EPILOG—At long last, Rachel cites Reuters: We must be the strangest creatures who ever drew breath on the earth.
Just consider the way we go about selecting our nation's presidents. Here are three examples from the past twenty-four hours:
*In this morning’s New York Times, Gail Collins writes another column which cites the fact that one of the candidates, in 1983, “drove to Canada with an Irish setter tied to the roof of the car” (paragraph 4). By now, Collins has cited this (misleading) fact in more than thirty columns. In all those columns, she has never explained what judgment we’re supposed to take from this ancient incident. She has never bothered to explain these endless citations about a dog care decision in 1983.
*In South Carolina, Thursday night’s Republican debate opened with a question about one of the candidates’ marital problems—a marital problem from 1999. In this morning’s Washington Post, Marc Fisher reports one voter’s reaction:
FISHER (1/21/12): As the days until the primary ticked by, [Flynn] McKinney has struggled toward a decision. The ABC interview with Gingrich’s second ex-wife, in which she said he wanted an “open marriage,” slammed the door on voting for him. Now she’s “leaning toward Romney” but still open to Santorum.McKinney says she is “very fact-based.” She also says she is basing her vote on a marital allegation she can’t possibly fact-check. That said, this type of decision-making tracks the way our elections get framed, in “shorthand” fashion, by those in the mainstream press.
“I am very fact-based,” she says. “My principles are set in stone, but I like to see two sides of any argument. I take the time to look up people’s voting records to see if I agree with them. My friends think that’s a little weird, but that’s how I make decisions. I want to see the full gamut.”
*Last night, Rachel Maddow finally mentioned the January 6 Reuters report about Mitt Romney’s work at Bain Capital! Maddow is pimped as a former Rhodes Scholar. But so what? Here’s what she said:
MADDOW (1/20/12): The criticism of his time at Bain isn’t made up. It’s real, and it’s been around for a long time. And even though the establishment succeeded in shutting down other Republican candidates from talking about it, the Republican Party establishment cannot shut up everybody. The problems with Bain are a mainstream journalistic story. I mean, there’s something there. It’s in the Wall Street Journal. It’s in Reuters. It’s in the Washington Post. It’s in the Tampa Bay Tribune. There is stuff there to be reported on.“There’s something there,” Maddow declared. “There is stuff there to be reported on.” But Maddow made no attempt to explain what the “stuff” in question is; she made no attempt to explain what Reuters reported. Viewers were left in the dark about that—although, within about thirty seconds, they got to see tape of Romney saying this: “I like to fire people who provide services to me.”
Everyone agrees that this statement was taken out of context. But by now, it’s a staple of tribal “news” programs. It’s one of the ways the corporate world shows us libs a good time.
(For what it’s worth, Collins appeared with Maddow last night. “I’m always good for a good sex scandal,” she said at one point. “That’s my point in life, really.” To what extent was Collins joking? You can judge that for yourself. We dare you! Just click here.)
This is the way our nation’s “press corps” has been covering White House campaigns for at least twenty years. A person could easily make the case that this ridiculous “shorthand” culture dates to 1972, when Candidate Muskie allegedly wept. Last Sunday, Dana Milbank helped us recall the mental/intellectual illness which now defines the American model, rattling a list of the ludicrous claims which defined the coverage of Candidate Gore during Campaign 2000. (Al Gore wore three-button suits! And boots! He sighed at that first debate!) He also listed a set of inane complaints about Candidate Romney—complaints from the cuckoo's nest. (He told a joke about hollandaise sauce! He once said, “Who let the dogs out?”) Milbank even recalled a few complaints from other recent White House campaigns. Candidate Kerry went wind-surfing! He owned too many houses!
Milbank’s complaints about Romney and Gore define a mental/intellectual breakdown. But Milbank is hardly the only scribe who builds his election discussions around these shorthand, gong-show claims—around these enduring emblems of our intellectual breakdown. Three days before Milbank’s column appeared, Maddow devoted the first twenty minutes of her program to the dog who was strapped to the roof of the car, offering a nuanced account of the story’s actual meaning. Beyond that, she rattled a list of gong-show complaints from earlier White House campaigns—although, true to her program’s focus, she only listed complaints about Republican candidates, and she acted like these complaints had a good deal of merit. (President Bush was amazed by the supermarket scanner! During his debate with Clinton, he took a look at his watch!) In restricting herself to these complaints, she buried the most significant political history of the past many years. She kept her viewers barefoot and clueless. But so what! They were well entertained!
(Adding to the air of general breakdown, tribal viewers were entertained by a new shorthand complaint about Romney, courtesy of Steve Kornacki: He got a shoeshine on a tarmac! Before the program was over, Maddow had to explain that the shoeshine claim was a bit of a hoax. As it turned out, the photo in question really showed Romney getting wanded for security purposes. But so what? Salon kept showing the photo for days. It served a shorthand purpose.)
Dana Milbank graduated from Yale [sic], Rachel Maddow from Stanford. We sometimes wonder what their professors must think when they see these corporate buffoons clowning their way across the stage, making a joke of American discourse and dumbing a large nation down. At any rate, your nation has suffered a mental/intellectual breakdown when such people behave in such ways. And within the world of American politics, it’s the liberal world which has paid the price for this gong-show culture.
All through the Clinton-Gore years (and beyond), the liberal world paid a very large price. We paid that price real hard.
Paul Krugman still won’t tell you that fact, although he plainly knows it’s true. As Gingrich thunders about the press, why won’t this professor speak?
Coming Monday: To borrow a word from the furious Newt, we think that post is appalling