Epilogue—In four debates, nobody asked: For perhaps the last forty years, your “press corps” has kept you entertained with its piss-pitiful novels.
They tell you tales about dogs on the roof—and about dogs’ arthritis pills. They entertain you with pseudo-quotations. How inane will they be?
Consider the pseudo-journalist turned corporate suit, the sadly inane Jacob Weisberg.
Weisberg had all the advantages. According to Wikipedia, he comes from a prominent Chicago family. Mother was a social activist and a “connector;” to show you the depth of her greatness, she was even “celebrated in Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point.”
Dad was a prominent lawyer, later a judge. Back in the day, Mom and Dad were introduced by Ralph Ellison, the name-dropping profile tells us.
Given a family background like that, how much could have gone wrong with Weisberg? He graduated from Yale in 1986, then went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. But good God! Before too many years had passed, he was devoting himself to his book, Bushisms, then to its sequel (Palinisms). During Campaign 2004, he complained in detail about Wesley Clark’s sweaters. Today, he’s chairman of the Slate Group, a division of the Washington Post Company.
What the fuck is the Slate Group? To depress yourself, just click here.
As a corporate spokesman for the “press corps,” Weisberg devotes his wasted life to advancing its novelized nonsense. The press corps’ silly novelized tales have driven the discourse for perhaps forty years. Pool boys like Weisberg keep getting hauled out to defend the regime even now.
Two days ago, Weisberg filed this sad report in Slate. His headline explained that “Romney Is Kerry. Or Maybe Gore.”
What follows will show where Rhodes Scholarship leads, given the drift of our upper-class culture. With apologies, we’ll post four paragraphs of Weisberg’s piece, a virtual highlight reel of the guild’s novelized nonsense. This comes from the realm of the dog on the roof—from the realm of the “press corps” novel:
WEISBERG (2/1/12): Romney strongly resembles two similarly unloved Democratic nominees from the recent past, Al Gore and John Kerry. Gore and Kerry both suffered from the same characterizations that get applied to Romney—too wooden in person while too flexible in their views. Their supporters often argued that qualifications were what mattered. But ominously for Romney, both Gore and Kerry lost winnable races because of their flawed personalities. George W. Bush, on the other hand, got elected and re-elected, despite his enormous, substantive shortcomings, because ordinary people found it easy to relate to him at a personal level. They felt he wasn’t trying to be someone different from who he was.Weisberg was once considered promising, perhaps even smart. Today, he writes from inside the walls of corporate “press” culture. And good God! He even discusses John Kerry’s cheesesteak mistake, without the slightest sign of embarrassment.
Romney, Kerry, and Gore are all, in a way, versions of the same political type. Statuesque, handsome, from privileged backgrounds and impeccably credentialed, they have no log-cabin stories to humanize and ground them. Unlike a Lyndon Johnson, a Richard Nixon, a Ronald Reagan, a Bill Clinton, or a Barack Obama, they didn’t overcome humble origins or broken families. Romney’s background is alien to most Americans not because he descends from polygamists but because his father was a governor of Michigan, an automobile company CEO, and a presidential candidate.
In his attempt to overcome his privileged origins, the unloved candidate struggles to establish his plain-folks ordinariness in ways that inevitably backfire. He touts his plebian tastes—pick-up trucks, country music, trashy food—and inevitably overdoes it or gets the background music wrong. Al Gore’s attempt to look less like a Washington politician yielded the “earth tones” fiasco. John Kerry asked for his Philly cheesesteak with Swiss cheese, and was photographed nibbling at this alien object rather than tucking in, as one does.
The public usually picks up on this authenticity gap—the space between who the candidate really is and how he wants to be seen. In each case, the problem manifests itself in a slight different way [sic]. A technocrat by nature, Gore disliked the performative side of politics. He wildly overcompensated for this by angrily shouting his speeches at rallies and demonstrating ardor for his now ex-wife with a soul kiss at the Democratic convention. His hyperbolic passion on the campaign trail made it a simple matter for Republicans to brand Gore as a compulsive exaggerator who claimed to have invented the Internet.
This is what our children will do to make themselves wealthy “connectors.”
In his truly pitiful piece, Weisberg pretends that his guild's silly novels make sense. The pretending is seen all around. In 1988, Candidate Bush aggressively “touted his plebian tastes” in “pick-up trucks, country music, trashy food”—and he won election by a wide margin. (What was his log-cabin story?) In 2000, Candidate Gore won the popular vote over Candidate Bush. Despite this rather well-known fact, Weisberg explains that Bush succeeded because the voters saw through Gore and thought Bush was authentic.
Simple story! When corporate hirelings defend corporate power, their claims don’t have to sense. Briefly, let’s fact-check the novels Weisberg still chooses to type about Gore, aggressively deceiving the public about the way our society actually works.
According to the Slate Group's chairman, Gore (like Kerry) lost a winnable race because of his flawed personality. Ordinary people felt he was trying to be someone different from who he was.
Weisberg gives two examples:
Gore’s attempt to look less like a Washington politician yielded the “earth tones” fiasco. Can we talk? To this day, we still have no clear idea what the “earth tones fiasco” was. We have researched Campaign 2000 for the past dozen years. We still haven’t found a single reporter or pundit who described Gore’s alleged misconduct in a coherent manner.
Yes, there was an olive/brown suit which Gore wore to some events in the fall of 1999. A long list of pundits screeched about this troubling suit, which quite clearly had three buttons; they tried to top each other in their expressions of horror. (Arianna topped all the rest, claiming the suit had four buttons.) And yes, the pundit corps screeched and yelled as it alleged that Gore was wearing the suit because Naomi Wolf said. No evidence supporting this claim emerged; no one ever really explained why this would have mattered if true. But so what? Everyone yelled the latest group tale, for a good solid month; for a full account of this group mental illness, see Chapter 5 of How He Got Here. The lunacy of this behavior is clear—yet Weisberg affirms it to this very day, even as he continues lamenting Kerry’s choice in cheese topping.
In a rational world, a figure like Weisberg would be chased through the streets for advancing this disinformation so many years later. Jealous citizens would get him locked up as an enemy of the people. But we don’t live in that rational world; we live in a world controlled by these novels.
Mother Weisberg was a connector! But good lord, how this project went wrong!
He wildly overcompensated for this by angrily shouting his speeches at rallies and demonstrating ardor for his now ex-wife with a soul kiss at the Democratic convention. His hyperbolic passion on the campaign trail made it a simple matter for Republicans to brand Gore as a compulsive exaggerator who claimed to have invented the Internet. Weisberg can’t even be bothered inventing claims which make chronological sense. In fact, Gore was “branded as a compulsive exaggerator who claimed to have invented the Internet” in March 1999. This resulted from a slightly clumsy remark in his very first interview as a candidate. Quite literally, Gore had made no speeches on the trail at the time, hyperbolically passionate or otherwise. In the realm of actual fact, why was it a simple matter for Republicans to brand Gore as a compulsive exaggerator on this ridiculous basis? Because “journalists” like Weisberg began repeating their claims, on a word for word basis, as soon as the RNC made them.
The evidence of this is quite clear. The pool boys will continue to lie, but these are the actual facts. And by the way:
In the real world, how did the public really react to Gore’s angry shouting and hyperbolic passion? Weisberg carefully fails to claim that the public reacted this way to Gore’s convention address, his most-watched campaign speech by far. But first, a brush with greatness:
We lunched with Weisberg at that Democratic Convention, in a foursome which included Jonathan Alter and Walter Shapiro. It may have been the very day of Gore’s speech. But did Gore’s hyperbolic passion and his wet, sloppy kiss show the public he was inauthentic? Sorry. When Gore delivered that speech, when he kissed his wife on the lips, his polling numbers shot through the roof and stayed in place for weeks; to all appearances, the public had loved his angry shouting and perhaps his ardor as well. On MSNBC, Frank Luntz instantly declared the speech “a home run;” a few weeks later, Gore’s numbers seemed to have placed the election out of Bush's reach. At this point, various members of Weisberg’s guild invented two new LIES by Gore, dragging him back to earth in the process. Howard Fineman told Brian Williams that the “press corps” had no intention of letting Gore walk to an easy win—and yes, this is what occurred.
(What were the new invented lies? At USA Today, Shapiro invented the claim that Gore had lied about a lullaby he was sung as a child. Two days later, at the Boston Globe, Walter Robinson invented the claim that Gore had lied about the arthritis pills prescribed for his pet dog. The “press crops” screeched and flung their poo all around, with disastrous results for the nation.)
In fact, Gore’s hyperbolic kiss-and-speak had shot him far ahead in the polls. It was these inventions, four weeks later, which brought him back to earth, making the highly authentic Bush competitive once again.
In those days, Weisberg’s class invented a novelized tale about Gore’s pet dog; this had a disastrous consequence. Today, it’s Romney’s Irish setter who is put to this use. And we the people believe these novels; just read the comments to Weisberg’s piece to see how gullible we the rubes are, including we the liberal rubes.
But as our enemies hand us their novels, they refuse to talk about taxes.
The press corps likes to talk about dogs. They are bored by talk about taxes. Consider the recent debates involving Romney, who famously put his dog on the roof of his speeding car.
Candidate Romney has advanced a set of ludicrous budget proposals. After a bout of pseudo-quotation, Paul Krugman reviews those proposals in today’s New York Times. Just this past Monday, this is the way the Washington Post described this candidate’s genuine, unvarnished lunacy, without ever citing the dog:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (1/31/12): The case for continuing the George W. Bush tax cuts, at a cost of $3.7 trillion over 10 years (including interest), is shaky enough...But the GOP candidates want to continue all those cuts—and add many more, the vast bulk of which would again go to the wealthiest taxpayers.Given the way the Republican candidates screech and wail about federal deficits, these proposals are simply insane. Unless you watched the corporate hosts of the last four Republican debates.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney proposes additional cuts that would drain $180 billion from the treasury in 2015 alone, according to calculations by the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center. The nonpartisan center has not calculated the 10-year cost of the plan. But merely multiplying by 10 illustrates that Romney is talking trillions.
And Mr. Romney’s is the most modest of the GOP proposals. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich’s plan would cost an astonishing $850 billion in 2015 on top of the Bush tax cuts. Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum’s would cost $900 billion in 2015 alone.
Unless you read Gail Collins.
Collins keeps writing about Romney’s dog. Meanwhile, she and her colleagues, including Krugman, treat you to silly pseudo-quotations of Romney’s offhand remarks. But if you read the New York Times, good luck understanding Romney’s bizarre tax proposals! This morning, Krugman tells you that Romney’s tax plan would “increase[e] the deficit by $180 billion a year.” But on January 19, in a sprawling news report, Times readers were given a much larger figure—$600 billion per year! Whatever! If Krugman had skipped the pseudo-quotation, he could have explained this matter today. But the “press corps” likes to talk about dogs—and it loves a good semi-quote.
In the process, Romney’s absurd proposals just keep getting glossed, and your nation gets dumber and dumber. In South Carolina, then in Florida, the GOP titans debated four times, for eight total hours. The best and the brightest conducted these sessions: Brian Williams even deigned to host one debate.
On January 23, this was the great man’s first questions. He is paid $12 million per year:
WILLIAMS (1/23/12): Speaker Gingrich, on electability to begin with: Your rival, your opponent on this stage, Governor Romney, was out today calling you erratic, a failed leader, and warning that your nomination for this party could perhaps result in what he called an "October surprise a day." So given the fact that he went after you today on this topic of electability, your response tonight, Mr. Speaker?On and on the muddlemush went. Before the evening was done, Williams even pretended to ask about a couple of actual topics. But no one asked these ridiculous candidates to explain their tax proposals, which are simply insane.
Just look what these crackpots have proposed. No one bothered to ask!
Can we talk? In four debates in these two states, Romney and Gingrich were never asked to explain their insultingly crazy proposals. Crazy’s now part of the culture! They were asked about their tax returns, and about that contract with Freddie Mac. John King asked Gingrich about his three wives. But no one ever asked these stooges about their tax proposals.
Romney’s proposals are bat-shit insane; your “press corps” prefers to talk about dogs. And they do enjoy a good pseudo-quotation.
As Weisberg helped us remember this week, they’ve been building this culture for a very long time. They played a game with Gore’s dog too.
Weisberg won’t stop advancing this culture; he won't stop reaffirming those novels. His claims don't even make chronological sense.
Are you happy with the world this culture has provided?