PUNDIT OF THE YEAR! MSNBCs Steve Adubato showed us the soul of the corps: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2007
HAPPY HO-HOS: Were gone for a week. If there's a lumber-jack job there, we may not comeback
Can you spot the ranters key talking-point? The talking-point about trying to kill, strangle and smother a certain guy in his crib? But then, Matthews is an old American type, cleaned up a bit for modern cable. For months, his show has been pure propaganda—and last night, the ranting was easy. Indeed, he had been even more bizarre on Thursdays Morning Joe, offering an uninterrupted, two-minute-plus rant about the Clinton Christmas commercial. (His theme: Hillary thinks shes better than us!) But eight hours later, the ranting continued. After parading a string of troubling claims about the Clinton campaigns troubling conduct, he prepared to bring on his first guests:
Is it right or wrong to smother a young senator in his crib? According to this cable ranter, its a matter of how you look at it!
Yes, Matthews would just be a laughable clown—if he werent so influential within the press corps. And of course, some of the amusement would derive from his endless lack of knowledge. Last night, the ranter was extremely upset about the way Bob Kerrey mentioned Obamas family background and personal history. Mark Green offered his opinion—Kerrey had probably meant no harm. Check the remarkable thing the ranter said in reacting to Greens comment:
Say what? Kerrey might have talked about the fact that Obamas mother and grandmother were Islamic? Kerrey hadnt said that, of course; and surely, no one thinks that Obamas beloved, Texas- and Kansas-bred mother had been Islamic. Except actually yes, one person thinks that—and hes a major cable ranter! All these comments escaped his lips during last nights Hardball:
Four separate times, Matthews voiced the bogus idea that Obamas mother and maternal grandmother were Islamic—that he had Islamic parents and grandparents (plurals). As he did so, he kept complaining that the Clinton campaign is making people think that Obamas a Muslim!
(Note on the obvious: Theres nothing wrong with being Muslim. Obama is a Christian.)
Our question: Is there any person, in any profession, who knows fewer facts than Chris Matthews? Its stunning to see this level of ignorance—until you see that the ignorance in question belongs to this particular ranter. Surely, no other newsman is so uninformed as to think that Obamas mother and maternal grandmother were Muslims. But there was the big, dumb, red-faced nut-case repeating this nonsense all last night! And repeating his nastiest mantras, of course. Heres the way he introduced his programs final segment:
Even Joe—whos much, much brighter than this—agreed to play along. But then, so did Andrea Mitchell:
Routinely, Matthews is stunningly ignorant. But he does memorize well, of course—and he just hates those negative attacks!
On last nights program, no one corrected him, at any time, about Obamas mother. Its hard Pundit Law on these cable shows—the host ranter is automatically right. Matthews made his remarkable statement four times—and no one said boo about it. But be sure you understand what youre watching when you watch this nut-case play Hardball. Its not polite to think of Coughlin, unbalanced ranter of a previous era. But on last nights program, you saw the pure Matthews. A man who thrives on insult and attack—and a man who has rarely bothered to learn even the simplest facts.
Who on earth, except Chris Matthews, doesnt know the arc of Obamas life story? (People! He wrote a superlative, best-selling book about it!) Who on earth is so uninformed that he thinks Obamas mother and maternal grandmother were Islamic? It would be stunning to see such ignorance—except from Matthews, where its so typical. This is a chimp who uses two tools—Insult and Narrative only.
Indeed, Matthews has long been stunningly ignorant, about the most basic matters. (By the way: When a talker doesnt know even these basic facts, do you think he knows the history of the pointless kindergarten caper about which he has ranted for weeks?) In Campaign 04, Matthews actually supported John Kerry—plainly tried to defend him against the Swift Boat attacks. But as our archives show in gruesome detail, Matthews never bothered to learn the simplest facts about the incidents under dispute. He would try to argue with the Swift Boat guys—but his ignorance smothered him in the crib every single time
But Matthews, for all his clueless ranting, isnt our Pundit of the Year. One of his cable stable-mates is. That would be hapless Steve Adubato, who posted a bizarre column this week in which—what else?—he savaged the Clintons. For unknown reasons, Adubato believes that Hillary Clinton has been a major media darling all year. And in the course of his own odd rant, he made a stunning comment:
Some day, Adubato will settle on just one spelling of Hillary Clintons first name. But surely, his ugly comment about Vince Foster help us see how our basic traditions and values are challenged by these strange ranting pundits.
All good liberals know to avoid this. On Sunday, for example, Ezra Klein politely discussed what makes Hillary Clinton so polarizing. He agreed to refer to the Whitewater scandal (Does anyone know what that scandal was?) and he agreed to forget the darker lunacies lying behind the past fifteen years of destructive Clinton/Gore-trashing. He kept his thoughts in the sensible realm—the realm where polite journalistic careers are born. And then, thank goodness! Up popped Adubato, to help us remember how deeply kooky the past fifteen years have actually been. He helped us recall the secret lunacy beneath the puzzling surface.
It was Limbaugh who jump-started the rumor, long ago, that Hillary Clinton helped kill Vince Foster—and broken-souled losers have clung to such fantasies down through all the years. In August 1999, for example, a certain red-faced cable ranter had Gennifer Flowers on his show, for a long and bizarre half-hour; she spent her half-hour telling the world about all the people both Clintons had murdered. The ranter said he head no idea that Flowers was going to mutter such things, and who knows—its possible he might have been telling the truth, clueless as he so typically is. But when we liberals keep agreeing to disappear this part of our history, we agree to look away from the insides of Big Pundit Worlds tortured head. Lets throw away that polarizing euphemism: Why do so many people hate Hillary Clinton? Adubato reminded us this week—and he mentioned Whitewater too!
What could Adubato possibly have meant by that statement about Foster? We have no earthly idea. Earlier this year, some of the inmates began to toy with the Foster story again, amusing themselves by meowing that Clinton hadnt been kind enough to her friend in the last tragic months of his life. But surely, even a man like Adubato knows what sorts of ugly musing he triggers with such a cruel, ugly comment.
But thats what makes Steve Adubato our Pundit of the Year? He did us all a service this week; he reminded us, in a mercifully obscure column, about what lies behind the rants of these deeply destructive men. (And yes: These are the men who savaged Gore—who sent George Bush to the White House.) Last night, you saw NBCs king of cable showing off his love of a rant—and his utterly stunning ignorance. But readers! For showing us their tortured souls, we name Steve Adubato our Pundit of the Year.
Final note: Adubato wins our award—but Matthews is the one with influence. Has anyone ever been so uninformed? So red-faced? So deeply unbalanced?
THE PUNDITS TALES: Back in 1999, Matthews discovered Jennifer Donahue, who is now, for unknown reasons, Senior Adviser for Political Affairs at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Because shes presentable and scripts rather well, Donahue is now dragged out every four years to recite the pundit corps standard lines about the New Hampshire primary. Last night, on CNN, she said this about the Clintons campaign and Obama:
Note that comment about Shaheen, for later reference. But readers, Mark Penn kept repeating it over and over and over? In fact, Penn said the word cocaine one time—in an interview where he was asked repeated questions, all of them about the drug matter. But then, why shouldnt Donahue improve the facts a tad? Here was Matthews, last Sunday:
Penn raised drugs again? In fact, Matthews asked Penn a series of questions—and every single one concerned drugs. But then, these people lie to improve their tales the way those around you take air.
By the way, we were surprised when Donahue seemed to diss Shaheen last night (see quote above)—seemed to include him in the vile racist conduct. We were surprised because we saw her on Hardball last Friday, seeming to say just the opposite:
Did Bill Shaheen make a stupid mistake, or was it part of a plan? Like the people you see on cable, we have no way of knowing. (In our view, it was a weird thing for him to do on purpose, since his wife is running for the senate and needs Obama voters.) But wouldnt you know it? Last Friday, Donahue seemed completely sure that Shaheen, whom she knows very well, had simply made a stupid mistake. By last night, though, things had changed. He was part of a vile racist plot.
Did Donahue have a reason for changing her story? Could be. But it isnt required.
In that passage, Kurtz cites advice two pundits gave Obama in the days before that crucial debate. But he didnt mention a certain red-faced ranter—a guy who had been jumping up and down on Hardball for weeks, begging Obama to fight-fight-fight hard. Yes, Chris Matthews had been begging Obama to take the fight to the villainess Clinton. And when the big debate began, Matthews stable-mate, Tim Russert, gave him the chance:
To his credit, Obama still didnt much want to fight. Well, first of all, I think some of this stuff gets over-hyped, he replied. In fact, I think this has been the most hyped fight since Rocky fought Apollo Creed... (It was Matthews who had done the greatest part of the hyping.) After that, Obama proceeded to make a statement which didnt quite answer Russerts question. But he closed by saying that what we need right now is honesty with the American people. Not bad! Russert and his trophy wife, Brian Williams, were able to take things from there.
What followed was a truly remarkable event—a debate like none in presidential debate history. Russert and Williams kept pounding away throughout the two hours, begging Obama and Edwards (and, occasionally, the others) to whack at Clintons character. Almost halfway in, it had gotten so bad that Richardson said he wouldnt play. So what? The pounding from Jack Welchs Lost Boys just continued from there:
And just like that, we got another tortured (and misleading) question designed to attack Clintons honesty.
We went through this remarkable event at the time it occurred. Well name it our Pundit Event of the Year, because this debate—and the subsequent Group Punditry—completely transformed the Democratic race. Who would be the best Dem nominee? We arent really sure about that. But in this event, two anchors begged Obama and Edwards to attack Clinton all night long—and they finally got lucky with the drivers licenses, the last of their oppo research-driven questions.
Wed call this the years biggest Pundit Event—and everyone seems to know that it must be disappeared. On Tuesday, E. J. Dionne wrote an Odd Account which disappeared what really happened that night. And one day later, even Kurtz seemed to know that Matthews and Russert and Williams must disappear. Whoever you prefer for the Dem nomination, Kurtz wrote a pretty good piece this week, about the disparate treatment of Clinton. But youll search in vain for the most striking act in which the playing field got tilted.
Kurtz named a few names in his piece. But insider the world of The Village, some names are much more equal than others. Some names will never get cited. As Dionne and Kurtz reviewed Clintons recent slide, Matthews/Russert/Williams disappeared.