If she runs, will voters focus too much on him?...Can voters look at Bill without thinking of sex?Mistakes were made? No, questions were asked! Were told that questions have bubbled to the fore—without being told who has done all this bubbling! Indeed, Duke even extends her passive voice to a rumination about the Clintons appearance at Coretta Scott Kings funeral:
DUKE REVISED: If she runs, will people like me focus too much on him?...Can people like me look at Bill without thinking of sex?
LYNNE DUKE: But there will be questions aplenty. How could there not be?
DUKE REVISED: But people like me will ask questions aplenty. How could we not do so?
LYNNE DUKE: Complained someone who worked on her White House staff, who requested anonymity to speak freely: "If your husband has an affair and you forgive him, you get to turn the corner and move on. She never does." Not in the public mind, at least.
DUKE REVISED: Complained someone who worked on her White House staff, who requested anonymity to speak freely: "If your husband has an affair and you forgive him, you get to turn the corner and move on. She never does." Not in the minds of me and my colleagues!
LYNNE DUKE: She raised the subject in her 2003 memoir, "Living History," writing, "The most difficult decisions I have made in my life were to stay married to Bill and to run for the Senate." Rarely has she discussed that period since. As she has prepared to possibly run for president, questions about the marriage have bubbled to the fore again.
DUKE REVISED: Rarely has she discussed that period since. As she has prepared to possibly run for president, people like me have started asking questions about the marriage again.
LYNNE DUKE: Their appearance set off a wave of speculation about her style vs. his and how it would or would not serve her in a campaign.Speculations were voiced! But then again, in typing novels, authors typically mask their identity. In steamy sex thrillers by Jackie Susann, Susanns name wont appear.
DUKE REVISED: After their appearance, people like me set off a wave of speculation about her style vs. his and how it would or would not serve her in a campaign.
DUKE: As she has prepared to possibly run for president, questions about the marriage have bubbled to the fore again.Tongues were wagged! For the record, Dukes own newspaper ran a story about Clinton and Stronach in June 2003, when the Canadian press began wagging those tongues. But uh-oh! The piece ran beneath a debunking headline: Canadian Rumor Mills in Overtime, it said. In the short piece, Al Kamen said that Stronachs pending divorce had created much salacious—and surely false—buzz up north. But who gives a fig if the sex talk is surely false? People like Duke want to see rumor spread! Result? Earlier this year, her papers resident Old Skeaze, David Broder, inserted an entirely gratuitous reference to Stronach in the midst of a thigh-rubbing column (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/25/06). And yesterday, there was skeaze-master D! Once again, rumors were spread!
Earlier this year, both the U.S. and Canadian press ran stories about Bill's periodic meetings with a Canadian auto-parts magnate turned politician, Belinda Stronach. Both have characterized themselves as just friends since they met in 2001 at a fundraiser. But tongues wagged nonetheless, because of the baggage.
DIGBY (12/13/06): Is it a sin, in and of itself, that Greenfield trivialized Barack Obama for his wardrobe and compared him to a holocaust denying psychopath? Not really. Is it a major goof for Jeanne Moos to simultaneously go out on the street and ask people if they think his "weird" middle name means that he can't be elected? Probably not.Dukes cohort has already changed the world once—in the most dramatic and violent way possible. But so what? They dont seem to care! As a result, in Sundays Post, it happened again: Fun was had!
But you'll have to excuse us hotheads for reacting strongly when we see these things because the last time the media decided to have fun and tell jokes, this way, enough people believed them that it ended up changing the world in the most dramatic and violent way possible. We are in this mess today at least partly because these people failed to do their duty and approached their jobs as if it were a seventh grade slumber party instead of the serious business of the most powerful nation on earth.